§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [19th March], "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. EDWIN JAMES
said, he rose to renew a debate, which had certainly been of a rather languid and uninteresting character, and had been somewhat delayed. Before making the few observations which he had to offer on the Bill itself, he wished to advert to the speech delivered by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Whiteside), who immediately preceded him in this debate. The whole tendency of the arguments of the right hon. and learned Gentleman appeared to be, that the extension of the franchise, as proposed by the noble Lord, to the occupiers of £6 houses in boroughs, was calculated to create a great preponderance of the democratic element, and was of a dangerous and revolutionary character. But it must have struck every one who heard that speech that if the measure were of such a dangerous and revolutionary character, and if the working classes were not fit to be trusted with the franchise, it behoved hon. Members on the other side of the House to have met the question for the second reading of the Bill with a direct negative. The right hon. 2142 Gentleman had followed the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Baines), who, in an able and edifying speech, had proved by statistics, the prudent habits, increased intelligence and advancement in education of the working classes; but the whole of the arguments of the speech were met by the right hon. and learned Gentleman with a sneer; and he was the more surprised at that, because, on referring to the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman in the debate of 1859, he found that the right hon. and learned Member, when speaking in behalf of the measure then brought forward by Her Majesty's Government, pronounced the Bill calculated to enfranchise the working classes, and read a letter from one whom he described as an influential inhabitant of the borough of Marylebone, stating that the Bill was entitled to credit at the hands of the working classes, as the lodger franchise would add 15,000 skilled artizans to the electors of the borough. Whence, then, had the right hon. and learned Gentleman this new-born dread of the enfranchisement of the working classes? He appealed from that right hon. Gentleman to the right hon. Baronet the Member for Hertfordshire now sitting near him (Sir E. B. Lytton). That right hon. Baronet declared that the Government to which he belonged were not afraid of the working man, and that for his own part he was proud of the English workman, whether as the simple English peasant with his homely virtues, or the skilled mechanic of the manufacturing towns with his thirst for knowledge, and with his dreams of a political Utopia quite as rational as that of Plato. The right hon. Baronet, he presumed from his writings, had a better acquaintance with the working people of this country than the right hon. Gentleman, and he had no fear of them, and yet they were told by the latter that this Bill was dangerous and revolutionary because it would extend the franchise to so many of the working classes. The right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire had argued that the Bill, by conferring the franchise on £6 and £10 occupiers in boroughs and counties, would create an homogeneous constituency. He did not understand the precise meaning of that expression; but he thought the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman was open to the same objection of creating a homogeneous constituency, because it would have conferred the county franchise on a £10 occupier, and the borough franchise on a £10 occu- 2143 pier also. Assuredly in conferring the franchise they must take some status—they must take people living in houses; and, except that the Bill was deficient in not creating other franchises, he could not comprehend the objection urged to the homogeneous character of the constituency. As everybody must live in a house, there was, under the £10 occupation franchise, every variety in the constituency, and one street might comprise both professional and commercial men. Until some celestial constituency that did not live in houses, but descended to the earth at election times for the purpose of voting, were obtained, he should be unable to understand the argument of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwitch (Sir J. Pakington), who never omitted the opportunity of having a fling at a metropolitan constituency, told the House that a great number of the Marylebone electors very seldom voted. He had observed, since he had the honour of a seat in the House, that nothing told so well in a debate as a species of imaginary conversation; and they had been told of an imaginary conversation which the right hon. Baronet had with a sulky resident in Marylebone, who assured the right hon. Baronet that he had not interfered in the election for the borough, whether on the side of Colonel Romilly or of Mr. Edwin James.
§ MR. EDWIN JAMES
This was an imaginary conversation—[Sir JOHN WALSH: No, it is a fact] with a retired optician, a Conservative elector. But why should such an elector vote if the Liberal interest preponderated there? Might not the same imaginary conversation be represented as having occurred at Droitwich? A Liberal elector living there might very well be made to say,—"Sir John Pakington is a Conservative, and he commands such influence that it is not the slightest use for me to oppose him. I listen, therefore, to his speeches in which he talks a good deal about politics and sometimes about himself, but I do not vote." Such a person might very well be described as sulky and disgusted with the whole system of politics, but this furnished no argument against the extension of the franchise when applied to boroughs in which the Liberal interest preponderated. Having said so much, he would now venture to make a few observations on what he presumed to 2144 call the defects of the measure introduced by the noble Lord. Firstly, this Bill was defective on account of its non-enfranchisement. Secondly, it was defective on account of its non-enfranchisement, which was a consequence of its other defect. It was most defective in not varying the constituency by giving a lodger franchise, by which the Government would have secured a great deal of the intelligence, and a great deal of the intellect, of the country, which he did not hesitate to say would, to a certain degree, be a safeguard and a ballast to the vessel of the State against what appeared to be a too democratic element. The Bill was extremely defective again, because it hampered the franchise by exacting the payment of rates as a condition precedent to a vote; because pretending to be the adjustment of a great question, it was the mere skeleton of a Bill; and because it provided no system for the revision of registration, which he believed to be essential in any extension of the franchise. A great deal had been said about the extent to which the franchise under the proposed Bill would be conferred. Now, Her Majesty's Government, through the noble Lord, had stated that the increase of numbers by the £6 franchise would be somewhere between 157,000 and 160,000 electors in boroughs, exclusive of counties. He believed that statement to be entirely fallacious, the principle on which the returns were made to be fallacious, and that the noble Lord was not himself aware how far the franchise would be extended by his proposed measure. He ventured to affirm that the statement put forth by the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) did not give to the House anything like a true view of the extent of the new franchise if the Bill should pass. [Opposition cheers.] Those cheers came from the opposite side of the House, whence he supposed they would make the fact an argument to show the danger of so increasing the constituency. He had no such fear, and he drew from the fact an argument of the very opposite character. It was essential, in a question of reform, when endeavouring, after the lapse of a quarter of a century, to adjust the representation of the people, to have that adjustment based upon a sound and permanent foundation. He was not one who thought it necessary every year or two to have an extended suffrage bill; but that the measure, in order to be permanent, should leave no reasonable objections on the part of any class who were 2145 really entitled to be included in the electoral body. The Returns upon which the Government relied set forth the number of male persons resident within any Parliamentary city or borough in England or Wales, or within seven miles thereof, who were assessed to the poor rate. But in taking the names of persons assessed, they took merely those whose names actually appeared on the rate-books, whereas everybody acquainted with electioneering matters knew that under the Compounding Acts the names of thousands of tenants who would have the franchise could not appear. A Return moved for by the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. Williams), and printed in August, 1857, would have enabled the noble Lord to approximate much more closely to the numbers which would be enfranchised by his Bill. This Return gave the whole number of houses rated in six metropolitan boroughs; and then getting the number of houses rated, and making the necessary deductions, they would arrive at something like the number of occupiers. In Marylebone it had been stated that 500 persons only would be enfranchised under the new Bill; but he had ascertained that in St. Pancras alone 3,760 £6 tenants would receive votes. He was delighted at this, but the noble Lord, though he professed to be pleased at the operation of the Bill, would probably be startled at such a result. At all events, it was right that before legislating on the subject the House should distinctly know the effect of the proposed measure. As hon. Members were aware, an occupier, in order to vote must be rated and must pay the rates; but there were two Compounding Acts in force, the provisions of which were resorted to in the metropolitan districts and in many of the large boroughs in thousands of instances. The first of these Acts, the 59th of George III., after reciting that in large and populous towns payment of the rates was often evaded, went on to enact that in the case of rents between £20 and £6 the owners should be assessed instead of the occupiers. The rate-books, therefore, in these cases merely gave the names of owners, who might be rated for 50, and as in St. Pancras, sometimes for 100 houses, and the names of the tenants were not given at all. The Return of 1857 purported to supply the number of houses rated for the relief of the poor in six metropolitan boroughs; and, taking Finsbury alone, there appeared to be there 39,621 houses (not tenements) 2146 rated for the relief of the poor. There were no houses under £6 annual value, as he had ascertained from inquiry. Primâ facie it would appear that there were 39,000 occupiers who were, entitled to vote, but the fact was that there were in many instances two, three, or four £6 tenants in each house. Making then the deduction fixed on by the Government—namely, 27½ per cent for changes of residence and occupancy by females, the result would show that the calculation of the noble Lord as to the numbers which would be added to the constituency by giving persons who paid £6 a year a vote was very much too narrow. The noble Lord's Return set out the existing constituency of Finsbury at 20,951, and the noble Lord informed the House that the addition which would be made to the constituency by his Bill was 515. If they deducted 27½ per cent from 39,801, the number of rated houses, they would find that the noble Lord's calculation was ridiculously absurd. Take next the Tower Hamlets. From the Returns it appeared that there were 28,483 £10 voters, and the noble Lord calculated the increase by the £6 franchise at only 5,488; but it appeared from a calculation by the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets that the number of houses, none of which were rated under £6 was 88,327; which, with the deduction of 27½ per cent, would be the number of voters under the new Bill. Then take Marylebone. The Returns showed that constituency to be 21,031; and the addition by the £6 franchise would only be 406. He was struck by the small amount of the expected increase, and made inquiries, from which he learned that the total number of rated houses in the borough, none less than £6, was 43,880. He found that in the parish of St. Pancras alone the number of houses for which the owner and not the occupier was rated was no less than 3,796, and therefore there was the number of persons who would by very simple means obtain a right to vote. Without going into greater details, he would only add that, according to the Government Returns, the total addition to the aggregate constituencies of Finsbury, the Tower Hamlets, Marylebone, Westminster, Lambeth, Southwark, and Greenwich would be only 13,992: while, taking the number of rated houses in those boroughs, and making a deduction of 27½ per cent for female occupiers, change of residence, &c, he found the actual increase would be 109,960. He had not confined his in- 2147 quiries to the metropolis, but had addressed letters to the authorities of about eighty other towns, and the result of the information he obtained was that it was impossible to accept the Government Returns as showing the real number of persons who would be enfranchised. In Blackburn the Government Returns showed an expected addition of 1,110, but the town clerk informed him that there were 3,796 tenements in that town for which the owners were rated and not the occupiers. He found that in Macclesfield there would be an increase of 2,760 plus that assigned by the Government Returns, and in Bolton the increase would be 2,074. In Ashton-under-Lyne the real increase would be 2,000. [Mr. GIBSON was understood to dissent.] He (Mr. James) had a letter from an intelligent gentleman of that town stating that had the Government chosen to ask for proper Returns they could have obtained the information that was needed, but they had chosen to mix up the question of estimated value with that of rating, which had produced a series of the grossest blunders. That was the statement of a Strong supporter of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gibson), who was favourable to an extension of the franchise, but who thought that the real facts ought to be made known. The errors in the Government Returns arose from taking the persons assessed instead of the occupiers. He would state how tenants not assessed might become voters. When the owner compounded for the rates the tenant had a right, under the 30th Section of the Reform Act, to claim to be placed upon the rate-book; and a subsequent Act, passed at the instance of Sir William Clay, facilitated that proceeding. But it had been held in a Court of Law that where the owner was rated for a house, if he charged any amount, even one shilling, of those rates to the tenant, the payment of the rates inures to the benefit of the occupier, who was entitled to a vote. It had appeared to him extremely material that the House and the country should know something of the extent to which the franchise would really be extended by the Bill under consideration. The very footnotes in the Government Returns, however, pointed out that the exact numbers could not be ascertained with regard to Norwich, Pontefract, and Finsbury. One of the great defects of the Bill was its principle of non-disfranehisement. It appeared to him that the Government had not had the courage 2148 to deal with the Bill as a great question ought to be dealt with. If public opinion did not back them in the great question of Parliamentary Reform it would have been almost better to wait until public opinion was strong enough to aid them. An imperfect attempt unsettled a great deal and settled nothing. It might have been naturally expected that the noble Lord (Lord John Russell), the parent of Reform in this country, and who had, moreover, taken a very active part in defeating Her Majesty's late Government on the question of Reform, would bring in a measure, to some extent at least, satisfactory. But the Bill of 1854, which that noble Lord introduced, was a far more satisfactory measure, because, while it to some extent tempered a large extension of the franchise by giving intelligence, property, and wealth a preponderating influence, it was a far bolder Bill as regarded the question of disfranchisement. The noble Lord proposed, in 1854, to disfranchise 19 boroughs. By that measure he would have had 63 seats to dispose of. He appeared to have then taken as the basis of his calculations not merely the principle of considering population, or that of the number of electors, but he combined the two as objects of consideration, which appeared to him (Mr. James) precisely the proper principle to adopt. There were many large populations, in which from their position there were not likely to be many new electors grow up, and therefore he thought the proper principle was to combine population and electors, both for enfranchisement and disfranchisement. The noble Lord, whom he believed to be a most sincere Reformer, had not, perhaps, that influence which he might have had in another Cabinet. He (Mr. James) could not fail to remember how, in the course of the debate on the Reform Bill introduced by the late Government, the right hon. Gentleman the present Chancellor of the Exchequer stood up as the vindicator of nomination boroughs. Hon. Members who hoard that able speech might have imagined that they were carried back into the time when Mr. Croker, the mere creature of a rotten borough himself, stood up, in 1831, for Aldborough and for rotten boroughs. The right hon. Gentleman's speech was a mere reiteration of the arguments which Mr. Croker adduced. Mr. Croker was the creature of the rotten borough system—he never ventured to breathe the pure atmosphere of a Liberal constituency. Mr. Croker, 2149 who established a great reputation, by the arguments which he used with extreme ability, expired with the system, and his political reputation was embalmed in the undying satire of the author of Coningsby. But the right hon. Gentleman, and the noble Lord as well, to some extent repeated his arguments, and the noble Lord invoked the name of Edmund Burke and of Lord Macaulay, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer did also, to support the argument for the preservation of nomination, or what were called rotten boroughs. Now, there never was a greater mistake made in a debate than to invoke the name of Lord Macaulay in support of an argument for nomination boroughs. The noble Lord the Member for the City of London sat by the side of Lord Macaulay in December, 1831, and he could not have forgotten his eloquent denunciation of rotten boroughs in opposition to the arguments of Mr. Croker. Lord Macaulay said—You close against men of talent the broad entrance which ought to stand open to them, and in exchange open to them a by-entrance, always narrow, always obscure, often filthy, through which they often have to pass by crawling on their hands and knees. The representative of a nomination borough comes into this House wearing the badge of slavery. He cannot speak of his independence without exciting a panic. That," said Lord Macaulay, "is what your system of rotten boroughs has done for men of talent."—[See 3 Hansard, ix. 383.]How, then, could the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman invoke such a name in favour of such a system? Immediately that Lord Macaulay had emerged from the bondage of Calne he sat for the large constituencies of Leeds and Edinburgh, and never dreamed, he (Mr. James) ventured to think, to the last moment of his existence, of adducing an argument in favour of the rotten borough system. In 1839, Lord Macaulay wrote to Mr. Black, "I shall be able to take part in politics as an independent Member of Parliament, with the weight and authority of a man who speaks in the name of a great and intelligent body of constituents." The Chancellor of the Exchequer had also alluded to Mr. Pitt. What did Mr. Pitt say in his speech on the Motion for an inquiry into the state of the representation of the country? He said: "I avow myself the enemy of close boroughs. They are the strongholds of corruption, to which I attribute many of the calamities of the country." The noble Lord had spoken of nomination boroughs as a kind of harbour of refuge 2150 for great men ostracised by some sudden caprice of a popular constituency. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke of them as the nurseries of rising statesmanship. What sort of harbours of refuge had Thetford, Harwich, Ashburton been, and to what eminent statesmen had they given seats in that House? He asked the noble Lord to point to a single statesman of whom a rotten borough had been a nursery since 1832? [An HON. MEMBER: Tiverton?] Tiverton a nursery. It surely was not an infant statesman who was nursed at Tiverton, but a statesman whom they were all proud to see in that House. The system of disfranchisement proposed by the noble Lord in the present Bill seemed not only extraordinary but incomprehensible. Tiverton, for instance, was still to return two Members. Tiverton, taking the noble Lord's return, had 750 electors. And yet one Member was to be taken away from Guildford, which had a constituency of 937. There was another borough, Tavistock, in which it was supposed that a noble Duke had some interest. Tavistock was to keep its two Members—it had 467 electors. Hertford was to lose one Member, and it had 1,803. Malton, where it was supposed the Whig interest predominated, was to keep its two Members, with 789 electors. Maldon, however, was to lose one, with 1,213. Wycombe was to keep two Members, with 521 electors. Dorchester on the other hand was to lose one, with 551. He protested that he could not understand the principle on which those changes were made. If he was told that it was founded entirely upon population—then he declared such a principle was quite wrong. The principle of 1854 was far better. The proper way was not to consider the amount of population alone but to look to the number of persons likely to grow into electors. The result, however, of the principle adopted appeared to have been singularly fortunate for Whig boroughs. In the metropolitan boroughs there was a large number of respectable and intelligent persons occupying portions of houses. Many hon. Members must have received letters from persons of various classes occupying apartments, perhaps for seven years, paying perhaps £50 or £100 a year for them, and yet having no vote—persons managing schools among the rest, or persons occupying rooms in public institutions. The noble Lord would not it seemed condescend to take a lesson from the 2151 Reform Bill introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, and yet it contained a most valuable principle—that of the lodger franchise. Vulgar epithets might be applied to such a principle—it might be termed a "fancy franchise"—but it was a franchise of a large and an intellectual portion of the community, which would fairly counterbalance the very great extension proposed in the Bill. That principle was entirely ignored in the present Bill. The Bill of 1854, which was, no doubt, to some extent a precedent for the Bill of the right hon. Member for Bucks, contained that franchise, which he believed to be a safe one, but the noble Lord, for reasons which he could not comprehend, had omitted it from his present measure. Then there was another defect, which would seem very considerable in the eyes of persons really attached to the Liberal cause—it preserved a constant impediment to the exercise of the franchise, by exacting as a condition the payment of rates, which in the Bill of 1854 was given up. In 1854 the noble Lord stated that the payment of rent was a sufficient evidence of solvency. By insisting on the payment of rates persons were often disfranchised, not through their own fault. It was a monstrous injustice that persons should be disfranchised for no fault of their own, and no one could doubt that under the present Bill great numbers of voters, both in counties and boroughs, would be disfranchised for not having paid their rates at a particular day. This he believed would have the effect of destroying one half of the proposed extension of the suffrage, by shackling, as it would do, the exercise of the voter's privilege. He thought this Bill, if it passed with all those defects, could hardly lead to a settlement of this question. It did not appear that it was to meet with any opposition on the second reading in that House. The Bill would probably go into Committee, and then, he hoped, efforts would be made to amend and improve it. What fate might be reserved for it in "another place" it was impossible to say, but he thought there would be considerable hesitation before the responsibility was incurred of rejecting it. A large number of intelligent persons were anxiously awaiting—not pressing by turbulence or violent excitement—the passing of a Reform measure. He believed that both parties in the House were deeply interested in having the question of Reform in the representation of the people satisfactorily 2152 set at rest. He trusted that on going into Committee they would be able to introduce clauses which would make it a Bill something worthy of the name of a Bill to amend the representation of the people, and he trusted, too, that there would be considerable hesitation before the responsibility was incurred of rejecting the measure. On a former occasion a great statesman, now passed away, had warned his Peers in the House of Lords to be careful how they interfered in the mighty Corn-law struggle, between the people and their food. He trusted some statesman equally judicious would advise them to be cautious how they interfered between the people and their just political rights. Her Majesty's Government had not brought forward a measure equal to the occasion. They were bold, some thought them reckless, in their financial measures—they were cowards on the question of political reform. The present Parliament, which would be memorable for great measures of social and financial interest, gave a remarkable opportunity for adjusting for a quarter of a century the great question of Parliamentary Reform. The Government had lost the opportunity of which they had not the courage to avail themselves, and upon them must rest the responsibility of having disappointed, as they had done, the just expectations of a forbearing and intelligent people.
