§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [19th March], "That the Bill be now read a second time."337
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, he had heard from both sides of the House a great many able speeches on this subject; and it was natural that, after listening to those speeches, he should have attended with deep interest to the observations of the noble Lord who had introduced that measure to Parliament; because he had anticipated that the noble Lord would be able in the course of his speech to adduce some more consistent reasons and some better grounds for having introduced a measure which he himself very truly said had been severely criticised by both sides of the House. But, having listened attentively to the noble Lord's speech, he must say that it appeared to him to be rather apologetic than argumentative in its tone. The noble Lord appeared to be apologising for the Bill throughout his whole speech; and so far as he (Mr. Bentinck) had been able to judge, his apologies had not met with a very gracious reception. He could not help being struck with some observations of the noble Lord to which he should now beg to call the attention of the House. The noble Lord assured them that they were entering on a discussion of this measure at a time when there was no agitation on the subject of Reform. He (Mr. Bentinck) thought he should be able to show the House that the noble Lord's only reason for introducing the crude and ill-conceived measure now before them had arisen from his own political position and his own political necessities. He was now referring to the whole connection of the noble Lord with the subject of Reform; and he thought he should be able to show the House that the political necessities of the noble Lord had been the sole cause of the introduction of his present Reform Bill. The noble Lord, in alluding to some matters brought under the notice of the House on a previous evening by the lion, and learned Gentleman the Member for Marylebone (Mr. E. James), said that the statistical blunders of the hon. and learned Gentleman were perfectly ridiculous. That was not a very gracious remark; but since the noble Lord had adopted that tone in speaking of the observations of hon. Members of that House, he should like to ask the noble Lord, who was so well versed in the history of his country, whether, in the diplomatic records of Great Britain, there might not be found some errors that would come under that denomination? He (Mr. 338 Bentinck) differed very much from the views taken by the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone on political subjects; but the hon. and learned Gentleman had this advantage over the noble Lord, that he had dealt with this question in a straightforward manner, and had fairly told the House what his objections to the measure were. He was so much struck with his frankness on the occasion that he was very much disposed to think that the production of a Reform Bill and the conduct of the Foreign Affairs of the country might be safer in the hands of the hon. and learned Gentleman than in those of the noble Lord; and no injury would be likely to accrue to any one in the event of such a transfer, for the distinguished gallantry which characterized the noble Lord would, in case of necessity, prompt him to undertake the multifarious professional duties which were now discharged by the hon. and learned Gentleman. There was one remark, however, of the hon. and learned Gentleman which savoured of the modest assurance which was acquired in that learned profession of which the hon. Gentleman was so distinguished a Member. The hon. and learned Gentleman spoke of a gentleman (Mr. Croker) who had taken a leading part in the debates on the Bill of 1832, as one who had never "breathed the free atmosphere of a Liberal constituency." Had the hon. and learned Gentleman allowed Gloucester and Wakefield and other boroughs to escape from his mind's eye when he was making that remark? The hon. and learned Gentleman had, however, been more correct in his criticism of the statistics put forth by the Government as the basis of their scheme. The hon. and learned Gentleman had in the course of his speech referred to the great errors which he said existed in the statistical Returns furnished to the Government from the borough of Ashton; and he (Mr. Bentinck) understood his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. M. Gibson), who represented that borough, to deny the statement, and to maintain the accuracy of those statistics. As there was such a considerable discrepancy between the two statements, he (Mr. Bentinck) had since taken some pains to ascertain what was the real state of the case, and the conclusion at which he had been able to arrive was, that the hon. and learned Gentleman was entirely accurate, and his right hon. Friend entirely wrong, there being an error of about 2,000 voters in the Government 339 Returns. He had had put into his hands a statement on the subject of the Government statistics, which he would ask the permission of the House to read. The hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Blight) had defended those statistics, and quoted the town of Rochdale, with which he was connected, in corroboration of their correctness. He (Mr. Bentinck) held in his hand a letter from a gentleman in that town named Peter Johnson, who was no doubt known to the hon. Member. The writer requested that the information which he communicated might be put into the hands of some hon. Member. It had been given to him, and he asked the attention of the House while he read the letter.— Mr. Johnson said, "Mr. Blight is reported to have said in the House of Commons"—
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, it was not in order to read anything which referred to a debate which had taken place in the House.
