Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [21st March], "That the Bill he 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. GLADSTONE
It appears to me, Sir, that there are other remarkable features in this debate besides the great ability with which it has been conducted, and among them all I know none so remarkable as the singular accordance of opinion on both sides of the House—I may say, with the exception of official speakers, among all those who have spoken—with respect to the great question of Parliamentary Reform. I do not say that there are no shades of difference upon it, but when we compare the opinions of those who are disposed to give the least with the opinions—at any rate, so far as they have been avowed—of those who are disposed to give the most, we find they he within such moderate and reasonable limits as to afford, one would hope, the very best prospects for an early and satisfactory settlement of the question. In point of fact, Sir, I may venture to say that there is no difference perceptible—I do not refer now to the particular features of the present Bill, but to the general question of Reform—between the speakers on the two sides of the House; and were an hon. Member of this House blindfolded during the debate, I would almost defy him to say from what quarter their addresses respectively had come. It is recorded of the oldest traveller whose voyages have come down to us that he arrived at a place so remote, that he lost all power of judging of the points of the compass, and the same observation is applicable to the present debate on the subject of Reform, with the single difference that, instead of its being at a place immeasurably remote, the point where our differences are lost sight of is in the centre of the British House of Commons. Again, I could not help being struck with what fell from my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) upon this subject. He selected in the course of his speech, one address from those which had preceded his own for commendation, and three—shall I say for anathema or for censure? The speech which he commended was the speech of a county Member on this side of the House—I mean the hon. Member for Dorset (Mr. Sturt)—a gentleman, I believe, of unsuspected orthodoxy in his political creed. The 1046 speeches which were censured by my hon. Friend—the speeches which he said filled him with alarm—were the declarations of three right hon. Friends sitting on the other side of the House. He was alarmed at the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman); he did not say for what particular reason, but I concluded because he regarded my right hon. Friend as a disorderly person upon the present occasion. He was alarmed with the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Wilts (Mr. S. Herbert), because, I suppose, my right hon. Friend gently suggested in one portion of his excellent address that that chamber in the mind of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, which ought to be supplied with a certain reverence for ancient traditions, is less well furnished than all the rest of that remarkable structure. Then, Sir, the hon. Member, still adhering to his own side of the House censured likewise the sagacious letter of my right hon. Friend the Member for Coventry (Mr. Ellice). There the reason, I think, was plain enough—because, my right hon. Friend, whose hospitalities are proverbial, in that letter promised to his constituents a magnificent banquet of Reform, where the viand was dressed in every possible shape, but concluded by expressing his regret that on account of the state of public opinion they could not just yet sit down. The truth is, Sir, there is no substantial difference of opinion traceable to differences in this House between political parties upon this great and transcendant subject; and therefore it is to me a matter of deep regret that, when there is such union of sentiment upon the substance of the question at issue, we should be ranged in hostile debate, with a division before us which must tend to estrange from one another those who are not separated by clear, broad, conscientious differences of opinion, and by whose united efforts alone this great subject can be brought to a satisfactory settlement. I cannot help also venturing a remark upon the form of the Resolution proposed by my noble Friend the Member for the city. It is a remark, Sir, which will be, I trust, in entire harmony both with the letter and with the spirit of your own decision of yesterday, because I am certain that my noble Friend would have been the last man to propose an irregular Resolution. But if the Resolution is regular and Parliamentary, I venture to suggest that it is one to which exception may be taken on the grounds of 1047 general prudence and convenience. The rules of this House, it is true, do much towards keeping the course of public business within its legitimate bounds, but also much, of necessity, must depend on the judgment of the Members of the House. I take it that there is a meaning in the rules of the House when they provide that on the presentation of any scheme of legislation in the form of a Bill the first duty of the House should be to address itself to the scheme as a whole, and, after giving an opinion on it as a whole, that the House should then, and then only, proceed to deal with the details. I do not enter into the question whether Resolutions ought ever to be made on the second reading of Bills, I confess it appears to me utterly impossible to exclude them, because if they were altogether excluded this House would be shorn of much of its legislative power, and be reduced to the necessity of saying nothing but simply "aye" or "no" on a Motion. Nor do I deny that there are precedents of some kind which, to a certain extent, may be pleaded in support of the present Resolution; but I express my own opinion, as far as my own opportunities of knowledge go, that this is the first occasion on which a Resolution has been moved on the second reading of a Bill, the purport and matter of which Resolution consist simply in dealing with certain portions of the Bill, which portions might be dealt with in Committee. To that extent it appears to me that this Resolution may be termed a novelty, and I must add that it is an inconvenient novelty. How are measures, of necessity, very frequently framed? It is often the duty of the Government to combine in one and the same measure a great variety of propositions, the whole of which—I am not now speaking of the present Bill, but of what is the general duty of the Government—the whole of which, I repeat, may be necessary to the complete attainment of the public ends in view. Yet one portion of these propositions may be highly popular, and the other portion may be the subject of great popular prejudice. There may be a great temptation from time to time, particularly in a disorganized state of political parties, to select out of the measure so presented by the Government those portions which are unpopular, and to insist on procuring the judgment of the House on those unpopular parts of the Bill antecedently to the second reading. I frankly own, however, that I cannot conceive any practice which, if it 1048 grew up, would be more inconvenient or dangerous. I confess that these are reasons which weigh with me to no inconsiderable extent in bringing me to the conclusion that I cannot support the Bill—I mean the Resolution, but I might say the Bill likewise. The course taken by my noble Friend the Member for London has been subjected to great severity of criticism and imputation, which I frankly own it does not appear to me that he deserves. It is said that my noble Friend has made a factious Motion. If it be a factious Motion, it is certainly a very ill-chosen one, because, taking the two great exponents of the Resolution who bring the greatest power to its support—the two distinguished statesmen who sit opposite—they have fairly avowed that, while they concur in the Resolution, they differ as to the course it may immediately involve. I do not refer to others, because of those who supported the Resolution, some have ranked themselves with one of those noble Lords and some with the other. The noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston) has explicitly stated to the House that he supports the Resolution, not for the sake of getting rid of the Bill, but as a foundation on which alone he can conscientiously consent to support the second reading; while the noble Lord the Member for London, so far from interposing this Resolution as a condition which once being laid down may enable him to accept the second reading of the Bill, has, in language very distinct, stated that he trusted that not only will this Resolution be carried—as appears likely to be the case—but that there will be successive attacks on the Bill until—I think these were his words—it should be, if not immediately, at last totally rejected. These different declarations proceeding from the two noble Lords do not certainly imply any deeply-laid plot for a joint attack on the present occupants of office with a view to a joint occupation of place afterwards. I cannot part from this part of the subject without expressing, particularly after what has fallen from the First Lord of the Admiralty, the deep regret with which I heard an hon. Gentleman—and a gentleman of the distinguished character, eminence, and abilities of Her Majesty's Solicitor General—spoil an effective speech by dropping, at the close of it, words which were not worthy of this House or of his position. I am convinced that those words must have proceeded from a rhetorical 1049 inadvertence—from the necessity, if I may presume to say so, of always finishing a sentence, which occasionally presses in an inconvenient manner even on the most experienced and practised speakers. I cannot believe that those words were intended to be used, and I am confident that before the debate is over the hon. and learned Gentleman will, in a manner worthy of himself and in a way due to the character of the noble Lord the Member for London, express his regret for the observations to which I now allude. What I now wish to say to the House is that the paramount and overbearing motive in my mind which governs my vote, and I hope every word that I speak, is that it becomes our duty to take that course which will most contribute to the early and satisfactory settlement of this question, and if I had seen through the Resolution of my noble Friend, the prospect of a powerful Government, and a combination of men ready to carry through a measure of reform not immoderate in its form—and no immoderate measure should I expect from my noble Friend—that would have been a reason with me for supporting the Resolution. If we could have had a strong Government for the purpose of working this question, by all means let us have that Government. But, far from feeling an inducement to vote for the Resolution, a circumstance that operates in a contrary direction is that I find the leading men prominent in the proposition and support of the Resolution have an agreement of opinion limited to the terms of the Motion itself, and that the day subsequent to the success of the Resolution would see them pursuing their distinct and opposite courses. I have ventured to state to the House the motive on which I think our conclusion on this subject should be grounded, and I now ask what is the position of the Government with respect to the Bill and with respect to the House. I cannot deny that the first cause of these embarrassments, so far as I am able to perceive, is the most unfortunate error committed by the Government in the construction of their Bill in opposition to the wise advice of two most distinguished Members of the Cabinet. I believe that the Government are now as well aware as any hon. Gentleman who sits on either side of the House that in all probability, if they had taken the wise advice of their two late colleagues, while their counsels were still unknown to the public, and had presented a plan 1050 framed on the basis of the suggestions of those right hon. Gentlemen, the Bill would then have met with very general acceptance. This is, however, referring to the past, and the Government now are responsible for the Bill as it stands before us. We also are responsible for what we do with respect to the Bill; and therefore the question I have to ask myself is, not whether the Government have presented a plan in every point such as I, for one, could have desired; but in what manner I can meet the embarrassments created, and find, if possible, an escape from them. As was frankly admitted by the noble Viscount (Viscount Palmerston) the Government, in the first place, are the existing Government, and, as such, have a claim on the House of Commons in a state of things wherein it is not very clear, if the Ministers are removed from office, who are to succeed them. It is further quite evident that the Government have some facilities for the settlement of this question which no other Government could possess, in the fact that probably unless the present Government had been in office we should not have had that remarkable accordance of opinion on the subject of reform. I do not mean, of course, to say that hon. Gentlemen have spoken otherwise than according to their conscientious opinions; but the fact of the Conservative party having their political friends in office tended undoubtedly to induce a conciliatory disposition. But I must also freely own that I think the claim of the Government may be carried a point further. I think that, a Reform Bill having been submitted to the House, and the second reading of that Bill having been proposed, they have a claim upon those Members of the House—and I am one of them—who have been parties to former miscarriages and disappointments, that they shall do nothing to intercept the progress of this Bill beyond what they consider absolutely necessary. I confess it appears to me that, although the feeling of the people of this country with respect to the proceedings of the House of Commons is eminently satisfactory, although, as the hon. Member for Birmingham has so well said, they have begun, especially of late years, to entertain a warm sentiment both of gratitude and confidence in the authority and institutions of the country, and particularly in their representative assembly—yet I doubt whether any part of that gratitude or confidence is due to the manner in which we 1051 have recently treated the subject of Parliamentary Reform. There is not, so far as I know, a word of blame to be said of any; and certainly if there is blame to any one, I myself, as the colleague of my noble Friend during a portion of these transactions, must come in for my share. But let us look at what has passed, and the aspect which it must necessarily present to a criticizing public. In 1851 my noble Friend (Lord J. Russell) then the first Minister of the Crown, approached the question of reform, and commenced with a promise of what was to be done twelve months afterwards. In 1852 he brought in a Bill, and it disappeared, together with the Ministry. In 1853 we had the Ministry of the Earl of Aberdeer, and the Ministry of the Earl of Aberdeen also commenced with a promise of reform in twelve months' time. Well, 1854 arrived; with it arrived the Bill, but with it also arrived the war, and in the war was a reason, and I believe a good reason, for abandoning the Bill. Then came the Government of my noble Friend the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston) which was not less unfortunate in the circumstances which prevented the redemption of those pledges that had been given to the people from the mouth of the Sovereign on the Throne. In 1855 my noble Friend escaped all responsibility for a Reform Bill on account of the war; in 1856 he escaped all responsibility for Reform on account of the peace; in 1857 he escaped that inconvenient responsibility by the dissolution of Parliament; and in 1858 he escaped again by the dissolution of his Government. Well, each of these may be good reasons why Parliament has not dealt with the question of reform; but I put it to the impartial consideration of hon. Gentlemen whether upon the whole, if there be a portion of the people out of doors who think the House is reluctant or insincere with respect to reform, a series of events like these do not strengthen such misgivings, and do not render it additionally hazardous on our part to interpose any obstacles except those which necessity imperatively requires to the progress of a Bill which, at all events, corresponds with the promise of the Sovereign on the Throne in the general terms in which it was conveyed, and which is now presented to us in such a form as to afford us, I think, great hope of carrying to completion a measure which may take its place in our Statute-book. I confess I think that the appeal to Members of former Governments, as 1052 men and as statesmen, to assist in so far as it is in their power the progress of the Reform Bill introduced by the present Ministry is a topic and a plea which ought to have some considerable weight. It must be remembered, however, that the Resolution of the noble Member for the City has been supported by many hon. Gentlemen, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Wiltshire (Mr. Sidney Herbert), as being not an unusually severe and stringent method of interference with the course of the Bill; but, on the contrary, a singularly mild one, and as a milder measure than a negative upon the second reading. But when we are administering our measures of mildness, and especially when they are almost entirely novel in their form, it is of some importance to consider in what manner they will be received by the patient; and on this occasion the patient is so reluctant and refractory that, instead of accepting the recommendations of the noble Viscount the Member for Tiverton—instead of acquiescing in the view that this is merely a gentle caveat put in on the part of the House lest it should be overborne and suppressed by the strength of the Government in Committee—the Government who are to receive and acquiesce in this Resolution have treated it as a Resolution which not only is not milder than a negative upon the second reading, but which stigmatizes both their Bill and themselves in such a manner as to make it impossible for them to accept it. It is utterly useless to inquire whether the Government are right or wrong in that view of the matter, but the important fact for us to consider is that they have announced that if the Resolution be passed their Bill cannot proceed. The question, therefore, comes to be whether, upon the whole, we think it is for the interest of the country in connection with the great subject of Reform that the Bill should go into Committee, or that it should not go into Committee. If the Resolution passes, the second reading of the Bill cannot be proposed by the Government. If the Resolution fails, the second reading will be proposed, and, while I anticipate that the Resolution of my noble Friend will be carried, it appears equally clear from what has occurred, and from what has been said by my noble Friend the Member for Tiverton, that if we proceed to the question of the second reading that proposition will be carried, and that there will be an opportunity of dealing with the Bill in Committee. I want to know, 1053 therefore, what are the clauses of the Bill itself; and I begin by frankly admitting that I concur, I am sorry to say, in very nearly everything that has been said against the Bill. I have something to say presently upon a point which has been very little touched upon, but I must admit that I concur in the objections to the Bill which have been raised as prominently on this (the Ministerial) as on the other side of the House. I concur in the objections which have been taken by the noble Member for Tiverton and by the noble Member for the City. I cannot be a party to the disfranchisement of the county freeholders residing in boroughs. I cannot be a party to the uniformity of the franchise. I cannot be a party to a Reform Bill which does not lower the suffrage in boroughs. I may go a step further, and say it appears to me that the lowering of the suffrage in boroughs is the main purpose of having a Reform Bill, and that unless we are to have that lowering of the suffrage, it would be better that we should not waste our time on this subject. But, while I concur entirely in these objections, I must make a concession on the part of the Bill, in which I shall follow, though rather more fully, what was stated by my noble Friend the Member for Tiverton. I think I understood him correctly to say in his able speech that he approved generally of that portion of the Bill relating to the redistribution of seats. I think I did not misunderstand him, but that he approved generally of that portion of the plan. [Viscount PALMERSTON intimated his assent.] I did not understand the noble Member for the City of London to object to that portion of the Bill, nor did I understand that my right hon. Friend near me (Sir James Graham) objected to it, but that feature of the measure has been very generally passed over in silence, and I own that I think less than justice has been done to the Bill in that respect. I feel bound in honour to say that, upon the whole, I cannot help approving that portion of the Bill. I think that it is an improvement upon the measure to which I was myself a party in 1854. This is no small or trifling matter. In point of fact, the question of the redistribution of seats is a full half of your whole Reform Bill. The redistribution of scats and the arrangement of the franchise make up the measure. I will endeavour to explain frankly and fearlessly the reasons why I think that, upon the whole, this Bill has been framed wisely 1054 with respect to the redistribution of seats I believe the Bill we introduced in 1854 would infallibly—to use a homely phrase—have "gone to the dogs," on account of the extent of disfranchisement it proposed. We may throw out this Bill, and we may have another Bill brought in which proposes to disfranchise sixty, seventy, or eighty boroughs, but won't such a proposal be strongly opposed by the sixty, seventy, or eighty hon. Members who hold seats for those boroughs? I listened with great attention the other night to the speech of the hon. Member for Sandwich (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) who represents one of the class of small boroughs, and I think in that speech he has given us fail-notice what course he intends to pursue. He has told the noble Lord below him that he is perfectly willing to join with him for the purpose of destroying the Bill of the Government, but when his noble Friend has succeeded to power and introduces his Bill, the hon. Member for Sandwich anticipates that his noble Friend will again bind him and lay him on the altar.