§ MR. HARDY
said, that although he had listened with attention to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone, he found a difficulty in understanding on which side it had been made. The facts he had adduced and the arguments founded on them, seemed to put him in a dilemma in which the hon. and learned Gentleman wished to place hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House, and to impose on him the duty of moving a direct negative to the second reading of the Bill, as one wholly insufficient to meet the necessities of the times. But the course adopted with regard to the Bill was in his opinion one due to the importance of the subject, for it showed that there was no disinclination on the part of the Conservatives to consider a proper measure of reform; and if they criticised the measure of the noble Lord, that did not preclude them from saying that they were as anxious as he could be to carry out a Reform of the representation of the people. If they described this measure as reckless and revolutionary it was because they found that it tended downwards, and that its ultimate 2153 effect would be to destroy the existing constitution altogether. But it was not necessary to adopt the Bill in its present shape, nor was it necessary for the House at that moment to express an opinion as to how it was to be amended. The noble Lord called on this Parliament—the very Parliament to which the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. James) had appealed, to do justice to the people—to commit suicide, to destroy itself, and to destroy itself for what? was it to produce a better Legislature than that which was then sitting? The House bad not yet heard from any Member of the Government what was the object of the Bill, whether it was simply to admit within the pale of the constitution certain persons now excluded from it, or whether it met the object to which the right hon. Secretary of State for the Home Department referred in a speech which he made some time previous, when he said it would be incumbent on any individual who proposed a Reform Bill to show what were the grievances to be remedied and what were the objects to be obtained, and to show also that better government would be secured by the change than was attained by the operation of the existing Parliament. He (Mr. Hardy) confessed that it was with no little astonishment he saw this Bill produced as the result of the deliberations of the Cabinet, because he could not forget the words of the right hon. the Home Secretary, nor could he forget what fell from the noble Viscount at the head of the Government, when that noble Viscount, speaking of what was necessary for a Reform Bill, totally ignored the principle now put forward, repudiated what had been stated by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, and sketched out a scheme totally at variance with that now before the House. But since that time there had been a compact. In former times they had heard of the "Lichfield House compact;" now they had the "Willis's Rooms compact." There was a meeting in Willis's Rooms. But it seemed that the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone had not been consulted on the subject; the whole affair had been given into the hands of one hon. Member of the House, who, according to his own friends, ruled the Cabinet, and was the "out-door agent" of the Government, as one of his friends at Manchester had called him. And what said the right hon. Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who was the only Member of the Government that had spoken? Did 2154 he speak of the Bill as one strengthening the constitution and benefiting the people? On the contrary, he spoke of it "with bated breath and whispering humbleness;" and he stated that they "had been asked" to bring in a measure, and that no Government could sit on those benches which did not bring in a Bill to amend the representation, that no Bill would be satisfactory which contained "much less" than the present. That was all he said in its favour; and then he went on to say that he hoped it would be "a safe and satisfactory" settlement of the question. The House had heard from the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone what he considered satisfactory, and that as far as he was concerned the Bill would not be in any sense satisfactory. Hon. Members also on that side of the House were of opinion that the Bill was not safe, and he wished to know whom the present Bill was introduced to conciliate. The great masses of the people were in favour of a moderate measure of Reform. Was this measure, then, to be given to them as a satisfactory measure, or was it given to those who looked beyond it, who looked to something ulterior? The Bill was avowedly a Bill not for the better quality of the constituency, but simply to add to them in numbers. It was quantity, not quality, that was proposed to be brought into the Constitution. It was said that the working classes ought to be added to the voters. It had been assumed throughout the debate—he would not say by those who spoke in favour of the Bill, for, with a slight exception, no one had spoken in favour of it—that the working classes were at present excluded. He denied, however, that the working classes were excluded from taking their part in the working of the constitution. Even under the £10 franchise there had always been working men admitted, and by the raising of rents and the decrease in the value of money, many constituencies were largely increasing and many were being added to the constituent body by their industry and their prudence. The object of the Reform Bill of 1832 was, that by giving a franchise of £10 a constituency would be secured, not of men living from hand to mouth, not of men living by daily labour, but men who had acquired something by their thrift and their prudence, and had some stake in the country. It was distinctly put forward as one of the advantages of the Bill that it would not give the vote to those living by day labour, be- 2155 cause it was supposed that that class was more liable to corruption and to be influenced by demagogues than persons in the class above. The hon. and learned Member for Marylebone had spoken of the present state of the constituencies as not being homogeneous; but the effect of the present Bill would be that a single class of voters would overbear and override all the constituency. The hon. and learned Member, took exception to a statement made by his right hon. Friend (Sir John Pakington), who pointed out the large number of electors in great constituencies who did not vote. But it would be found that upon several occasions a majority of the electors for Marylebone, to the number of 11,000, did not vote, and that the whole business was done by 9,000 voters. It was clear, therefore, that partizan clubs could influence the more active part of the electors who governed the election, and that the more respectable part of the electors kept back from the poll. The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster told the House that the object of this Bill was to give admission to the working man; but the coarse process of lowering the franchise was not the way in which this object ought to be attained. He agreed with Mr. Austin in his pamphlet, that as they went down the social scale it would be impossible to resist a further influx on the same principle of lowering the franchise. Mr. Austin contended that "every extension of the franchise, in the direction of universal suffrage, tended to introduce it, for the jealousy and ambition of the excluded classes were inflamed by the admission of those whose place in the social scale was not higher than their own." He agreed with this opinion, and had no doubt that if the principle were laid down, that the great body of the working classes were to be admitted without selection, those who did not live in £6 houses would also claim to be enfranchised. Parliament would be unable to stop; and this was the only reason why the Bill was supported by any party in the country. He was wrong in saying that no one had supported it, for two hon. Members had spoken in favour of the Bill. The hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld), an earnest Radical reformer, spoke in its favour. But how? Not as a safe and satisfactory settlement of the question, but as a means by which he could place the lever of reform on a better footing to rouse the masses to put down what he considered to be a system of 2156 class government injurious to the country. In this he was followed by the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), whose support alone rendered this a most suspicious Bill. The hon. Member had interrupted his hon. Friend the Member for Dorsetshire (Mr. Ker Seymer) by exclaiming, "I never said that this Bill would not settle the franchise." That was true; but did the hon. Member for Birmingham ever say that it would settle the franchise? That hon. Gentleman was cautious in the House, but bold out of it. If the Bill was to settle the franchise, why did the hon. Member in his speech upon it threaten the House with the indignation of 20,000,000 of people, and of 6,000,000 of adult males? Did the hon. Member wish the House to give the franchise to those 6,000,000 of adults? His argument, if that were not his meaning, seemed to be a little difficult to understand. He called on the House to say whether they were for reform or not, and then they would see whether or not he could get up a storm in the country. He (Mr. Hardy) replied, that though not adverse to reform, they were not for such a reform as the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bright) wished, because they saw that he supported the Bill, not as a settlement, but to get a standing-ground with an immensely-increased constituency, and so to overbear and override the property and intelligence of the country. And then the hon. Member for Birmingham out of the House threatened something more. Surrounded by the great manufacturers he declared that if Parliament did not pass this Bill there would be delegates from every trades' union in the country sitting in London. What did that mean? Did he mean to say that the trades unions represented the £6 householders only, or the whole of the working classes? The hon. Member took exception to the representations of his right hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Whiteside) with respect to the views of the working classes on trades' combinations and political economy. Curiously enough, about that time he received the speech of a Canadian gentleman recently published, who quoted a document that showed that the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his right hon. Friend (Mr. Disraeli) were not wrong as to the views of the working classes in trades unions. The document was issued in 1850 by the Metropolitan trades delegates, who said that,The middle classes, whose predominant influence and power were acknowledged and accepted, 2157 had introduced as principles of action the meanest incentives and motives that can animate the human mind, namely, the free and full action of unenlightened self-interest, the unqualified love of wealth and the gratification of this love; and that their political philosophy was wholly mercantile.The whole document justified the statement of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Disraeli) that the views of the working classes had been in favour of protection to native industry as against free trade, for it contained these words:—We advance and maintain the principle that established and home trade should first be considered and preferred, and that changes and foreign trade should only be undertaken by means of that value or capital which may be over and above what is required for maintaining in their employments the members of each nation.Such was their political economy, which he only threw in by the way, as allusion had been made to the subject. Again, the hon. Member for Birmingham, at many meetings and by a regular scheme had shown himself favourable to a rating suffrage throughout the country. He used this Bill as a stepping-stone to giving a vote to every man who was rated. But had they not had some warning on this subject? A Committee had been sitting in the other House of Parliament, which had communicated to that House the result of their investigation. And what did they find as the result? The inquiry was directed to the effect of the Small Tenements Act. The result was just what might have been anticipated from any such rash and reckless extension of the suffrage as was proposed, and was looked forward to by the hon. Member for Birmingham. What, he would ask, had been the result even of the original Municipal Corporations Act? Were men chosen who were fitted by their intelligence and wealth to regulate municipal affairs, or were not agitators rather elected, who made the town-councils the means of influencing the elections of Members of Parliament? But under the extension caused by the Small Tenaments Act what was the result? In one constituency the Committee found that rate-payers who were rated at £26,000 were in the minority, while the majority, which returned the members of the town-council, were only rated at £4,000. In another case the minority were rated at £16,000, while the majority, who determined the whole election, were rated at only £661. In another town of 5,300 electors, 1,000 represented £27,000; while 4,300 only represented a rating of £7,000. 2158 Had the present system of municipal elections checked expenses in boroughs? On the contrary, the borough rates were frequently so heavy, that persons were driven out of boroughs, and resided in the neighbourhood to get out of the way of the increasing borough rates. If they gave immense powers of taxation into the hands of those who paid little towards it, the result would naturally be that they would lay the burden on their richer neighbours. The hon. Member for Birmingham laid great stress on the connection between numbers and property, as shown in the income tax, and similar Returns, as proving the rights of the Large towns to additional representatives. But these Returns became wholly fallacious when they were made a ground for extending the suffrage by lowering the franchise, because it would put into the hands of those who had no property, the power of controlling those who paid the very income tax on which the hon. Member founded the claims to an increased representation; they were, in fact, about to make the persons who did not pay, control those who did. When they found that it worked in this deplorable manner in the municipal franchise was it not enough to make them pause before they introduced it also into the Parliamentary? Was there anything else that they had discovered in this inquiry by the Lords' Committee into the working of the municipal franchise? Had they not discovered, and was it not confirmed by other inquiries which had been instituted, that an extended franchise directly tended to increase corruption to an unbounded extent? The Report of the Committee spoke of it in strong terms. Hired canvassers were employed, electors were bribed with drink and small payments of money; and it was abundantly proved that large expenditure was thus incurred in connection with the municipal elections, with the view of influencing the return of Representatives to Parliament. What, then, would be the effect if those very electors, who were so corruptible in municipal elections, were to be brought in a mass into the Parliamentary elections—as brought in a mass they would be, because in the great boroughs at least there were rated houses below the value, few if any of £6; and if the people chose to take upon themselves the payment of the rates, which they might easily do without increasing their rent, they would all be admitted to the franchise, and so the whole municipal constituency, part of which was 2159 now excluded from the Parliamentary elections, would come in and influence those elections to an inconceivably greater extent than they did now. The Committee of the Lords further said that no trifling deterioration of the constituency was caused by this arrangement in towns, by which the direct ratepayers were outnumbered by those who paid no rates or paid them only indirectly, and urged that the actual, direct, and continuous payment of rates should be made the indispensable condition of municipal suffrage. There was nothing in the evidence bearing on the municipal which did not equally apply to the Parliamentary suffrage, and yet it was already proposed that the actual payment of rates, which formed so important a check upon the admission of improper persons, should now be swept away. The hon. and learned Member for Marylebone showed conclusively that the Returns submitted by the Government were quite fallacious as the basis of any estimate of the proposed additions to the constituency, and that the occupants of small tenements might, by an arrangement to pay their own rates, which they could easily make, claim to be registered as voters in incredible numbers. He would now view these Returns in another light. They were, he understood, founded on what was called the gross estimated rental column of the poor-rate book; but a correspondent of the leading journal, who he supposed had had some connection with their compilation, asserted that they represented also the rental actually paid to the landlords. That assertion he disputed in the strongest terms. He was sure it was not correct. Now for the proof. The proof in the first place, was manifest on the face of these Returns, because there were several towns where the £10 householders were fewer than the £10 voters; and therefore, there were men who enjoyed votes as occupants of £10 houses, but whose names were not entered in the columns devoted to gross estimated rental in the rate-book. They would find that the number of £10 houses, as given in that column, was fewer than the number of £10 voters. There were no fewer than forty boroughs where that was the case. An hon. Friend had given him an instance of what took place in his own borough. A man claimed before the revising barrister to vote on a £10 house. There was produced against him the rate-book, from which it appeared that he was assessed at the sum of £4 10s. This 2160 would not give more on the gross estimated rental than £6; and yet he proved to the barrister that he paid a rent of £10, and was admitted on the register. How was it that there was such a difference between the actual and the estimated rental? It arose partly from this cause, that in boroughs which consisted not of one parish but of many, there was a continual struggle going on between the parishes to keep the rating as low as possible in order to lessen their respective proportion of the borough rate. In the same way an effort was made in county parishes to keep down the gross estimated rental, in order that each might escape from paying its fair proportion of the county rate; and the consequence was that in the majority of cases the gross estimated rental did not represent the actual rental. He could give one or two instances in cases where he had himself made inquiries. The borough which he had the honour to represent (Leominster) was divided into two portions—the main parish, in the town itself, and what was called the out parish. In the borough parish there had been no column of the gross estimated rental kept for a number of years; so that the only return for the borough was in point of fact the rateable value, which it was clear was much below the actual amount. In the out parish the gross estimated rental was fixed, as far as it could be ascertained, at the actual rental paid to the landlord with a deduction of 15 per cent. With regard to the town of Banbury, he had received a letter from a gentlemen on whose statements he could rely, in which it was stated:—In the township of Nethercop, the most populous part of the Borough of Banbury, the gross estimated rental stated in the rate-book is, on an average, only three-fourths of the actual rental, and, in some instances, not half that amount. The consequence is, that a great number of houses which are really of the value of £6 are excluded from the overseer's return. Lord John Russell estimates the additional electors in Banbury at 194, but in reality there will be about 400.He believed he might appeal to every Gentlemen who represented a large constituency to confirm his statements. He would like to appeal to the hon. Member for Nottingham on this subject, because he had heard, not indeed from the hon. Member, but from other sources, that the state of things in the town of Nottingham had been wholly misrepresented. He believed the same would be found to be the case over almost the whole country. The gross estimated rental was perhaps three-fourths of 2161 the actual rental, and sometimes much less. If so those Returns must be wholly fallacious, and he must say that the Government itself did not seem to have entire confidence in those Returns, or why had they not made the slightest opposition only a few evenings ago to the appointment of a Committee of inquiry in the House of Lords. He might be told that it was part of the arrangement that the inquiry should not interrupt the progress of the Bill. It might be also said that the noble Lord had confidence in his Returns, and no fear of their standing the proof. But when the noble Lord took upon himself to declare, on his responsibility as a Cabinet Minister, that a Motion for referring the Bill to a Select Committee in that House would be equivalent to a rejection of the Bill, why should the Committee in the other House be sanctioned—at least not resisted by the whole Cabinet—unless they felt that there were, after all, some grounds for inquiry. Either the inquiry was needful or it was not; and he wished to ask the noble Lord to say whether the whole Cabinet had confidence in the accuracy of these Returns or not? If they had not, then inquiry was needed, and it was monstrous, after the manner in which the accuracy of the Returns had been questioned, to press the House to pass the Bill before they were furnished with reliable data on which to form their judgment of what would be its effect. They were told they ought not to represent what was proposed as a homogeneous addition to the franchise, but he contended that this measure would be an actual transfer of power. It would take away the power from the present constituency and would give it to a class of which they knew comparatively nothing—a class into whose character and position the noble Lord and his colleagues had sanctioned an inquiry in the other House of Parliament, though they were to be allowed none in that House. Surely the noble Lord could never mean to ask them to legislate blindfold on so important a subject, on the ground that any errors they might fall into would be corrected elsewhere, or was the inquiry in the other House nothing but a mockery, a delusion, and a snare? He appealed from the noble Lord to the noble Viscount at the head of the Government, and he asked him whether it was fair or just to press the House to legislate without sufficient means of information. He appealed to him to allow the 2162 House an opportunity of weighing this question in nicer and more accurate scales than his noble Colleague had offered them; and to give them the same opportunity for obtaining accurate information as the Government had granted to noble Lords in "another place." The noble Viscount, pressed either by the arguments or by something else on the part of his noble Colleague, had yielded those more Conservative sentiments which he entertained and expressed when sitting on the Opposition benches last year; while the noble Lord the Member for London had carried out all he expressed when he sat below the gangway, under his leading—but it was folly to talk of leading, it was dragging. The Government was dragged. They knew it well. There was not a Member in the House who, in spite of the insincerity of public men, did not know that those who sat on and behind the Treasury Bench were dragged reluctantly along; that they had no sympathy for the measure; that in their hearts they disapproved of it, though they dared not speak out their sentiments. But the time was coming when they must speak out, for hon. Members on his side of the House were determined that the Bill should be fully considered. It was folly to represent the opposition to the measure as manifesting a resistance to reform in any shape. What hon. Members said was, give us information; tell us what is your object; show us whether, by this Bill, we shall obtain a better Government for the country than we at present possess. The Secretary for the Home Department said he had prepared and was ready to bring in a Bill for making a proper valuation. That would be a means of ascertaining what sort of constituency, both in towns and counties, would be obtained; but meanwhile the Government called on that Parliament, which was elected not only to pass a Reform Bill, but to deal with other great questions of the country—they called on that Parliament, which they thought fit to deal with questions that were tantamount to a fiscal revolution—nay, a Parliament which had sanctioned a fiscal revolution—they called on that Parliament to declare that it was not fit to conduct the ordinary affairs of the country. The effect on hon. Members themselves was most disastrous. It led them away from the consideration of their proper duties, to consider what they were to say to their constituents next year, rather than what they were to do now; for it was obvious that in the whole of these debates hon. 2163 Members bad been afraid to speak out lest they should have to appear hereafter before the new constituency of which they might have spoken. Yielding to the dictation of the hon. Member for Birmingham, the Government were about to swamp constituencies which had done justice to the interests of the country. Numbers, according to the hon. Member for Birmingham, were a cure for everything. They would enable us to live at peace with all the world, to place taxes on the right shoulders, to get rid of corruption. He ventured to say, on the contrary, that lowering the franchise in the mass, without consideration or selection, would promote war, extravagance, and corruption. The author of the Bill had said that he was going to effect his object in a direct and simple way, and made simplicity the merit of the Bill. He wished the noble Lord would confine his simplicity to foreign affairs. The Constitution of this country was a complex thing; it was not a Constitution made by the hon. Member for Birmingham; it had grown and adapted itself to the various wants of the people; it was full of what the hon. Member would call anomalies, but they were anomalies of the most valuable kind, which promoted the national interest and prevented the possessors of wealth and intelligence being overridden by mere numbers. There were great varieties of franchises prior to 1832, and what did the noble Lord himself say in 1854? He regretted that the Reform Bill of 1832 destroyed so many franchises, and that in confining themselves so much to one species of franchise only, he had not made it sufficiently various, and therefore not sufficiently comprehensive. Surely the noble Lord had arrived at years of discretion, in 1854, when he endeavoured to restore some of those complexities; surely the noble Lord was not then an infant legislator, and yet it appeared that now the noble Lord saw things in a different light, and simplicity was the only object to be aimed at. In like manner the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said they could accomplish their object better by the direct and simple means of this Bill. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would tell them what their object was. He could understand and appreciate the views of the hon. Member for Birmingham. His view was an ulterior one; he told them so himself, not, indeed, in that House, but in other places. He meant to go on to a rating franchise; and he told his friends to accept of this 2164 disfranchisement of twenty-five Members for the present, as it would help them to get rid of all small nomination boroughs. But it did not follow that a small borough was a nomination borough. There was as much independence in many small boroughs as was to be found in some of the largest cities in the kingdom, and he for one would rather be the free choice of a small but independent constituency than the nominee of a public-house clique, which it was well known dictated the returns in many of the large towns. When all other arguments failed him the hon. Member for Birmingham assured them that in following the noble Lord the Member for London they were following a man who walked in the light of the Constitution, who valued what had been done by his ancestors, and who appreciated the advantages of an aristocracy. If that were so, how striking the contrast presented by the hon. Member himself. When he looked back, it was only to malign the aristocracy. But which of the noble Lords were they to follow—the noble Lord of 1852, the noble Lord of 1854, or the noble Lord of 1860—because anything more different than the schemes brought forward at those periods could not possibly be conceived. An interesting history had been given in "another place" of the circumstances connected with the Bill of 1852. It was said to have been predicted by a great statesman that the Act of 1832 would stand until the noble Lord was in extremis. That prediction was fulfilled to the letter, because it was only when the noble Lord felt himself in extremis that the Bill of 1852 was proposed. But could anything be conceived more opposed to each other than the noble Lord's Bill of 1854 and the present measure? There they had a variety of franchisesr—they had the representation of minorities—they had rating clauses and residence to the extent of two and a half years. The noble Lord then said:—Leaving out, therefore, those who have not a certain degree of independence, or at least those who, not having given sufficient proof of it by continued occupation to entitle them to vote—that is leaving out all those living in houses rated under £6 and taking in all those who are rated above £6 a year, provided they shall have fulfilled the municipal term of residence (i.e., two years and a half before registration). By this means we should obtain an extensive representation of the country, which will include within its limits a large number of the working men, those who are most remarkable for steadiness of conduct, &c., and are enabled to inhabit dwellings of a better character than those occupied by the great mass of their fellow-workmen.2165 The present Bill was a vary different measure. It contained no rating, but a £6 rental franchise—no representation of minorities, no franchise from payment of income tax, no lodger franchise, no degree at the university franchise, no savings bank franchise—though all these were put in as checks on the lowered franchise in 1854; and yet he would venture to say that the noble Lord's intellect was as keen and his abilities as great when he proposed that measure in 1854 as they were now. Yet they were asked to take the noble Lord as their leader, the noble Lord who was dragging after him those who should be his ready followers, the noble Lord who, according to the hon. Member for Birmingham, would be sure to lead them in the path of the Constitution. He could not help thinking that upon this question of Parliamentary Reform the hon. Member for Birmingham was something like the giant of old, the renowned Cacus, who dragged his victims backwards to his cave, so that their footsteps might point the other way. The hon. Member had got his spoil by the tail, but though he might say, pointing to the footsteps, that they were in the path of the Constitution, everybody knew whither he was leading his dupes. Though the footsteps might point outwards, he was dragging them down into the democratic abyss. They knew well that the hon. Member for Birmingham did not walk in the light of the Constitution. He maligned the aristocracy. Now, he maintained that in this country it was essential for liberty that there should be a strong and powerful aristocracy. The hon. Member for Birmingham might exult in what he called the social liberty of a neighbouring country, he might prefer despotism with equality and social liberty to constitutional liberty. But there could be no doubt that if his policy were adopted we must have democracy, or despotism founded upon democracy. Burke—a greater man than, probably, any that now sat in the House—said, speaking of the House of Commons as a link connecting the Crown and the House of Lords with the masses,—That artificial representation being once discredited and overturned all goes to pieces, and nothing but a French democracy or arbitrary monarchy can possibly exist.In 1854 there was an apathy to which the apathy of that time was not to be compared. They did not then view with the dread they did now the indiscriminate lowering of the franchise, for they had not had 2166 so much experience of the evils resulting from the system, and the operation of a widely extended suffrage in America and Australia. Since that period, however, they had been obliged to look to what was passing in those countries, and it was found that so vast an extent of the suffrage did not produce to reflective minds results so satisfactory as the hon. Member for Birmingham had previously assured them would be the case. Again they were now told that the Bill was but a step in disfranchisement. But, as he had said, he believed many of those small boroughs were as independent as the larger ones. Allusion had been made to the different views expressed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on this point last year and those he now held; the Proteus-like changes of that hon. Gentleman were such that it was idle to dwell upon one case as an illustration, but upon this particular point the best and only real refutation of his present views would be, if the House could bear them unenlivened by the telling delivery of the right hon. Gentleman, that the Clerk at the table should read the various speeches that had been made by the right hon. Gentleman from time to time upon the subject. The right hon. Gentleman, however, had not spoken in favour of nomination boroughs, but in favour of small boroughs, as admitting Members of ability who might not hare an opportunity of coming through the larger boroughs. An American writer and lawyer of the greatest eminence, Mr. Justice Story, saw the real excellence of the British constitution:—In England" (he says) "the House of Commons, as a representative body, is founded on no uniform principle, either of numbers, classes, or places, such diversities being important checks upon undue legislation as facilitating the representation of different interests and opinions, and securing a well-balanced and intelligent representation of all the various classes of society.That view was borne out by the results arrived at in this country. The disfranchisement proposed by the Bill proceeded on no distinct principle. Disfranchisement should be carried so far only as it was thought advisable to enfranchise, but with no ulterior objects. There was, however, a provision in the present Bill which, appeared to be most objectionable, and a step in the direction in which the hon. Member for Birmingham desired to proceed. The proposition to give three Members to large towns was the beginning of that course which the hon. Member for Birmingham wished to be completed; for that hon. 2167 Member had put forward schemes for allotting six, seven, or eight Members to large constituencies. He maintained, then, that giving three Members to boroughs would inevitably lead to population being taken as the ground for apportioning the number of representatives. He doubted whether it was prudent ever to create what were called unicorn counties, and the increase in many of those counties was now sufficient to justify their being formed into two divisions. An important point omitted in the Bill related to the question of the boundaries of boroughs. This ought to receive consideration, as it was a question whether, where boroughs had considerably extended beyond the limits fixed in 1832, but where the population beyond the boundaries were of a homogeneous character, those boundaries ought not to be re-adjusted so as to include them in the list of voters. He would not, however, dwell upon this point. Then the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone (Mr. E. James) had spoken upon the question of registration. Certainly, if they were going to have such vast constituencies, it would be essential to have a cheap and easy form of registration, or the expenses would be enormous; and it was idle to carry a Bill without due provision for giving full effect to its objects being made in it. There was one point, by the way, in which the hon. and learned Member needed correction. He had spoken of Mr. Croker as the representative of a nomination borough but the fact was that Mr. Croker was at the time the representative of the University of Dublin, and was not, therefore, personally interested in nomination boroughs. He confessed that one of his chief objections to the present Bill, which had been allowed to proceed without meeting with any distinct opposition, arose out of the mode in which it was supported. He found that the only real supporters of the Bill were those who wanted to carry it further. It was because he believed that they were right in their anticipations who thought and desired that the Bill would create a fiscal revolution, so that the taxes should be laid entirely on one class, that he was opposed to it; and he believed also that the Bill would give power to those who paid no taxes to involve this country in difficulties with other nations which would occasion no burden to themselves. In reference to such views as were expressed by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Lord Brougham had said:— 2168So if our friends of the ultra-free trade persuasion were to be humoured in their fancy that by imbibing their doctrines all men are becoming virtuous, and especially all Governments peaceful, and some fifteen or sixteen millions were struck off our revenue, while the army was disbanding to lower the wages of labour, and the navy breaking up to be sold for old stores, the certainty is apparent to all but these lay preachers that we should forthwith taste the sweets, not, perhaps, of cheap commodities, but of rebellion, civil war, revolution at home, and of eventual subjugation by such of our neighbours as had not yet become converts to the true faith.But in fact there could be no doubt as to the ultimate objects and intentions of the hon. Member for Birmingham and those who united with him in supporting this Bill. Those objects were openly and fully avowed at a recent great meeting in Manchester, at which the hon. Member was present, by Mr. Wilson, the chairman, who usually acted as fugleman in the Free Trade Hall, and afterwards by the hon. Gentleman himself. The speech of Mr. Wilson gave some indications of the really revolutionary tendency of this measure, and it was evident that if they admitted these great masses to the franchise, revolutionary designs would be much more easily carried out. One man might govern them; they would be carried away by demagogues who, obtaining a powerful influence over their passions, might, in some sudden burst of enthusiasm, sweep away the most stable of our institutions. In such case they knew the result, for as it had been said, "Democracy is like death; it takes, but never gives back." Mr. Wilson had said he was "well inclined to the present Government. With Cobden as commercial traveller and plenipotentiary in foreign affairs, with Bright taking the out door department, and Gladstone and Gibson inside, the firm was doing a roaring business." The firm had certainly drawn some very long bills, as firms who did a "roaring business" were accustomed to do. They had drawn on acceptors not trusted by everybody; they had speculated a little too largely, and, as it would be proved next year, in a manner not very satisfactory to the people of this country. At all events, he was sure the payers of direct taxation would not like it. The hon. Member for Birmingham, adopting the resolution which was carried at this meeting, was of opinion "that no measure of Parliamentary reform will be satisfactory to the country less than that which will confer the franchise on every male person rated in boroughs, or entitled to be rated, to the poor; which will more equally 2169 distribute Members in proportion to population and property, and will give the voter the protection of the Ballot." The present measure was described by its promoter as a safe and satisfactory settlement; but the only voices raised in favour of it were those of persons who declared that nothing could be safe or satisfactory which did not go this great length. On the occasion to which be was referring the hon. Member for Birmingham, after a speech of great eloquence and power, which was no doubt calculated to produce a great effect on the minds of the seven or eight thousand persons who heard him, came at last to his peroration. "I do not address the Court," he said: "My voice is too honest and unfaltering for courtly ears." How it happened that his voice did not falter after such extraordinary calumnies and misrepresentations as he had uttered against the aristocracy he (Mr. Hardy) could not imagine. He said, however, that his voice was too honest and unfaltering for courtly ears—that he did not address the Court. What schemes in the hon. Member's mind must those be which were unfit to be addressed to a constitutional monarch? What schemes must he be brooding over if his honest voice could not be heard by that Sovereign who had been always ready to hear every voice that spoke in the spirit of the Constitution. The hon. Member in lauding his own honesty reminded him of what was said of the Ear of Kent in King Lear:—He cannot flatter, he!—An honest mind and plain—he must speak truth:An they will take it, so; if not, he's plain.This kind of knaves I know, which in this plainnessHarbour more craft, and more corrupter endsThan twenty silly ducking observants,That stretch their duties nicely.The aristocracy, said the hon. Gentleman, were "so wrapped in luxury" that they would not listen to him. But was it not the glory of this country that a large portion of the aristocracy had sprung from the same class as that to which the hon. Gentleman himself belonged? At what time, then, did that aristocracy cease to be identified with the common interests of the country and the welfare and happiness of the people at large? Was it when they became possessors of landed estates? When they had raised themselves did they lose the estimation of their countrymen? Did they lose their love of their country because they had a title attached to their names, or their names annexed to the land? Did 2170 they forget those classes from whom they had risen? The aristocracy ought not so to be spoken of. They had done much for liberty in this country; they had been a kindly race, knitting together the rich and the poor; they had bound together with indissoluble bonds the various classes of the people whom the hon. Member had affected to represent, but could not stir up. The aristocracy, whom the hon. Member maligned, and with regard to whom he had said that they would not listen to a voice which, if honest, was too unfaltering—the just rights of that aristocracy, the just rights of the people, and the just rights of the Crown, was the foundation of the Constitution which the hon. Member was endeavouring to destroy, dragging after him in so doing a Government, many of whose Members were as much opposed to his schemes as he (Mr. Hardy) was. The hon. Member dragged after him also many Members of that House who had no confidence in this measure, or the results it would attain, and he (Mr. Hardy) regretted the fact, for the sake of the honour of public men; he regretted to see the insincerity which had prevailed throughout the House upon this subject. He trusted, however, that there were some hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition benches, who would not care what the result might be of doing their duty to their country, and honestly expressing their sentiments according to the dictates of their own consciences. For his own part, no man valued more than he a seat in that House, but he should consider himself degraded if because he valued that seat he withheld his opinion upon any question that came before him. He felt it his duty, therefore, to say that the hon. Member for Birmingham was dragging the Government and those hon. Gentlemen who supported them down a slope, tending inevitably to an abyss, from which there was no return. It was because he believed in the truth of what the hon. Member said, as to the effects of a Bill like this, should it ever pass, that he appealed to the supporters of Her Majesty's Government, and he asked those Members, some of whom had grown grey in the service of their country, and who, though opposed in politics to those on his own side of the House, had done their duty honourably, and endeavoured to advance the interests of the country—he asked them, if they believed with him that this scheme tended to radicalism and revolution, to put forth their energies to arrest its progress. Let them not be 2171 deterred by the fear that the Government would treat any Motion as a vote of want of confidence from performing their duty, Whether the Bill ought be referred to a Select Committee or not was another question, but he could not suppose that the hon. Member for Salford had placed a Motion to that effect on the paper without due re-reflection, and he was astonished that the hon. Member should be threatened into abandoning it, because the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) had said he should take the carrying of such a Motion as equivalent to the rejection of the Bill. The position which that hon. Gentleman occupied in the House ought to have prevented him, unless he were thoroughly in earnest, from placing on the paper a most important Motion, which at a whisper from the noble Lord he now withdrew. With the experience of years the noble Lord had only been able to produce this miserable abortion—after the expectations which, when on the benches below, on the Opposition side of the House, he shadowed forth to the Radical party as the result of his accession to office. In truth the noble Lord had yielded himself in his old age as a prey to demagogues, and Lad allowed them to lead him against his own will, and that of many Members behind him, into a course which they had not the courage to denounce. But he would remind the House that they were not legislating for this Parliament, nor for the next, nor for any particular period, but they were legislating for one of the greatest nations that had ever influenced the destinies of the world; for a country that had made its impression on every part of the civilized globe. Let them look back into history with somewhat different feelings from those expressed by speakers at such meetings as he had referred to; let them consider whether the aristocracy had really led them into wars and expenditure, or whether the people had not gone heart and soul with them in all their wars, and notably in the late Russian war, which was, he might say, almost forced upon the Government by the people, and in despite of the efforts of the hon. Member for Birmingham. He would not ask the House to give a factious vote, This was no party question; he desired that no unfair advantage should be taken, that no combinations such as those directed against his own party when in office should be formed; but he and those acting with him wished to retain that which was so vital to the constitution of this country—they wished 2172 that each class—property, wealth, intelligence, and numbers—should retain their due place, and that no one class should be placed in a position of such predominant power as to override all the others. They believed that their present combined Constitution had advanced the country to that height of civilization at which it stood, and had contributed to the establishment of a free Parliament, where they could freely express their sentiments; and he believed that the more freely they spoke, even if for the moment some of their constituents disapproved of their sentiments on this subject, the more they would be honoured for their integrity. Lastly, he would call upon thorn to remember they represented a Constitution which would be destroyed by the measure the noble Lord proposed; and believing that Constitution to be sufficient to protect this country and advance its interests, he trusted they would defend if, and not allow themselves to be led astray, but that they would combine heart and hand with him and those who held the same views, in maintaining and upholding, in all their integrity, the well-defined rights of the people, the aristocracy, and the Crown.
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
Sir, a considerable portion of this debate, especially during the present evening, has turned upon the statistical Returns relating to the representation which have been laid on the Table by the present Government. Now, when Her Majesty's Government undertook last autumn to bring forward a Reform Bill it was their desire to ascertain the best data which could be obtained for the construction of so important a measure. They accordingly framed instructions, which were sent round to the country overseers from the Poor Law Board, in order to procure the most accurate returns which could be prepared for their guidance. These instructions were framed with deliberation and care. If necessary, they could belaid on the Table, and in our opinion the returns obtained are correct and complete returns, so far as the rate-books furnish the means of obtaining them. The rate-books form, the only basis upon which it is possible that such returns can be founded. It was not possible to institute a new valuation of the country, and to obtain the results within the time during which they could be used for purposes of legislation. The Government could therefore only address themselves to a digestion of the facts recorded in 2173 the rate-books. My belief is that these results are, as I hare stated, accurate and complete for the purposes of legislation. The hon. and learned Member for Marylebone (Mr. JE. James) in his somewhat tesselated speech has said that we have made important errors both in framing the Returns and in the inferences we have deduced from them. I maintain in contradiction to the hon. and learned Member and in the most confident manner that the Returns are substantially correct, and that the Government have not made any serious error in the inferences they have founded upon them. I rejoice to think that a Committee has been appointed by the other House which is likely to inquire into these Returns. It is a matter well fitted for the investigation of a Select Committee, rather than for debate in this House, and I believe that when those Returns are deliberately examined they will be found to be worthy of the confidence which the Government has placed in them. The hon. and learned Gentleman has accused the Government of making a blunder in their use of these Returns. I retort the charge, and say the blunder is on the part of the hon. and learned Gentleman. Let me first call attention to the case of Finsbury, upon which the hon. and learned Member rested a good deal of his case. If he looks at the note at the bottom of the page he will see that the returns from the parishes of Islington and St. Lukes do not contain the number of persons occupying tenements which are rated to the owners instead of to the occupiers. That is the only case in which the return does not comprise those occupiers whose landlords are rated instead of themselves; it is an exceptional case, and the fact is stated in the return, but which the hon. and learned Member abstained from mentioning. If the House will refer to the notes C D, referring to Hull and Norwich, they will find they are also cases where these omissions occurred, but where they did occur the fact was stated on the face of the Returns; and their total amount is insufficient to affect materially the aggregate results of the Returns- The hon. and learned Gentleman told us that the Returns did not include occupiers whose tenements were rated to the landlord. I affirm, on the contrary, that these Returns do contain an accurate account of all occupiers—not of all tenements, but of all occupiers whose rates are compounded for and paid by the landlords. If the hon. and learned Member will refer to the places 2174 marked "A" in the first page he will find a note that the places thus marked contain the number of tenements, and not of male occupiers, thus showing that in other cases the male occupiers are returned, which is the correct return. In those places marked "A" there are numbers in excess of the number of male occupiers, and if the Returns had been laid before the House as the Government received them they would have shown a number greater than the truth, and not less. In these cases an estimated deduction has been made on account of unoccupied tenements, female occupiers, and other causes. The hon. and learned Member assumes that the total number of occupiers whose rates are compounded for and paid by the owners below £10 will naturally be placed upon the register. That argument is wholly fallacious, and upon that fallacy his estimates are founded. But there is no reason to suppose that a greater proportion of occupiers below £10, whose rates are compounded for, would under the Bill find their way upon the register than of the occupiers above £10 in a similar condition. Compare one or two cases where we have returns of the persons rated above £10 and the number of names on the register. In Liverpool the number upon the register is 18,779, but the number of persons rated above £10 is 39,730. No doubt a large part of that difference is due to the fact that those whose rates are compounded for do not claim to pay the rates themselves, and therefore are not placed upon the register. In like manner in the Tower Hamlets the number on the register is 28,843, but the number of houses rated above £10 is 67,859. I might multiply these examples, but they are sufficient to show the utter futility of the argument of the hon. and learned Gentleman, who seeks to make us believe that every person occupying a house below £10 will actually be placed on the register under the new system. It must be obvious to any one who takes the trouble to consider the matter, that all those causes which tend to prevent occupiers above £10, whose rates are compounded for, from finding their way upon the register will operate with increased intensity upon occupiers below £10. Changes of residence, not claiming to be rated, and other causes will apply to those below £10 as well as to those above, and I will take upon myself to affirm, that if this Bill should come into operation, we shall find that the number we have stated is a max- 2175 imum, and one which is liable to very serious deductions. Therefore I say that the theory advanced by the hon. and learned Gentleman, supported by perverted facts and by the suppression of material statements appearing upon the face of the Returns, is utterly untenable. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last said the Returns were fallacious, and he particularly adverted to the column containing the gross rental as not exhibiting the real annual value. When Returns are declared to be fallacious, I apprehend any one would understand that there was some intentional deceit imputed to the person who brought them forward. If that be the intention of the hon. Gentleman I can only say nothing can be further from the fact. It was the sincere wish of Her Majesty's Government to obtain an accurate foundation for legislation, and it is their belief that in a vast majority of cases the first column of the rate-book does accurately exhibit the rent paid by the tenant to the landlord. We have sent circulars to the auditors of the Poor Law unions, before whom the rate-books come, and their answer generally is, that throughout the country the first column in the rate-books is not the rateable value, with which I am inclined to fancy some hon. Gentlemen confound the entry in that column, but that it does correctly exhibit the rental actually paid. I am quite aware of particular instances to the contrary, and if in Leominster the return is not filled up from the first column of the rate-book, then that return is incomplete. There may be parishes, too, in which a small rateable deduction may have been made, but I believe the practice is generally to enter in the first column the total annual rental. The hon. Gentleman, referring to some words I used at a meeting in the country, has called upon me to state the policy with which this Bill was introduced to the House. He reminded me that I had said it was incumbent upon those who proposed a Reform Bill to state what were the evils which it was proposed to remedy, and to show that the remedy proposed was adequate and suited to the evil. I accept the challenge of the hon. Gentleman, and if the House will bear with me I will state the grounds upon which I support the Bill on the table. Now, Sir, the object of the Reform Act of 1831, and of the previous Motions for Parliamentary Reform, was, I conceive, to guard against the following evil,—namely, the representation of thinly inhabited towns, and the non-representation of po- 2176 pulous counties and large manufacturing towns. If any Gentleman will examine the Motions which were made from the year 1780 to the year 1831, he will find the evils which I have stated explained in different forms, and also that the different plans of Parliamentary Reform were almost exclusively directed to the removal of those evils. Those who remember the debates on the Reform Bill of 1831 will, doubtless, hear, in mind that it was Schedule A by which small nomination boroughs were disfranchised, to which almost exclusive attention, both of the House and the country, was directed. Comparatively little attention was paid to the places to which the franchise was transferred; the great fight of that day turned on Schedule A. Although the plan was a comprehensive one, the principal attention of the House was directed to the disfranchisement of boroughs and the enfranchisement of boroughs and counties. The uniform £10 suffrage, then introduced with respect to boroughs, was accepted at the time as a sufficiently popular suffrage; but comparatively little contest took place on that question. I think it material, with respect to the present Bill, that we should know what was the effect of the change of the suffrage at the time of the Reform Bill, because the public attention has been almost exclusively directed to another effect of the Reform Act of 1831, and little attention has been paid to its effect upon the suffrage. A Return (No. 129) has been laid on the table which enables the House to test the figures I am about to read. The total number of voters in boroughs in England in 1830, the year before the Reform Bill, was 168,375; and the registered electors in boroughs in 1832–33, according to the first registration after the passing of the Bill, was 286,234. But to make the comparison fair it is necessary to compare only those boroughs which existed both before and after the Reform Bill; I deduct, therefore, the voters in the disfranchised and enfranchised boroughs. After making that deduction, and confining the comparison to boroughs existing both before and after the Act, the number of voters would stand thus:—in 1830,162,640, and in 1832–33, 201,794; showing, under the operation of the Reform Act, an increase of 39,154. The operation, therefore, of that Act in increasing the total number of voters in boroughs, existing both before and after the Act, was not very considerable. There were many places in which under the unre- 2177 formed Act the number of voters was very great, owing to the scot-and-lot voters, and the effect of the Reform Bill in those boroughs was to diminish the total number of voters. In Scotland the measure of 1831 produced an entire change. With regard to Ireland the change was less considerable. The Act of Union, which was itself an important Reform Act, disfranchised no less than eighty-four boroughs. In attempting to form a judgment of the probable consequences of the Reform Bill now on the table, it is material that we should look to the Reform Act of 1831, for it is by doing that, and by comparing the period since 1831 with the previous period, that I ground to a great extent my support of the measure, believing the time has come when it is desirable that some further progress should be made in the same direction in which we made so great an advance in 1831. I will not weary the House with a reiteration of the admitted effects of the Reform Act of 1831. We know how extensive has been the legislation of Parliament since that period. There is scarcely a Department of legislation affecting the interests of England, of Scotland, or of Ireland, or of the Colonies, or of India, which has not undergone a most important and, I think I may say, a most wholesome change. Therefore, those who predicted in 1831 the most lugubrious and fatal consequences from the Reform Bill—consequences much more dangerous and calamitous than any which are anticipated from the present measure—were clearly wrong, and have been refuted by the operation of that measure. With regard to the internal state of the country, and to the relations in which the different classes of the community stand to one another, can any one who remembers the period in question entertain a doubt of the more sound and solid condition of the community at present, of there being a more firm and close union of classes, a greater loyalty to the Crown, a more wide and general diffusion of wealth than at the period to which I refer? Hon. Members whose memory goes back to that period will recollect the alarm which was seriously entertained at that period; but the predictions as to the injurious results of the Bill of 1831 went far beyond anything we hear as to the probable consequences of the present measure—far beyond the somewhat animated speech of the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Hardy), who, I must say, considerably exceeded the 2178 alarm expressed on his side of the House by hon. Gentlemen more entitled to command the attention of the House than even himself, at an earlier period of the debate. With regard to the union of classes, what has been the unquestionable result of the Reform Act of 1831? Do not let us underrate its importance, or lightly cast aside any measure the tendency of which is to bring within the constitution a large number of persons, and thus give them an interest in the existing state of things from which they are at present excluded. I dare say many Members may have been occupied in reading the last volume of an eminent historian of France, containing an account of the first downfall of Napoleon. If any person reads with care that interesting and admirably composed volume he must come to this conclusion, that if it had not been for the detestation with which the great body of the people of France regarded the wars in which the Emperor Napoleon had so long involved them—if it had not been for the almost universal unpopularity with which the Emperor was regarded by his own people at that period of the contest—an unpopularity to which the rank and file of the army alone formed an exception, for even marshals and generals were sighing for the return of peace—if it had not been that the population of France looked upon the Allies as their liberators from a tyranny which had become wellnigh intolerable, it would have been impossible even for the vast armies which entered Paris to capture that city. The natural inference from this important example is, that when we are looking out for security against invasion, and called on to assent to large Estimates for fortifying our shores, a far-sighted politician will not overlook the enormous advantage which, for the purpose of repelling invasion, is to be derived from the joint action of a united people. It is my firm conviction that nothing would tend more to promote a union of classes in this country as the Reform Act of 1832 has most powerfully tended to produce,—than a measure framed in a similar spirit, and carried to such limits which wisdom and prudence dictate. Sir, there is another circumstance which weighs heavily with me in recommending to the House to choose the present as a fit moment for passing this measure. That circumstance is, the absence of popular excitement. No doubt, the policy of the Gentlemen opposite is to alter nothing, to remain motionless as long as they can, 2179 never to move till they are driven, to wait till a popular agitation arise as strong as that of thirty years ago, and then, when they have no option, to legislate under coercion. That is the legitimate policy which the hon. Gentleman who last addressed the House would advocate; but it seems to me that those who wish that a safe and prudent measure should pass through the House ought to rejoice in the circumstance that they can now debate the matter freely; that there is no pressure from without; that they can act without Birmingham Unions, or any of those association that existed in 1832; without those thunders of The Times that became in that year proverbial, and that it will be possible for this House to go deliberately into Committee, to consider the Bill proposed by the Government, to adopt such portions as seem to them reasonable, and to modify such as they think require alteration. It is my belief that the measure is one calculated to guard against evils, now of slight magnitude, but increasing every year, and that for these purposes it is a safe and moderate measure. Its contents are simple—it is divided into three portions—each of which can be dealt with separately in Committee. It has been framed studiously so as not to complicate the subject—not to embarrass it with subordinate and irrelevant matter, but to raise in a distinct form for the decision of the House the three main subjects on which every Reform Bill must turn—namely, the enlargement of the franchise in counties, the enlargement of the franchise in boroughs, and the disfranchisement, or partial disfranchisement, of constituencies. I cannot understand the objection taken to this measure, at one time that it is revolutionary, and at another that it is an insignificant measure, a mere abortion. If an person carefully examines this Bill he will come to the conclusion that it deals with all the most important parts of the subject in a clear and decisive manner. There may be subordinate questions which may well be reserved for future, consideration, but the Bill before the House exhausts all the more important parts of the subject. The hon. and learned Member for Marylebone (Mr. James) said the Bill was defective because it did not propose a revision of the system of registration. The system of registration is now established under an Act of Parliament distinct from the Reform Bill. It may be desirable that the system should be revised, 2180 but that can be done more conveniently by a separate measure, and, accordingly, the present measure leaves the system of registration exactly as it finds it, for it cannot, be said that because we enlarge the suffrage any necessity exists for altering the system of registration. The hon. Member (Mr. Hardy) says the Bill is defective because it does not contain a lodgers' franchise. That is a question for the Committee rather than for the second reading, but the objection does not come with a good grace from those who complain that the Bill is unnecessarily enlarging the franchise; for the idea that this would be an aristocratic franchise and introduce a high class of persons is a mere chimera. The lodgers' franchise would not have that effect. The persons in lodging-houses who would obtain the franchise would belong mostly to the working classes—persons flitting about from one place to another, and less fitted in many respects for the exercise of the franchise than householders subject to residence and paying rates. A large portion of the speech of the hon. Gentleman opposite was an argument against any extension of the borough franchise; but, if I understood the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire last Session, he stated that the Karl of Derby's Government were prepared to assent to an extension of the borough franchise—therefore, the hon. Gentleman is in complete antagonism with the leader of his party on the principles of maintaining the borough franchise unchanged. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) in bringing forward his Bill stated that, according to his views, there would be an addition of 500,000 to the constituency. The late Government did not produce any statistical data to support this statement, and it is my belief that the estimate of the right hon. Gentleman was a mere conjecture. At all events the present Government do not allege that their Bill will add a number at all approaching 500,000 to the existing constituency. According to the best calculations which I am able to make of the probable addition to the borough electors, I do not place it at much more than 160,000. At all events, the calculation of my noble Friend when be introduced the Bill, that she number would be 190,000 erred on the side of excess; as from a paper now on the table, there is no reason to expect that for the present the addition will amount to 190,000. That is my opinion, founded on the most careful investigation. As to the 2181 counties, there is a Return moved for by the hon. Member for Surrey (Mr. L. King) which limits the number of persons rated at £10 and under £50, at 415,517; but it is necessary to make large deductions in order to arrive at a probable estimate of the increase of voters in counties. The first deduction I have to make is 15 per cent in respect of female occupiers, non-payment of poor rates and assessed taxes, insufficient residence and double, residence, this gives a deduction of 62,327. The second deduction gives those who are entitled to vote as freeholders, copyholders, and leaseholders, who are already included in the 415,517 as persons rated between these two amounts at £10 and as under £50. On the best calculation we are able to make, that number is not less than 50 per cent. This will make a deduction of 195,411. If you add, therefore, 15 per cent for the one ground of deduction and 50 per cent for the other, the total will be 257,738, which, being deducted from the 415,517 rated at £10 and under £50, leaves for the country electors an addition of 157,779 electors. Adding that to the number of borough electors, the total estimated addition of electors under the present Bill will be 321,913. Putting both numbers at the highest estimate that would be at all fair, the total estimated addition both to counties and boroughs under the present Bill falls short of 400,000 electors. Well, Sir, these are the two main objects of the Bill. The number of borough voters added to the constituency in England under the last Reform Act was not great. In the county constituency no change, or scarcely any change, was proposed. [Lord JOHN RUSSELL: The copyholders.] The Chandos Clause gave a vote to occupiers of £50, but that was the only enlargement which the county constituency underwent. The two main objects of the present Bill are to enlarge the county and borough franchise, and thus supply what seems a defect, not in the sense of a fault, but an imperfect enactment in the Reform Bill of 1831. The next object of the Bill is the disfranchisement and transfer of seats. Under that head a complaint has been made that this Bill is deficient, and undoubtedly it does not go the length of the last measure of 1831, of which the disfranchisement of seats was the main—I do not say the exclusive object. I think the House will see that the circumstances of the country with respect to small boroughs are entirely altered since that time. 2182 There were then a considerable number of boroughs that were close in the strictest sense of the word. They had scarcely any voters, and these few were in absolute dependence upon the patrons of the boroughs. The number of voters in some of the present boroughs may be small, but there are none in that condition. I beg to call the attention of the House to the numbers of the voters in a few boroughs in 1830. Banbury had 18 voters, Bramber 17, Buckingham 13, Calne 19, Gatton 7, Launceston 17, Malmesbury 13, Marlborough 11, St. Michael's 7, Old Sarum 11, Winchelsea 11, Yarmouth 11. Old Sarum, indeed, if we take literally Mr. Burke's expression, that "it had more representatives than voters," had somewhat increased. But these places may be really said to have been boroughs without voters. That is not the case now. There may be small boroughs under the influence of the property of one or several persons, but there is not a single borough which at a time of strong popular feeling might not exercise a choice in the selection of its representatives. The four smallest boroughs—Arundel, Honiton, Ashburton, and Lyme Regis—have a joint population of 13,123, and the electors number 841. The House will see that there can be nothing more delusive than to put upon the same footing the nomination boroughs of 1830, and what are called nomination boroughs now. Her Majesty's Government have determined not to propose a disfranchisement on a large scale in the present Bill, but to limit it to no very considerable number of seats, and in selecting the places of disfranchisement they have followed the example of the Bill of the late Government—which has been so much praised to-night by an hon. Gentleman who we might have supposed would not have been a great admirer of it—by drawing a line of population, and taking away one Member with regard to all the boroughs beneath that line. There were strong grounds for adopting that course, one of which is that, although the list includes twenty-five boroughs, there is, for the most part, a remarkable uniformity in all those boroughs disfranchised of one Member beneath the line of 7,000 population. In order to explain that briefly I will call attention to four boroughs that had in 1851 a population of more than 6,000 and less than 7,000. They are—Devises, 6,554; Chippenham, 6,283; Huntingdon, 6,219; Ripon, 6,080. The number of electors (minus the freemen) on the register was in 1859–60—Devizes, 2183 337; Chippenham, 375; Huntingdon, 335; Ripon, 343. These are among the most populous boroughs in the list to be disfranchised. I will now take four boroughs having from 4,000 to 5,000 inhabitants—Leominster, Richmond, Harwich, and Totness. The number of electors, omitting freemen, on the register of last year was—Leominster, 385; Richmond, 338; Harwich, 316; Totness, 314. There is, therefore, a considerable uniformity of character in the number of electors in the boroughs below 7,000, notwithstanding the diversity of their population. It will also be seen that among the boroughs now returning one Member are some that have as many electors as others returning two Members. There are five boroughs now returning one Member—Liskeard, 437 voters; Launceston, 430; Horsham, 380; Thirsk, 449; Reigate, 588. Take next five boroughs returning two Members—Honiton, 283 voters; Thetford, 217; Wells, 257; Andovor, 247; Knaresborough, 266. The result is, that with regard to boroughs having a population of less than 7,000 there is no remarkable diversity, and it is fair to place them on the same level in having one Member. The hon. and learned Member for Marylebone says there are certain absurd results to which this rule has led, as there are some towns with a larger population than 7,000 which have a smaller number of electors than those below 7,000. The inference was that we ought to have taken, not population, but the number of voters; but if we had taken that test of the number of electors, we should have been told that we had committed precisely the same absurdity with respect to population. We should have been told that the population of these towns was greater, although the number of electors was less, and the same objection with an inverse argument would have been made if we had taken the rule of the number of electors that is now taken to the rule of population. The principle of population is fair, and having been adopted by the late Government it cannot be said that we have been actuated by a feeling of partiality in adopting it also. I cannot help thinking, therefore, that when the subject is examined any other alternative principle which might be proposed would be found to be open to as great, if not greater, objection than that which is embodied in the Bill. But there is also another reason why it appears to me it would not be expedient to fix upon the number of electors as a standard. If we were to do 2184 so we should be asked why it was that we proposed to disfranchise certain places in accordance with the number of existing electors when by the Bill itself we proposed to enlarge that number. I am, under these circumstances, strongly of opinion that the House will find on investigating the matter that no principle preferable to that upon which we have proceeded can be adopted. The main ground on which we base the present disfranchising Schedule is that there are no considerable unenfranchised places to which an additional Member is not added. But then it may be said that stronger claims might be pointed out on the part of other localities than those which are put forward by the position of the particular places whose representation we propose to extend. It may be contended that an addititional Member ought to be given to the Tower Hamlets and to Salford, and I readily admit that if those two boroughs stood apart from other towns the demand made on their behalf would not be unreasonable. It must, however, be borne in mind that the Tower Hamlets forms a portion of London, and that its representation cannot be taken as an isolated fact, but must be regarded as involved in the question whether the metropolis is adequately represented. That is a point, no doubt, deserving of consideration, and one with respect to which we may reverse the decision at which the Government have arrived. That decision was, however, come to after due examination, and I believe the more the matter is considered the more undesirable will it seem to make any addition to the representation of the metropolis beyond that of giving a Member each to Kensington and Chelsea. Salford stands in a similar position with the Tower Hamlets, inasmuch as it also constitutes a portion of another large city (Manchester), to which we propose that an additional Member should be given. The hon. Member who spoke last condemns, I may here observe, the conferring the right to return an additional number of Members on large towns, contending that such a course would ultimately lead to the adoption of the opinions of the hon. Member for Birmingham, who thinks it expedient that such places should have six or eight Members. The hon. Member evidently thinks that would be the first step on the path to perdition, but the argument that, because we advance a certain distance, we are bound to follow up our onward movement to the remote conclusions which those 2185 who hold certain opinions may deem right, involves n style of reasoning which I thought had long since been exploded in this House. Besides, while objecting to the third Member being given to Manchester or Liverpool, the hon. Member said nothing against our adding a third Member to a long list of counties and even divisions of counties. But to return to the case of Salford, I may remark that if we were to give to that borough another Member, it might be very fairly urged that it formed part of Manchester, and that we should in reality be giving two additional representatives to that city, whereas we are giving only one to Liverpool. Such, then, were the grounds upon which we dealt with Salford, which, if it were a separate town, would stand on an entirely different footing; but if the House should dissent from the justice of that view, the point is one which can be otherwise disposed of in Committee. I have, in alluding to it, been simply actuated by the desire to show that the Government have manifested no caprice or levity in dealing with it as they have done. On the subject of the transfer of seats I can only say that we do not seek to ignore the existence of certain anomalies. We have not endeavoured to produce a system perfectly symmetrical. Our object has been to leave the Constitution substantially as we found it, removing its more patent defects, and acting in the spirit of those maxims which have been rightly extolled by the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Hardy),—maxims sufficiently trite in this House, for they were originally properly directed against those who framed paper constitutions during the French revolution, not destined to last two months—maxims of which the truth cannot be disputed, but which are totally inapplicable to a cautious and prudent measure like that of Her Majesty's Government, the details of which, should any one of them be thought to go beyond the limits of discretion, it is competent for this House to amend. The representative system, everybody must admit, is mainly founded on three important elements—population, property, and intelligence. Hon. Members, on whichever side of the House they may sit, do not, I apprehend, wish that that system should rest on any one of these elements, but desire it should be founded on a combination of the three. In addition to these, however, there is another to which I trust the House of Commons will always firmly adhere, inas- 2186 much as it ought, I contend, to be recognized in every wise system of representation—I allude to locality, The people of every district, however unimportant in respect of population or wealth it may be, have certain interests and feelings in common which would not be represented in this assembly if it were to be mixed up with an aggregate constituency of great extent. The poorer and more remote districts of Scotland and Wales, and the North of England and Ireland, ought not, therefore, to be overlooked in any judicious arrangement of our representative system. In illustration of this principle—that of giving adequate representation to local interests, which might otherwise be overlooked in the pressure of a great population—and which I regard as one of cardinal importance, I will for a moment suppose the opposite rule to be carried out to its fullest extent. I will suppose the whole system of local representation abolished, and that all the 652 Members of this House were elected by a list, all the electors of the country voting for that list. The result would be that two election Committees sitting in London would each propose a list of names for adoption by the electors, the whole body of whom would vote for all those names. In that case the electors would be unable to make any individual choice, and the political party predominating in the country would elect the House of Commons, without any mixture or modification, consisting exclusively of Members of one or the other party. They would be elected under the influence of some strong popular feeling prevailing at the moment, and would proceed to accomplish their objects without check or obstacle, without any of those securities for fair discussion and good legislation which the present system of local representation affords. It seems to me, if we could conceive the House of Commons elected on that principle, a mode of Government and system of legislation would be introduced so intolerable that in a very short time addresses would come up to Her Majesty imploring her to declare herself a dictator and put an end to a popular rule impossible to endure. I put this to illustrate by an extreme case what would be the probable effects of the total destruction of the local system of representation. I do not wish to go to the other extreme, with the system of locality; but I must impress on the House my opinion that no sound system of representation can exist that 2187 does not to a great extent, even with regard to towns of moderate magnitude, recognize the principle of a local franchise. I have detained the House at great length; but I am particularly desirous to lay before it the authentic grounds on which this measure may be defended. The moment is favourable to calm deliberation within these walls, and throughout the country there is a reasonable estimate of the measure itself; the time is peculiarly fitted for the consideration of a wholesome measure of reform and a wise decision on the part of this House upon it. I trust, whatever may be the fate of the Bill, whether it ultimately receives the sanction of Parliament or fails to secure it, that, at nil events, this House will meet it fairly; that we may have a fair stand up fight upon it; that no attempt will be made to defeat a measure of this magnitude by delay, by introducing dilatory Motions, or attempts to discuss other measures at unnecessary length, in order to prevent its consideration. Though rumours have reached me of intentions to adopt these tactics against the Bill, and pursue a policy of delay which I will not dignify with the name of Fabian, I cannot believe that any large number of Members of this House will combine in sup port of a course so ignoble, and so little suited to its character and dignity. Let it be observed that the whole month of June can be devoted to the consideration of the Bill in Committee; if a month will not suffice for that consideration, it is scarcely possible to conceive any measure of reform simple enough to receive the assent of the House at all. If the final decision of the House is given at the beginning of July it will afford full time for the discussion of the measure in the House of Lords. It is impossible, therefore, for any one who considers the state of the Session to say there is not ample time for the consideration of the Bill. In fact, it is impossible to conceive circumstances more favourable for the introduction of so ample a measure, and, as such, I trust it will receive the sanction and hearty support of this House.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
admitted that the measure was a simple one; but it would be found very difficult to carry any simple theory of popular representation into effect without creating numerous contradictions and anomalies, and meeting with various complications. But as we are called upon to pass judgment on this measure it would be the simplest course to consider the effects of the Reform Bill of 2188 1832—which he believed were very different from those the right hon. Gentleman had enumerated—and thus to arrive at some theory to guide our judgment of the present measure. He did not oppose it merely from party feeling nor because it emanated from the opposite side of the House. The Conservative principle was not one of blind and indiscriminating resistance to all change and Reform. On the contrary, it welcomed changes that added to the vigour and strength of the Constitution. Conservatives are only pledged to maintain the institutions transmitted to them by their ancestors, and to oppose those revolutionary changes that tended to subvert the order and destroy the balance of the Constitution. He did not deny that great good may have been done by the Reform Bill of 1832; but it did not follow that a measure that was good then would be good now, nor that a constant repetition of good measures might not work harm. That which has been successful in remedying an evil, may, by being frequently administered, engender the opposite evil. A settler in a new country might improve the land by draining the sour soil and cutting away the thick and tangled brush-wood; but he might continue to drain till the soil became parched and arid, and to cut down the trees till there would be no shade nor shelter against the scorching summer's sun. The noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) had lowered the franchise once; if he made it any lower there would be no defence left against the fickleness of popular opinion, or the heat of popular fury. When the first Reform Bill was passed, there was much agitation and disturbance; in several towns there were riots and tumults. Throughout the country there was disquietude and alarm because Charles X. had just been hurled from the throne; it was said that the "only chance for the safety of England was a concession to public opinion"; and the Reform Bill was wrung from the fears of a reluctant legislature, and justified on the ground that it was to "satisfy the people." It could not therefore be defended on principle, as it was based on temporary expediency. The present, however, was said to be a favourable moment for a change, because the public mind was calm and there was no agitation. It would be more true to say there was an utter apathy and indifference to the measure. No one wished for Reform; few hoped for any good to result from it, but many feared what its consequences might be. The noble Lord (Lord 2189 John Russell), in a letter to the electors of Stroud, described the organic change that took place twenty-eight years ago as a "final and permanent settlement of a great constitutional question." But was any one satisfied with that arrangement? Had it been final or permanent? It had been continually doctored. One quack scheme after another had been proposed to amend it, and they were now asked to model the whole system anew. Up to the passing of the last Reform Bill the old Constitution was most warmly defended, because this time-honoured institution was venerated and admired. But this reformed Constitution has not found a defender; at least no one has entered on the books, an Amendment to the second reading of this Bill. The friends of Reform did not seem to care for the Constitution the Reform Bill created; for every novelty which is introduced, and every change which is effected in an ancient institution must destroy the veneration with which it is regarded. Yet attachment to the Constitution is a bond of union for us; it was that which (under God's providence) has preserved us for centuries, while foreign Governments have gradually died and decayed, or been suddenly destroyed by violence. The effect of the Reform Bill was observable, immediately after its passing, during the Grey and Melbourne Administrations in a certain pliancy, and giving way to the suggestions of the opposition, and the demands of the populace. Yet the moral influence of a Government depends on a conviction of its sincerity; mutual compromises in a Cabinet destroy its ascendancy. Since the passing of the Reform Bill, and the consequently increased pressure from without, Government has necessarily become a system of compromises, and the art of governing consists in the skilful adaptation of measures to secure the popular favour. The Government have to consider, not so much the merit of a measure, as the practicability of carrying it through the House; they are obliged to think how this party will receive it, how those below the gangway will view it, and what Dissenters will say to it. The principal consideration is not the right and wrong of a Bill, but the calculations for conciliating favour and support. Thus it is that public men come to take for their guide, not principles, but the mere expediency of the moment; and hence the shifts to which they resorted and the inconsistencies they committed. Another evil was, that hon. Members were 2190 too apt to sink into mere local delegates, and to forget that they represented the interests of the nation at large. This want of fixed principles it is which breaks the House into sections, which destroys party and prevents large majorities; for there can he no great party without a great principle to bind it. But now parties are divided not so much by differences of conviction as by selfish interests and personal rivalry. To the old unreformed House men were sent to watch over great principles; but now constituencies neglect great principles and send their representatives to carry certain specific measures, in favour of which they have happened to contract a prejudice. Formerly two volumes of Hansard were sufficient to contain the debates of a Session; but now the flashy speeches which Members made to please their constituents filled as many as four or five volumes a Session; and to please their constituents Members often fear to declare their real opinions. In 1848 the noble Lord said the "House of Commons always responded quickly and readily to public opinion;" and, in truth, it did so only too quickly and too readily; for Members did not act sufficiently upon their own unbiassed convictions, but were under the pressure of their constituencies. If the House was the highest deliberative assembly, it ought to lead and not be led by public opinion; it should govern, and not be governed, if it really consists of the wisest of the nation. But that this is not the case is seen by what the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) said in the Debate on Church Rates.Looking at the state of public opinion out of doors he was obliged to vote contrary to the way in which for thirty years he had spoken and voted. He did this not because he had changed his opinions, not because he had come to view the question in another light, because of public opinion.And, again, when introducing this Bill, he said, speaking of the representation of minorities—As that proposition was not very popular, although I think it was a fair and just one, I shall not attempt to renew it upon the present occasion.He (Lord J. Russell) acknowledged that it was fair, but he rejected it because it was not popular; he confessed that he did not what was just, because it did not meet with favour out of doors. He did not say this in blame of the noble Lord; on the contrary, his argument was stronger by not doing so; but he said that, if the noble Lord found him- 2191 self controlled in that way, what must he the case of Members of less weight and influence?—what must others be forced to do, when even the noble Lord was driven to such miserable shifts to obtain favour, and had to sue on bended knee for leave to hold his power. Occasionally a measure disagreeable to almost every party was entertained in deference to noisy opinion out of doors, advanced amidst a hot debate to a second reading, and then mysteriously burked, it had achieved an inglorious triumph worse than defeat, and all the talking was mere waste of time. Strenua nos exercet inertia—they were exceedingly busy in accomplishing nothing. All these shifts and inconsistencies have sprung from Reform; for too much weight was attached to the opinion of the crowd, who had neither knowledge to understand nor calmness to consider any great question properly; and Members, instead of receiving support from their constituents, were hampered and tyrannized over in proportion to the importance of the borough they represented. When the Bill of 1832 was passed, the wildest expectations of the blessings it would confer were entertained by its supporters; great promises were lavished on it at its birth, the grandest predictions were hazarded. For instance, it was to extinguish bribery and corruption; but had it done so? They had only to look at the returns of the boroughs convicted of bribery since 1832 to see that it had not. On the contrary, bribery had gone on increasing year by year. They had only to look at the return of the expenses of candidates to see that it is he who has the most open hand and most bountiful heart who achieved success; the winning candidate was always he who had paid most highly. They had only to remember Norwich, and Wakefield, and Gloucester, where reigned the "pure atmosphere of liberal boroughs" to see the same. Now how did bribery begin? Hallam says that "in the general elections of 1747 and 1754, bribery was first begun in earnest by the rich capitalists, who sought to counteract the influences of the territorial aristocracy." These tactics were attended with success, and thus the trading classes carried the Reform Bill; the nomination boroughs of the territorial aristocracy were disfranchised, and the power passed from the upper to the middle classes; and now, in order to secure your return for a borough, you must flatter the prejudices of the electors, or else use a systematic cerruption.