§ MR. BENTINCK
would suppose then that some hon. Gentleman had made a statement, with respect to the borough of Rochdale, and that some gentleman in Rochdale had thought proper to answer it. He would further suppose that the gentleman so answering it had used words to this effect: "The Member in the House who adverted to this subject is represented to have said that he had inquired in Rochdale and other places"—
§ MR. SPEAKER
again interposed, and said the hon. Gentleman could not read a letter referring to debates in that House.
§ MR. BENTINCK
would of course bow to the decision of the Speaker, and confine himself to a statement. It had been stated by an hon. Member in the course of that debate—he (Mr. Bentinck) made this statement on his own authority—that he had made inquiries in Rochdale and other places as to the Returns made to the Government in giving the number of persons likely to be placed on the registry by the £6 franchise, and these Returns were accurate. Now his (Mr. Bentinck's) information enabled him to go to the rate-book belonging to the corporation of Rochdale, and he therein found that the number of persons rated at £6 and under £10 by the overseers was very much understated in the Government Returns. The information which he had received showed that the increase in the number of voters from the reduction of the franchise would be 3480, while the Government Returns only gave 1746. Those discrepancies arose from the mode in which the overseers prepared their 340 Returns. They made the gross rental of the borough amount to £110,096, while the corporation valuation made it amount to £124,762, being a difference of upwards of £14,000; and he took it for granted that parties did not pay for any larger sum than they were receiving. While speaking of the borough of Rochdale, he would ask the hon. Member for Birmingham how it happened that he had so much more confidence in the working people than they had in him; for nearly all his carpet weavers were now on strike in consequence of a reduction of their wages. Much had been said in the course of this debate about discontent among the working classes. He must express his opinion that when there was that discontent it arose from the systematic agitation of those who were desirous of making political capital out of popular discontent. The noble Lord said that the general frame of the Constitution would not be changed by the measure, He did not exactly know what the noble I Lord meant by "the frame of the Constitution;" but if the balance of power amongst parties would be destroyed by a measure he must suppose that the measure would do material damage to the frame of the Constitution. The noble Lord had said, speaking of the occurrences in this country some years back, that the French Revolution of 1830 had stimulated the feeling for Reform in England. It appeared to him that the observation of the noble Lord amounted to this—that "Reform" and "Revolution" were convertible terms, and that when they heard a cry for Reform they must presume that there was nothing but a revolutionary feeling in the country. He did not hold with the idea, but it seemed to result from the proposition of the noble Lord. The noble Lord had also referred to the proceedings at Nottingham during the Reform agitation. Now he (Mr. Bentinck) happened to be residing near Nottingham at the time of the Reform riots, and the house in which he was staying was one of those which it was thought necessary to defend against the attacks of those gentlemen who were supposed to be carrying out the views held by the noble Lord:—at least the noble Lord and the Government of the day were very much misrepresented and maligned at that time if the language which they held did not go a long way towards encouraging and stimulating those practices. If it did not, the history of that day had maligned them extremely. The noble Lord always endea- 341 voured to impress on the House that any measure of Reform, however crude, must be passed. His argument seemed to be— "This is a measure of Reform: at your peril pass it." The noble Lord, when malting this speech on Reform, always reminded the House that Nottingham Castle was burnt, and that there was a great fire at Bristol. He reminded him (Mr. Bentinck) of a very old story which he had heard in his youth. A boatswain of the old school was at one time serving on board of a ship, the captain of which, a right-minded man, had strictly prohibited swearing and all strong language. The boatswain found himself unable to convey his meaning without the expletives which he thought gave strength to his words, but being debarred from using them, his practice was to go up to a culprit and say to him, "Bless your little eyes—you knows what I mean." It appeared to him (Mr. Bentinck) that the noble Lord in dealing with the opponents of any of his projects of Reform, emulated the custom of the old-fashioned boatswain. He always treated the subject of Reform as if he were apprehensive of some unfortunate results from a too close investigation of it. He always reverted to that subject as a sort of caution to the opposite side of the House, not to oppose any measure of Reform, lest the opposition should lead to these unfortunate consequences. Then the noble Lord was very fond of harping upon one particular point, what he was pleased to term "the settlement of this great question." He (Mr. Bentinck) admitted that if it were possible to settle this question, and to avoid the recurrence in future Sessions of such a stoppage of business as had taken place in this discussion of the present Reform Bill, it would be most desirable for the House and for the country; but he would ask the