§ MR. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN
said, the disfranchisement of Sandwich had never been proposed, except by the hon. Member for Birmingham.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
The hon. Gentleman would, no doubt, be prepared to show strong reasons, not why other boroughs should not be disfranchised, but why Sandwich should be retained. If an extensive measure of disfranchisement was introduced, we should have sixty, or seventy, or eighty speeches from hon. Members, showing why his own borough should not be disfranchised; but though the speeches would be single, the votes of the representatives of the boroughs proposed to be disfranchised would be combined in the division; and what would become of the Reform Bill introduced with a magnificent scheme for the redistribution of seats? But there is more in the matter than this. I must frankly own it appears to me that to proceed far in the disfranchisement of small boroughs is a course injurious to the efficiency of the House of Commons. You must not consider in this matter the question only of the electors. You must consider quite as much who are likely to be the elected. And permit mo to say that the time has come when, in the examination of any scheme of Reform, it is of vital and capital importance that this matter should be brought fully under the view of the House. Let me point out that 1055 the Reform Bill of 1832 has not, in this respect, been fairly and fully tried. For twenty-seven years, it is true, it has been in operation, and it has communicated great vigour to the working of the legislative machine. For the first ten or fifteen years of that period the working of the Reformed Parliament has exhibited a union of power, circumspection, and sagacity such as it would be difficult to find an equal to in the history of legislative assemblies. But look at the advantages which attended the first working of this change in our representation. It is true we had a new electoral system, but we had the old statesmen to work it. Read the admirable argument of Lord Macaulay in his History of William III. upon the state of the House of Commons at that time, before you had organized the system under which Ministries are constituted and maintained in this country. The House of Commons was then an assembly of units incapable of forming into one body and of working together. Why is it that, from that time to the present, they have become, instead of a mere aggregate of units, an organized whole, capable of conducting the affairs of this great empire? It has been because of the race of statesmen who have adorned this House, who have been reared from generation to generation under the operation of your improved Parliamentary system, and of that race I rejoice to say, notwithstanding the twenty-seven years that have elapsed since the Reform Bill, a very considerable number still remain to us. Now, how were these men introduced into the House of Commons? I am sure I may entreat the patience of the House. I need not trouble them with wearisome citations; but it is really worth our while to consider how this great provision for the exigencies of the country has been made. We have heard in the course of this debate some apology for small constituencies. Well, I am no great lover of small constituencies, and it never was my lot to sit for one. At the same time small constituencies undoubtedly tend to answer the great purpose of a representative system in securing its diversity and completeness. If you have nothing but large and populous bodies to return your Members of Parliament, there, as recent experience seems, I am sorry to say, in a great degree to prove, local interests and local influences will upon the whole prevail, and you will not find it possible to introduce adequately into this House the race of men by whom the Go- 1056 vernment of the country is to be carried on. By means of small boroughs, generally considered—I have no doubt there are objections to them, but I believe those objections are gradually disappearing under the action of improved laws and an improved state of public feeling—by means of small boroughs you introduce into this House the representatives of separate interests, who stand apart from the great and the paramount interests of the country. You introduce here the masters of civil wisdom, such as Mr. Burke above all, Sir James Mackintosh, and many others who might be named—a class of men with respect to whom nothing is less probable than that they should command to any great extent the suffrages of large and populous constituencies. You introduce those calm, sagacious, retired observers who are averse from the rough contact necessary in canvassing large bodies of electors, but who form no small part of the best substrata of this House, and contribute greatly to the efficiency of your representative system. Many, however, have spoken on behalf of small boroughs. I want to speak on behalf of a certain description of small boroughs—of those where, from kindly interest, from ancient and affectionate recollections, from local and traditional respect, from the memory of services received, from the admiration of great men and great qualities, the constituencies are willing to take upon trust the recommendation of candidates for Parliament from noblemen or gentlemen who may stand in immediate connection with them. [Some cries of "Oh!"] I do not complain at all of that interruption. I admit that there is something of paradox in such an argument upon such a question, if it is to be considered as an argument upon paper only; but practice has proved that the real paradox lies with those who will allow of no ingress into this House but one. If that one ingress is to be the suffrages of a large mass of voters, the consequence is a dead level of mediocrity which destroys not only the ornament but the force of this House, and which, as I think the history of other countries will show, is ultimately fatal to the liberties of the people. Allow me in explanation of my meaning to state the case of six men in one line each,—Mr. Pelham, Lord Chatham, Mr. Fox, Mr. Pitt, Mr. Canning, and Sir Robert Peel. Mr. Pelham entered this House for the borough of Seaford in 1719, at the age of twenty-two; Lord Chatham 1057 entered it in 1735, for Old Sarum, at the age of twenty-six; Mr. Fox in 1764, for Midhurst, at the age, I think, of twenty; Mr. Pitt in 1781, for Appleby, at the age of twenty-one; -Mr. Canning in 1793, for Newport, at the age of twenty-two; and Sir Robert Peel in 1809, for the city of Cashel, at the ago of twenty-one. Now, here are six men, every one of whom was a leader in this House. I take them because the youngest is older than the eldest of those Statesmen who now sit here, and because the mention of their names can give rise to no personal feeling. Here are six men whom I do not hesitate to say you cannot match out of the history of the British House of Commons for the hundred years which precede our own day. Every one of them was a loader in this House, almost every one was a Prime Minister, all of them entered Parliament for one of those boroughs where influence of different kinds prevailed. Every one of them might, if he had chosen, after giving proof of his powers in this House, have sat for any of the open constituencies of the country, and many of them did so. Mr. Pelham, after sitting for Seaford in one Parliament, represented Sussex for all the rest of his life. Lord Chatham never, I think, represented an open constituency. Mr. Fox, after sitting for Midhurst, became the chosen of Westminster. Mr. Pitt went from Appleby at a very early age to the University of Cambridge. Mr. Canning, after representing Newport, was returned by Liverpool, and Sir Robert Peel from Cashel became the Member for the University of Oxford. Now, what was the case of Sir Robert Pool? The University, on account of a conscientious difference of opinion, refused the continuance of his services. Were it not for a small borough those services would have been lost to the British Parliament. ["Oh!"] The hon. Member is right; it was an over statement. I should have said they would have been lost to the British Parliament at that moment. But in Westbury he found an immediate refuge—for so it must be called—and he continued to sit for a small borough for the remainder of his life. Mr. Canning, in the same way, not losing but resigning the representation of Liverpool, found it more conducive to the public business that he should become the representative of a small borough for the rest of his days. What does this show? It shows that small boroughs were the nursery-ground in which these men were educated—men who not only were destined 1058 to lead this House, to govern the country, to be the strength of England at home and its ornament abroad, but who likewise, when once they had an opportunity of proving their powers in this House, became the chosen of large constituencies and the favourites of the nation. It cannot be denied that, whatever advantages have attended our Parliamentary Reforms we have latterly, by what we have done, narrowed the means of ingress to the House of Commons. What chance would there be for any of the six men I have mentioned, at the age of twenty-one or twenty-two, under the present system? It is not too much to say that no one of these mere boys could have become a Member of Parliament if it had not been for the means of access to the House of Commons which then existed. You must recollect that they were nearly all chosen when they were about twenty-one or twenty-two. What is the case now? I fully grant that you have an answer as far as regards a very limited class of persons indeed. Take the heir to a dukedom or an earldom, or the son of a great territorial potentate, and there will be ready access to Parliament for such men; nor, I trust, shall we ever see any measures adopted which will exclude them. I rejoice to see that by so limited a class so much ability and so much promise is shown. If you look to the young men of this day—and, after all, it is to them we must look to carry on the business of the country in future years—the most distinguished persons in this House are the men who owe their seats here to territorial influence. The cases of Canning, Fox, Pitt and Peel carry a moral with them. What would have been Mr. Canning's chance had he been dependent on that influence. I do not know what would have been the chances of Mr. Fox or Mr. Pitt, or Sir Robert Peel at twenty-one or twenty-two if they had been dependent on territorial influence. You cannot expect of large and populous constituencies that they should return boys to Parliament; and yet if you want a succession of men trained to take part in the government of the country, you must have a great proportion of them returned to this House while they are boys. The conclusion to which this brings me is that the matter will be a more serious one if you are prepared to part with your whole system of small boroughs. I am not arguing this in the sense of one party or another; far less am I arguing it in a sense adverse to popular 1059 rights. For what, let me ask, have these men whose names I have just mentioned been? Have they been the enemies of popular rights? Is it not, upon the contrary, under Providence, in a great degree to be attributed to a succession of those distinguished statesmen, introduced at an early age into this House, and once made known in this House securing to themselves the general favour of their countrymen, that we enjoy our present extension of popular liberty, and, above all, the durable form which that liberty has assumed? I am aware that this has now become a rather antiquated subject. ["Hear, hear!"from the Opposition side of the House.] I thank the hon. Gentleman for his concurrence in the sentiment to which I have given expression, and let me remind him that there are many things which are old which are nevertheless good. But, Sir, we are called upon in this discussion to consider a subject which, as my noble Friend the Member for London has so well stated, involves, not only our own condition, but the condition of our children and of the latest posterity. In dealing with it I wish to ask myself the question how the benches of this House are to be filled; how all the diversities of powers and aptitudes which have formed this great nation are to find their way within those sacred precincts of the constitution after we shall have lost the guiding influence and authority of that race of statesmen who were reared under our ancient system, particularly if we should proceed by rash and unwise legislation to cut off from our representative system that class of constituencies through the medium of which alone, with the exception of the case of the eldest sons and heirs of great families, the energy and vigour of the nation can easily be introduced into the House of Commons at an age at which they may become available for the public service. This question, in my opinion, involves a reason, and no inconsiderable reason, for our proceeding in Committee, if possible, with the Bill under our notice. It seems to me that there is really very little to be said against the adoption of that course when we come to the consideration of what the practical advantage is which my noble Friend the Member for London promises to himself from the success of his Resolution. I for one confess I am entirely at a loss—and I shall not dwell upon this part of the subject because of my total ignorance with respect to it—to understand how the position of 1060 my noble Friend will be in any way improved, or how his views will be nearer accomplishment, if on the morning on which the division takes place he should learn from the triumphant cheers of his supporters the announcement that his Motion has been successful. My noble Friend holds certain opinions. He thinks the county freeholders in boroughs ought not to be disfranchised; that the suffrage in boroughs ought to be lowered, and that the Bill ought not to be based upon the principle of uniformity. Well, that being so, has he not, let me ask, ascertained from what has occurred in the course of this debate that he is perfectly certain to carry into effect, if he pleases, his views upon every one of those points in Committee? The opinions of my noble Friend are embodied in his Resolution, which, if carried at all—and carried I presume it will be—will only be carried by some small majority. But if we go into Committee on the Bill, his proposition with respect to the disfranchisement of the county freeholders in boroughs will be supported by every hon. Member on that, and by a large proportion of those who sit upon this (the Ministerial) side of the House. In like manner, his proposal for lowering the suffrage in boroughs will, I imagine, receive almost unanimous support from those hon. Members who sit upon the benches behind him, while no inconsiderable support will be extended to it by those hon. Gentlemen who sit here; so that, in point of fact, the success of the Resolution, instead of exhibiting truly and fully the views of the House of Commons in favour of the opinions put forward by my noble Friend, will exhibit the degree of favour in which those opinions are entertained to great disadvantage. There are the very men (pointing to Mr. Walpole and Mr. Henley) who have been the first champions—I may say the martyrs—of those opinions; and if I have rightly interpreted the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole), who holds these sentiments in conjunction with my noble Friend opposite, he will feel obliged to go into a different lobby from the noble Lord, should this Resolution be pressed to a division, and thus appear to oppose him while in reality he approves the main propositions which he has laid down. But what is the reason assigned by my noble Friend for adopting the course which he has pursued? He says:— 1061I am asked why I do not, instead of proposing this Resolution, vote against the second reading of the Bill? My answer is, that if I were to do so, my conduct would be liable to misinterpretation. It would be supposed, if I voted against the Bill, that I was opposed to the £10 occupation franchise in counties.Well, but if the wish of my noble Friend was to escape unjust criticism and cavil, he has surely not succeeded in the attainment of his object. On the contrary, he has failed; while I may be permitted to observe that the excuse which he has offered, with, I have no doubt, perfect bon fides, for not voting against the second reading of the Bill, instead of moving his Amendment, is, I fear, exactly the description of reason which will hereafter be assigned by those who may make a point of perverting the example of my noble Friend to the purposes of picking a hole in a measure which may be presented by the Government, rather than subject themselves to risk of being represented throughout the country as having voted against a measure which contained some good provisions. Well, but what, let me ask, is to be the result of the division which we are about to take on this Bill? The point is one on which we know very little; but it appears to me, I confess, that if this Resolution had not been moved those who are favourable to the opinions which it enunciates would be in the position of what our neighbours at the other side of the Channel would call "masters of the situation;" would be in the majority, and would, in short, be overwhelming in giving effect in Committee to the principles of which they are the advocates. Now, permit me in passing to make a single remark on a point which is not devoid of importance. I understood the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Admiralty to say that the Government looked upon the principle of uniformity of suffrage as a matter which might be dealt with in Committee. The omission on that head which occurred in the brilliant speech of the Secretary for the Colonies was supplied by the right hon. Baronet. That being so, it seems to me that if we should not pass this Resolution we should be sure to attain the objects which it seeks to effect. But have we an equally good assurance upon that score if the Resolution is successful? If we pass the Resolution it will not rest with us to take the next step. The hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), indeed, says something about digging a hole in the floor of this House, burying the Bill, and 1062 huddling up this question. My hon. Friend is no doubt a great authority upon such points, for he, I venture to say, knows more than any one else, about digging holes and burying Bills. But what, let me ask, do the words "huddling up this question" really mean? My hon. Friend spoke somewhat cautiously the other evening; his circumspection, indeed, was such that it was impossible to tell what he was aiming at. I listened to his speech, I confess, with great pleasure, but I did not quite understand why it was that my hon. Friend was so much alarmed at the idea of this question being "huddled up." We are not going to vote upon it through the medium of the ballot. Such a process would, I admit, be something like "huddling it up." We have now arrived at the sixth night of this debate. This is the eighth or ninth year in which you have been engaged in the discussion of this subject. The speeches made upon it are reported by the yard—I should, perhaps, be more accurate in saying by the mile—and printed off by the million. We are acting in the face of day, and in the presence of our countrymen. There is no mystery about the matter. The idea of "huddling up the question" is therefore absurd. There need be no alarm upon that score. The only ground for fear in connection with the subject is, that agitation with respect to it might be prolonged. I cannot see, under all the circumstances of the case, that the Resolution of my noble Friend is calculated to have any other effect than to retard its settlement. If we should go into Committee we must, I concur with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman) in thinking, deal with this measure irrespective of the feelings of those by whom it was introduced. The question we have to consider is not whether we shall then pass the Bill in its present shape. I am free to admit that so far as regards those points in the Bill to which exception is taken you are fully justified in your opposition to them. It is consideration for the public interests and apprehension of the consequences which would be likely to follow an adverse vote upon this occasion that alone would withhold me from giving effect to that opposition in the manner which you propose. Let me ask the noble Viscount the Member for Tiverton what are the views which he entertains—after what be has heard since he addressed the House the other evening—with respect to the result of the 1063 decision at which the House of Commons may arrive? I put the question to him perhaps with the more confidence because I know that by the rules of the House he is prevented from replying to me. He has, however, got around him an admirable staff as yet unexhausted, and we shall, I dare say, learn from some member of it, what it is which the noble Lord contemplates as a consequence of the success of the Resolution. The noble Viscount distinctly said to us the other evening, "Give your votes for the Resolution, and I will tell you what will follow—the progress of the Bill under the auspices of the very men by whom it was framed." The noble Viscount, in short, condemned the Government to retain their places and their Bill, thus following a great historic precedent, consecrated by many ages, in accordance with which, galley slaves are chained to their oars. Since the speech of the noble Viscount was delivered, however, we have been informed on the part of the Government that the Bill will not be proceeded with if the Resolution should be carried. I deem it my duty, therefore, to consider what we have to apprehend in the event of this Resolution being successful, not in the interest of the Government, but of Reform itself. With respect to the former consideration I can only say it is of too small a nature to be put for one moment in competition with that more weighty one which ought to rule our decision on the present occasion. I cannot hesitate to agree with those who are of opinion that this question of the fate of a Ministry has been pushed somewhat too far. I am of opinion, for instance, that the language which was used by my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole) with reference to the Earl of Malmesbury, who, he seemed to say, had constituted England the mediator of Europe, was somewhat too warm in its colouring, and was the result rather of Friendship than of the dictates of a strictly judicial mind. I feel convinced—while I am grateful to the Earl of Malmesbury for what he has done as well as for what he has not done—that any Government which may be formed at the present moment will be constructed with a due sense of the heavy responsibility which it must be prepared to undertake as well with respect to the question of Reform as in connection with the subject of foreign affairs. The Earl of Malmesbury, however, is not the only man who must be presumed to feel a due anxiety for the pre- 1064 servation of peace. That sentiment, on the contrary, has taken posession of the country, and I trust that those who labour in giving effect to it will feel, as I have no doubt the Earl of Malmesbury does, that if we hope to establish a durable peace we must attempt to do something to mitigate those great evils which are the real source and fountain-head of the present embarrassments, and which so long as they continue unmitigated will inevitably produce the recurrence of those embarrassments in an aggravated form from time to time. The question before us, Sir, is not a question of the Government, but it is a question of the Bill and of Reform. The Bill is not to go forward in the hands of the present Administration. Consider, then, that you are to lose an engine by means of which, I must confess it appears to me, effect might be given to the ideas of the House respecting Parliamentary Reform. What else is to happen? Is