2192 So that Reform had left the representation "to men with the most accommodating conscicences and the longest purses." Then the Reform Bill, it was said, would lead to retrenchment and economy. "Peace, Reform, and Retrenchment" was the watchword of those days. Now has Reform induced retrenchment? Sir R. Peel said in March, 1850, that the House is attacked with alternate hot and cold ague fits of expenditure, and vacillates between the two extremes of a most lavish expenditure and a parsimonious, shabby thrift. Now during the ten years before 1832 the burden of taxation was lightened by £18,000,000 (I mean the balance between the taxes imposed and those remitted). But during the ten years after the Reform Act, it was only £4,000,000. It was during this period that the Whigs were in power; and the Governments of Lord Grey and Lord Melbourne established a permanent deficit, and it was not till the Conservative Administration of Sir Robert Peel that the deficit was removed and the industry of the country relieved from much burdensome taxation. So that these promises of retrenchment were not fulfilled by Reform, but by the opponents of Reform. These great expectations and sanguine hopes were therefore disappointed. Did Reform then succeed? If not, why try again a dangerous experiment which had already so signally failed? Or did it fail then merely because that particular Bill was framed in ignorance, and does it therefore require remodelling now? But perhaps this Bill would still more grievously disappoint any who entertain hopes of benefit as its result. Perhaps this Bill also is framed in ignorance and enveloped in uncertainty. In a machine if an alteration is proposed in some part, we should ask what would be the effect of this alteration and how it would influence the other parts. If we received no account of this matter, we should deem him but a sorry engineer; particularly if a similar experiment of his had failed before. But if he could not even tell us what evil he proposed to remedy, and on what principle the alteration was based, we should reject his proposal with scorn. Now we do not know the precise effect of this measure. We are not acquainted with the particular evils which the noble Lord by his Bill sought to remedy, or the anomalies which he proposed to remove; yet the noble Lord in his work on the British Constitution laid it down that "the chief maxim of a statesman should be not 2193 to propose more alterations than were necessary to cure the evil." On what principle was the proposed legislation to be based? What are the evils which he hopes to cure? What is the object to be sought? Were they to aim at producing an efficient Legislature, or were they merely to amuse themselves in creating constituencies; disfranchising some towns, and giving Members to others, clipping some boroughs and stretching others, after a Procrustean rule; and, in order to satisfy the fancy for symmetry and sameness, indulging in what he might fairly call "fancy franchises." The only legitimate object of Reform was to improve legislation by elevating the character of the House. Did hon. Members think their character was not so good as it might be? and is such a Bill as this calculated to elevate it? By lowering the franchise they were not elevating the character of the House, but merely conferring power on entirely new classes. Before giving power to the working classes, who were so numerous that any franchise which was low enough to take them in would give them the preponderance, and make them swamp all the other classes, they should have some security as to the mode in which those classes would employ it. The word "Reform" signified a departure from some original form, from some essential idea. Now what is the original form of the Constitution? What is the idea and object of representation? The hon. Baronet had mentioned three different theories on this subject, but he should be inclined to increase the number to five. The first was that the representation of the country ought to be according to the taxation paid. But this was not the system at present in vogue, for, according to return No. 491, published two years ago, he found that the assessed taxes in counties amounted to £1,062,564, and in boroughs to £803,986; at the same time the boroughs possessed twice as many representatives as the counties. The noble Lord admitted that taxation was not the principle of his Bill, for he said in framing the Bill he merely took into account the numbers that would be respectively added to the constituencies by lowering the franchise to different rates. The right hon. Baronet also declared that population seemed to Her Majesty's Government "the only preferable principle which can be adopted." Besides, the tendency of taxation at present was towards an income tax exclusively; and these new electors were precisely the 2194 persons who did not pay this tax at all. So that this Bill, so far from proceeding on the principle of taxation, virtually gives the representation to one class, and lays taxation on another. If taxation were adopted as the basis of representation, a man ought to be entitled, as in railways, banks, and other joint-stock undertakings, to a number of votes equal to the amount of property which he had at stake. Next was the theory that representation ought to depend on the possession of property, that the land ought to be represented; because that no stability or permanence can be expected, unless the electors have something at stake. That was the old Tory theory. [Cries of "No, no!" from the Opposition.] Well, whether it might be the theory of the party in the present day he would not pretend to say, but it was the principle under which our liberties had taken root and grown up. This was proved by an old Act, the 8th of Henry VI., c. 7, declaring "what sort of men shall be choosers, and who shall be chosen knights of the Parliament;" the preamble of which stated:—Whereas the elections have been made by very great, outrageous, and excessive number of people, of which most part was of people of small substance and of no value, whereof every of them pretended a voice equivalent with the most worthy knights and esquires, whereby riots and divisions among the gentlemen and other people shall very likely rise and be, unless convenient and due remedy be provided in this behalf, &c.It was a little after this (in 1264) that burgesses of towns first had seats in Parliament; at this time the House consisted of knights of the shire only. This principle was carried to even a greater length, for in the same reign a petition was presented from the County of Huntingdon against the return of a Member of the name of Gimber on the ground that he was not a gentleman. The counties still choose their representatives from among the landed proprietors, while the towns select those who look after their local interests, or rather those who flatter their prejudices and corrupt their mobs. In the representation of counties the property element preponderates, in that of towns the element of numbers, and in that of the universities that of intellect and education. The third theory was first propounded by an eminent philosopher of the last generation, by one whose views many modern writers had adopted; he declared that a balance should be maintained between the party of permanence and the party of progression—that was to say, between the interests of landed pro- 2195 perty and those of the trading community. The noble Lord the Member for the City of London seems to have accepted this distinction in 1848, when he spoke of the "counties returning agricultural Members, and the large cities commercial Members, or representatives of the manufacturing interest." So, in 1831, he argued that "the last effect which the Reform Bill could have was to disturb the influence of the country gentlemen." Experience had illustrated the value of that prophecy. If another Reform Bill were now required, it must be, he presumed, to restore the balance which had been lost. If so, on which side was the preponderance? Proportion of representation at the present time in England and Wales is as follows:—The Members for boroughs amount to 337, while those for the counties are only 159. This difference of representation is not in accordance with the difference of value, for the rental of counties is £54,762,081; that of boroughs is only £31,315,595; the rateable value of counties is £46,103,215; that of boroughs is only £25,737,056. Nor is it in accordance with the population, for the population of counties is 9,865,061; while that of the boroughs is only 7,432,587. A return issued in 1858 gave the total of county constituencies at 504,065, but of these there were 95,471 who had merely borough qualifications, so that in manufacturing districts these electors, having chosen their own representatives in the boroughs, went out into the counties, where they overbalanced the voting and determined the elections likewise, so that the representation of the counties was even more circumscribed than he had already stated, and the preponderance is greatly in favour of the town populations. Lord Macaulay, who first acquired fame by his Reform speeches in that House, in an essay on Machiavelli, writes of the Italian States, that—Their early greatness and their early decline are principally to be attributed to the same cause—the preponderance which the towns acquired in the political system.And this preponderance the last Reform Bill gave to our political system. The fourth theory was the liberal one; namely, that the representation should be distributed according to population. The popular notion of Reform was merely a reduction of franchise and a re-distribution of seats not according to any principle, but merely according to a sum in arithmetic. It held that all men had a right to share in the suf- 2196 rage; it was in accordance with this fourth theory that Mr. Hume in 1848 moved a Resolution declaring "that the apportionment of representation should be rendered more equal to population." This proposition—this liberal principle of representation—was resisted by the noble Lord (Lord John Russell), on the ground that "it is essential that those who have the franchise should be possessed of intelligence and independence;" and he said also that "much of the corruption arose from a want of the intelligence which is essentially necessary in a constituent body." He here adverts to a totally different ground and principle of representation, to which I will presently allude. The hon. Member for Birmingham assumed that representation should be according to population, adding that "the tide had already swept away the footmarks of the Liberals, while those of the Conservatives had long been submerged," (I quote from recollection); and he prophesied that the new Parliament, "after the passing of this Bill, would contain a still more powerful party, to demand a more extended Bill." I can fancy him using those words of Canning's:—Parties with us do not excite enough rage,Our boasted law I hate and curse,Bad from the first, by age grown worse,Oh, how I pant for universal suffrage.Let me remind him that France established despotism by universal suffrage, while the liberties of England have grown up under a more aristocratic constitution. Moreover, this numerical system that a numerical majority is the only sound principle of Government, and that wealth, learning, and intellect must submit to mere numbers could not be carried out without falling into absurdities and contradictions. At the last election for South Derbyshire, 3,184 voters voted one way, and 3,185 the other; so that all the 3,184 had to submit to the casting vote of one man. It all hung upon his will. Mr. Hume laid it down that "every man ought to have a share in making the laws by which he was governed, and his having it or not having it constituted the sole difference between a free man and a slave." But these 3,184 could not be said to have any share in making the laws by which they were governed; so that, according to Mr. Hume's doctrine, the half of that constituency necessarily were all slaves. Again, the most advanced Liberals did not propose to give votes to women, paupers, or children, or lunatics, because they said they were not 2197 fit. This was of itself a departure from the ground of natural right, and the laying down of a qualification apart from it—that of fitness. Hence this doctrine is necessarily self-contradictory. Besides, the Liberals shrink from carrying out boldly the doctrine they proclaim. For if they took away Members from boroughs which were too small, they ought to give them to the counties, which, as be had shown already, were more populous than the boroughs; in fact, they ought to proclaim equal electoral districts (which, however, they knew very well the country would never put up with). For what equity is there in transferring representatives from one borough to another, except on the ground that a Member is worth exactly so many votes? Besides, if this democratic theory were carried out, it would indeed be most baneful; for it was the small boroughs which returned the best Members. [A laugh.] Well, there might be exceptions, but the large boroughs generally elected declaimers—men who had made themselves conspicuous by flattering the passions of the mob. Large boroughs are impatient of originality of thought and superiority of intellect; they prefer a safe mediocrity and commonplace; they cannot bear a Member to act independently on his own convictions. The moment he steps out of this region they reject him. On this principle Ledru Rollin, in the Paris election of 1848, advised the electors by all means to avoid returning men of ability and education. Lord John Russell, in bringing in this Reform Bill, when speaking in favour of small boroughs, said—You have, from time to time, seen men of the greatest ability, and fitted to render the greatest service to the country, but who, representing a great popular body, incur the momentary displeasure of their constituents, and are thereby deprived of their seats in Parliament. That, Sir, was what happened to Mr. Burke, because he contended for the great principles of liberty, both here and in Ireland, as well as in America.He instanced Lord Macaulay also. Sir John Cam Hobhouse is another instance, He was a warm Reformer; but he, unfortunately, distinguished himself above the commonplace, and was made Minister at War; and, therefore, he was immediately ejected from Westminster. The large boroughs of Birmingham and Rochdale have not elected ministers for war. The right hon. Member for Ashton, too, had lost his seat for a large constituency not long ago; the Member for Birmingham shared his fate, and our great Ambassador the Member for Rochdale had also been rejected by 2198 a great constituency at the same time. Even the noble Viscount at the head of the Government had met with similar treatment at one period of his career, as well as the right hon. Baronet the Member for Morpeth, and the Secretary of State (Sir G. C. Lewis). He had taken the trouble of drawing up a list of the most distinguished Members of the House, and, with very few exceptions, he found they all represented small boroughs. The hon. Member for Birmingham was, it might be said, an exception; but, though he would not presume himself to pass a judgment on that hon. Member, he would remind him that one greater than himself—the noble Lord the Member for the City—on one occasion used these words in reference to him:—What I have to find fault with in the hon. Member (Mr. Bright) and those who agree with him is, that they are so exceedingly narrow-minded. When we come to discuss large questions, such as concern the fortune of our Empire, then I see that they have an intellect and understanding bound up in such a narrow round that it is quite impossible to get them to understand the great principles on which our ancestors founded the Constitution of this country.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
apprehended that he was perfectly in order It is out of order to refer to a debate of the same Session upon a different subject; but he was then referring to a debate of a former Session, and, he believed, on the same subject. But he felt he ought to apologize to the hon. Member for alluding to him. It was too much the fashion to have a shy at him; he had become the regular "Aunt Sally" of the House. He supposed it sufficiently proved, therefore, that this democratic theory of Representation, if carried out boldly, must not only lead to contradictions and absurdities, but must end in bane and detriment. Before passing to the fifth theory, it would be well to consider the Bill before the House, which was framed on the democratic theory. Now, by thus extending the franchise, what class of voters do you create? Are they educated or uneducated? Are their votes liable to be influenced? If so, to what influences will you thus add weight? To the moneyed classes, without land or home, without any permanence or tie to bind them to the country in which they were born, without that loyalty and patriotism which will remain unswayed by hope of gain or advantage? This large extension of the fran- 2199 chise does not extend admitted principles nor pretend to remove any anomalies; but tends to subvert the present distribution of power, and to place it in the hands of the mob—to raise a mere scum to the surface—to enable the poor to tax the rich—the artizans who worked with their hands to place on those who sat still the burden of raising the Revenue—a power which they might not be tempted, perhaps, to use in quiet times, but which in times of excitement would hold out to them an irresistible temptation. According to a Return lately laid on the table, the number of electors rated in the counties above £50 was 198,163, and the number between £10 and £50 was 415,517. The number of electors on the register was 529,213, and subtracting from that the number of £50 voters would leave 331,050, the number of £10 voters and 40s. freeholders now on the register. Adding to that the number of new electors, it would be seen that there would be 746,567 voters below £50 to balance 198,163 £50 voters. In many boroughs, such as Manchester, Salford, Stoke, Bury, Bolton, Blackburn, Derby, South Shields, Gateshead, Warrington, Sheffield, Portsmouth, Stockport, Dudley, Ipswich, Yarmouth, & c., the new electors would outnumber the present electors; in others, Wolverhampton, Walsall, Macclesfield, Prestou—the now class would be twice as numerous as the old; in Birmingham, to a constituency of 9,222 would be added 19,600 new electors, and in Kidderminster and Merthyr Tydvil the new class would be three times as numerous as the present constituency. As to the character of this new class of voters, in Liverpool a large number of £15 householders were excused the payment of their rates on account of their poverty, and yet 15,068 electors below £10 were now to be added to the constituency. Are the classes to whom you thus give preponderance more judicious than those who now possess it? For the representation will thus be put in the hands of a new class; the power will be as completely transferred as in a revolution. The present constituencies will be subordinated to those who now, for the first time, receive the franchise; to a majority who are guided by a penny newspaper; who will adjudicate questions without knowing, and prejudge without inquiry; among whom evil is contagious and self-restraint but little prevails, to whom passion is more seductive than truth and justice. By all means give representatives to the working classes 2200 as classes, or create "pot-walloping" boroughs again for them (as there were before 1832); or, if you must have universal suffrage, try the experiment in Birmingham but do not give to any class the preponderance, let not any body have overwhelming influence. He had no distrust of the working classes; on the contrary, he thought they had a perfect right to be represented, but they ought not to gain paramount importance. No one class should be allowed to rule all other classes. The working classes are generally moderate and reasonable and in possession of wonderful knowledge, considering the opportunities they have. But certain Gentlemen had on the other side professed no very exalted opinions of the intelligence of the working classes, particularly on economical questions. They accuse them of believing that the rate of wages depends upon the will of the employer, and that the price of provisions depends on the will of the seller, and that the wealth of the capitalists is somehow subtracted from the workman's pocket. If you accuse them rightly, you should not give them the franchise; if you accuse them falsely, you condemn your own conduct in the late strikes. Agricultural labourers were attached to the country gentlemen, but the working classes did not entertain the same feelings towards their employers. In cotton-mills, mines, collieries, and factories, you may see the relations of the workmen towards the capitalists, they were ready to sacrifice their comfort and their savings, and to see their families ruined and their children die, in a fierce struggle with the capitalists who employed them. They had many defeats to avenge, and much despotism of capital to repay. The Reform Act of 1832 took the power from the aristocracy and gave it to the trading community; this Bill takes it from them and gives it to the working classes. The employers would perhaps be the first victims marked for destruction, if once they evoked a spirit and a power which they could neither command nor control. Look at other nations where they 'enjoy' such a franchise, and learn from their experience. In Sydney, the other day, the Ministry had fallen by a large adverse majority upon an educational question. The leader of Opposition who came into office had no compact party, and found it hard to maintain his ground, and was forced to accept defeats on minor points, and the Speaker had resigned because his health was affected by the long and dis- 2201 orderly sittings of the Assembly. In Melbourne according to the account in The Times—In Melbourne and Sydney ministry has succeeded ministry with inconceivable rapidity, till at last the normal state of things seems to be that the Opposition is stronger than the Government, and that the first act a Minister ought to perform on attaining office, is to prepare to leave it. A democratic franchise, and a division of electoral districts made with the most obvious regard to the principle of numbers, have created assemblies of which we will say nothing worse than that the wealthiest and the best educated colonists are gradually withdrawing from any participation in their proceedings.Where there was plenty of land to be had, and freedom for the discontented, no Established Church to raise their spleen, no nobility to excite their envy, and no restriction on the suffrage to call up rancour, democracy was much less dangerous than it would be in this country. The South American Republics were renowned for wars, conspiracies, turmoils, and bad government. Yet a great empire was among them, the Empire of Brazils, as a standing testimony against Republics. In the United States there is plenty of waste land, and high wages, and no great separation between class and class; but yet, with such a suffrage, is life and property secure? Why have they vigilance committees? In New York obnoxious persons were shot, and the perpretators of such deeds escaped because the votes of these bands of 'rowdies' were so valuable as to secure the owners from receiving offence. Honest men abstained from voting because they would not expose themselves to insult when they knew that their votes were of no value. In France democracy had obliterated all distinction of classes, and the result was a pervading despotism. Napoleon I., when at St. Helena, threw on Neckar the blame of the subsequent calamities, because he said that doubling the representation of the tiers état was the proximate cause of the two chambers being merged into one assembly. The noble Lord by his Bill would more than double the tiers état in this country.