noble Lord on what possible ground he entertained the slightest hope of settling it by the Bill now before the House? He (Mr. Bentinck) had with him an extract from the Report of a Parliamentary Reform meeting which took place a short time ago at Manchester, which showed, in the first place, in most unmistakeable language, the estimation in which that measure and that Cabinet were regarded by the distinguished persons who took part in that demonstration. The chairman who presided at this meeting said he was well inclined towards the present Government. This was a somewhat mild phrase. He then went on to say that with Cobden as 342 Plenipotentiary of Foreign Affairs, Bright taking the outdoor department, and Gibson the inside, the firm was doing a roaring trade. Then as to the settlement of the question, the meeting passed a resolution to the effect that no measure of Parliamentary Reform could be satisfactory which did not confer the franchise on every male person rated in boroughs to the relief of the poor, and which did not more equally distribute the constituencies, and give the voter the protection of the ballot; that the Bill now before the House could only be regarded as an instalment of the long denied rights of the people, and as such they hoped that it would be adopted during the present Session of Parliament. It was evident therefore that the Manchester reformers who supported this measure did so, not as a settlement of the question, but as a stepping-stone to further changes in the constitution; and what the House had to do was not to ascertain how they were to settle this question but a great deal more. He was not arguing against all change, all reform; but in dealing with the noble Lord's Bill what they had to consider was not how they could settle the question, or whether they could settle it, but what was the point, in the democratic direction, beyond which the House would proceed no further. Because if the House did not take that position now they were doing that which would next year, almost before the ink of the present Bill was dry, lead to further discussion on a further measure of what was called reform. The noble Lord had made a most candid statement. He said that the Government proposed to lower the franchise in a way which they thought would effect the object in view. He (Mr. Bentinck) had no doubt that that statement was perfectly correct. But what was that object? He presumed, pretty much what it was in 1832—to give a longer tenure of office to a party who found it somewhat difficult to retain their power without the movement. He (Mr. Bentinck) was not prepared to say that he was opposed to all reform; he had, however, always looked to the Reform Bill of 1832 as having been brought forward more in the spirit of party than with a sincere desire to promote a real reform in the representation; and he was anxious to see such a reform as should give a fair amount of representation to every class of the population, and remove those anomalies and that injustice which at present he thought existed under the operation of the Bill of 1832, and which he 343 should presently prove did exist. How did this Bill originate? The noble Lord abandoned the principle of finality for which he, at one time, so stoutly contended; and it was tolerably easy to trace the real cause and foundation of all his various Reform Bills. It appeared that the noble Lord, up to a certain time, was prepared to abide by the measure of 1832; and it was only when he found himself in political difficulties, and that his Government was likely to be removed from office, that he thought it advisable to reopen the question of Reform. All his Bills had been based on entirely different principles. They had all been framed to meet the circumstances of the moment, not the wants of the representation. How did the noble Lord reopen the question? He (Mr. Bentinck) had always been under the impression that when a great measure, especially one embodying organic changes in the constitution, was propounded to Parliament by a Government, it was first made the subject of grave and serious consideration before an assembled Cabinet, and that it was only after that consideration, and when every Member of the Cabinet was perfectly aware of the measure, that it was brought forward. But what was the course taken by the noble Lord in 1852? He brought in his measure of reform without having communicated with a single member of the Cabinet on the subject.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
here intimated his dissent, and was understood to add that he gave notice of the measure.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, he made the statement on the authority of a Member of the then Government of the noble Lord. The noble Lord said he gave notice of the measure; but whether he gave notice or not, every Member of the Cabinet the moment he brought it forward became implicated in its introduction. But was this the straightforward, and statesmanlike, and becoming manner in which a question of this kind should be treated? And if not, what conclusion could be arrived at but that the noble Lord saw himself in difficulties, and, without weighing the responsibility of a Member of a Cabinet who introduced a measure, took upon himself the responsibility of committing the Cabinet to that measure in order to relieve himself from his political difficulties. It appeared to him, then, that the noble Lord was the very last man in the House who ought to be entrusted with a measure of Reform, because the House and the country would 344 never be impressed with the idea that such measure was a measure for the reform of abuses. Any statesman introducing