Parliament to be dissolved? The noble Viscount (Viscount Palmerston) says "No; I will prevent that." But the doctrine of the noble Viscount appears to me to trench upon uncertain ground, and, if the case should arise, I am not at all sure that prophecy would be fulfilled. Then is there to be a resignation? The noble Viscount says that is quite impossible; but as one of his predictions as to the Government carrying forward the Bill has failed, I am not sure that he might not be frustrated in this instance too. A dissolution would be an evil, and I do not think a resignation of Ministers at this moment—and many Members in this House share that opinion—would at all contribute to an early or an easy settlement of this question. There is another alternative which has not been alluded to in this debate neither dissolution nor resignation, but with reference to the state of foreign affairs, or to the gravity of circumstances, we may have a distant prospect of a dissolution, dropping this Bill now with a prospect of bringing in some other Bill at some future time. But, Sir, come what may, although I can't forecast the future, I say the first stop in determining it will not then be with the majority of this House, but will be with the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his colleagues; but as you have now the matter in your own hands, I hope you will keep it there instead of subjecting yourselves to the chances and consequences that may follow upon any resolution which the Government, considering their own inter- 1065 ests, may think fit to take. I think, also, whatever resolution may be come to by the Government, whether to resign, to dissolve, or to drop the Bill, and wait for a hostile attack, we shall have to regret a further postponement of this question. I used the words "hostile attack" upon the Government, and we have recently had reason to expect that such an attack would be made. I objected to the compliment paid by my right hon. Friend to the Earl of Malmesbury, but I must say, of all the compliments that have been paid to the Government in the course of the debate, none can compete with that paid them by the hon. Member for Beaumaris (Mr. O. Stanley). That hon. Member produced a Motion, announcing that in a certain contingency, which he expected might occur, he would move a vote of want of confidence in the Government. He gave that notice in one Parliamentary sitting, and he withdrew it the next. That certainly was a very short life for a proposition of so formidable a character.Ostendent terris hunc tantùm fata, nee ultrà Esse sinent.The same author, Sir, from whom I have just quoted, illustrates the character of his hero by saying that his enemies fled when they saw his burnished arms gleaming in the shade; but for the first time we find a man—the hon. Member for Beaumaris—who fled when he saw his own arms. I refer to this subject for the purpose of inducing the House to consider the state of Parliamentary confusion which is likely to arise. Admitting that there is no combination—and it has been in the frankest manner denied that there is any combination as to ulterior measures among those who form the majority upon this Resolution—I think that majority can be but a misfortune to us all, according to our declared views, except to the hon. Member for Birmingham, who has frankly told us he does not wish this matter to be settled now. I am not sure that I am speaking the hon. Member's words, but I am certainly stating the inference I drew from his speech—the metaphors of digging a hole and "huddling up" give me that impression. I confess, for my own part, I am most anxious for a settlement of this question. The concurrence of opinions, and the manly declarations that have been made by my noble Friend, (Lord J. Russell) not long ago, by my noble Friend the Member for Tiverton on Friday night, and by others as to this question of Reform, appear to me to hold 1066 out to us a golden opportunity which is at present within our reach, but of which, if we let it slip now, no man can predict the return. It is, in my opinion, a misfortune to have this question agitated from year to year. After the number of miscarriages, innocent miscarriages no doubt, but still miscarriages—that we have had upon this subject, it is impossible but that the credit of Parliament must suffer if every alternate year a promise of an efficient Reform Bill is given, and in every other year of the two we find a Bill introduced and broken down in its passage through this House. It is bad for the nation that this House, which has so much business to transact on the part of this country and our vast empire, should be perpetually engaged in constitutional and organic discussions. Granted all our strength—and I believe no assembly in the world transacts business to the extent which this House does—granted all our strength and earnestness, such is the vastness of our concerns, the accumulation of our territories, such the diversity of the interests of the subjects of the Queen in different portions of the globe, that we cannot keep abreast of that mass of business, it is continually falling into arrear. Constantly, in one portion of the empire or another, in one department of public business or another, we find there is such a failure to discharge the full duties of legislation as is most unfortunate and injurious, and which would be nothing less than disgraceful were it not that the failure does not arise from weakness or unwillingness on the part of this House, but because the demands of the British empire surpass and transcend the powers of any assembly. Do what you will the wave of public business, which year after year you endeavour to keep back, will overtake you. If you have a laborious Session one year, you have a more laborious one next year. We cannot afford—as a mere matter of time—to pass year after year, to fritter away the principal part of each Session in debating the question of Parliamentary Reform. I say, too, over and above the loss of time, it is a dangerous habit for the country to fall into. It is an unhealthy sign in the state of the public mind, or rather it would be an unhealthy sign if there was a desire in the public mind to keep open such a question. No individual can be constantly watching the state of his own health without injuring it; and a disposition to be continually agitating a question of organic change, as not only an un- 1067 wholesome effect upon us, withdrawing our attention from other important matters, but it diminishes the stability of our institutions, and tends to disqualify England for the performance of those great duties which she has to discharge both to herself and to the world. I, therefore, am not willing to be governed upon the question before us by any other consideration than the simple one of, in which way shall I give ray vote that will be most likely to help on this great question to a speedy and satisfactory settlement. I agree with the hon. Member for Birmingham that we should endeavour to settle this question in a spirit of trust towards the people, and for several years past we have been getting all the proceedings of legislation more and more upon that sound and satisfactory basis. I am convinced such will be the only principles upon which this House will act whenever it comes to deal decisively and conclusively with the particulars of a measure of Reform, but I entreat the hon. Member not to use his influence—to whatever other purpose he may apply it—to procure a postponement and a prolongation of these discussions. Let us, I repeat, agree upon the necessity of settling this matter at once that we may be able the better to address ourselves to the many other demands upon our time. That is, I think, what every true patriot must desire. For my own part, I can most freely say that the vote which I shall give will not be with any regard to the Government nor to party, but in that direction which I believe will more effectually tend to that consummation, which, as regards this question, I am sure is generally desired. I must, Sir, I have given no offence to any one by the remarks which I have addressed to the House. I accord fully to every other Member that which I humbly and respectfully claim for myself, after a perhaps too prolonged, but at the same time honest and free expression of my sentiments, and I shall vote to negative the Resolution of my noble Friend, because I am sure by that vote we shall best discharge the great duty that is incumbent upon us as chief among the guardians of the British constitution and the welfare of the British dominions.
§ MR. MONCREIFF
said, the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down appeared to think the argument so sound as it had been urged on that (the Opposition) side of the House, that he had not thought it worth while to devote more than two sentences to 1068 the real principles so strongly contested in that prolonged debate. Indeed, it was to be doubted whether the Government would altogether thank the right hon. Gentleman for the manner in which he had supported them. It was to be regretted that the hon. and learned Solicitor General and the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty had revived the acrimonious and personal tone which had characterized previous parts of that discussion, and after the observations of the right hon. Member for the University of Oxford it was to be hoped that that tone would be finally abandoned. That right hon. Gentleman had treated this subject without imputing factious motives or party objects, but simply as a question of expediency and public convenience. But he, Mr. Moncreiff, could not agree that the Resolution of the noble Lord, formed as it was upon essential points of the Bill, was an inconvenient mode of discussing the question. That the points embodied in it went to the root of the Government measure instead of dealing with isolated details appeared from this, that the two right hon. Gentlemen who differed from the Government in regard to them not only could not support the Bill, but had been obliged to secede from the Government that brought it in. He would now look at the measure more closely. It was impossible not to see that it was framed on a principle. It was quite evident that there was a cohesion in it, and a principle also, and he asserted that the Resolution in its two parts attacked the very foundation of that principle. With regard to the measure, the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Colonies, in a speech which, however eloquent, might have been delivered on the discussion. of any Reform Bill, past, present, or to come, said that the people were apathetic with regard to the subject of Reform. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, on the contrary, declared that there was a most intense feeling among the people with regard to it. He did not agree with either of the hon. Members, but thought that the real truth might he between the two statements. He thought that it was a great mistake to say that the people were apathetic upon the subject; they might be quiescent, but he was far from agreeing that they were apathetic, and he thought that the Government must have proceeded on a very false idea if they had laid their measure on the table under the belief that the national mind was indifferent to it. Moreover, if such a general indifference 1069 really prevailed, and no necessity now existed for dealing with the question of Reform, the Ministry ought to have come down to the House and frankly said so. When the Reform Bill of 1854 was withdrawn, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer said he drew from the circumstance this moral—that it was the most dangerous thing possible to introduce measures of this kind if there was no public feeling in their favour, and that Governments ought to take very good care how they entered into pledges on such a subject. That right hon. Gentleman then stated that no one doubted the sincerity of the noble Lord the author of the Bill of 1854, and here it might be remarked in passing, that the hon, and learned Solicitor General might take an example from the manner in which the leader of the House spoke of his distinguished opponents. The right hon. Gentleman added that there had been too much levity displayed in mooting, for party purposes, questions of organic change in the constitution of the country. These were the views expressed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1854; but on the first opportunity the Government of which he was a distinguished member adopted a course directly at variance with them. What they were to blame for, however, was not for bringing forward a Reform Bill, but for bringing one forward unless they deemed it necessary for, or desired by, the great mass of the people. They had no right to fling down upon the floor a crude and undigested measure, and then turn round and apologize for what they did by alleging that there was no great feeling in the country on the subject. The people might be quiescent upon the subject, or even apathetic; but there was no surer way of stirring up the agitation in which they disbelieved than to take up this question in a faint and faltering spirit, and to assume that the people were indifferent how it was disposed of. He quite agreed in what had been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) as to the increased confidence that existed in the country as to the House; but he could consider no course more dangerous than, in the first place, to bring forward a measure upon such a subject, and next to imagine that the state of the representation could remain in the same position as it was before—by bringing in a measure which, by attempting to deal with everything, unsettled everything and settled nothing. In the re- 1070 marks he was about to make he would confine himself solely to the question of the extension of the franchise. He would not be led into a discussion of the question of the readjustment of seats, or of the nomination seats; though, as to the latter, he might remark that he agreed in a great deal that had been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) that evening. A great deal had been said as to the danger of democratic influences. He would not go into that, as he was terrified by no such bugbear. In one sense of the word, certainly, our institutions now possessed a large infusion of the democratic principle; but, taking the term as implying a tendency to revolutionary and unconstitutional opinions, he maintained that the extension of the franchise would not necessarily result in an extension of the democratic principle. What was the result of the measure of 1832 in that respect? It had had exactly the reverse effect. Look at the feeling of the working and middle classes now and compare them with that of 830. A feeling of devotion to the constitution had made way among them since that time. It was quite true that matters were carried on in the House in a very different way to what was formerly the case—that liberal opinions were now propounded in the House such as never were heard of before—sinecures abolished and the patronage of the Crown subjected to strict supervision; but at any rate such was the case. He did not mean to say that he was in favour of manhood suffrage, or anything like it, but he thought that the reduction that had already taken place had produced as its legitimate consequence a better understanding and love of the constitution. With regard to what was said as to the extension of the franchise being accompanied by an extension of influence among the voters, he thought that that would be the case; but that would not be the case so much if the constituencies were increased. The principle of our Parliamentary system was the representation of local popular opinion. It was the very essence of our constitution that it should be local popular opinion which was represented; but what did he find in the Bill brought in by the Government? He found that for the first time in a measure of this kind out-voters had been most sedulously provided for, and treated as a privileged class. He looked upon it as a most unfortunate feign, as he always thought that 1071 the representation ought to be restricted as much as possible to the local popular opinion. He found that out-voters in counties were provided for, and that out-voters in boroughs were also provided for. He recollected that in 1835 or 1836, when the Reform Bill first came into operation in Scotland, great dissatisfaction was felt that the votes of the independent county voters could be swamped by out-voters coming in. The principal feature of the Bill was to diminish the popular element both in counties and boroughs, and to introduce an unlimited power of bringing to bear upon the elections the opinions of those who were not at all connected with the localities in which they took place. As to the 40s. freeholders, it was surely enough to say that no ground had been shown for putting them on their defence. We found this franchise which had existed during many turmoils and revolutions, which had survived the civil wars, the Union of the kingdoms, and the Reform Bill itself, and why was it to be altered? It was not necessary to go into the abstract question as to whether it was desirable to have a property franchise founded upon the principle of these freeholds. That franchise was the growth of years, it had grown up with and been incorporated into our constitution, and why should it be changed? Was not the reason in order to abstract the popular element from the counties? Was that disguised? Was it not admitted that, as an equivalent for the £10 occupancy franchise, the borough clement was, so far as the 40s. freeholds were concerned, to be abstracted from the counties? If that was really the reason for this change, it of itself ought to be enough to induce the House to agree to this Resolution. Why were they to diminish the popular influence in counties? Had it been ill-used; had the influence of the landed aristocracy been unduly overborne? There was no accusation of the kind. He was ready to admit that if the question bad now come before them for the first time they might consider it, but all they had to say now was that it was an old established franchise, and that it had done the State good service; but, if it was bad, why were the votes to be allowed in boroughs? They were retained in boroughs whether great or small, and every holder of a 40s. freehold was to have a vote. It did not require to be shown what an effect this would have in borough constituencies. The result would be—as he believed it was intended 1072 to be—that in the smaller boroughs the property franchise would so work as greatly to destroy, or at all events, to counteract the political opinions of those who resided in the boroughs. Then, too, with regard to the £10 occupancy franchise in counties, must that be in connection with a dwelling-house? If not, if a landed proprietor could make a vote for every ten-acre field which he let at £1 per acre, the independence of the counties would, in Scotland at least, be gone for ever. They were told that there was a principle of uniformity involved in this measure, but that was not necessarily a recommendation. Uniformity in politics, like uniformity in art, might lead to symmetry or distortion accordingly as it was applied, and he was of opinion that in this instance it was more likely to produce the latter than the former result. This idea of uniformity was an entire delusion, and a very dangerous one. There were two reasons why the borough and county franchise never had been and never ought to be uniform. The first was, that the constituencies to which they applied were different in their nature; and the second that the description of property frachise was different in each. It was said that if uniformity was not granted, there would be an agitation for it. He had not that fear of agitation which some hon. Members had. On the contrary, he thought that a healthy state of the constitution in a great degree depended partly upon agitation, and that where the object was not reasonable in itself it was not likely to be attained. But would agitation be avoided by means of the proposed uniformity? On the contrary, he would promise the Government the most hearty opposition to uniformity. If uniformity were enacted this year it would have to be repealed next year. And he was persuaded that if the borough franchise were to be stereotyped at £10, because a £10 occupancy franchise was granted to counties, the urban constituencies would never rest until that law was repealed. In that view the reduction of the county franchise to £10 was the most cogent reason why the borough franchise should be further reduced. The Government said they could not do than they had done, that they had already given up half their principles, and could not be expected to abandon the remaining half. He would tell them, however, that if, looking their difficulties in the face, they had come forward candidly and boldly, and, instead of resorting to all 1073 kinds of finesse, had proposed to reduce the county franchise in the manner proposed by the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Locke King), and to reduce the borough franchise to £8 or £6, they would have been met on that side of the House in the most cordial spirit, and the Opposition would gladly have joined with them in passing their measure. Such was the proposition suggested to them by their two late colleagues; such was the proposition which had received the assent of the right hon. Member for the University of Oxford himself; and such, moreover, was the proposition which would ultimately have to be adopted. But, instead of bringing forward so sensible a measure, they had chosen to wander into devious courses, and the result was that the Bill which they had actually introduced settled nothing, dealt with first principles in a retrograde spirit, and stifled instead of enlarging the popular element in our representative system. He, for one, was not afraid of the working classes. He thought too much had been said about the working classes, as if there were a broad line between them and the middle classes. Who were the working classes? Were they not the great bulk of the people of this country? How were they to draw a line between the operative engineer and the man who made his fortune in the same calling? The truth was that all classes shaded into each other, and they were not there to patronize or pity the working classes especially, but to do what was best for the country. He was far from saying that every man who belonged to the working classes ought to be at once enfranchised, the Legislature having hitherto, in his opinion, neglected its duty in regard to their education; but as a body the working classes were constantly increasing in intelligence as well as in power, and he knew no better way of extending the basis of the constitution than by placing the franchise within their reach. A great deal had been said as to the probable consequences of passing the Resolution and rejecting the Bill. With that be had nothing whatever to do. The simple question which he had to consider was to what decision should the House come upon the question before it. Those who were prepared to vote against the Bill were not called upon to shadow forth all the political changes and arrangements which might follow the division, and he was not aware that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite took any pains to describe their policy, 1074 or even to ensure a majority, before they accepted office. No doubt the people desired a measure of Parliamentary Reform, but what they wanted even more was the formation of a Government strong enough to carry the measures which it believed to be for the welfare of the country. Whatever might be the result of the present Motion, he was certain that far more hazardous and more revolutionary than any extension of the franchise among the educated working classes was the existence of a Government not having power to carry measures which they thought to be for the benefit of the people, and surrendering their power into the hands of that House.