- Besides democracy can never be permanent; those who taste it cannot endure it, but seek refuge in despotism. The Republic of France was administered by an eminent man, Cavaignac, but democracy took refuge in Louis Napoleon. He was elected President by 6,500,000 votes, and Emperor by 8,000,000 votes. Yet they knew his opinions; for his Idées Napoléoniennes 2202 was certainly opposed to republicanism and democracy. Of course, it was impossible to impute bribery or intimidation, for the votes were given by the vaunted Ballot. This Bill would transfer power to a different class, and thus give every Member a fresh democratic impulse by increasing the number of those who exerted pressure upon him. Constituents would dictate to their delegates; these would flatter the prejudices of their constituents, and Government would curry favour with the multitude. This House would be swayed by numbers without regard to the magnitude of interests. They would find what a capricious master the public is, and how apt to run into extremes. Such a distribution of power would cause violent opinions to prevail. In quiet times the wealthy would rule, but in seasons of agitation, the power would fall to demagogues, and they would see in our days the truth of what Thucydides said of the Republic of Athens "they took for just that which pleased, and for honourable that which profited." Even since the last Reform Bill they had seen the effects of popular clamour. Members in private spoke one way, but openly they voted another. He believed they were guided less by principles than by envy of power and by interest of party. They voted for a Budget which they all condemned, and spoke for a Reform which in private they all concurred in damning. Such was the opinion of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, who, in a debate on the Ballot, said he would like to see the experiment of the Ballot tried in that House on that question. The noble Lord meant that there were those who voted in favour of the Ballot who would vote differently if there were the secrecy of the ballot to shield them from the observation of their constituents. He would like to submit the Reform Bill to a vote by Ballot, and he would undertake to say that there would be only two votes for it. He contended that the extension of the franchise was not only bad, but undesired. The number of electors in large boroughs who polled was only 60 per cent, and in small boroughs only 90 per cent, the non-voters being the most thoughtful men, whose votes were most worth having. During the general election of 1852,
2203 Similarly in W. Kent, S. Northamptonshire, & c. In boroughs the facts are the same; only half the constituencies came to the poll in Dorchester, Cheltenham, Southampton, Leeds, Westminster, City of London, Finsbury, Tower Hamlets, & c., & c. General Election of 1857:—
On register. In Berks only 1971 polled out of 5,129 N. Northampton 614 polled out of 3,900 Middlesex 8,721 polled out of 14,610 E. Surrey 8,784 polled out of 18,131
Only half the constituencies polled in E. Kent, Macclesfield, Derby, Norwich, Nottingham, Banbury, Finsbury, City, Tower Hamlets, Lambeth, Southwark. In Ireland the same neglect of the franchise is apparent. The disregard of the franchise is more apparent from the following particulars. In Birmingham there are 11,860 £10 householders who have not cared to place themselves on the register; and yet there are only 9,222 on the register, and 19,600 householders below £10 are to be added to the constituency. In Liverpool there are 18,779 on the register, and 20,951 £10 householders and others qualified who have not placed themselves on the register. In Marylebone 20,000 qualified persons have not registered themselves; and yet the number on the register is 21,000, and of these only one-fourth cared to vote in the severe contest of last year. An actual majority of those qualified did not care to be in a position to vote. There was the same disregard of the present franchise in a host of other boroughs, and also in Ireland. The payment of taxes did not insure good government, nor yet mere numbers, nor property, nor yet the balance of power. The fault was that an educated man had not more votes than an ignorant man. The few learned men in a constituency were swamped. The vote of the Secretary of State had no more weight than that of a clown or shallowpated demagogue. Yet the matured and deliberate judgment of such a man was better than the hasty opinions of 10,000 boors. It was according to nature that the strong should always rule. In the early stages of society, in rude and barbarous times, it was the strong in muscle, in civilized times it was the strong in wisdom, who should rule; not because might was right, but because right was might. What, then, was the fifth theory of representation, the principle which should guide them in judging of such a measure? It would be manifest if they remembered that society necessarily implied a law and rule which was called justice. It was, of course, by reason that they apprehended justice, 2204 or, rather, reason was the consciousness of a rule independent of the human will. They could not make laws; all they could do was to make statutes, which meant to declare or assert laws. Law-making was merely the search after justice; laws were merely the declarations of reason apart from passion or interest, and depended neither on the will of the Legislature nor on the opinions of those who elected the Legislature. There was, therefore, no sovereignty in the people, nor sovereignty in any class. The right to rule did not reside in one class nor in another class, but depended on whether a person was guided by reason and was uninfluenced by prejudice and passion. Tyranny, on the other hand, meant merely the rule of a person, or of a class, or of a people, when not guided by reason, but when turned about by caprice. They could govern men only through their reason, and gain their confidence only by moral ascendancy. And as the will of the people could not change the nature of truth and right, the electors might not say, as had been assumed they might, "Such is our will, so this shall be the law." They had only to judge as to which candidate was the most influenced by reason and least by prejudice, for that man had most right to sovereignty whose words and actions were in the highest degree the inspirations of reason. Moreover, to say that "no one is bound to obey laws to which he has not given his consent, and which he has not had a share in making," amounted to what the Americans called "the divine right of insurrection," and assumed that law is not independent of his will. If this were true, then it would follow that the only object of Government was to put into effect the will of the people—that Government was a mere executive. Constituencies, then, should not be formed of those who merely claimed a right to a share in the representation, but those should be selected who would best discharge their legislative duties; for the franchise was not a property, it was not a right, but a trust for the public benefit. Every man had a right to the best Government, but to nothing else. And it was educated and intellectual men who would elect representatives that would elevate the tone of the House, that would be unshackled by fear of constituencies, and be unbending towards popular favour. In order not to swamp the few learned in every constituency; that one class might not override another, let every class have 2205 its own representatives, let trades-unions, the clergy of dioceses, each of the learned bodies, doctors, retired officers, and tradesmen have their own representatives; but let no one particular class have entire sway as was now proposed in this Bill. Why should they be called upon to repeat an experiment which had failed already? They should first, at least, obtain the information necessary to secure a more successful issue. The former Reform Act had destroyed party, and produced unstable Governments, and had allowed expediency to usurp the throne of right. It had been the cause that Governments represented only majorities, because they could not represent principles. It had made constituencies act as drags on the straightforwardness of their Representatives. These were some of the effects of Reform. Moreover, it did not fulfil the expectations which were entertained of it; for bribery had increased, and the expenditure of the State had grown to great excess. Could any one, then, assert that the Reform Bill of' 32 had met with success? And was such another Bill wanted at the present time? Would it now elevate the tone of the House, when its only effect before bad been to lower that tone? The representation of the country should not depend on taxation, nor on the possession of property; and the theory that it should depend on population, if honestly carried out, must result in absurdities and contradictions; nay, even in insubordination and ruin, Other countries had proved this by their sad experience; and in this country they had a warning in the different character of the representatives of small and large boroughs. He said, then, that a law, independent of our will, encircled us, and that the only business of the Legislature was to see and declare what that law was; that the only business of constituencies was to elect those who were the most guided by it; and that the best franchise was that which would most secure this object. Yet now, even in the present state of things, selfish interests were the mainsprings of politics; and these were so evenly balanced, that those who were caught by beer could generally turn the scale in an election. Moreover, the continuous growth of bribery proved that, electors did not vote on public grounds, but valued the franchise only as a means of forwarding their own petty interests. And when the franchise was lower than it was now, who then would be the favoured of 2206 the constituencies? It would be those endowed with glibness and shallowness; those who could lie most smoothly and flatter most pleasantly; those who could stoop the lowest to court the prejudices of their constituents at the expense of public interests. These new electors would never choose the clever financier, nor the sound political economist, to represent them. They could not even judge of a man's financial abilities or political acumen. No! They would rather fix their choice on the indefatigable bore of the borough, on the man with the narrowest views of things, and the most unbounded admiration of himself; for, as was already the case in America, the most worthy men would abstain from a franchise which had been so far debased, and would leave the power to be abused by that class which now, for the first time, obtained it. When there was no evil which called for cure, and no abuse which cried for redress, were we wantonly to alter under the guise of amending, and wilfully to obliterate admitted principles under the name of reforming institutions? When the present franchise was so large that not half the constituencies cared to exercise it, were we to increase it yet further by adding those who would override the present electors. If we did so, then "Moderate Liberals" would no longer be heard of, and "Whig" would be a name of the past; for the floor of that House would become the arena for the struggles of faction like those which disgraced the Senate of Washington.
- Beds, only 2,881 polled out of 4,276 on register.
- Berks only 2,948 polled out of 4,945 on register
MR. H. BERKELEY
said, the speech of the noble Lord had certainly been full of declamation against the Bill. Nothing could be worse than his opinion of it, and his opinion was confirmed by that of every Gentleman on the opposite side of the House. The hon. and learned Member for West Gloucestershire (Mr. Rolt) had denounced it as all that was horrible and detestable. The hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Hardy) had followed in the same strain, and charged hon. Gentlemen on his (Mr. Berkeley's) side with cowardice as being afraid to utter their real opinions of the Bill. That charge of cowardice should not remain upon him. But it struck him as surprising that such eloquent and hitter speeches should be made with no result whatever. It seemed unnatural that there should be indulgence in such declamation without the second reading being opposed. Yet so it was. He found him self in this position that he could not agree 2207 that the measure was a Reform Bill. It had no pretence to be called a Reform Bill in the common acceptation of the word. It might be termed a measure of Reform. It was a forward measure, and as such he was compelled in consistency to give it his support; but he entered his protest against its being regarded as a measure of finality or a measure that would put a stop to all questions of reform for the next twenty-five years, as had been said. He objected to the Bill simply on account of its deficiencies. It might be called a measure of progress, but as a measure of Reform it was the most infinitesimal dose ever offered to the House. He took it as he would the globule of a homoeopathic practitioner, and he swallowed it in the full belief that it was calculated to do him neither good nor harm. There were three points which a Bill having any pretence to be a measure of reform ought to have dealt with, and as the present Bill did not deal with them, he considered that it failed in its character as a Reform measure. The first objection which he took was, that an extension of the franchise was made to a class of men less calculated, if possible, than the present constituencies to bear up against the effects of intimidation and corruption, while the obvious remedy against intimidation and corruption—the Ballot—was denied to them. The objection he took to the present Reform Bill was exactly the objection taken by Lord Macaulay and Mr. Grote to the Reform Bill of 1832, who considered it a failure because protection was denied to the electors. The House had heard a great deal about the absence of electors from the poll, but how often had he shown by evidence that the electors of this country were subject in voting to pains and penalties, which they did not think proper to incur? The non-attendance of electors at the poll was not caused by apathy, but the dread of consequences; thousands rather than vote against their consciences, refused to vote at all? The next point to which he should advert was the absence of any provision in the Bill dealing with nomination boroughs. He did not think that the noble Lord the Member for London showed due consideration to his character as a reformer when he turned his back on that question. Such excuses as that put forward by the hon. Member for Birmingham—that he could not carry a large measure, and that he was prudent in attempting to carry only that which he could—were unworthy of the noble Lord's great charac- 2208 ter. He should have told the House, "I will destroy these nomination boroughs as far as in me lies, and go to the country to see whether they will stand by me." It was from the absence of such a spirit as this that the country had become apathetic; for, certainly, if he had thrown himself upon the country he would have found an ample response to his appeal. It had been said that Macaulay and Burke were returned for nomination boroughs, and an inference was attempted to be drawn that those distinguished men approved of rotten boroughs. About Burke he would say nothing, as not coming within the category of a reformer, but he would ask, had the House forgotten Lord Macaulay's speech to the electors of Edinborough? In that speech he expressed his opinion that the nomination boroughs, continued by the Reform Bill of 1832, were the worst species of them; that the better sort had been destroyed when such places as Old Sarum and Gatton were disfranchised. Lord Macaulay held that it was better for the morals of the people, if we were to have nomination boroughs, that they should consist of a mound and four old walls, or anything to describe elective power, than that 150, 200, or 300 electors should be reduced to the condition of voting machines. Here were the words used by Lord Macaulay:—If men are returned to Parliament not by popular election but by nomination, then I say without hesitation that the ancient system was much the best. Both systems alike send men to Parliament who are not freely chosen by independent constituent bodies, but under the old system there was little or no need of intimidation, while under the new system we have misery and disgrace produced by intimidation. I prefer the nomination that used to take place at Old Sarum to the nomination that now takes place at Newark. In both cases you have the Members returned by the will of the landlords, but in Newark there were 200 ejectments into the bargain, to say nothing of the mortification and remorse of those who were not ejected, but who voted against their consciences for fear of being ejected.It was very clear, therefore, what Lord Macaulay's opinion was touching nomination boroughs—and he (Mr. Berkeley) regretted that the noble Lord, the Member for the City, had not the courage to deal with that question. The next point of omission to which he begged to call attention had reference to the tribunals appointed by the House to try election petitions. There was no system that caused greater abuses, required more alteration, and had less of the confidence of the 2209 country. They could not read the evidence taken before the Committees without raising their eyes in astonishment at finding that any set of Gentlemen could come to such conclusions as they arrived at. Nothing could be more plain than that, on viewing the manner in which various Committees dealt with the evidence, no two Committees were of the same mind. The late Royal Commission that went forth made some extraordinary disclosures touching the judgment of those Committees; but as that was one of the obvious cases which every Gentleman in the House must feel to be most faulty, he should not say one word more on the question. He had stated the three points which he considered should be included in any measure of Reform, and he must say that the most independent portion of the party who supported the noble Lord found themselves in anything but a pleasant position. Honestly and fairly they opposed the Reform Bill brought in by the hon. Gentlemen opposite. They threw out that Bill, and turned out the Ministry that introduced it. They went to the country, and what did they say to their constituents? They would find that this was the language generally used on the hustings—"The Conservative or Tory party are a set of muffs—they knew hardly anything about Reform or a Reform Bill, and all they know we taught them—they are taking lessons from us—they are mere tyros and do not understand the art or mystery of Reform—let us take the thing in hand—let our noble leader take the thing in hand, and you will see the sort of Reform Bill he will introduce." They proclaimed their confidence in the noble Lord, and said they relied upon him. In consequence of the former measure of Reform introduced by the noble Lord, they thought he was the man to give to the people of England such a Reform Bill as they required. Wait, said they, until the noble Lord the Member for the City of London resumes office, and a proper Reform Bill you shall see. And now he (Mr. Berkeley) would ask were not the Gentlemen opposite able to say, "and what went you forth for to see?" "You have been tried and what have you done?" This was the general feeling from one end of the country to the other, and the people would take the present Bill as an instalment of Reform only because they could take nothing better. The noble Lord, who commenced his reform career at Brobdignag, had ended it at Lilliput. 2210 His sun of reform rose with great promise, and at noonday it was brilliant, but now it was setting amid watery clouds and in a manner the most disastrous for his reputation. Admitting the past services of the noble Lord, which must for ever entitle him to the gratitude of all sincere Reformer, he (Mr. Berkeley) regretted very much that he had not taken the high stand on this question which he had assumed at the beginning of his political career.