a measure of this kind into Parliament ought to be above suspicion as to his motives. And what was the present measure of the noble Lord? It appeared to him (Mr. Bentinck) to be hardly worthy of the name of a Reform Bill, for everything like reform was omitted from it. The noble Lord was going to enlarge the constituency, and, as a consequence, enlarge also the area of corruption. But was he not bound, before he extended the area of corruption, to make some provision against the extension of that corruption, and so to put an end to those disgraceful scenes so often described before Committees of that House? The Bill contained no provision as to registration, no extra provision as to voting; in short, there were none of the details of a Reform Bill;—and yet it was brought forward as a great measure of Reform. There was no attempt to balance the representation in this case with different classes of the community; and unless that was done—he need hardly anticipate contradiction to his assertion—if any measure did not do that it would only lead to disturbance. The noble Lord had gone on for years past enlarging on all occasions on the increased intelligence of the country. They all knew how often that particular phrase of the noble Lord had drawn applause in that House. He had always based his arguments in favour of Reform and the extension of the franchise on the increased intelligence of the country, and the increased education of the poorer classes. But what did the noble Lord now do? He introduced a Bill which professed to deal with the question solely on the ground of numbers, and without the slightest allusion to any intention to admit to the franchise any additional portion of the intelligence of the country. The great measure of Reform introduced last year by Lord Derby's Government had at least this merit—that it would have admitted every one who had a fair share of education. The noble Lord, in the Bill now before the House, made no attempt of the kind. He proposed to enfranchise a certain number of persons, and the only persons he so proposed to enfranchise were a class of men who, whatever might be their increased intelligence, at all events had had fewer chances of improving themselves than any other class in the country. It was, doubtless, their misfortune, not their fault; but the noble 345 Lord was perfectly aware that there were hundreds of thousands of persons in the country not enjoying the franchise, but whose education, and intelligence, and position in society were such as fully to qualify them to hold it. And yet he did not introduce one clement of intelligence into his Bill. The noble Lord proposed in this Bill to increase the number of the Metropolitan Members. To this he most decidedly objected; for though he wished to speak of the Metropolitan Members with the greatest possible respect, he was bound to say that, taken collectively, they were positively objectionable. These Gentlemen were always ready to support any measure for employing the national purse in the promotion of Metropolitan purposes, and he believed that if those who took an Imperial view of public questions did not carefully watch over and resist the attempts that from time to time were made, the whole of the Metropolitan expenditure would soon he paid out of the public purse. He would therefore stoutly resist the increase of Metropolitan Members. He thought that before that House proceeded to reform others, it had better begin to reform itself. They uniformly found that when a poor fellow of a voter, who knew nothing of public questions and hardly anything of the candidates for whom he was asked to vote, was proved before a Committee to have taken a £5 bribe, he was held up as a monster of corruption who should be cast out of the pale of the constitution. Now, he would suppose a case. He would assume that some great question affecting the constitution was to be brought forward by the Government— it might be, a Reform Bill. There were great differences of opinion amongst men on that subject. Well, suppose a Reform Bill to be brought forward by one Member of a Cabinet, and that the measure was opposed by some—it might be by the majority—of his colleagues; but though the majority of the Cabinet might be opposed to the details or to the principle of the measure, they might think it more advisable, in order to save the Cabinet or the Government, to assent to a Bill to which they objected. He (Mr. Bentinck) wanted to know what was the comparative difference between the poor voter who took the £5 and the distinguished statesman who received his £5,000 a year. Of course, he was not asserting that there were such men. All he could say was, that should there be any Member of a Cabinet who 346 assented to the progress of a measure of which he entirely disapproved, he did that which was ten thousand times more venal and corrupt than the poor voter who took the £5 for his vote. There was another difficulty the noble Lord would have to deal with in discussing this measure of Reform. He thought the leaders, the distinguished men on both sides of the House, had got themselves into an embarrassing position in connection with this subject; and, in his opinion, it would simplify the matter very much if they were to disfranchise the two front benches on this question and place it in more disinterested hands. Then as to the Ballot, all he would say was that it appeared to be losing ground in public opinion and in the general feeling of the country. But there was still another most important omission from the Bill. The noble Lord the Member for London, and other hon. Members, when talking of the question of Reform, would lead one to suppose