§ MR. H. PALMER
said, that hardly any one Member who had spoken from that (the Ministerial) side of the House had appeared entirely to approve of the Bill, and he must confess there were some parts of it to which he himself strongly objected. Its main features were uniformity and the disfranchisement of the 40s. freeholders; and he objected to both. As regarded the proposed uniformity, he thought that if it were insisted on, it would lead, after a short period of time, to a further reduction of all the franchises. In support of this opinion he would refer to the speech of the hon. Member for Birmingham, who had expressed his conviction that a downward tendency of the franchise must be the result of the adoption of the principle of uniformity. With regard to the 40s. freeholders in boroughs, he saw no reason why they should be disfranchised, for he was not aware that they as a body had in the exercise of their franchise been guilty of any impropriety of conduct. He thought that under these circumstances they ought to be left alone. He had no objection to a measure of Reform, for he had been a Reformer to some degree, he might say, all his life long, and voted for the Reform Bill of 1832. He might be asked to what extent in lowering the franchise would he be prepared to go. He was not wedded to the maintenance of the occupation franchise in counties at £50, and he conceived the time had come when, to a certain degree and a considerable extent, the franchise should be extended. He agreed with the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole) that a £20 occupation franchise would be a good resting place with regard to counties. That amount was the qualification for jurymen, who were called on to perform laborious duties, re 1075 quiring intelligence in the execution, and the same class of men would be quite competent to select a proper representative at an election for Parliament. With respect to the borough franchise, he saw no reason why it should be limited to £10, and he should have no objection to its extension so long as the vote was given to independent and respectable persons. Beyond that point the House ought not to go. He remembered that a year ago the Motion of the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Locke King) was vehemently opposed on the ground that the reduction of the county occupation franchise to £10 would bring in such a multiplicity of voters in unrepresented towns as would swamp the influence which the present holders of the franchise enjoyed. He did not understand how what was objectionable last year could be considered acceptable in the present. For these reasons he objected to the Bill as a whole. It was with considerable difficulty that he had made up his mind as to the course he should pursue, though he had no doubt on the subject of the noble Lord's Resolution. He regarded that Resolution as moved more from party motives than on any other account. He considered that every point alluded to in the Resolution could be equally well discussed in Committee, and therefore he should certainly not vote for the noble Lord's Resolution. With regard to the second reading of the Bill, however, he had felt some doubt as to the way in which he ought to vote, and unless he thought that the provisions he had adverted to were open to amendment in Committee he could not bring himself to vote for the second reading. Having, however, heard from the hon. Baronet the Secretary to the Treasury, from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and still more decidedly from the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Admiralty, that these questions were all open for reconsideration, and that it would be within the power of the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge to move the adoption of a £20 county occupation qualification, and for the right hon. Member for Oxfordshire to propose a diminution of the borough franchise, he thought the best course he could take was to give his vote against the noble Lord's Resolution, and, if the question should be put on the second reading of the Bill, then to vote in favour of the second reading.
§ MR. WESTHEAD
said, that—representing, as he did, a city in which there 1076 dwelt a great number of intelligent and active persons of the middle and lower classes, who had lately met to discuss the merits of this measure—he deemed it his duty to state to the House what he believed to be their sentiments with regard to the Bill, and he must say that in those sentiments he in great part concurred. The citizens of York during the discussion which took place last autumn on the subject of a Reform Bill were contented to be quiescent. They waited until the Government measure was prepared, and they then assembled in large numbers in their Concert Hall. He was unable to be present himself on the occasion, but he had heard from those who were, that the feeling was most decidedly and unanimously in disapprobation of certain provisions of the Government Bill. It was not to be wondered at that the citizens of York should feel aggrieved at that portion embraced within the first part of the noble Lord's Resolution. They were strongly opposed to the disqualification as county electors of 1,100 freehold voters resident in the city. He warned the Government that the introduction of such a principle as that contained in the Bill would materially disturb the balance of parties both in counties and boroughs. In the North Riding of Yorkshire the Bill would remove from the county to boroughs 2,073 electors, amounting to two-fifths of the whole number who polled for each of the successful candidates at the hotly contested election of 1857. There were 4,335 registered electors for the city of York, but this Bill would introduce into the constituency a new clement—that of freehold voters. He believed that in the case of York that element was decidedly Liberal, but he thought this displacement of voters was unfair to all parties. This disturbance of the balance of representation would take place just as much if the Bill were modified as proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It had been said that the freeholders in boroughs would rather vote in a borough where the electors were but a few hundred than in a county where the number was much greater; that, in fact, by so doing they would obtain a greater share in the representation of the people. But, in his opinion, this would not be the course followed; they would, under the Chancellor of the Exchequer's clause, take care to vote in that constituency—be it borough or be it county—in which they felt that their votes would turn the scale. 1077 Let the House consider how often it happened that the scale between a Liberal and Conservative candidate was turned by but a few votes. At the York election his hon. and gallant Colleague polled 1,520 votes, and 1,541 were recorded for himself. Parties were, therefore, pretty equally balanced; but if a preponderating Tory element was thrown into the constituency, the result would be the return of two Conservative Members, while if the element proved to be Liberal two representatives for the city of York would probably sit on that (the Opposition) side. The consequence would be that, if the freeholders had the opportunity of choosing between the county and borough franchise, arrangements would be made for introducing into boroughs so many freehold voters as would turn the scale in favour of the one party or the other. Now, he thought that the Government would have done better had they, instead of introducing this elaborate measure, inquired what people wanted, and have contented themselves with meeting that want. Now, what was wanted was, not an interference with the borough franchise, but a reduction of the limits in the case of borough voters. For his own part, he traced the evil plan of the Government Bill to that illegitimate addition to the first Reform Bill which was known as the Chandos clause. Had not that clause been law they would never have heard of £10 voters in counties, and he wished to God it had been so, for that was the best and purest franchise of all. He did not know what would come of the £10 franchise; but at any rate there would be plenty of "cooking" in the counties, and he should be able to make a quantity of votes on his property. The most vicious part of the Bill was, that it exhibited great distrust of the people of England, and he felt sure the people of York would not be satisfied until they had the borough franchise reduced to a much lower amount than at present existed, and that alone to him was an objection which demanded his vote to be given for the Resolution of the noble Lord. In giving that vote he was acting consistently with the principles upon which he entered that House. He came in there as a Palmerstonian, he came pledged to support the policy upon which that noble Viscount dissolved the preceding Parliament. But in his address at the hustings, after he had answered the questions addressed to him on the subject of our foreign policy, he had been asked, sup- 1078 posing the noble Lord the Member for London brought in a Reform Bill, and that Bill was opposed by the noble Viscount the Member for Tiverton, which way would he give his vote. To that inquiry he had frankly answered that he should follow the noble Lord the Member for London. He warned the Government against falling into the errors of their predecessors of 1830, and allowing themselves to be misled by vain fears. He remembered the exaggerated alarms which the statesmen of that day indulged in upon the subject of the £10 franchise; they foretold the fall of the monarchy, the disruption of the constitution from it. Now, what were the facts? He called the attention of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite especially to them, in the hope that they would learn by experience. Since that date the country had been more orderly than ever. In 1830 no great meeting could take place without endangering the public peace. Let the House see what took place now. The hon. Member for Birmingham had been addressing great meetings all over the country, and not one disturbance had taken place throughout the hon. Member's tour. He was himself satisfied that as the past had been so would the future be, if a fair measure of Reform were given. The Government should bear in mind that the longer the been was refused the greater the demand would be. Under these circumstances, be felt it to be his duty to give his vote for the Resolution of the noble Lord the Member for London. What would be the result of the vote the House might give he knew not. He, for one, should greatly regret the circumstance if it were followed by the retirement of the present Government. The existing Ministry had brought forward many good measures; they had fulfilled their duties in that House with distinguished ability; and they had in their private transaction of affairs given a satisfaction "which was felt throughout the country.
§ MAJOR EDWARDS
said, after the eloquent speeches which we have heard from both sides of the House, I think it would be presumptuous on my part to detain the House at any length, but I feel it necessary after what has been said to put myself right with the constituency which I have the hon. our to represent. We have already had two Bills for the settlement of this question brought forward by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London; but both of those measures were received 1079 with so little favour by the House, that they were rejected or withdrawn. We have also had another Bill in prospect from the noble Viscount who sits upon the front Opposition Bench (Lord Palmerston). That Bill, however, has not been forthcoming, and I therefore say that we are under very deep obligations to the present Government for introducing a Bill upon a subject which is surrounded by so many difficulties. With other Members who sit upon this side of the House, I cannot say that I altogether approve of the whole of the details of that measure, but nevertheless I believe that the good preponderates over the evil, and I intend not only to vote against the Resolution of the noble Lord, the Member for the City of London, but also to vote in favour of the second reading of the Bill. I consider, Sir, that the great object which is to be gained by the passing of this Bill is the enfranchisement of 400,000 persons. That, to say the least, would be a very great been to the people of this country, and therefore that portion of the measure is one which in my opinion ought to be accepted by the House. On the other hand I entirely disapprove of that part of the Bill which establishes the principle of identity of franchise in the counties and the boroughs. At the same time, I think that I am perfectly justified in voting for the second reading of the Bill, and that I am bound to consider the motives which have influenced the Government in drawing up the Bill, and do not think that the circumstance of the two franchises being identical should be regarded otherwise than as simply and solely accidental. On that ground, then, I should feel myself perfectly justified in going to my constituents and telling them that I had voted for the second reading of the measure. I shall never forget the words which escaped the lips of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck), when he warned the House of the difficulties into which the country would be plunged, either by a change in the administration of affairs, or by a dissolution of Parliament at this momentous crisis. The hon. and learned Gentleman told the House, and I perfectly coincide with him, that either of those events would be one of the greatest calamities that could happen to the country at the present moment. But I would appeal to the honour of noble Lords and right hon. Gentlemen whether they can accept this Resolution, and then go to a division on the second reading of the Bill itself. I say that it is utterly impos- 1080 sible for them to pursue such a course, and if the Resolution be adopted it will be their duty as honest men to appeal to the country. I, for one, am not afraid of the result. I believe that it is not the party with which I am connected, nor the party of hon. Gentlemen sitting below the gangway on this side of the House that will suffer from a dissolution necessitated at the present moment by a factious opposition to the Bill. Some persons, no doubt, will suffer more than others, but it will be those who will have rendered a dissolution necessary. (Cries of "Oh," from Members on the Opposition benches.) I repeat that it will be those who by their factious opposition to the Bill shall have rendered a dissolution necessary. It is not the Tory party, nor is it the party below the gangway that will lose by a dissolution. But the dissolution will lead to the utter annihilation, if I may so say, of the Whig party. I remember very well the words which fell from the noble Viscount whom I now see entering the House (Viscount Palmerston) when he addressed us the other evening. He told us that the party to which we belong, are perfectly certain of a majority. But that statement on the part of the noble Viscount only reminds me of the words of the great poet, that—violent delights have violent endsAnd in their triumph die, like fire and powderWhich as they kiss consume.I believe that the noble Viscount at this moment trembles for the result of the division; and for my own part I am firmly persuaded that there will be a majority in favour of the Government now in power. The feeling of the country is unmistakeably in favour of the present Government, and I may venture to say, that if the opinion of the leading bankers, merchants, and tradesmen of this great metropolis and of all the large towns and cities throughout the country were taken, by ballot if you like, it would be shown to be decidedly averse to any change in the Government at the present moment. There is only one question more upon which I wish to address the House. As I am not anxious to trespass too long upon your attention, considering the large number of hon. Gentlemen who were desirous to express their opinions upon this important subject. We have heard a great deal in this House with respect to fagot votes. Now, I hope I know a little of fagot votes and fagot voters in Halifax. They have more than once been brought prominently under the 1081 notice of the House of Commons, But let me ask who it was that inaugurated the system of fagot votes. Was it the Conservative party? Was it the Whig party? Was it the Radical party? No; but it was the Whig-radical section of the community. It was they who commenced it, and taught it to the Anti-corn Law League party, in order that it might assist them in carrying on their agitation. How many thousand votes were made by that means in South Lancashire I am not able to say, but I know perfectly well that in the West Riding of Yorkshire, to which I belong, thousands upon thousands—I may say their name is legion—of 40s. freeholders were fabricated for the purpose of returning Richard Cobden to represent that great division of the county of Yorkshire. Mr. Cobden's adoption by the riding was a matter of chance and against the wish of the greatest and most powerful landed Whig proprietor of that division of the county. In point of fact, it was contrary to the mandate of Earl Fitzwilliam, whose letter reached the Conservative Committee too late to be available. Its receipt, one half-hour earlier, would have placed the Conservative opponent of Mr. Cobden upon the hustings There is another reason why I wished to stand forward this evening. On more than one occasion, the number of fagot voters in the town of Halifax has been paraded before the House. Now, I once had the honour of representing that town, and my colleague was the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Admiralty under the late Government (Sir C. Wood), and who still remains one of its Members. I was not in the House when the right hon. Gentleman spoke the other evening, but I have read the Report of the right hon. Baronet's speech in The Times, and I remember what occurred on the hustings of Halifax when we last met in political conflict. Is there no gratitude on the part of the Whig party? Did the right hon. Baronet in 1847—I wish he was now in the House—refuse the assistance of the fagot voters of Halifax. Did he refuse them when they were offered to him at a time that his seat was in danger, and when his great opponents were Mr. Miall and Mr. Ernest Jones? No. He gladly accepted the aid they rendered him, and he was returned by the occupiers of "land and buildings," the very parties who have been termed the fagot voters of Halifax. And what did the right hon. Gentleman do in the year 1852, five short years after- 1082 wards? In return for what the great Conservative party did for him at that time he brought forward a person who had acted as one of the committee men of Mr. Ernest Jones in 1847, and returned him to the House of Commons in my place. Now, I am the last man in the world to indulge in personalities in this House. But when I hear the great Conservative party in Halifax, numbering as it does one-half of the constituency of that borough, attacked, I cannot abstain from rising in my place and resenting the attack. In conclusion, let me again remind the House and the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, that it would be the greatest calamity which could occur in Europe, if the present Government were to be displaced from power at this important juncture.