§ LORD ROBERT CECIL
said, that no speeches were delivered in favour of this Bill save those which proceeded from the Treasury bench, and the opponents of the measure therefore only found themselves called upon to answer Treasury arguments. But there was one statement made by the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken which it might be necessary to notice. The hon. Gentleman wanted to convince the House that electors at present stayed away from the poll because they were afraid of voting. Now, the greatest sinners in this way were the electors of Marylebone, and nobody could suppose that they were the subjects of intimidation. [Mr. BERKELEY: Oh!] Well, he (Lord R. Cecil) was himself an elector of that borough, and he felt certain that if intimidation or coercion was exercised, it was only exercised entirely on the part of the owners of public-houses. He wished, however, to make the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department the subject of special notice upon that occasion. The right hon. Baronet had to make a speech on behalf of the Government, and he had performed the duty with great ingenuity, because, as the representative of a divided body, he had devoted the first part of his address to a statement of the views of the Radical portion of the Cabinet, and the second part to a statement of the views of the Conservative portion of his Colleagues. The right hon. Gentleman had enlarged on the necessity of preserving the principle of locality in apportioning the representation; and it should be remembered on this point that the question of the boundaries of electoral districts was a vital one as affecting representation. There were many counties, such as Lancashire, Yorkshire, and Kent, where, though the mass of the population was agricultural, it was swamped by the town voters. It was to be hoped, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman was prepared to propose in Committee clauses restoring the distinction between the urban and rural constituencies which the gradual 2211 growth of population and the neglect of successive Governments had effaced. The right hon. Gentleman described the old Reform Bill as the model of the present measure, and pointed out that as it had produced no dangerous results, the Bill now before the House might be expected to be equally harmless. But, then, as far as could be ascertained from the statistics, this measure would have a wider operation than a careless observer would believe. The old Reform Bill enfranchised 88,000 borough electors; but this measure, according to the lowest calculation, would enfranchise 200,000, and went, therefore, twice as far in a Radical direction as the Act of 1832. But there was another distinction between the two measures. The Act of 1832 was a settlement of a complex character—a thing of counterpoises and of balance—what it took away in one direction it gave in another. If it disfranchised certain classes of voters it established a new class by the operation of the Chandos clause; but the present Bill was merely an advance in one direction, there was no attempt to palliate the results which it would entail, The old Reform Bill added to the constituencies, but it did not follow that it would be proper now to repeat the same process, The old Bill adjusted a balance which was faulty; the present Bill upset a balance which was just and equal. It would so increase the power of the poor that it would be impossible for the richer and more respectable classes to make their influence felt. The hon. Member for Birmingham had treated that argument with contempt, and asked if any such swamping process had resulted from the old Reform Bill, and if Mr. Choker's prophecies that the £20 would be swamped by the £10 voters had been realized. But that was rather a dangerous question to ask. Let the hon. Member look back at the poll book of the last election for Birmingham and see how many £50 householders there were among his majority. He (Lord R. Cecil) should be sorry to say anything disrespectful to the hon. Gentleman, although he said things that were very little respectful to the order or to the party to which (Lord R. Cecil) belonged. But he thought that the hon. Gentleman presumed too much on the indulgence of the House when he asked them to believe that the Reform Bill had given no preponderance in any borough to the poorer class of constituents. Let them take the borough of Marylebone as an example of the existing sys- 2212 tem. It was full of magnificent squares and splendid streets, inhabited by a large number of wealthy and of educated people. Such persons, it might be thought, would certainly command great influence in the choice of Members, and their doing so might be taken as a crucial test of the working of the electoral system. Yet the whole of that class were as absolutely un-represented in this House as though they had no voice at all in the election of a Member. Hon. Members talked of apportioning representation to wealth, and said, "Here is the borough of Marylebone—it is a very wealthy borough, and contributes enormously to the taxation, and, therefore, it ought to have so many Members;" and then what did they do? They gave the franchise to those who had no wealth at all. In respect to the future, the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary spoke in a manner which he should not have expected. He talked about progress, and used language which excluded any idea of finality. Now, he did not suppose that any one attached any idea of finality to this Bill—indeed, the hon. Member for Birmingham and others had assured them that anything like a settlement of the question by this Bill was quite out of the question; but he was surprised that the prospect of the future had not caused the right hon. Baronet to hesitate before giving the weight of his authority to this Bill. He spoke with great contempt of the argument that, because you went to a certain extent in a given direction, therefore you were bound to go to the end, and to accept the logical consequences which persons of peculiar opinions might draw from the principles upon which you acted; but he forgot that, though in ordinary cases that argument must have no weight, this was an extraordinary one to which it did apply. This was a measure which affected the legislating body, and, therefore, contained within itself the germ of further progress. They talked of making a stand. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle last year recommended a certain suffrage, because they could make a stand upon it; but they would not be there to make the stand. When this measure had passed there would be a far different House of Commons—one far less inclined to resistance and much more disposed to make common cause with the poor class of society, and to push on more rapidly the stone, which they had set rolling. The right hon. Gentleman was therefore in error 2213 when he denied it was a case for the application of the principle obsta principies. Then they were asked what they thought that the persons now proposed to be admitted to the franchise would do. The hon. Member for Birmingham said that they ought to take them by the hand and hail them as brothers, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wilts talked about having confidence in the people, and the Secretary of State to the Home Department pointed to the utility of the alarms created by the first Reform Bill. He admitted that he was not afraid that any Parliament, however democratic, would dethrone the Queen or abolish the House of Peers, so long as that body was content to pursue the same harmless and innocuous course which it had of late years adopted, exercising its legislative functions upon minor questions, and upon matters of greater moment calmly registering the decrees of that House. He did not believe that any democratic assembly would fly at the mere semblance of power; but they would fly at the control of taxation. The lower classes felt, and would be brought to feel, the pressure of taxation. Everybody was anxious to shift his burden from his own shoulders to those of his neighbours. The hon. Member for Birmingham had himself said that no plummet could fathom the selfishness of a class entrusted with irresponsible power; but they were going to entrust to a class, and that the poorest and rudest in the country, the irresponsible management of the engine of taxation. Could they expect that selfishness would not exert its influence upon the members of that class. They had already precedents how indirect taxes could be converted into direct ones, and those precedents would be used. There was no concealment about it. The hon. Member for Birmingham was anxious that this Reform Bill should leave its mark upon our legislation, and should alter our financial system. Only the other day, at Liverpool, he expressed a hope that indirect taxes would disappear, and that a property tax would take their place. This would offer a very substantial temptation to the working classes to unite. They had their trades' unions, and the House knew both how they could use them and how the hon. Member for Birmingham bad urged them to employ them. Could it be supposed that they would not, for the purpose of throwing upon the shoulders of the rich a burden which they had often announced that they ought not to bear, 2214 combine and use every engine in their power? It was this question of taxation which made the power of swamping so truly dangerous. Upon every other question ha admitted that the lower classes would probably be divided like the upper ones, but this was a matter which appealed to their deepest interest, which came before them every day, and the House must anticipate that with regard to it they would use the enormous preponderance which was about to be placed in their hands. Perhaps the best test of what they would do was what they had done. A municipal borough was a sort of microcosm, showing on a small scale what the working classes were likely, if this Bill passed, to do on a large one. As they managed the finances of a municipality so were they likely to manage the finances of an Empire. The Committee o the House of Lords upon the Small Tenements Act, ascertained that at Newcastle there had been a very improvident sale of town property, and when the question was asked whether this was at all attributable to the influence of the small tenement holders, the reply was that that certainly was the case; there was great agitation; public meetings were held, at which representations were made that this sale would be of great advantage to the working classes, that the work would furnish employment to them for several years, would enable them to keep the wolf from the door, and other expressions of that sort. Would not similar expressions be used on every hustings in the country directly the working classes formed a majority of the electors; and if those classes once obtained the control of the finances, taking from and giving to whom they pleased, would they not exercise that power to keep the wolf from the door? But they were told that there would always remain the influence of wealth. The influence of wealth got many different names in that House. When the hon. Member for Bristol was speaking it was called corruption, coercion, intimidation, and all sorts of hard names; but when they were discussing a Reform Bill it suddenly assumed the shape of a constitutional guarantee. He believed that in one point of view the influence of wealth would be increased by this Bill. By the last Reform Bill they destroyed the potwallopers because of their corruption, but they now proposed to extend the franchise to the very stratum of society to which that class of voters belonged. The experience of Election Committees had shown 2215 that corruption haunted places where there were freemen almost as certainly as the cholera haunted a black ditch. What were these freemen? They were a small selection from that great stratum of society which this Bill proposed to import bodily into the constituency. What was now the case in a few towns would be the case in all boroughs if this Bill passed. Except that particular power of wealth he did not see what other influence of wealth could be relied upon to bind that political power which they were now about absolutely to give away. If they trusted to the reputation of the higher classes and the gratitude of the lower classes they must remember that there stood between them a class of men who made it their business to disparage and defame the aristocracy. As a specimen of the attacks that were now made, and which must be expected to be made more frequently hereafter, he would quote the language of one hon. Member, who said,The more you examine this foreign policy (of England) you will come to the conclusion that I have arrived at, that this regard for the liberties of Europe, this cry for Protestant interests, this excessive love of the balance of power is neither more nor less than a gigantic system of out-door relief for the aristocracy.That was the language of the hon. Member for Birmingham, and might they not expect other hon. Members for Birmingham to spring up in every town in the kingdom if this Bill passed? He would give another specimen of the hon. Member's language. He said to his constituents:—You who have been in the gallery of the House of Commons know that I have sitting opposite to me a phalanx, when all are there, of 300 Members, and I am not going entirely to exclude all the Members on our side of the House; but I undertake to say and to prove, that if you take those 300 men, and add together everything they pay directly or indirectly to the taxation of the State, and put it on one side of a ledger, and then place on the other side everything which they or their immediate relatives receive from the State in salaries or pensions, you will find they receive three times, I believe five times, and I think I might say ten times, as much as they pay. Why am I to be asked to go to that stolid phalanx of tax-receivers and tax-expenders, and implore them to be more moderate?There was a charge of embezzlement against a great party! He could not characterize such language, because there were limits to the expressions that might be used in that House. But, whatever might be the motives, and they were not 2216 permitted then to question the motives, of the hon. Gentleman who used it, he would say that it was a false and a groundless calumny. The hon. Member for North Staffordshire had taxed the hon. Gentleman with misrepresentations, and challenged him to prove them; but although many Fridays had intervened, no attempt had been made to prove those statements. The hon. Gentleman made the statements; he was challenged to prove them; he had not proved them; and it was therefore, unnecessary to characterize the statements further. He did not, however, wish to blame the hon. Member for Birmingham; but rather desired to turn his statements into specimens of what they might expect when they called a whole race of agitators into existence. The hon. Member for Birmingham could scarcely be blamed; he had acted according to his light; it was in accordance with his profession; it was his trade. Agitators never had many facts, and therefore they must take fictions. But the wholesome truth to be drawn from such speeches was that if such groundless assertions as to the character of the aristocracy, of Members of the House of Commons, and of the upper classes were to be made by men who possessed influence among the working classes, then the House must not expect that those working classes would be guided or restrained in their conduct by any sense of the merits of the upper classes. He was not surprised that such an apathy as that which had been remarked throughout the country had been evinced. The experience of successive years must have taught the people that as long as they had a just and equal Government, so long they would not have much to hope for from any change. But he could not express a similar satisfaction at the political apathy evinced in that House. The present was no ordinary measure; it was a crisis as great as that which occurred in 1688 or that of 1832. In the first, the power was transferred from the Crown to the aristocracy; in the second, from the aristocracy to the middle classes; and now in the third crisis (if it was to be so decided) that power was to be transferred from the middle classes to the lower classes. It was possible that the views of those who advocated this measure might be correct, and that it was one of a prudent and cautious character, and that by the influence of wealth or of beer, or some other influence, it might prove utterly nugatory. But there was another possibility. 2217 It was possible that the apprehensions he had expressed might prove true, that it would prove another transfer of power; that that power would be placed in the hands of those who were too needy and too ill-instructed to be able to use it wisely, to whom the political independence of the other classes would be sacrificed, and who would not regard those other classes in the use of the power placed in their hands. If such were the case it could never be reversed. Whatever else might happen, whatever conceivable hypothesis were suggested it was more probable than the possibility of retracing the step they were now about to take. It was an absolute, final, and irrevocable step—a transfer of power to new rulers, who would never yield up the power conferred on them except through the influence of the sword.
§ MR. MONCKTON MILNES
said, he addressed himself to the consideration of this subject in a spirit of affection and reverence for our Constitution, for in no other spirit could it be approached in that House. Unless a question of this kind came before the House with a strict political object, either in respect of evils to be remedied, or benefits to be conferred, they would be overwhelmed with all kinds of theories and devices. He supported the Bill because he believed it to be not the revolutionary scheme it was described by some to be, but a simple step in the ancient path of our Constitution, and nothing more than a development of those Constitutional principles which, under Providence, had had such a marvellous effect in this country, and had produced a combination of liberty and order such as the world had never seen before. The noble Lord who had just spoken had talked of the baneful effects of transferring the Government of his country to another stratum of society. He (Mr. Milnes) entirely disbelieved in the social geology of the noble Lord. He thought it would have been better if the two noble Lords who had addressed the House that night had talked less about the upper classes, to which they belonged, and had treated the lower classes with less—he would not say contempt, but with less disrespect. It was disrespectful to any class of Englishmen to impute to them that if political power were placed in their hands they would use it for their own immediate and selfish interests, without regard to the interests of the community generally. The best proof that the dreadful consequences which some expected to follow if this Bill 2218 were passed would not ensue was to be found in the little interest which existed upon the subject. He believed that a good explanation of the apathy which existed on this subject was to be found in the general contentment of the people with the Government under which Providence had placed them. The people of this country were every day conscious that they were living under a respected Sovereign, tolerant religious institutions, and with a Parliament in the main obedient to the desires of the people. Notwithstanding all they might say with respect to the distribution of political power, if the mass of the people were discontented, if there was a spirit of disbelief in the institutions, or in their stability, they would not go on as peacefully as they now did with their present limited suffrage. If they had any cause for discontent they would have little difficulty with the power which they now possessed of exhibiting their dissatisfaction. If more power were given to them be did not think they would make a worse use of it than they did of the power they already enjoyed. He thought, after the political events of the last few years, the House ought not to be overconfident in political foresight. When they thought of the financial prophecies of the last few years, and how unfulfilled they had been in this year of our Lord, it was clear that the predictions of the acutest and wisest statesmen might be stultified by events in matters of induction that rendered necessary such an enormous number of facts, that they should approach the question in a spirit of humility as to the probable consequences. But he could not divert his attention from the good results which he thought would flow from the Bill. In the education of the people, in which he had always taken a great interest, he could not conceal from himself that the political element formed a very material part. He did not think that in any country there would be a highly educated class of artizans unless they were enabled to participate in the political duties and privileges incident to its Constitution. They would either separate their political from their intellectual life, or in proportion as their intellectual life was developed they would become discontented at being excluded from the political machine to which they belonged. There were a great number of people who believed they could get on without politics at all. He should be sorry to see that feeling predominate. The spectacle of any large class of society 2219 separating themselves from the political action of that society was always fraught with danger, especially when that was an educated, literary, and accomplished class, whose influence ought, if properly directed, to improve the political condition of their countrymen. When the House went into Committee on the Bill he should take the liberty of moving the introduction of a clause which would give the suffrage to members of Universities, of scientific bodies, of the Inns of Court, and indeed, to all persons whose influence could not be supposed to be otherwise than advantageous to the commonweal. There were some friends of his below the gangway that did not seem inclined to admit the claims of education in these matters; but could they prove that any disadvantage would arise from men of education having a vote, and be compelled to exercise it? In old times the English constitution was looked upon as a phenomenon that could not be explained, while at the same time it was admired; and some such anomaly predominated still. But perhaps the greatest political anomaly connected with this Bill was that a £6 franchise would really include a very different class of people in the different boroughs throughout the country; but he did not believe that the measure was likely to effect any great change in the character of the Members sent to that House. For example, were not the larger boroughs already represented by men holding what were called Radical political opinions? Were they not almost always men of popular instincts and interests, and who really owed their election to popular feeling? He owned he should be glad if the effect of the change should be that Members were returned to that House from the lower classes of the people. If some artisan, for instance, who had made himself respected among his own class for intelligence and wisdom, were to be sent there, he believed such a man would receive a hearty welcome. They all knew, in dealing with popular questions affecting the poorer classes, how much they were at a loss to know what those classes really required. The individuality so prominent among Englishmen in the upper classes was equally distinct among their poorer fellow-subjects. He should be glad if anything could be done to bridge over that chasm. With that view he should welcome the presence in that House of a certain number of men who really understood and would honestly and sincerely represent the opinions of the 2220 lower classes, and he believed the expression of the opinions of such men would be received there with the greatest deference. He gave his adhesion to the Bill as it stood. He did not wish in any degree to take it as an instalment. The great body of the people of this country had advanced and were still advancing in intelligence and power; and, with the education of the community placed on a safer basis, he was not the man to be alarmed at the introduction to the exercise of political power of any number of men whatever. He should give his support to the Bill, believing that it would tend to the development of the political education of the people, and that the extension of the suffrage did not necessarily carry danger with it. Let them disabuse men's minds of the impression that their interests and their politics were selfish; and the time would come when, the privileges which they now enjoyed being also extended to their less favoured countrymen, no Member of that House would grudge to any one Englishman his share of political power.
§ MR. PEACOCKE
said, he should have been perfectly ready to give a silent vote if no hon. Gentleman had spoken on the opposite side except the hon. Member who had just sat down, for that hon. Gentleman had delivered at once an epic poem and a philosophical essay on the happiness and content which prevailed under our constitution as it now existed. But various attacks had been made on the class of boroughs one of which he had the honour of representing—the small boroughs, more especially by the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone (Mr. E. James), in whose mind there appeared to be a great confusion between close boroughs and small constituencies. The hon. and learned Gentleman was peculiarly unhappy in the illustrations he adduced in support of his argument. He asked whether Harwich had ever elected a great statesman? Let him remind the hon. and learned Member that Harwich had been represented by no less a person than Mr. Canning. Lord Macaulay had been quoted as a great authority against close boroughs, although it was well known that he owed his introduction to public life to the close borough of Calne. The hon. and learned Gentleman also asserted that no statesman of the present day was under obligations to that species of constituency. Why, one illustrious statesman now no more, and whose irreparable loss they all deplored—the late Sir Robert Peel— 2221 during the whole of his political career from the passing of the Reform Bill, sat for the small borough of Tamworth. If we look to the Statesmen who more happily survive, and commence with the Members of the present Government, we find that the noble Viscount at its head sits for the small borough of Tiverton; the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary sat for the Radnor boroughs; the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, again, sits for what the hon. and learned Gentleman would probably characterize as one of the closest of nomination boroughs—namely, Morpeth. The noble Foreign Secretary, the author of this very Reform Bill, owed his introduction to public life to the small borough of Tavistock; as did also the right hon. Member for the University of Oxford, one of the greatest ornaments of that House, to the constituency of Newark. The right hon. Member for Oxford City (Mr. Cardwell) was indebted for his entrance into public life to Clitheroe; and early in his career the Secretary of State for India sat for Wareham. An enumeration of the leading Members of the late Administration would exhibit the same result. The late Secretary of State for War (General Peel) sits for the small borough of Huntingdon, and the late First Lord of the Admiralty (Sir John Pakington) for Droitwitch. The right hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Walpole) was introduced to public life through the borough of Midhurst, the late Colonial Secretary (Sir E. B. Lytton) through St. Ives, the late First Commissioner of Works (Lord John Manners) through Newark, the late Chancellor of the Exchequer through Maidstone, and the right hon. Member for Wiltshire (Mr. S. Estcourt) through Marlborough. Indeed, every Cabinet Minister, except three in the last two Governments, owed his introduction to public life to some borough more or less small. The three exceptions were the present Secretary of State for War (Mr. S. Herbert), the present President of the Poor Law Board (Mr. Villiers), and the right hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley). And of these only one (Mr. Villiers) was introduced into public life by a populous town. If he wished for a stronger testimony in favour of the smaller constituencies he should call the right hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir James Graham), who, when rejected in 1837 from Cumberland, for his unbending Conservatism, sought refuge in the nomination borough of Dorchester, then shifted his somewhat 2222 fugitive political existence to Pembroke, and finally found an asylum in Ripon, until he was returned by Carlisle. If that right hon. Gentleman had been consistent on any question it was on the Ballot. Yet the other evening, though not absent from the House, be was absent from the division on that subject. That division on the Ballot also told another similar tale. The noble Lord the Member for London, too, had always held that the suffrage was a trust and not a right; and he who had convinced so many of his followers by this unanswerable argument that the only constitutional course was to oppose a system of secret suffrage, appeared the other evening to have convinced himself that the more constitutional course was to avoid the division. The inference he drew from these facts was, that noble Lords and right hon. Gentlemen when ambitious of election by populous boroughs became rather delegates than representatives, and were obliged to make compromises between their convictions and their constituencies; and I for one consider it to be neither beneficial to the interests of the country nor to the character of in a position in which they are unable to our public men, that they should be placed give effect to those convictions which they conscientiously entertain. If the House destroyed small boroughs it must in common justice have recourse to electoral districts. At present one small town pretty much agreed in political sentiment with another; and roughly, but virtually, the small towns which did not send Members to Parliament were represented by those which did. There were nineteen agricultural towns in the county with which he was connected (Essex), and among which were Brentwood, Barking, Braintree, Chelmsford, Coggeshall, Dunmow, Epping, Halstead, Manningtree, Romford, and Saffron Walden, which had as much right to be represented as the most populous places. They contained, according to the census of 1841, an aggregate of 76,000 inhabitants, or what would now be equivalent to from 100,000 to 110,000. If, therefore, Maldon and Harwich were disfranchised, the inhabitants of all those nineteen small towns, far exceeding in number the population of Salford, whose wrongs had been so pathetically recited, would be practically disfranchised with them. Neither the character nor the business capacity of that House would be elevated by the sweeping away of the small boroughs. By dividing the representation 2223 exclusively between the counties and the large towns they would have the House divided into two hostile and extreme camps, with no moderate men softening down the bitterness between them. What was their experience of the populous constituencies? Unquestionably there was a vast amount of property in Marylebone, which was assessed at upwards of £2,600,000 a year; but were the wealth, intelligence, and respectability of Marylebone, or of the rest of the metropolis, represented in that House. Out of 21,031 electors in Marylebone, only 7,620 polled at the last election. The hon. and learned Gentleman who sat for that borough accounted for that fact by stating that those who abstained from voting were Conservatives. If, then, two-thirds of the hon. and learned Gentleman's constituency were Conservatives, surely he could hardly be said to represent the opinions of the constituency. The only metropolitan constituency where a contest occurred was Middlesex, with a constituency of 15,300; of which only 4,800 voted, or not one-third of the number of electors. No doubt much of the wealth, intelligence, and the respectability of the metropolitan boroughs, found seats within the walls of Parliament, but not for metropolitan constituencies. There was, for instance, an hon. Gentleman influentially connected with the City of London (Mr. Baring), whose name inspired confidence both in the House and the country, who found a borough to represent in Huntingdon. There was also the hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Hubbard); he found a seat in what he supposed would be called on the other side of the House one of the decayed market places of England. Nor were those Gentlemen ostracized for their political opinions. On the other side of the House he found the same result. There were the hon. Member for Kendal (Mr. Carr Glyn) and the hon. Member for Shaftesbury (Mr. Grenfell Glyn), whose names commanded great respect in the City, and placed on the back of a Bill would gladden the heart of its fortunate holder; but they were not prophets in their own country—they did not find metropolitan constituencies to return them. Then there was the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Hankey) connected with more than one metropolitan constituency, who acted as political godfather to the noble Lord, the Member for the City of London, and proposed liberal candidates for Maryle- 2224 bone, who presided at metropolitan meetings and dined at metropolitan festivals, but did not find a seat for a metropolitan constituency; and thus they found generally that the unrepresented minority of the metropolitan boroughs, their intelligence, wealth, and respectability, found in small constituencies that expression of their opinions which was denied them by the majority of the constituencies among which they lived. If he wanted a further illustration of the benefit of small constituencies, he should point to the right hon. Gentleman who filled the chair with so much ability and courtesy, who was introduced by Newcastle-under-Lyne, and sat sixteen years for Malton. But what he had already said proved sufficiently that the small constituencies had not been unmindful of the trust which the Constitution had confided to them. It was owing to them that the House still possessed within its walls many whose names added lustre to their body, and whose intellect gave influence and value to their discussions. But before he went into the question of the franchise, he must beg leave to enter his dissent in the strongest terms against a doctrine promulgated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, when he said that minorities ought not to be represented in that House, and that the only way in which minorities should be represented was by their becoming a majority. He had always understood from the highest and most eminent authorities that the great object of the Constitution was to secure within the walls of that House the representation of every class and of every variety of opinion. The Reform Bill of the late Government was a great mistake, in so far as it was based on the most mischievous principle that ever was introduced into that House, uniform suffrage. Uniform suffrage was not the principle of the British Constitution; and should not be adopted by the great Conservative party, who ought to be the guardians of the traditional franchises of the country. The fault of the Reform Bill of 1832 was that it destroyed those traditional franchises, and reduced every constituency in the kingdom to the dead level of the £10 uniformity; and the great fault of the present Bill was that it substituted the uniformity of the £6 for the uniformity of the £10 franchise. The working class had no special representative in that House, and, therefore, he should be content to see a greatly extend- 2225 ed suffrage in some of the large towns, particularly where there were large bodies of working men. Before the Reform Bill there were no fewer than thirteen or fourteen kinds of franchise; and what he desired to see was as great a variety of suffrage as possible. The hon. Member for Birmingham complained that 5,000,000 of adults were unrepresented, and that under the present Bill boroughs of 7,000 inhabitants were to return as many Members as Wolverhampton and Salford. Now, if there was any truth in the doctrines of the hon. Gentleman and numbers were to form the basis of representation, to be logical he ought to support a Bill founded only on manhood suffrage and electoral districts. Did he do so? No; the truth was that the equal distribution of political power would place it in those hands where the hon. Gentleman did not wish to see it. The hon. Gentleman had introduced a Bill, if not to the House, to the country, in which he left anomalies as great and discrepancies as striking as those which he denounced. He proposed that a borough of 16,000 inhabitants should return as many Members as a county with 160,000. He left 4,000,000 of adults without the suffrage. Was their condition improved because the hon. Gentleman added a million to the number of those who now had a right to vote? Monopoly was not the less oppressive because it was extended. The hon. Gentleman seemed entirely to ignore the rural population. He must say he would infinitely prefer a system of manhood suffrage and electoral districts to the Bill of the hon. Gentleman. Such a system was at once more just, equal, logical, and fixed. There were two systems of representation: the one recognized prescriptive rights and respected traditional influences, the other recognized no principle but the direct representation of mere numbers; the one sought to make that House the great council of the nation, in which all opinions might be represented and all grievances considered; the other sought to make it a mere assemblage of delegates, proclaiming the popular will and registering the popular edicts; the one was based on a variety of constituencies and a variety of franchises, the other on uniform suffrage and uniform electoral districts; the one was the English, the other the American system. Both systems, he believed, found admirers in that House, and to those who might prefer the more logical precision of the latter he could 2226 only say, in the language of Mr. Can ning:—My lot has been cast under the British monarchy; under that I have lived, under that I have seen my country prosper, and I am not prepared to sacrifice or even to endanger the fruit of centuries of experience, of centuries of struggles, and of more than one century of liberty, as perfect as ever blessed any country upon earth, for visionary schemes of ideal perfectibility, or for doubtful experiments of possible improvement.