that Great Britain was composed of nothing but large towns and railways, and that when they were represented, all had been done that was essential to forming a constitution; but he (Mr. Bentinck) was under the impression, borne out by figures, that the great bulk of the population and property of this country was to be found, not in the towns, or mixed up with railways, and that in dealing with the question of reform, it was a singular proposal to make that they should ignore and totally lose sight of the claims of the rural districts. This was a question upon which any measure of reform must hinge; and he would appeal in particular to Gentlemen who represented the rural districts to attend to the few remarks which he was desirous of addressing to them. By the Bill before the House the rights of the rural districts were entirely ignored; and bearing in mind the maxim, that representation and taxation were to be considered as convertible terms, he contended that every Member in that House who represented the rural districts was bound to say, "You shall proceed no further with this or any other measure of reform until you are prepared to do justice to those districts, and give to them that share in the representation to which they have shown themselves fully entitled." The only Gentleman in the House who had yet touched upon this point was his hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), who had dealt with it most ably, and he (Mr. Bentinck) cordially concurred in the views his hon. Friend had ex- 347 pressed upon the subject. His hon. Friend went at some length into the question, and cited a number of figures; but as the House had already had a very large quantity of figures before it, he was indisposed to inflict more than he could help, and he would therefore only quote one line from those which his hon. Friend had taken so much trouble to collect. Without going further into details, then, it appeared that, according to property, the rural districts of England were, by two calculations, entitled to 131 more Members than they had at present in the House; and that, by a third calculation, taken on different grounds, the balance due to them was 137 more Members. He wanted to know, therefore, if the noble Lord and his supporters were prepared to defend the grounds upon which they had thus entirely ignored the rights of the rural districts? Were the rural districts to be represented, or were they not? If they were prepared to say that they had no right to be represented in proportion to property, intelligence, industry, or loyalty, and that they were not prepared to give them their fair share, that would be an intelligible argument, and he should know on what ground to join issue with them; but if they were not prepared to take that ground, on what other ground did the noble Lord deny to the rural districts that share in the representation to which they were undoubtedly entitled? It appeared to him that one great mistake had always existed in the franchise of this country. He had always thought that the county franchise ought to be lower than the borough franchise; because the class of men resident in the rural districts who would be enfranchised by a lower qualification were better able to use the privilege and better qualified for it, than the corresponding class resident in boroughs. And he thought he could show pretty good authority upon that point. He was quite aware that it was the practice of many Members in that House, and still more of some of them when out of the House, to decry the intelligence and education of the inhabitants of the rural districts from the county gentlemen downwards, although the latter did not suffer much from attacks of the sort; but holding the opinion that he did, that the rural districts were not only entitled to their fair share of representation, upon the ground that every district ought to have its fair share, but also that if there were a preference, it ought to be given to the county over the town, he should like to quote an 348 authority that was higher than his own upon the subject, and one which hon. Gentlemen opposite would be slow to dispute. He would not willingly have raised this discussion upon the comparative intelligence and energy of the inhabitants of the rural districts as opposed to the inhabitants of the towns, but so much had been said at different times as to the utter unfitness, particularly of the lower classes in the rural districts, to exercise the franchise, as compared with the inhabitants of the towns, that it was high time to set the question at rest upon authority which hon. Members opposite could not fail to accept. That authority says:—After what are called the fine arts, and the liberal professions, however, there is perhaps no trade (speaking of agriculture) which requires so great a variety of knowledge and experience. The innumerable volumes which have been written upon it in all languages may satisfy us, that amongst the wisest and most learned nations it has never been regarded as a matter very easily understood; and from all these volumes we shall in vain attempt to collect that knowledge of its various and complicated operations which is commonly possessed even by the common farmer, how contemptuously so ever the very contemptible authors of some of them may sometimes affect to speak of him. There is scarce any common mechanic trade, on the contrary, of which all the operations may not be as completely and distinctly explained in a pamphlet of a very few pages as it is possible for words illustrated by figures to explain them. In the history of the arts, now publishing by the French Academy of Sciences, several of them are actually