§ MR. COLLIER
said, that the right hon. Member for the University of Oxford had made a powerful speech in favour of the Resolution of the noble Lord the Member for London, but according to his usual practice of speaking on one side and voting on the other, had concluded by declaring his intention to vote against it. The right hon. Gentleman urged that Gatton and Old Sarum ought to be restored, because without Gatton, Pitt would not have been returned to Parliament, and without future Grattons we could expect no future Pitts; and then the right hon. Gentleman went on to say, that he would vote for the Bill of the Government which restored neither Gatton nor Old Sarum. This was a fair specimen of the vein of logic which ran through the right hon. Gentleman's speech. It appeared to him (Mr. Collier) that the principle of the noble Lord's Resolution had been acknowledged on both sides of the House, while that of the Bill was defended only by the occupants of the Treasury bench, whose arguments were conflicting and self-contradictory. The right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Colonies argued that to admit the working classes to the franchise would be to destroy the British constitution, and to hand over the Government of the country to a pure democracy. He regarded the £10 franchise as the bulwark of the constitution; and pictured to himself, as a consequence of its removal, the assembling within those walls of a Congress of demagogic delegates representing not the cultivated intelligence of the country but only the ignorance and fury of the masses, bent on the overthrow of our institutions, and eager to trample upon the Crown. On the other hand, the 1083 hon. and learned Solicitor General said, that the object of the Bill was to admit the Working classes by means of the "fancy franchises," and thus in the opinion of the Secretary of the Colonies to overthrow the Monarchy. So far hack as 1830 the right hon. Secretary for the Colonies was not so much afraid of the working classes as at present. He found in the Examiner of October 30, 1831, an account of a meeting of the National Political Union, at which were present, among others, Mr. Lytton Bulwer, M.P., and Mr. E. Perry. In the Resolutions agreed to it was stated how important was the institution of a union which professed for its object the welfare of the working classes, to show distinctly that the furthering of their interests was the basis of the association, to make it clearly understood that the present meeting did not wish to use the working classes for a specific object, and, that object gained, to have no more to do with them. Had the working classes deteriorated since that time, or had the right hon. Gentleman shown that there was anything in their present conduct or deportment which disentitled them to their fair share of political power? Then, again, one Member of the Government declared that the disfranchisement of the county voters resident in boroughs was intended as a counterpoise to the lowering of the county franchise; but the Solicitor General defended the destruction of this ancient franchise on the ground of some theoretical symmetry applicable to a new and model paper constitution. This from the law officer of a Conservative Government who professed to revere what is ancient and to respect the landmarks of the constitution! Those contradictory arguments were wound up by the Secretary for the Treasury's suggestion that the Bill might possibly be turned into a good one in Committee. If that was the best that could be said for the Bill, it was hard to say whether the condemnation of its opponents or the faint praise of its supporters was the more damaging. If every man in the House voted as he had spoken, Her Majesty's Government would not have fifty votes. The great majority of speakers had agreed in the principles of the Resolution. ["No, no!"] Yes, the disfranchisement of the borough freeholders had been universally condemned, and a lowering of the borough franchise as gone-rally advocated, and these were the two principles laid down in the Resolution of the noble Lord. These opinions had been 1084 generally expressed, and it lay on the men who had expressed them to show a very strong case for voting against their own opinions. The argument that the Bill might be made a very good Bill in Committee seemed to infer that the second reading of a Bill was a mere matter of form. The right hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman) talked of eliminating some eighteen lines from the first clause, as if very little mischief could be contained in eighteen lines; but he should recollect that in six lines a clever lawyer might destroy the British constitution. It appeared to him (Mr. Collier) that to assent to the second reading of the Bill, in order that it might subsequently be completely transformed in Committee, would place the House in an entirely false position, for in Committee they would have been told that they had agreed to the principle and that it was unfair to introduce extensive changes. Then, again, it was said that the Government would take the success of the Resolution as a vote of censure. He would not be deterred from the performance of his duty by such a threat. The First Lord of the Admiralty (Sir John Pakington) had moreover stated that the Resolution of the noble Lord was irregular and unparliamentary; but if such was the case, the right hon. Gentleman stood self-convicted of having supported, for political purposes, an irregular and unparliamentary Resolution, inasmuch as he had supported a precisely similar Resolution moved by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Milner Gibson), on the Motion for the second reading of the Conspiracy Bill. But he did not blame the Government for now at last taking their stand. After a long career of retractation, concealment, compromise, and concession to everybody and of everything, they were at last about to stand or fall by a principle, and in doing so it might be said of them, as it had been of the Thane of Cawdor, that "no part of their life became them like the leaving of it." He was glad to see them at last determined to take their stand upon their own Conservative principles. He should vote against the second reading of the Bill because he believed that, instead of being a settlement of the reform question, it would only delay and endanger it. He believed that a great mistake bad been made in estimating the feeling of the people of this country. The people had hitherto been not apathetic, but tranquil, because 1085 they believed the promise made that a Reform Bill should be introduced. They believed now that that promise had been broken, and some agitation had already been the consequence of their just indignation at what they deemed a breach of faith on the part of public men; still the country was on the whole peaceable, because they believed that the House of Commons would reject the Government Bill and give them a proper measure of reform. The Bill had been called a sham and a delusion, but if he were inclined to borrow the slang of St. Giles's, with which the hon. and learned Solicitor General seemed to be so familiar. [Cries of "Oh!"] Yes, it was the hon. and learned Gentleman who had introduced the slang when he called the Resolution a dodge, he (Mr. Collier) would characterize the Government Bill as a dodge brought forward to support a certain party, and not conceived in an honest desire to amend the representation of the people. It stopped the way to any real and substantial reform, and if read a second time would be but the signal to an agitation which might approach in intensity to that of 1832. He should support the Resolution, because it both negatived the measure and stated the reasons for negativing it, thereby raising a clear and definite issue which would be well understood by the country, should Her Majesty's Government venture to appeal to that public opinion by which they already stood condemned.
§ SIR JOHN WALSH
said, that the Government had brought forward this measure in the hope that it would be received at any rate as a settlement of the question by all parties. The right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Colonies had stated to the House that a Conservative Government could not be expected to bring forward a Bill which would in its nature and traditions entirely content hon. Gentlemen professing the opinions of the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just spoken; but they did hope, considering how long this question had been in suspense, and how very unfortunate and injurious to the best interests of the country it was that the minds of the people should be in a chronic and perpetual state of agitation on this question, that the Bill which they tended to the House would be received as a fair concession on their part, and as evincing a sincere desire to settle a difficult and embarrassing question. The hon. Gentleman the Member for South- 1086 wark (Mr. John Locke), who addressed the House last evening, thought proper to pay a sort of ironical compliment to the Conservative party by saying that he was rejoiced to see the great advance they had made in the way of Liberal opinions. Such a compliment was certainly calculated to grate on the feelings of those who acquiesced in the measure as a political necessity, rather than welcoming it as a blessing and an advantage to the country. But if that side of the House could be complimented on the Liberal speeches which had been made, he was sure the compliment might be returned, for he had rarely heard more Conservative speeches than those which had been uttered on the Opposition side of the House. The right hon. Member for Coventry (Mr. Ellice), the Nestor of Reform, had shown a lingering affection for his early love, the Act of 1832. The friend of "the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill" in his youth, he was evidently very sorry to desert it in his age. Willing to move, but hardly knowing in what direction, the right hon. Gentleman, like the dove from the ark, looked anxiously for a "resting-place," but appeared unable to find one. The hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) set himself up as the eulogist of the working classes, but the moderation of his speech in that House offered a striking contrast to that which he had previously offered in Glasgow, where his principle theme was the unwieldy size of the estates of the landed proprietors. He (Sir John Walsh) fully admitted that there was no population, no working class, which was more worthy of political rights, or would make a safer use of them, than that of England; but he could not lose sight of the fact that a pure democracy was a dangerous and bad form of government, which led to assaults upon property and to insecurity, and which finally resolved itself into a despotism. He had been very much pleased to hear the arguments which were urged on the opposite side in favour of the small boroughs, which seemed to him to be the echoes of the speeches made by Mr. Croker and Sir C. Wetherall during the debates on the first Reform Bill. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle had admitted that the ballot, which would inevitably have the not distant result of converting the English constitution into that of a pure democratic republic, was making great progress; and he therefore contended that in any reforms which the House might adopt, they must take pro- 1087 cautions against the occurrence of a state of things which they all disliked, and which no hon. Gentleman would be prepared to advocate. The settlement of 1832 had lasted much longer than he expected; but this was chiefly owing to the continuance in the Legislature of many of those veteran statesmen who had assisted in passing the Reform Bill, and whoso presence there, after the lapse of nearly thirty years, was a proof that politics were not an unhealthy occupation. The Reform Bill in its later results had not been satisfactory. It had reduced Parliamentary government to a sort of chaos, and a Ministry was now in office which had not the support of a majority of the House of Commons, while the Opposition was broken up into various and irreconcilable sections, representing different interests, and incapable of acting together for the attainment of one common object. No Bill could be introduced which would have the effect of immediately curing these defects; hut, nevertheless, the present measure was of that moderate character which would recommend it to the favourable consideration of the people, and gave reason to hope that, if passed, it might prove a satisfactory settlement of the Reform question. Would it be wise then to affirm a Resolution evidently intended to render such a settlement impossible, and to force the Government to abandon their Bill? On the contrary, a more imprudent and dangerous course could not be adopted, and he, for one, earnestly trusted that the House would agree to read the Bill a second time, deferring the consideration of its details, which he admitted might be amended, till a subsequent stage.
§ MR. W. O. STANLEY
said, he felt it incumbent on him, after what had fallen from the right hon. Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone), to state why he had put his notice on the table, and why he had withdrawn it so recently. The noble Lord the Secretary for India, early in the debate, intimated in clear outline the course which the Government would be compelled to take with regard to the Resolution if it were carried; but successive speakers afterwards rose and obliterated that outline, and seemed to offer a different issue to the debate. Various plans were suggested by different hon. Members, and it appeared as if the Government were about to repeat their course with regard to the India Bill, giving up the control of 1088 their own Bill into the hands of the House in the nature of a superior power. He was convinced that no course could be more dangerous than that to the character of the House and of public men. He considered that if the constituted advisers of Her Majesty abdicated their functions, a fatal blow would be struck at the constitution of the country. It was with the view of preventing such a course being pursued that he had put his notice on the paper; but after the clear and emphatic declaration of the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Whiteside), which had been elicited by the goading taunts of his noble Friend the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston), he did not think that it was necessary to bring forward his Motion, as it was not his object to bring forward a general vote of want of confidence in the Government. His only desire was upon the question of the Reform Bill to place a distinct issue before the House. On Friday night the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Whiteside) had declared that the fate of the Ministers and of the Bill depended upon the vote that was taken upon the Resolution. All he wanted was a clear issue; that in voting for the Resolution of the noble Lord those who voted for it should virtually declare that they had no confidence in the Government as to carrying out the great question of Reform. As to what had been said about his being afraid of his own notice of Motion, he was not frightened at the shadow of the figure that he had raised up; but, as it was admitted that by the present vote all would be attained that he had in view, it would be absurd to continue the discussion and to ask the House to go on with the debate upon the same question for ten days more. As to the Resolution, he would not go into the different features of the Government measure. It was sufficient to say that it was condemned by four-fifths of the House. He might add, however, that having for many years represented a city of considerable importance, the City of Chester, in which upwards of 1,500 voters were freemen, and having had opportunities of seeing how fearlessly and honestly those working men exercised their suffrage, he, for one, had no dread of an extension of the franchise. The principle of a Reform Bill should be the extension of the franchise in counties and boroughs, but there should not be the same suffrage in both. With regard to the voting papers, he agreed 1089 with the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole), and the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir James Graham); but, as he had always voted for the ballot, and as he felt that any great extension of the franchise would be of no use unless it was accompanied by the ballot, he hoped that it would form a part of any future Bill that was brought in upon the subject of reform. He would say no more upon the subject, but he hoped that he had successfully defended himself against any sarcasms of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone).
§ MR. MACAULAY
said, he felt strongly on the general policy and the justice of the principles of this Bill; and as he had also very decided views with regard to what he considered to be the impropriety, the impolicy, and the injustice of the Resolution, he was anxious to state very briefly the grounds upon which he was about to give his vote. The right hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Cardwell) had on Friday evening congratulated the House upon the altered circumstances under which they were now discussing this question as compared with the circumstances of 1832. His right hon. Friend said, "Now we are in a condition to enter into a calm and scientific consideration of the principles on which we shall alter the foundations of the constitution of this House." He had hoped, after such an exordium, that the right hon. Gentleman was not about to give a vote, the effect of which would be to suffocate the possibility of a discussion of the principles propounded by the Government. The principle of the Bill was, as he understood it, to effect a very wide extension of the suffrage throughout the entire country, in the boroughs as well as in the counties. It struck him that in the speeches of hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House the measure had been regarded too much bit by bit, as regarded particular provisions in some cases relating to counties, and in others to boroughs, as the case might be. But, looking broadly at the general feature of the measure, he saw that it provided for the enfranchisement of the whole of the community, so far as the Bill extended. The population to be directly and for the first time affected by the provisions of the Bill were 10,500,000 in the counties, against 7,500,000 in the now represented boroughs. It was pro- 1090 posed to extend the franchise to these classes upon the principle of taking the occupation franchise now existing in boroughs and applying it to the whole country, and of adopting throughout the country varied personal qualifications which would import electors into the constituency. Was it intended by the noble Lord, the Mover of the Resolution, to condemn those principles? That object was not avowed; while, with respect to one part of the Bill—that referring to the occupation franchise in boroughs—the Resolution was couched in such ambiguous terms that what it asked for would be complied with by the lowering of that franchise by the amount of even £1 sterling or a still less sum. When, however, they heard the speeches that were made in support of the Resolution, they were obliged to come to the conclusion that the intentions of those who supported it were somewhat more extensive than would appear from the wording of the thing itself. He understood the right hon. Member for Oxford to contend that by this Bill the House was called upon to sanction a principle contrary to the known usage of the constitution—namely, what was called uniformity of suffrage as contrasted with variety of suffrage. He thought there had been some misapprehension on this subject, partly founded upon an extract which his right hon. Friend had read from the works of Sir J. Mackintosh. [Mr. CARDWELL; I quoted no passage whatever from Sir J. Mackintosh.] He asked the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. He found that the passage had been quoted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wilts (Mr. S. Herbert); but he believed the argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford was founded upon that passage, and therefore he (Mr. Macaulay) wished to refer to it. Sir James said that a variety of rights of suffrage was the first principle of the English constitution; and that a uniformity of qualification must be so high as to exclude the true principle of election, or so low as to be liable to the objections which he offered against universal suffrage. That passage might at first sight appear to favour the views