§ MR. THOMPSON
said, that the principal objection which bad been urged against this measure was that it contained no new or original principle, and that its only distinctive feature was a lowering of the franchise without any test of the fitness of the newly enfranchised voters to exercise that franchise with advantage to the State; and further, that even the money standard fixed upon was taken at random, and without any good reason for the selection of £6 rather than £7 or £5. If that objection could be sustained it would be fatal to the character of the Bill. The introduction of the £6 and £10 franchises, however, did provide a principle of selection, and he would show to what extent it would sift the population, and what were the peculiar merits of the proposed plan. From the Returns laid before Parliament this Session, it appeared that by lowering the borough franchise from £10 to £6, the borough constituencies would be increased by 272,000; but of these, 135,000 or about one half would be added to the constituencies of the twenty most populous boroughs. The population of these twenty boroughs in 1851 exceeded 4,000,000, of whom 255,000 were electors; so that if this Bill passed, the whole constituencies of these twenty boroughs would consist of about 400,000 electors out of a population considerably exceeding four millions. In those cities and large towns, therefore, where the franchise would descend the lowest in the social scale, a very large majority of the working classes would still be excluded from the franchise. What was the principle on which the selection was made? It turned upon the amount of rental—in other words, those who occupied the better class of houses Were to have the franchise. Did these few words carry no further meaning? Did they not convey the idea that those men had raised themselves to the upper station of their class? Did they not also convey the idea that those men had raised themselves to that point by their intelligence, industry, and economy? Could the working classes raise them- 2227 selves at all without the possession of those qualities? It followed, then, as a matter of course, that those who were selected because of their living in better houses must have possessed the highest qualities as workmen before they could have received the wages which enabled them to inhabit better houses than the majority of their class. They must also have exercised economy in husbanding their resources, and self-denial in not expending their earnings solely on animal enjoyments. There might be some defects in such a system of selection, but, on the whole, what better mode could be devised? It would be impossible to introduce a competitive examination, or any mode of ascertaining individual merits or qualifications. There was reason to believe that the class the Bill would enfranchise mainly contributed to the deposits in savings hanks, which were now increasing at the rate of £1,000,000 a year, the total amount of deposits being £39,000,000. It had been already shown that those who lived in £6 houses were the richer portion of their class; that this was presumptive evidence of industry, skill, and economy, and when to this was added the fact that these men possessed a considerable stake in the accumulated wealth of the country, and would naturally, therefore, desire the maintenance of order and the security of property, the proof was complete that the Bill did make a fitting selection of those who ought to possess the franchise, and would be likely to make a good use of it. He trusted that the Bill would pass the House, and become law during the present Session, and he had great pleasure in voting for the second reading.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he rose to address a few words to the House upon this subject. He had always hoped that when a Reform Bill should be proposed the Conservative party would apply themselves to discuss it in no party sense; and that the course would be adopted which was now about to be adopted, that of having no division on the second reading of the Bill; but at the same time he had trusted that an opportunity would be afforded of eliciting that talent of which they had had some striking exhibitions that night. The hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. M. Milnes) complained of the apathy of the country, but he (Mr. Newdegate) could not understand a Liberal complaining of apathy. If that party did not exist for the interest of the country of course the measures intend- 2228 ed to promote the interests of the party would be received with apathy. But his own conviction was that the introduction of a Reform Bill was attributable in the first instance to the abandonment by the noble Lord the Member for London of the measure by which he made his name. When the noble Lord decided, in 1852, that there should be a Reform Bill, he decided also the course of the Conservative party, for it was totally impossible that that party could undertake to defend a measure which they had strongly opposed when its very parent gave it up. But the position they now stood in was very different. He had always thought it better that a measure of this kind should be decided upon in a kind of convention not much open to popular influence. But instead of that this question had been for years the very football of faction. Under its influence an agitation had been enacted out of doors, and although that agitation had not succeeded in effecting the objects of its promoters, it has nevertheless constituted a sort of out-of-door Parliament which had in effect decided the action of the Government. It was all very well for those within doors to reply to the harsh observations with which the hon. Member for Birmingham assailed this House out of doors. He thought they were perfectly right in doing so. If a man, as a Member of that House, attacked their privileges, the House had a right to call on him for an account of his conduct in making statements affecting the character of some of its Members. He hoped that that principle would be preserved. He observed a delicacy on the part of hon. Members in alluding to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Birmingham reflecting upon the action of the House and upon their conduct as Members. He (Mr. Newdegate) thought that that delicacy was totally misplaced. The hon. Gentleman was no doubt entitled to all the privileges of a Member, but he had a name with two mysterious letters attached to it, by which circumstance additional influence was given to him wherever he went. And he (Mr. Newdegate) said that the Members of that House, if they regarded their position in the House, were bound to call him to an account for what he said in disparagement of them elsewhere. Having risen for a practical object, he wished to point attention to the fact that throughout all those discussions scarcely any allusion had been made to the great change that the present Bill would make in the county 2229 franchise; and nevertheless at this moment they Were totally without the means of judging of its effect. Certain Returns had been promised by the noble Lord, who declared that all information that could be obtained would be furnished, and yet those Returns, which he (Mr. Newdegate) knew were prepared in the public offices, had not been laid upon the table. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, in a speech intended, he thought, to cloak this subject rather than to elucidate it, told them that the addition to the county franchise would be only 160,000. Now he (Mr. Newdegate) had paid some attention to this subject, and was in a position to show that such a calculation was erroneous. He had heard the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) state the addition to be 200,000. Well, he had information on the subject which was also accessible to the two right hon. Gentlemen, and with the permission of the House he would state as briefly as he could the result of the inquiries which he had made. He could not by any possible calculation reduce the increase of the county constituency below 300,000. Hon. Members might say it did not matter how many men were qualified to vote or added to the constituency provided they were fit to exercise the franchise. He, however, submitted that this question of numbers was a most vital element in the consideration of a measure of this kind, because every one who knew anything of a constituency must be aware of the fact that if they aggregated numbers out of proportion to the power of property they would ultimately merge the representation of property. That was an acknowledged fact. If in any locality they created a mob of voters they would not only annul the influence of property, but, as it was exemplified in the case of Marylebone, they would reduce the constituency to such a condition that a large proportion of them would decline to exercise the franchise. This Bill had that tendency. It was called a simple measure, but he looked upon it as a bad and mischievous measure. The noble Lord introduced a Bill into the House in 1854, but the present measure did not correspond with it. In 1854 the noble Lord adopted, it was true, the principle of the enlargement of the franchise; but he did more, he proposed a change in the form of elections, by which no less than fifty-six seats in that House would be affected. The noble Lord proposed what he called a coun- 2230 terbalancing change in regard to the suffrage. He (Mr. Newdegate) believed that the delusion under which the House was then labouring as to the increase of the borough constituencies was counterbalanced by the delusion that was practised on them in respect to the increase of the county constituencies. They had some Returns before the House. One of them in particular, the most useful, had been granted on the Motion of the hon. Member for Bath, and was printed in 1859. It gave the number of persons rated to the relief of the poor of the counties beyond the limits of the boroughs, and holding tenements of rateable value from £8 to £40. That number was 787,383. According to the Return of that Session, No. 124, the rateable value was below the real value by 17.8 per cent. For the sake of convenience and calculation he had taken the difference at 20 per cent, but would make the allowance of the 3 per cent afterwards. In Return 124 of that Session it was shown that the number to be deducted as females was 20 per cent, and for males, incapacitated or unwilling to register themselves, 27 per cent, making 47 per cent. Deducting then 47 per cent from 787,383 the number remaining was 418,215 as the addition to the county constituency. The variety of the county franchise was such that it was probable that a large number of those persons were otherwise qualified. According to Return 118, Session 1859, the total number of persons assessed to the poor rate at £40 and upwards—that was, at £50 real value, was 336,078. From Return 280, Session 1854, it appeared that the occupying tenants of holdings of that value, who were on the register for that year, were 106,579. If that proportion were applied to the whole number of persons holding tenements of from£10 to £50 value, which had been previously ascertained to be 787,383, the number shown would add 249,729. Add to this 750, or 3 per cent for the difference between the 20 per cent assumed, and the difference between the rateable and the real value, and the 17 per cent stated in the Return of this Session, and the result was 250,479. But it was a known fact that among the occupiers of tenements of £50 and upwards a very large proportion of freeholds were held, and that it was much more common for them to register than for a tenancy. Therefore, upon striking an average between the results obtained between those two modes of calculation, the result of the 2231 first calculation was 418,215, and that of the second calculation 250,479; which made together 668,694, the mean result of which was 334,347. He stated fearlessly to the House that the addition to the county constituency under this Bill would be between 250,000 and 330,000 instead of 160,000, as was asserted by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary. The noble Lord (Lord John Russell) was aware that as early as 1852 his (Mr. Newdegate's) attention was turned to the subject. When the noble Lord introduced his Bill he (Mr. Newdegate) asked him what constituency he was about to create. The noble Lord then stated his inability to inform him of the number that would be enfranchised by his measure; but he was kind enough to call him out of the House, and to refer him to certain Returns which were the basis of those Returns from which he had just quoted. The origin of this Bill might be undoubtedly traced to the hon. Member for Birmingham—the hon. Gentleman who proposed to the country to deal most liberally with the principle of enfranchisement and disfranchisement, and talked of adding seventy Members to the House. But he did not intend to let the majority of the county population have any more representatives than they had at present. With the permission of the House, he would state the circumstances of the case at present. The representation of England and Wales, under the Reform Act of 1832, according to the Census of 1857, was as follows:—
The Members numbered 159
COUNTIES. Property, annual value … £60,564,288 Inhabited houses … 2,053,998 Population … 10,495,930
The Members numbered 337
BOROUGHS AND CITIES. Property, annual value £42,898,247 Inhabited houses 1,383,300 Population 7,431,679
Thus each county Member represented on the average 66,144 of the population; and each borough or city Member 22,052.
§ [For Table see next Column.]
§ According to the scale of property the claim of the counties was 131, according to inhabited houses 137, and according to population 131 seats. He was not about to argue the question; he wished only to state facts. In 1854 the noble Lord pro-2232
§ An equal distribution of seats would give—
|—||To Counties and Towns not returning Members to Parliament||Boroughs and Cities returning Members.||Increase to Counties and Towns not returning Members to Parliament|
|According to property||290||206||131|
|According to number of inhabited houses||296||200||137|
|According to population||291||206||131|
§ MR. BLACK moved the Adjournment of the debate.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
expressed his readiness to assent to the Motion, and observed that, as several orders stood for discussion the next day, and as it was not desirable that the debate on the Reform Bill should be resumed at the fag-end of the evening, he should suggest its Adjournment until Thursday, when he hoped it would be brought to a close. He could not help thinking that to seek to delay the progress of the Bill was hardly a worthy mode of dealing with a great question, with respect to which it was announced that no division was to be taken. If the case were otherwise, and it was proposed that the second reading of the Bill should not be acceded to, he could, of course, understand why hon. Gentlemen should desire that the debate should be prolonged.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, he thought the noble Lord acted wisely in assenting to the adjournment of the debate until Thursday. As to whether it could conveniently be brought to a close on that day, the noble Lord was, of course, as good a judge as any hon. Member on the Opposition side of the House could be supposed to be, inasmuch as those who sat on the same side as the noble Lord had hitherto taken the 2234 chief share in the discussion. The noble Lord did not, he was sure, when he spoke of delay, mean to make any personal or party allusion; but he must remind the noble Lord that he seemed altogether to misapprehend the character of a discussion which he (Mr. Disraeli) had, he believed, commenced about six weeks ago. He had then stated, for his own part, and on behalf of those with whom he acted, that they would not object to the second reading of the Bill; but in making that statement he had by no means intended to express his approval of the measure, or to give his adhesion to its principles. All he wished to imply was simply that in assenting to the second reading they were willing to consider the subject of the reconstruction of the House of Commons, and the principle on which that reconstruction should proceed. He therefore desired that the noble Lord should clearly understand that, in speaking on behalf of himself and his Friends—the noble Lord could, of course, answer for his own—he did not seek for delay, but by a full discussion of all the principles involved in the Bill so to prepare themselves to deal with a question of immense importance that when they went into Committee upon it the mind of the House and the country might be fitted to grapple with it, as it deserved, and that hon. Members might not be then compelled to launch into serious and lengthened discussions; but, having cleared the way by preliminary debate, might be enabled to proceed with greater facility than would otherwise be the case. He therefore begged the noble Lord not for one moment to imagine that delay was the object of the Conservative party, while, of course, it would be presumptuous on his part to touch upon the question of what were the wishes in the matter of the supporters of the Government. He and his friends desired, in short, not delay, but that deep and deliberate investigation of a great subject which was in accordance with the freedom of discussion by which the Parliament of England was characterized.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, he had often protested against arrangements between the two front benches as to when debates were to come forward, and he had trusted that he should be able, with the support of a great number of independent Members, to stop such an unconstitutional practice. He for one had risen several times that night in the hope of catching the Speaker's eye, but had failed in so doing. Under these 2235 circumstances he was only exercising his indisputable right as a Member of that House when he said he should use his utmost endeavours to prevent the debate from being brought to a termination until he had a full and ample opportunity of expressing to the best of his ability his opinion on the Bill; for however unimportant that opinion might be, he should be wanting in his duty to the numerous constituency which he represented if he did not express it. He hoped, therefore, that the demonstration which had taken place on a former occasion was not a mere flash in the pan, and that the front benches would not be allowed to dictate to the House in matters of this kind. The noble Lord at the head of the Government seemed to assume, in consequence of a statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire on a former evening, that there would be no division; but the noble Lord must remember that any hon. Member would have the power to divide the House on the second reading. Disclaiming entirely the right of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire to interfere with the progress of the debate, he (Mr. Bentinck) concurred to the full with the right hon. Gentleman in his observation that what the Conservative Members wanted was discussion, not delay; and it seemed to him unaccountable that the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) should object to a careful discussion of the Bill, seeing that if it had those merits which the Government said it possessed, discussion could only have the effect of making those merits apparent to the House.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, that the hon. Member who had just addressed them appeared to have mistaken his noble Friend at the head of the Government. His noble Friend had never intended the front benches to agree as to the debate coming to a close. He had only put it to the consideration of the House whether it might not think it convenient the debate should terminate on Thursday. There was a very great convenience in hon. Members knowing when a debate was likely to come to an end. Of another observation of the hon. Gentleman he must take some notice. He stated that his noble Friend had assumed from what had passed in this discussion that there was to be no division against the second reading. The debate had lasted three or four nights; and it would certainly he usual, and due in courtesy, not only to the 2236 Government, but to the House, that if any hon. Gentleman intended to divide against the second reading some notice should be given of that intention. It should be publicly known, or many hon. Members might be absent in the country, or, if in London, might stay away from the House under the conviction that no division would take place; and then a division might be taken by surprise, when least expected. This was not usual even as to Measures of minor importance, and certainly not on a Measure so important as the present Bill. The hon. Gentleman had a perfect right to express his sentiments at any length he thought proper; but, according to the practice of the House and by courtesy, if a division was to be taken, some notice of it should be given.
§ LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
said, he was glad to hear the declaration of the noble Lord, because when he had once remonstrated with the noble Lord for bringing on a Bill of 132 Clauses without notice, the noble Lord told him somewhat peremptorily that it was the duty of every hon. Member to be always in his place.
§ MR. FELLOWES
said, he, for one, protested against any understanding being entered into that the debate should close on Thursday.
§ MR. KNIGHTLEY
said, that the Government ought not to charge hon. Members with delay after they had themselves been guilty of such laches in respect of this Bill. There had only been an evening and a half's discussion of the Bill before Easter, whereas the measure might have been brought in as long ago as January. When the Government were asked the other evening whether the debate would be resumed, the noble Lord, with his usual sweet smile, assured them that it would if more important business had been disposed of—the more important business being the repeal of Sir John Barnard's Act, of which probably not one person in ten, unconnected with the Stock Exchange, had ever heard.
§ MR. VINCENT SCULLY
said, he wished to call attention to the fact that no Irish Members had yet spoken. It might be said that they had no concern in the English Bill, but there was an old proverb to the effect that when your neighbour's house was on fire it was decidedly your affair. It might be thought that they who were advocates of an extension were obliged to accept anything that was offered them for that purpose; but the Bill might possibly be opposed on the ground that a more 2237 satisfactory one might be substituted for it. As the Bill based the franchise upon the principle of population, and as it went very close to manhood suffrage, he should vote for it, thinking that the franchise could not be too much extended. But still, believing that the Bill would not satisfy the just expectations of the country, he hoped a Resolution would be passed containing a distinct protest on the part of the House against its being treated as a finality measure.
§ Debate further adjourned till Thursday