explained in this manner. The direction of operations, besides, which must be varied with every change of the weather, as well as with many other accidents, requires much more judgment and discretion than that of those which are always the same or very nearly the same. Not only the art of the farmers, the general direction of the operations of husbandry, but many inferior branches of country labours, require much more skill and experience than the greater part of mechanic trades. The man who works upon brass and iron works with instruments and upon materials, the temper of which is always the same or very nearly the same. But the man who ploughs the ground with a team of horses or oxen, works with instruments of which the health, strength, and temper are very different upon different occasions. The condition of the materials he works upon, too, is as variable as that of the instruments which he works with, and both required to be managed with much judgment and discretion. The common ploughman, though generally regarded as the pattern of stupidity and ignorance, is seldom defective in this judgment and discretion. His understanding being accustomed to consider a greater variety of objects is generally much superior to that of the mechanic who lives in a town, whose whole attention, from morning till night, is generally occupied in performing one or two very simple operations. How much the lower ranks of people in the country are really superior to those of the town is well known to 349 every man whom cither business or curiosity has led to converse much with both.The authority to which he had referred was no less than that of Mr. Adam Smith. Upon what ground, then, were the rights of these men to be refused, and the House asked to go on with the consideration of the Reform Bill, which entirely ignored the rights of these men? He only hoped that when the House came to the discussion of the details of the measure he should be joined by every Member in the House who represented a rural district in at once saying, until full and ample justice has been done to those districts no further progress shall be made with this measure. It appeared to him indeed a self-evident proposition that every Member for a rural district who did not take that course was distinctly betraying the interests of his constituents. There was- another point which he thought also bore strongly upon the matter, and it was a curious and an instructive fact. It appeared that the last fifty-six cases of bribery in which Members had been unseated were all cases of bribery in boroughs, whilst there was not a single case of bribery in the counties. That, too, appeared to be an argument somewhat in favour of conferring upon the rural districts their share of representation, and it ought to weigh strongly with Gentlemen opposite who were so extremely horrified at corruption and bribery. A great deal had been said about the accuracy of the statistics upon which the noble Lord had based his measure. He (Mr. Bentinck) would not go further into them than to say that the fact of inaccuracy had been so clearly established, and, what was of still more consequence, that the Census, upon which the whole Bill was founded, must necessarily, owing to the time that had elapsed since it was taken, be so inapplicable to the existing state of affairs, that it was perfect waste of time to go into the details of a scheme which rested on two sets of incorrect calculations. He contended that they ought to have such Returns before them as they could rely upon, so that when they came to consider details in Committee they should not have to commence the discussion with an inquiry whether the figures were correct or not. To attempt to deal with the proposal of the Government until accurate statistics were before them was, he repeated, a waste of time, and almost an insult to the common sense of the House. He would only further observe that the first object which 350 the House should have in view was to deal with the question without reference to party feeling. The great fault of the Reform Bill of 1832, and that which probably necessitated the reopening of the question, was that that measure was pervaded by party spirit; it was not brought forward in a spirit of fair dealing; it was introduced in a spirit of party; and he trusted the House would avoid falling again into so mischievous, and he might say, so disreputable an error. A good deal had been said about the consequences of rejecting this or any other Reform Bill. The noble Lord the Member for London, without absolutely threatening them with the consequences, nevertheless gently hinted that the rejection of the Bill might be attended with inconvenient results; whilst the hon. Member for Birmingham, on the other hand, who was in the habit of attending large meetings of his countrymen, had told them in the plainest and most unmistakeable terms what they were to expect. He would not argue that part of the question, but it appeared to him that such suggestions were a libel upon the working classes of the country. For his part he had no such opinion of the working classes, and agreed so far with the noble Lord that he believed that popular intelligence had greatly increased within the last few years; that the diffusion of education had tended much to humanize the masses in this country; that men were not so easily worked upon and their passions aroused and excited as formerly; and upon the whole he thought too highly of the English people ever to believe that it would be possible to substitute violence for reasoning and intimidation for argument, whether such a course were suggested by hungry placemen or disappointed demagogues.