of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford; but it must be remembered that Sir J. Mackintosh was writing of the English Parliamentary constitution as it existed before 1832—before the passing of the Reform Bill. He wrote at a time when hon. Members of that House were returned by towns having 1091 diverse franchises and suffrages—when Members were returned for Coventry by persons who had served seven years' apprenticeship, for Preston by potwallopers, and for other places by burgage tenants, and voters possessing different franchises. Sir J. Mackintosh was not writing of the state of things introduced by the party of the noble Lord in 1832, when these diverse franchises and this variety of suffrage were abolished. He looked upon the present Bill as an attempt to redress the uniformity established by the Bill of 1832, instead of being—as was argued on the other side—a step in the other direction. Let them see whether the principle of the measure now before them was not to redress uniformity. What was the main principle of the Bill? That in all constituencies there should be, or there might be, voters who were qualified as owners of fixed property; that in every constituency there should be voters obtaining their qualification by mere occupation; and that in every constituency the suffrage should be conferred on other residents, not householders, who should obtain the franchise for personal qualifications which might be testimonies of their personal worth. As they could not go back to the old system and establish divers suffrages in divers towns possessing divers rights, it was proposed by this Bill, as the next best thing in such a contingency, to introduce a happy variety of interests and qualifications. He was surprised to hear hon. Members talk of the Bill as one establishing uniformity of suffrage instead of being an attempt to redress the system of uniformity introduced by the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) and his colleagues in 1832. Hon. Members had been betrayed into that mistake by the term "identity of suffrage," which was tortured into possessing a constitutional meaning which it did not bear; for though identity of suffrage was a feature of the Bill, uniformity of suffrage was not to be found in it. The success of the vote given by the two sections of the Opposition on a former occasion, unaccompanied by the other qualifications proposed by this measure, would have been to establish that same uniformity which the opponents of the Bill now seemed to deprecate. There were two points of the Bill specially laid hold of. One was the manner in which the Bill dealt with the borough freeholds, and doubtless for electioneering purposes it had been attempted to create prejudices against that part of the Bill. He could 1092 understand the jealousy with which the noble Lord the Member for London regarded any Reform Bill introduced by any other person but himself; but he was at a, loss to comprehend that studied obliquity of vision which almost every one on the other side had exhibited who addressed himself to this part of the measure. He maintained that the principle of this part of the Bill was a sound one, although he would support all the details by which it was to be carried out. That principle simply was, that the owner of fixed property in a borough town might qualify himself to be registered as a voter of that town. Now he had not heard in the course of the debate any practical reason given against the justice and propriety of that principle. This point appeared to be argued as if there were no freeholds in boroughs except the 40s. rent charges which wore effected generally by land societies and persons engaged in the interest of the Whig party. It was said how hard it would be to disfranchise such persons without giving them any notice or compensation. His hon. Friend the Member for South Leicestershire (Mr. Packe) had not as yet been answered when he called attention to this point in connection with recent legislation. That hon. Gentleman reminded the House that this fixed property in boroughs was no longer subject to county rates. No doubt it was subject to a borough rate, which was in effect a local taxation, and the question was, where was the alleged injustice of allowing the owner of fixed property to qualify himself, if he pleases, to vote for the borough? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Coventry called it confiscation. How was this subject of freeholds treated in the Reform Bill of 1832? By that Bill all close boroughs were opened; all popular boroughs had new qualifications given to them. Take the case of a gentleman living on his own freehold in Pall Mall or St. James's Street, with his £300 or £500 a year. Previous to 1832 such a person was an important freeholder for Middlesex, and by reason of his being a scot and lot ratepayer in Westminster he had also a vote for that city, but by the operation of the Reform Bill he ceased to be a freeholder of Middlesex and was limited to his vote for Westminster. Then take the case of Finsbury, which was created a Parliamentary borough in 1832. Was the occupying freeholder there asked whether he objected to lose his vote for the county and to be made instead 1093 a constituent of Finsbury. Thus, in the first case the Bill of 1832 destroyed one of two votes possessed by the freeholder, while in the other it took from him what he had and gave him what he never asked for. Remembering this, he did not see with what face the noble Lord, as one of the authors of the Reform Bill, could complain of the present measure. The House had been told of a freeholder, a descendant of the trooper who carried the body of William Rufus into Winchester. This man, it was contended, should remain a monument of the forbearance of the British Legislature. But, supposing that he lived on his freehold within the boundaries of a borough, and that next year the borough franchise were reduced, he would by operation of law become a voter only in the town in which his freehold was situated. The abstract right of Parliament to deal with the borough freeholder could not be denied. It had been exercised, as he had shown, in 1832, and he could see no objection to the principle of the present proposal for including them, if they pleased, in the borough representation, and of giving them votes for the places in which they resided, and in which their interests manifestly lay. But there was another class of borough freeholders to which he was greatly opposed—he meant that class of borough freeholders whose existence was an opprobrium on the Parliamentary constitution of the country—the owners of those rent-charges that were bought within the boroughs because they were easy of acquisition. He wished to say a few words upon that, in which perhaps a more substantial interest was felt by hon. Members opposite, namely, the extension of the borough franchise. It had been said that since 1832 there had taken place a great increase of respectable and well qualified persons who, by their independence, intelligence, and industry, ought to be admitted into the constituent body of the country. That was admitted on all sides. The only difference was as to the mode in which that which was the universal object of desire should be carried into effect. Now, the principle of the Government measure he took to be the admission of an increased number of persons to the exercise of the franchise by a process of selection. The principle contended for by the supporters of the Resolution on the other hand was the admission into the constituent body of large and unknown masses, with the hope and chance that they would include those persons so fre- 1094 quently described in these debates. The noble Lord the Member for London in fact made no claim on behalf of a single artisan or working man, unless he happened to live within a represented borough. The question raised by the Opposition was, that they wished to extend the franchise to the working classes, who were defined by the hon. Member for Birmingham as the persons who lived by weekly or quarterly wages. How did the Government Bill propose to deal with that class, and how did the argument on the other side of the House propose to deal with it? Before they were asked to affirm a Resolution which was to disaffirm the principle of the Bill, hon. Gentlemen were bound to show that such principle was vicious, and that the Resolution affirmed some other and hotter principle. The noble Lord the Member for the City of London seemed to admit to some extent the principle of selection, because he had said that for certain reasons he would not go with those who wore for manhood suffrage. Before a man could be allowed to enter a jury-box they exacted from him a very considerable and substantial property qualification. Was the noble Lord prepared to lower the qualification of a juryman? He (Mr. Macaulay) apprehended not—and he thought that a party who was to exercise the important function of electing a member to Parliament ought also to be subjected to some test which might be fulfilled by all men of adequate industry and intelligence. The principle of the Bill, he should repeat, was one of selection. It established a test of the existence of thrift and prudence in the case of those whom it would admit to the exercise of the franchise, and thus would afford in some degree a just measure of their fitness to be entrusted with that privilege. Let the test be improved upon to any extent—but they ought not to disaffirm the principle of the Bill unless they were prepared to do so by the application of another principle of a different character. Having said thus much with respect to the principle of the Bill, he might be permitted to make a few comments upon what had fallen from its opponents in reference to the position of the Government by whom it was introduced. It was said with much assumption of superiority that the Government was in a minority, and that they had therefore no right to meddle with the question of Reform. Now, even admitting it to be the fact that Government were in a minority, he should like to know what other section was there 1095 in the House to which the same statement might not with justice be applied? What one of the two or three sections he should like to know which occupied the Opposition benches, both below and above the gangway, was equal in point of numbers to the supporters of the existing Administration? The assumption that there was a majority on the other side of the House appeared to him, in short, to be a piece of mere affectation. There was no coherence among hon. Members opposite. It was a matter of notoriety that they were divided into at least three different parties, having no principles in common even on the subject of Reform. One of those parties followed the noble Lord the Member for London, another was supposed to have confidence in the hon. Member for Birmingham, while a third acknowledged the noble Viscount the Member for Tiverton as its leader—and with respect to that noble Viscount he might observe, that it had not been supposed until very recently that he was over anxious to lower the electoral qualification. The fact was that no majority which the noble Lord might obtain for his Resolution would be found to possess any cohesion either on that or any other subject. It had been urged from various quarters and on various grounds that some course ought to be taken by the Government to bring the question of Reform to a settlement. The noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) had said, in his peculiar manner, that he would "compel" the Government to a settlement. He (Mr. Macaulay) wished to know what settlement could be expected or hoped for so long as the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), and the party who acted with him, disavowed none of the principles and promises of action that they had uttered outside the House. Not one word had fallen from the hon. Gentleman from which it could be inferred that he differed in the smallest degree from the noble Lord. Imputations of motive had been freely made by hon. Gentlemen opposite. But surely there must exist some motive for the extraordinary demean our displayed by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bright) towards the noble Lord, for he had thanked the noble Lord for the great courtesies exhibited by him towards the people of England. Whether that was a return for courtesies received from the noble Lord he was unable to say, nor could he say whether the hon. Gentleman spoke in the spirit of a well-known passage— 1096Fair Sir, you spit on me on Wednesday last;You spurned me such a day; another timeYou called me dog; and for these courtesiesI'll lend you this much money.At all events, until explained, the whole thing was a mystery. The anomaly was evident. Apparently the noble Lord and the hon. Member for Birmingham held similar opinions. It was, however, known that the hon. Member for Birmingham had promised his adherents that any Bill such as that shadowed forth by the noble Viscount, or even such as that indicated by the more advanced Liberals and the noble Lord should be rejected by him as being a contumely and an insult upon the people of England. He had told them to beware of any extension of the existing constituencies unless they had vote by ballot and a large redistribution of seats. Therefore a large numerical portion of the Opposition voting for the Resolution of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London were about to vote under the influence of some hidden motive. At all events, it was an avowal that any attempt at such a settlement as that spoken of would not only be unsuccessful, but would be the signal for a dangerous agitation. Therefore, whatever course hon. Members might ultimately adopt, he (Mr. Macaulay) hoped they would not entertain the vain hope that by voting in favour of the Resolution they would be likely to soften the asperity of the hon. Member for Birmingham towards either the existing or proposed measures for the amendment of the constitution. He (Mr. Macaulay) begged the House to keep in mind what was the real principle of the Bill under consideration, namely, that the owner of a fixed property in the boroughs should be entitled to clothe himself with a borough vote in respect of that property. It had been said that in 1832 great changes were made expressly with a view to the probable effect they would have on elections. The colour given by the right hon. Member for Coventry (Mr. Ellice) to the refusal of Earl Grey, the Prime Minister of that day, to allow borough property to qualify for borough votes was, that he did it on the very ground that the possessor of that property would probably vote in the Liberal interest at the county elections. Such was the motive assigned to Earl Grey. But the right hon. Member for Coventry had also said that those who now desired the borough freeholder to be able to qualify for the borough were desirous of extracting the Liberal element from the county, and of imposing a Conservative 1097 element on the boroughs. Such was the argument, that withdrawing the votes of owners of borough properly from the counties withdrew from the constituencies of the counties the purest and most independent element; and then that allowing those borough freeholders to vote for the boroughs had the effect of swamping the boroughs with landlord interests and influence. Hon. Gentlemen opposite might take the argument any way they pleased; it was perfectly immaterial; but its inconsistency was complete. He (Mr. Macaulay) did not believe that the owners of borough property entertained such sentiments. He should give a very clear vote both against the Resolution and for the second reading of the Bill. And he thought that he should be able to give his vote with considerable advantage over hon. Gentlemen opposite, inasmuch as he knew what he was voting for and against, whilst they would not know what they were voting for.
§ MR. MELLOR
said, he must congratulate the Ministry on having found an hon. Member to say something in favour of their Bill. The address of his hon. and learned Friend had at least one value—it furnished a striking example of the ease with which arguments might be demolished if it were left to a speaker to state what the arguments of his opponents are. His (Mr. Mellor's) great objection to the Bill was that it introduced non-resident voters to vote in boroughs, for the purpose of swamping the constituencies who resided in those boroughs, and at the same time disfranchised the freeholders resident in boroughs in respect of their right to vote for counties, and so reducing counties to the condition of nomination boroughs. These objectionable points of the measure had been introduced for the first time, were opposed to the constitution of the country, but had been introduced for the purpose of securing the counties. The Government had adopted a course peculiar and significant. They had introduced a Bill which they did not intend to defend. But, in his opinion, when a Government brought in a Bill like this, they ought to defend it in its integrity, and not say, "Let us go into Committee, and there we will settle what alterations you please." Upon such an invitation he should refuse to go into Committee, and therefore he should vote for the Resolution. There was one thing he wished to protest against, and that was the imputations thrown out against that (the Opposition) side of the House, of a 1098 want of unanimity on this question. Was a want of unanimity confined to that side of the House? He could only find on the other side a unanimity of condemnation of the Government Bill. He was rather surprised last night to hear the First Lord of the Admiralty speak of the "Cardwell plot;" he wished to carry that right hon. Gentleman's memory back to what took place in February last year, when there was a vote in which the right hon. Gentleman joined, and which, if ever there was a vote that ought to be called factious, that vote was. He (Mr. Mellor) came down to the House on that occasion with a determination of voting against the Conspiracy to Murder Bill. His first impression was opposed to that Bill; but he listened to the speeches of hon. Gentlemen who now sat on the Ministerial side of the House; he heard the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the present Lord Chancellor of Ireland argue the question. The Government were prepared to abide by that Bill in its integrity, and were supported in it by the Conservative party; and yet what was the course adopted by hon. Gentlemen who now sat on the Ministerial benches? To his surprise, within one week after their vote on the introduction of that Bill, he found them turning round upon the Bill which they themselves had supported, in favour of the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashton (Mr. M. Gibson). It was true that the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Spooner) and fourteen or fifteen other hon. Gentlemen had the courage to stand up and declare that they would not, to please any Government, vote that black was white and white was black. He (Mr. Mellor) believed that the Resolution was not only convenient in form, but one which, if the Government were sincere in their invitations to the House to go into Committee on the Bill, contained nothing to destroy their Bill; but, on the contrary, the Government might, if they chose, go on with their Bill, which, contained several points which he should desire to vote for. He thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer would very much deceive himself if he imagined that it was the wish of hon. Gentlemen on that (the Opposition) side of the House to upset the Government, but, in the absence of any plainer assurance of what were the intentions of the Government, he should vote for the Resolution, the effect of which he hoped would be—not to upset the Government, but to enable them to remove the 1099 objections to the Bill, and to settle this great question of Reform. They were told that the Government must either resign, or dissolve, or withdraw their Bill. He believed that no hon. Member of Parliament looked to a dissolution with any feeling of satisfaction; and he would conclude by reading an extract from Clarendon, which was quoted by the noble Earl now at the head of the Government in the discussion on the Reform Rill of 1832. Clarendon wrote:—After the dissolution of the first Parliament, and when the King was again obliged to summon a new one, there was observed a marvellous change in the countenances of many Members since they met before in the House; and some men who, six months before, were of very moderate tempers, now talked in another style of things and persons, and said they must be now of another temper than they were in the last Parliament.
said, he regretted to find that, after the long experience the country had had of the benefits of the great Reform Act of the year 1832, his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Mellor) should think that at the present moment our public difficulties were so great, and our condition so unfortunate, that an appeal to the people would endanger the stability of our national institutions. For his part he certainly did not entertain any such apprehension. He believed, on the contrary, that there never was a period when, if the House were so disposed, they could proceed with greater freedom than at present from any external pressure to effect a satisfactory settlement of that question of Parliamentary Reform. He knew that great differences of opinion must arise among them in reference to such a subject; and it would be unreasonable to expect complete unison of sentiment in that House. Even upon a matter of very inferior importance, a Bill would be received with very varying amounts of censure or of approbation. Nevertheless upon such a question as that of Parliamentary Reform, it was no discredit to a Ministry that their proposal should be productive of considerable discussion, or that they should ask the Opposition to unite themselves with them in the endeavour to alter it in a manner satisfactory to the House and the country. But the Bill had been scarcely laid on the table when the noble Lord the Member for London rose, and, with that skill which he had ever shown in party tactics, gave it the nickname of a measure of disfranchisement—a nickname by which on no ground it 1100 deserved to be designated. It had been said the noble Lord had a vested interest in this subject; and if on this occasion he had brought that wisdom and discretion which he had shown on so many others to bear on the Bill under consideration, he (Mr. Hardy) could assure him there would have been no indisposition on that (the Ministerial) side of the House to listen to any suggestions he might have felt it his duty to make. But when the noble Lord brought forward a Resolution which showed an unmitigated hostility to the measure, when he defended that Resolution in a speech which left no doubt as to the course which he wished to pursue, when he told them in terms that the Bill was so obnoxious that he could not entertain any part of it, and when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wiltshire declared that he would not be nice as to the weapon with which he would destroy such a Bill, then it would be idle for the Government to expect any forbearance from those who had made up their minds to its complete and contemptuous rejection. It was always said that persons who came into court ought to do so with clean hands, and when the noble Lord talked of disfranchisement he (Mr. Hardy) would ask, who sought to protect from disfranchisement that portion of the electoral body whom his Bill of 1832 doomed to that fate? who preserved to Coventry the constituency of which the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Ellice) was so proud? Was it not from them that the proposal had emanated in the year 1832 to destroy the scot and lot voters, the freemen, and other electors, who were almost exclusively persons of the humbler class in life? Again, was not that proposal resisted by those who represented the party on whom the Government of the country now devolved, and that party was still ready, as they had ever been, to maintain the rights of the working classes in all their integrity. Nor should it be forgotten that with the assent of the noble Lord 250,000 of the Irish freeholders were disfranchised in one swoop. The Bill of the noble Lord in 1854, would have deprived voters of the right to give more than two votes at any county election, and would so far have disfranchised those county electors who had at present three votes. It was not his (Mr. Hardy's) intention to discuss the question of the propriety of giving a right of representation to minorities. That was a subject fairly open to consideration. But the noble Lord would no doubt think that 1101 it would be an unworthy artifice on the part of any of his opponents to move, on the second reading of his measure, a Resolution to the effect that the House would not assent to a scheme which, by affording the privilege of representation to minorities would disfranchise any existing class of voters. That, however, was one of the arguments which the hon. Member for Birmingham had actually advanced at the time against the proposal of the noble Lord and thus the noble Lord spoke of it. Though that Bill (of 1854) made a very extensive change, the hon. Member for Birmingham fixed on that part of it relating to minorities as one very obnoxious to him, and denounced it as a trick. What I thought a very fair proposition he seemed to regard as an artifice, and this may be taken as a sample of the kind of objections to which any Bill that may be introduced is liable. It was indeed no easy task to bring forward a Reform Bill, because it would necessarily be very difficult for any hon. Member to get rid upon such a question of that party feeling which prevailed on each side of the House. He for one should never be inclined to find fault with those who acted in unison with their party, so long as they did not thereby violate any principle which they felt they were bound conscientiously to maintain; and he should always be ready to give up his own opinions upon mere matters of detail for the purpose of maintaining what he regarded as the essential requisite in public life of party organization. The Bill of 1854 never was submitted to a second reading, and the hon. Member for Birmingham never had an opportunity of moving a Resolution with regard to it. If he had, he (Mr. Hardy) would venture to say that the hon. Member would manfully have met the Bill in its entirety, and would have explained his objections in his speech, instead of in such a Resolution as that of the noble Lord, which he was prepared to show did not explain his objections at all. The Resolution did indeed say that there were certain points in the Bill to which the noble Lord had objections, but it did not say on what ground those objections rested, or on what basis he was prepared to extend the suffrage. They were told by the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Wilson), that the Bill was of such a retrograde character it was impossible for him to give it his support, and on the other hand the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle had said that the Bill was of such a dangerously democratic cha- 1102 racter that he would do anything—he would even have recourse to the rating franchise, supported by the hon. Member for Birmingham, to get rid of it. The right hon. Gentleman told them that this Bill would increase the democratic power in such a manner that he was afraid even his strong feelings against the ballot would give way under the pressure that would then be brought to bear upon him. [Sir JAMES GRAHAM: NO, no.] Well, he was very glad to find that in fighting the battle of the Ballot—and fight it they must soon—the Conservative party would have the support of such a stalwart champion as the right hon. Baronet, who had thus pledged himself that he would never abandon this principle. With respect to the £10 franchise in counties, he approached that question with some hesitation, and he was sure he should have the sympathies of the House with him when he stated the reason. For a full year past it had been his pride to act in the same department with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole), and he thought he might say, without fear of contradiction in that House, that to find oneself continually in the habit of transacting business with a man of his chivalrous honour, his frank and bland manners, his courteous disposition, his readiness on all occasions to give credit to you and to take blame to himself, was calculated to raise warm feelings of friendship, and that the regard which the right hon. Gentleman had always shown him caused him to feel the greatest pain in differing from his right hon. Friend. He must confess, however, he could not arrive at the same conclusions as his right hon. Friend had done. He could not see the difference in principle which his right hon. Friend endeavoured to establish between a £20 and a £10 occupancy franchise in counties. To reduce the franchise from £50 to £20 which his right hon. Friend was willing to do, was such an important step, that if they were right in doing that, no principle was involved in their going further and reducing it to £10. It was true his right hon. Friend placed his proposition on the basis of direct taxation, and argued that as the house tax stopped at houses of £20 rent, it would form a good resting point for the county franchise. But why should they make payment of the house tax a test in counties, and not apply it in boroughs. The right hon. Gentleman was afraid that if they 1103 went below £20 in the counties there would be an inducement given to one large class to throw the burden of taxation upon their neighbours. Yet, strange to say, in the boroughs, where the greatest amount of electoral power was vested, and where, consequently, there would be the greatest danger of an undue shifting of taxation, the right hon. Gentleman proposed to lower the franchise below £10. But if the argument of his right hon. Friend was good for anything, it ought to induce him to raise the franchise in the boroughs. It was not, however, to be expected that hon. Gentlemen would follow out their principles with logical accuracy; because they had to deal practically with an existing system which could not be squared with any mere theoretical notions. He came next to a principle on which many hon. Gentlemen had dwelt at great length—the principle of uniformity of the franchise. Now, he believed that it was as impossible to establish a uniformity of franchise, as it was to establish a uniformity between boroughs and counties. As long as trade and commerce were carried on in boroughs and agriculture in counties, the franchise, though nominally equalized in amount, would in reality vary, and would produce different kinds of constituencies, and different classes of representatives. The noble Lord the Member for London took that ground, when the other year he supported the Motion of the hon. Member for East Surrey. He contended that the £10 occupiers in the counties were a different and superior class from the £10 occupiers in boroughs; and he might remind the House that the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Locke King) himself, when he brought forward his Bill, never spoke of it as a uniformity of franchise, but always as an assimilation. That must always be so. No amount of assimilation would ever destroy that practical distinction between the two sets of constituencies arising from the difference in their localities and their pursuits. In fact, whatever arrangements they made, the constituencies of the country could not be cut down to any other than an imaginary uniformity. He came next to the question of electoral districts. The noble Viscount the Member for Tiverton told them that this Bill did not lead to, but that it actually established, electoral districts. Now, if by electoral districts the noble Viscount meant districts where a person was elected, no doubt this Bill would create them. But if he intended to refer to the parcelling the 1104 kingdom into electoral districts numerically equal in point of population, property or votes, that was the very point which was sedulously guarded against in the Bill by keeping up the distinction of boroughs and counties. The Bill respected local rights and institutions, keeping together those who were now associated by common habits, sympathies, and avocations. He was sorry to say that it did interfere to some extent with the borough which he had the honour to represent, by depriving it of one of its representatives; but he would not hesitate to go down to his constituents and say that it was necessary that the great towns which were now unrepresented should have Members, and that the only fair and just mode of supplying them was by taking one Member from those boroughs which were lowest in the scale of population and rateable property. He came then to the second part of the Resolution of the noble Lord, the extension of the franchise in boroughs. He could not help remarking here that the Resolution did not speak of lowering the franchise, but with a view to spread his net as wide as possible the noble Lord only spoke of further extending it. In his speech, indeed, though not in his Resolution, the noble Lord did speak of lowering the franchise so as to admit the working classes; but how far he was disposed to go in that process was carefully kept in obscurity. Thus they had no means of ascertaining what proportion of the working classes, whose claims had been put forward in such glowing colours, were to be enfranchised by the noble Lord's proposal. This was a point well worthy the attention of the metropolitan members. There had been many meetings held in the metropolis on the subject of the franchise, and many petitions had been presented in this House. He observed the hon. Member for Westminster (Sir John Shelley,) taking a keen interest in this subject—not by his speaking, indeed, but by the eager interest he was taking in the speeches of others; he would ask the hon. Member, had he ever considered how a lowering of the franchise would affect his constituents? He cheered a sentiment in the speech of an hon. Member last night who proposed an £8 or £6 rent as a good franchise. What effect would that have upon the metropolitan constituencies? Why, over the whole metropolis the houses rated at £10 and upwards amounted to 80 per cent of the whole. Did the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone (Mr. E. James) who had 1105 spoken so strongly against this Bill and in favour of a large extension of the franchise, know that any such extension, even though it amounted to rating suffrage itself, would add only one per cent to the number of houses already conferring votes in his own borough? The occupiers of 99 per cent of the dwellings in Marylebone were at present represented. The honest artisans of Marylebone almost to a man lived in Lodgings and belonged to that "fluctuating class" which some ardent friends of popular rights seemed so anxious to exclude from the suffrage, and against which the right hon. Member for Carlisle had spoken with so much vehemence last night. In the City of London over 90 per cent of the houses were of the value of £10, and therefore conferred the franchise. In Westminster the £10 houses were 90 per cent of the whole number, in Finsbury they were 88 per cent, in Lambeth 75 per cent, and in the poorer boroughs of Southwark and Tower Hamlets 59 and 52 per cent respectively. Why then had not some of the metropolitan Members, who professed to advocate a moderate Reform, got up at the numerous meetings which had been held, and told their constituents, who called out so loudly for that rating suffrage which the hon. Member for Birmingham thought a panacea for all their ills, that such a concession would do the working classes no good, seeing that the great bulk of the existing householders were already represented? At almost all the metropolitan meetings which had taken place, manhood suffrage had been asked for; and yet, with the single exception of the hon. and gallant Admiral the Member for Southwark (Sir Charles Napier) none of the metropolitan Members had had the courage to rise and disavow those extreme doctrines, but by their silence had made themselves parties to them. A noble and learned Lord (Lord Brougham), in 1832, said of the Radical Reformers of that time, who professed such zeal for the poorer classes that they reminded him of another well-known intriguer some eighteen centuries ago, who asked on a certain occasion, "Why was not this ointment sold for 300 pence, and given to the poor? Not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief." [An Hon. MEMBR: "And carried the bag."] That was the manner in which the noble and learned Lord treated the radical Reformers of that day as pretenders only to a special interest in the poorer or working classes. He be- 1106 lieved the Bill gave them a basis on which they might fairly go into the consideration of it to the advantage of the country. He was extremely sorry, therefore, that anything had been interposed to prevent the settlement of the question. The Government had attempted to settle it in a certain way. The various franchises proposed admitted all those who were entitled to them by their intelligence, industry, and frugality, through qualifications they could only attain by the means provided in the Bill. They could not be admitted by household suffrage, and in the metropolis they must invent some other means. The Government tried to do it by the lodging qualification; but that was the part of the Bill to which the right hon. Member for Carlisle had the strongest objection. They tried to do it by the savings' bank clause; but the same right hon. Gentleman said, "We have no more right to inquire into the amount of the deposits in savings' banks than into any other banking accounts." But the savings' banks were public institutions giving certain facilities, based on Government securities; and in his opinion, when the object of that inquiry was for the purpose of conferring upon him the privilege of a vote, the Government would have the most perfect right to inquire. It had been shown by the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho) how large a number of additional votes would be given to Newcastle by the creation of that franchise; while the hon. Gentleman the Member for Marylebone told them that it was stated that about 15,000 in that borough would be admitted in consequence of the creation of the new franchises. They had endeavoured to admit the higher, more instructed, and more intelligent class of artisans; but they had found the difficulty was so great, and that there were so many views upon the question, that it was only natural that hon. Gentlemen should get up one after another to express some objection to the details of the measure. It was said by the right hon. Member for South Wilts, and he believed it, that there were many hon. Members pledged to no party, bound by no ties, who were inclined to support a moderate measure. He must say, however, that he was sorry to find that the moderation which prevailed upon this subject privately did not prevent hon. Gentlemen from expressing the strongest opinion against the Bill publicly. Many of those Members would be inclined to support the Bill with a view 1107 of amending its details; many would, perhaps, absent themselves, or not vote against the Resolution, which seemed to be framed to extricate those hon. Gentlemen from a difficulty. It might do so; they might not be able to oppose a Resolution that pledged them to an extension of the suffrage, though it did not say to what extent. But in what a difficulty would that vote; place them hereafter, when a measure might be brought in by some of the hon. Gentlemen now sitting below the gangway! He would not say there was a compact between the noble Viscount the Member for Tiverton the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, and the hon. Member for Birmingham, but he did say that each section of those who supported the Resolution had very different objects in view, and were glad to combine on a Resolution that pledged them to nothing. He would not speak of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), who was not in his place, in the manner he should have done had he been present. He did not say it merely because he "was tired of hearing Aristides called the Just," but because he was weary of bearing the hon. Member, while condemned for his opinions, untruly spoken of as having dealt fairly and in an honest spirit with the institutions and aristocracy of the country. The hon. Gentleman might deceive himself; but was he doing so when he told them that the aristocracy divided among them £70,000,000 a year, and used the funds of the country for the purpose of providing for their younger sons? The hon. Gentleman might have such distorted views with respect to the aristocracy that he might himself believe that statement, but he (Mr. Hardy) would venture to say that the hon. Gentleman would not repeat it in that House. The hon. Gentleman opposed the Bill and supported the Resolution, on real and tangible grounds, because he wished to bide his time. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) spoke of the great statesmen who still remained among us, and who took part in the passing of the Reform Bill, nobody in the House could have failed to see the sneer on the face of the hon. Member for Birmingham, nor could anybody doubt that he looked forward to the time when they would be swept away, and those who represented his own principles and feelings would occupy the seats of the present Government. Rightly did he wish to "'bide 1108 his time;" he had tried to rouse the country and he had failed. He had had an abundance of auditors, but had found few adherents. Who, from any party in that House, had been found by his side in the meetings he had attended? Who had endorsed his sentiments? Who else had been found to say that we should fetch our institutions from America, as we fetch our horse-tamers? He had put himself forward as the man prepared to destroy the institutions that had made the country great, that had made the House of Commons what it was, distinguished by a fairness, an uprightness, and a desire to arrive at just conclusions, that had never been obtained in America, which he so praised, and never would be obtained under the institutions he so strongly advocated. He wished to "'bide his time;" he did not wish this Bill to be carried, for reasons he revealed in his moderate speech, a speech the moderation of which ought to warn all moderate men. The hon. Gentleman was moderate with a deep and earnest purpose; he had not given up the hope of carrying out, at no distant date, the views he entertained. The hon. Gentleman did not wish a moderate Bill to pass. He would rather wait for five years, and the ground of his objection to what was called the uniformity of franchise was not to the thing itself, but because it would increase the difficulty of lowering hereafter the franchise in boroughs. That admission ought to be a warning to those who were about to go into the same lobby with that hon. Gentle man in the hope that they would hereafter, with the support of hon. Members on that (the Ministerial) fide of the House, be able to resist the measures which he would put forward when the time came. The hon. Gentleman spoke of five years hence, but no one could tell what might have happened within that time, what might then be the state of commerce or of agriculture, or what excitable passions or irritated feelings there might then be to appeal to, but the hon. Member for Birmingham would in such case use the distress of his country which should be an occasion for calm advice and deep sorrow as a means of agitating the masses of the people and destroying the influence of those who now enjoyed it. With regard to the extension of the suffrage, his right hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Lowe), in a speech to his constituents, the manliness and straightforwardness of which he wished that others would imitate, said:— 1109I should be extremely glad if I could devise any means by which the intelligence and property of the working class should be represented together with the property and intelligence of other classes; but do not misunderstand me. I tell you frankly that I have no such means. You can easily enough have a household or a manhood suffrage, but if you were to give either one or the other to the working classes, you would not be giving a representation of the property and intelligence of the working classes side by side with the property and intelligence of other classes, but you would be swamping the other classes, and giving the representation wholly and entirely to the working classes.That speech was in accordance with his (Mr. Hardy's) sentiments, and he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would, before the debate closed, take the opportunity of saying whether, having expressed such sentiments, he could now vote for the Resolution of the noble Lord, which was founded on directly contrary principles. The noble Lord stated that it was with the view of admitting the working classes that he advocated the retention of the suffrage by the 40s. freeholders; but it was notorious that in many instances what the 40s. freeholders most desired was a vote in the borough in preference to one in the county. He (Mr. Hardy) remembered many years ago, when he hoped to obtain a seat in the House, or rather when others wished him to do so, he stood for Bradford, and canvassed that borough, and he found sometimes that he had got into a wrong house, the owner of which was a freeholder, with a vote for the county instead of the borough; and he was mot with this observation: "I wish I had a vote for the borough. My interests are all in the borough, and that is the place where I should like to exercise my franchise." And was it not natural? Was there anything unreasonable in entertaining such a wish? He saw hon. Members sitting there for Haverford west, Nottingham, Bristol, and Exeter. Now in all those boroughs and cities, simply because they were called counties of cities or boroughs, the freeholders had the franchise, and, mixed up with the occupiers, voted together for their respective cities or boroughs. If that were so bad a tiling, how was it that they allowed it to continue? If it were so objectionable to blend the freeholder with the occupier in those cases, why did they not at the time of the Reform Bill invest those persons with their rights only for life and admit their successors for the county by which they were surrounded. If they were to extend the franchise in counties to occu- 1110 piers, and allow £10 occupiers to exercise the enormous weight which thenceforth they must exercise in counties, and if that was to be steadied by the power of the property in those counties, which was not fluctuating and was supposed to be Conservative, why did they not adopt the same principle with the fluctuating constituencies in boroughs, by admitting the freeholder to vote there? Nor could anything be more reasonable. If he occupied his own house in London, worth £300 or £400 a year, he had a borough vote as occupier; whilst if he let it he was at once driven to vote, whether he liked it or not, in the county of Middlesex. Again, if there were two persons with different houses, the one a £20 and the other a £10 house, and by some accident each was the landlord of the other, what a curious state of things would result? The man who rented the £10 house would vote as occupier and tenant, he also would vote for the other house in respect of his rights as a freeholder; but if they put him into his own house, his two votes would be absorbed at once; and though he was the occupier of a more highly rented house and possessor of the same property as before, he was only allowed to use one franchise. Why, there were whole streets in some boroughs containing nothing but £5 and £6 houses, the owners of which were now unrepresented, and not allowed to exercise the slightest right of voting at the elections for the boroughs. They could not obtain influence through the tenants because they were under £10. They could not vote on their own account, because they are freeholders and must vote for the counties. Their influence was lost, and yet at the same moment the House passed laws, like the public health and other Acts, in which they felt that justice required that those owners of property should be represented, and they allowed them to vote on questions which concerned those towns such as improvements and expenditure, because it was upon them that the expenditure fell. To give such men the right of voting where their property was situated, then, was not disfranchisement. It was simply giving them their rights where their interests were most affected and their votes where they ought to be exercised. With respect to the leaseholds and copyholds, which were proposed to be reduced from £10 to £5 by the Bill, he believed that that part of the measure would make an enormous addition to the constituencies. 1111 He came now to that which had been much dwelt upon in the debate, and to a certain extent, been misrepresented. He alluded to the interpretation which had been put upon the words which fell from his hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General—namely, that they imputed personal or private feelings to the noble Lord the Member for London. He believed that what his hon. and learned Friend meant was this:—The noble Lord had been at the head of a great party. He had had the confidence of that party; but, from circumstances upon which he would not dwell, but which had had their influence upon Members on the opposite side of the House, the noble Lord had of late held an isolated position, and it was a just, a fair, and a legitimate ambition on his part that he should try to resume the place he once occupied as the leader of a great and united party. The noble Lord thought, perhaps, that by means of that Resolution he might bring together the scattered fragments of that party, and combine them once more around him. And it was only in that sense that his hon. and learned Friend spoke on that occasion; not that he meant to imply that the noble Lord had taken the course he had from a love of wealth or anything degrading or disgraceful to himself as a man of honour and a gentleman, but simply that, as a man of ambition and the head of a party, he was making use of those weapons of party warfare which had been used on all sides in this House to restore himself to the position he once occupied. The noble Lord had been gratified in this, at all events, that if he had been attacked he had been also defended; if he had had a spear thrust at him on one side, he had had the shield of a disinterested patriotism held over him by the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone (Mr. James) on the other. What was it the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone said? "Whatever company I go into, and hear the motives, the character, or the intellect of the noble Lord impugned, I always stand forward to defend him." Now, he did not know into what society the hon. and learned Member went, but it seemed as if, when he went into the society of his Radical friends in Marylebone, they did not speak with that respect of the noble Lord which one might have expected from them, because, wherever the hon. and learned Member went, he had to get up and defend the noble Lord; and he said, "Whoever deserts him, I at least will stand true to 1112 him. "Like James FitzJames in the romance—Come one, come all, this rock shall fly,From its firm base as soon at I.He did not know whether the noble Lord liked the position he occupied cowering beneath that ample shield; but he had certainly found in the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone a vindicator ready to stand by him, and when the noble Lord had reconstructed that great party and brought together those scattered fragments which he was endeavouring to combine he trusted the hon. and learned Member would still be able to defend the noble Lord, and to give him that assistance which his abilities and learning had so well enabled him to supply. He now came to the probable result, as it had been called, of that discussion. It had been assumed that the result of this discussion would be to place the Government in a minority. [Mr. WHITE: Hear, hear!] Of course the hon. Member cheered that. He did not know what was to be the result of the discussion; but this he did know, that it had afforded the Government an opportunity of showing that they had tried to settle that great question. It had afforded them an opportunity of showing that they would not dishonour and degrade themselves by accepting a Resolution which could not be called otherwise than insulting, because it told the Government that the measure they proposed was unjust, impolitic, and unsatisfactory to the House and the country; and although that might not be a matter which the noble Viscount in his genial spirits would suppose they need take much amiss, yet, for his part, he could only say that he would not sit one day longer on that bench after such a vote was carried, if the Government did not think that that vote was a vote of censure. The Government, then, had tried to settle the question, and notwithstanding the advice which had been offered by the noble Viscount opposite, if the Resolution of the noble Lord the Member for London were carried the Bill would be condemned. If that resolution were carried, it would be carried in the spirit of its mover, who said that its intention was to get rid of an obnoxious Bill. If that Resolution were carried, it would be carried in the spirit of the right hon. Member for Wiltshire, and the right hon. Member for Carlisle, who had each of them told the House that they were opposed to the Bill, and would vote against it on the second reading. The 1113 right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle said that he would not use the subtlety of disguising from the Government that he had a hand in preparing the Resolution. He must say he recognized the subtlety of the hand in the Resolution—and, much as he respected the candour of the disclosure, it was unnecessary. He trusted that the Gentlemen of whom the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wiltshire (Mr. Sidney Herbert) spoke "as moderate men bound by no party ties" would consider carefully what they were about to do. If they thought proper to refuse to that Bill the consideration to which it was fairly entitled let them reflect hat would be the next step that must ensue. They would have to consider a Bill brought in under different circumstances probably, and by different authors, a Bill brought in under pressure, after an attempt to rouse the passions of the people, and at a tin e when it could not be considered with calmness or impartiality. It had been said that hon. Members on this side of the House were not earnest in their support of the Bill. Members on this side of the House I ad, many of them, given way on particular points on matters of detail, and had endeavoured to sacrifice, as far as possible, their individual opinions. They were ready to take a Bill which, whilst it did justice to the people, would not endanger the institutions of the country; but it did not follow from that that they would be prepared to give their assent to the rating suffrage of the hon. Member for Birmingham, or the proposal of vote by ballot and Triennial Parliaments of the hon. Member for Finsbury. The course they had taken on that Bill only showed that they v ere prepared to consider in a calm and impartial spirit any n ensure that might be proposed to them. His hon. Friend the Member for Great Yarmouth said they were inconsistent in saying that the Resolution of the noble Lord differed from that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ashton last year. The Motion of last year had nothing whatever to do with the Bill then before the House. It was a separate, independent Motion. It was a Motion which was meant as a censure, and a Motion for which he voted as a censure. He did not vote in respect of the Conspiracy Bill at all; and he could say with respect to that Bill, that whenever the time came for assimilating the law of England and Ireland upon the subject of Conspiracy they would not find that he would disgrace 1114 himself by voting against the consideration of the question, and putting the laws in the two countries on a fair footing. But with regard to the Motion now before the House, he was not going to say, in opposition to the highest authority that it was either un parliamentary or irregular. But he did say that it was a precedent which, if followed, might lead to dangerous consequences—and it was because the Resolution of the noble Lord dealt with the details of the measure upon the Motion for a second reading, it was a precedent which he trusted would not be largely followed. He would not say that it would never be followed; but let hon. Members who were going to vote for it remember that they were setting a precedent, and that their excuse for adopting that course, is that they thereby spread the largest net for the purpose of catching the largest number of votes, hoping that they will be able to go to the country with the pretence that they have voted against the Bill simply upon one point, though they were by that means stopping one of the greatest enfranchisements that was ever offered to the country—if hon. Members who formed that moderate section of the House of which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wiltshire spoke should take that step, they would be taking a step which might be imitated in a manner fatal to themselves as a party, and most damaging to the interests of the country. The question might have again to be discussed at other times under more unfavourable circumstances, and they would thus be adopting a course which would hereafter drive them to take shelter under the wings of the present occupants of the Treasury benches, to protect them from the rocks and the avalanches which would be hurled down upon them from the back benches of that House.
§ MR. J. D. FITZGERALD
said, that while he acknowledged the eloquence and ability of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, he thought there was some parts of his speech which would have been better omitted. He had expected that the hon. Gentleman, when he alluded to the Solicitor General's attack upon the motives that induced the noble Lord the Member for London to propose his Resolution, was about to make a fitting amende, but the hon. Gentleman, to his surprise, did no such thing. On the contrary, he seemed to have adopted the advice of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the 1115 Admiralty, who, when commenting on the expressions, said that he thought they would he the better in that House for a little more plain speaking. The hon. and learned Solicitor General seemed to have forgotten that he had accused the noble Lord of having introduced the Amendment for his private advantage, and for purposes of political aggrandisement. He was certainly surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty admit that he approved of these words. He could have wished that the hon. and learned Solicitor General had observed the rule which had always been acted upon, when offering an explanation the other evening, on which occasion he said that he considered an imputation on a Member as an imputation on the House, and that therefore he explained. The hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Hardy) had talked as if the House was met to discuss, not the Government Reform Bill or the Resolution of the noble Lord the Member for the City, but the opinions of the hon. Member for Birmingham. Now, he was not there to defend the principles of the hon. Member for Birmingham; on the contrary, he disapproved many of them; but he would remind the hon. and learned Gentleman that if he and those with whom he acted wished to stem the tide of democracy, and avoid the introduction of American institutions, it was not by obstructing the course of Reform, or by bringing forward a Bill that settled nothing, but by meeting the wishes of the country, and laying on the table a measure which the people could safely accept, that they could accomplish their object. Again, the hon. and learned Gentleman, reiterating a statement originally made by the hon. and learned Attorney General for Ireland, had charged the noble Lord the Member for the City with having been one of those who consented to the disfranchisement of 250,000 Irish 40s. freeholders. The hon. and learned Gentleman was entirely in error in that statement, which was not only untrue, but for which there was not the shadow of a foundation. A few words would suffice to explain the real facts of the case. When Sir Robert Peel introduced the Emancipation Bill in 1829, he stated that, in order to provide some security for the Protestant owners of property in Ireland, it would be necessary to regulate the elective franchise, and for that purpose he proposed to disfranchise the 40s. freeholders. As soon as the Bill 1116 was laid on the table a number of the friends of the Roman Catholics, of whom the noble Lord the Member for the City was one, met to consider its details, and they appointed the late Lord Althorp to wait on Sir Robert Peel to object to some of the provisions of his measure, and, among the rest, to the disfranchisement of the freeholders. The answer of Sir Robert Peel was, "I have obtained the assent of the Sovereign to the Bill; you must accept it as a whole; I cannot alter it." Upon that representation the Bill was passed, and yet they were now told that the noble Lord the Member for the City was chargeable with the disfranchisement of the Irish freeholders. [Mr. HARDY: What I said was that the noble Lord assented to it.] He had no doubt that the hon. and learned Gentleman, who was incapable of wilfully deceiving the House, had been misled by the Attorney General for Ireland, who, in plain and unequivocal language, had stated that the noble Lord was the means of procuring the disfranchisement of the Irish freeholders. He could not understand how the Attorney General had come to make such a statement, for no farther back than last year, when it was proposed to extend the 40s. freehold system to Scotland, that right hon. and learned Gentleman represented the facts exactly as he had just described them to the House. But the hon. and learned Gentleman, again following in the footsteps of the Attorney General for Ireland, had made another misstatement with regard to the Irish franchise. He had told the House that there was substantially a uniformity of franchise in Ireland such as the Government now sought to introduce into England. [Mr. HARDY: What I said was that the only franchise in Ireland was an occupation franchise.] The hon. and learned Gentleman was wrong even in that, for, although the main franchise was an occupation one, there were many other franchises in Ireland; indeed, except that the amount of the occupation franchise was lower, and there were no freehold voters, there was little distinction between the franchises of the two countries. But whatever the hon. and learned Gentleman might have said, there could be no doubt that the Attorney General had represented to the House that there was substantially uniformity of franchise in Ireland. In that, however, the right hon. and learned Gentleman was entirely wrong. Throughout the whole of the debate not one hon. 1117 Gentleman, save the occupants of the Treasury benches, had said a word in defence of the Bill; and even the right hon. Member for the University of Oxford had condemned every portion of it, from the preamble to the last letter, with the single exception of the disfranchisement schedule. The right hon. Gentleman had described it as bad in principle, revolutionary in character, and most objectionable in detail, and yet he called upon the House to forget principle, and to vote according to expediency. The right hon. Gentleman said that it was expedient that the question should be settled, and therefore he asked them to support a Bill every principle of which was to be condemned. But he (Mr. FitzGerald) was not prepared to support upon the ground of expediency that which he condemned on principle. Moreover he questioned the expediency; for by adopting a bad Bill they only kept up an agitation which would continue to disturb the constitution, and which, in the end, would force them to undo what they had done, and to pass a measure, perhaps, which might be revolutionary in its character. The right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Whiteside) had described the Resolution proposed by the noble Lord as a "muddy Resolution; but he (Mr. FitzGerald) thought that it was free from subtlety, plain in language, and so true in substance that he was surprised how any person, on the Opposition side of the House at all events, could vote against it. The first branch of the Resolution was admitted by every one, and they had yet to learn whether the Government were determined, at all risks, to oppose the second branch, which related to the extension of the suffrage in boroughs. If they were not pre-pared to extend the franchise in boroughs, he should vote for the Resolution, even though the effect might be to throw out the Government measure. But he did not see that the carrying of the Resolution necessitated the defeat of the Bill, because the Resolution only pledged the House to the opinion that in considering a measure of reform the true principle was that the 40s. freeholders should not be dealt with in the manner proposed by this Bill, and that the franchise in cities and boroughs should be lowered. If the Resolution were carried, he should feel himself at liberty either to support the second reading of a new Bill founded upon it, or to go into Committee upon the present Bill, on a pledge from the Ministry that the prin- 1118 ciples of the Resolution should be there adopted. If the Government resolutely refused to give that promise and the Resolution were not carried, he should then consider it his duty to vote against the Bill. The Government claimed a great deal of credit for introducing by means of this Bill the £10 franchise into counties; but he denied that that credit was duo to them. It was the hon. Member for East Surrey, and not the Government, who was entitled to credit on that account. What the Government had done was by crafty contrivances to defeat the effect of the franchise by transferring the 40s. freeholders from the counties to the boroughs, and by affording facilities for fagot votes. Instead of at once going into Committee and struggling there for Amendments to this Bill, which was undefended by any one but the Government, it would be much wiser, in the first instance, to adopt the Resolution of the noble Lord, which at least had the effect of laying down certain principles. Another point to which he wished to call attention was, that up to the present moment the House had not had the slightest indication of what were the intentions of Government with respect to Ireland, and the inference to be drawn was that there was to be no Reform Bill for Ireland. The institutions of Ireland were the same as those of England, and there ought to be a similar measure for both countries. The Irish Members had a light to be informed, before the present debate concluded, whether there was to be a Reform Bill for Ireland, and if so, whether the occupation franchise in counties was to be reduced to £10. This was a matter of vital importance to Irish county Members, the number of whose constituents would be vastly increased by such a change. He also desired to be informed whether the Government proposed to make any alteration in the borough occupation franchise. In conclusion, he would again express his determination to vote for the Resolution of the noble Lord, and with respect to the second reading of the Bill his course would depend on what steps the Government might think fit to take.
§ SIR DENHAM NORREYS
said, he thought it was only fair to the Irish Members that they should have an opportunity afforded them of expressing their opinions upon this important question. If, however, it was intended that the debate should 1119 close on Thursday, it was quite clear that they could not do so. It was quite possible that he himself might be induced to vote against the noble Lord's Resolution. He had frequently endeavoured to catch the Speaker's eye, but was unsuccessful. He thought under such circumstances it was better to adjourn the debate until to-morrow (Wednesday), as he did consider it possible to close the debate on Thursday. He trusted that the House would not prevent the Irish Members from speaking on Thursday.
§ MR. LINDSAY
said, there were a number of plain men like himself who also desired to speak upon this truly important question. He had vainly endeavoured to catch the Speaker's eye, but of course he had to give way to more important Members. He trusted that men of business, like himself, would have an opportunity of offering their opinions before the debate closed.
Mr. SERJEANT DEASY
said, he also must protest against the debate being brought to a premature conclusion.
§ MR. COLLINS
said, he thought it would be quite time enough to decide whether the debate should be adjourned or not on Thursday.
§ MR. JOHN LOCKE
said, he should be glad to see the debate finished on Thursday, but if those hon. Gentlemen who wished to speak on the question should not have an opportunity on that evening, the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to be made aware that those Gentlemen would persevere in their desire to speak, even though he himself might address the House on Thursday night.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
said, that it would not be convenient to adjourn the debate to Wednesday. In the absence of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he could not give any undertaking to bind his right hon. Friend. The House would do his right hon. Friend the justice to admit that he had shown no disposition unduly to cut short the debate. If on Thursday it appeared that there were still many hon. Members to speak, he had no doubt his right hon. Friend would endeavour, as he had done, to meet the wishes of the House.
said, he thought that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had shown a fair desire to meet the wishes of the House. When the right hon. Gentleman in the early 1120 part of the evening spoke of an arrangement to conclude on Thursday, there seemed to be a general impression in favour of that arrangement. But on Thursday there would be an opportunity of judging as to the number of hon. Members still desirous to speak on this subject. It was, no doubt, an important one, and one on which hon. Members might naturally desire to address the House. He thought that the matter might be safely left to the courtesy of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ MR. COBBETT
said, he had essayed for four successive nights to catch Mr. Speaker's eye, but in vain, and although he might not have anything very important to say to the House, he should protest against a premature closing of the debate.
said, he hoped that hon. Members from Ireland would have an opportunity of addressing the House on this question. It was not entirely an English measure but an Imperial one.
§ Debate further adjourned till Thursday next.
§ House adjourned at a quarter before One o'clock.