§ MR. WALTER
Sir, I am anxious, before there is an immediate risk of a "count out," to take an early opportunity of vindicating myself, as one of the occupiers of this comfortable, but, I am afraid, in the opinion of some hon. Members, not very respectable bench, from the charge which was made the other night by my hon. Friend the Member for Radnorshire (Sir J. Walsh) against those who sat upon this bench of having some ulterior objects in view in their support of this Bill, for my own part, I assure my hon. Friend I have no such ulterior views. I believe that the consequences of this Bill, if it passes, will fall very short of the expectations both of those who favour and of those who oppose 351 it. I could almost apply to it the language in which the prophet of old spoke of the idols of wood and stone—"Woe unto them, for they cannot do good, neither is it in them to do evil." I believe that the effects of the Bill will be extremely insignificant. But as an independent Member of the House, acknowledging no political leader, and depending, I may say, on myself alone for my political existence, I hope the House will bear with me for a few moments while I attempt to state, as concisely as possible, the view which I take of the present position of the country as regards this measure, and of the course which I think ought to be pursued with respect to it. I apprehend there is one question which must have occurred to every one who has thought about the matter, and that is, why is reform wanted at all? Certainly not, I should say, on account of any crying grievance which affects the working classes as such, or which could possibly be removed by legislation. There was a time, we all know, when those classes were exposed to great hardship and injustice, when they had to bear an undue share of taxation, and when the penal and other laws affected them most oppressively. In 1832 they were led to expect that they would derive great material and social advantages from the passing of the Reform Bill; and the promises then held out have been, I believe, in a great measure fulfilled, partly in consequence of legislation and partly owing to causes with which legislation has had no connection whatever. I defy any one at this moment to lay his hand upon a single grievance which affects the lower class as a class. The hon. Member for Birmingham has been engaged for a long period in endeavouring to persuade the working classes that they are paying a most inordinate and unjust proportion of the taxation of the country; and in a speech which he made, if I recollect right, last December, he challenged the disproof of his assertion that more than half the taxation of the country was borne by those classes. This question has been lately subjected to a thorough and critical investigation, and in a recent article in the Edinburgh Review it has been shown by the most minute and careful analysis that so far from the working classes having to pay an undue share of taxation, they in reality pay a smaller proportion than the upper classes of the country. Of direct taxation they pay nothing; of local taxation they pay next to nothing; and of indirect taxation it has 352 been proved as clearly as such a thing is capable of proof, that the unrepresented classes contribute £24,000,000 or only £1 a head. Therefore, as far as taxation is concerned, I cannot understand the grounds upon which these complaints were made. No doubt this House in reconsidering questions of taxation and readjusting the proportions of the general burden, has always been, and I trust will always be, disposed to turn the balance rather in favour of the working classes than against them. But the hon. Member for Birmingham, and those who join with him in advocating a great extension of direct taxation, must remember that direct taxation cannot be extended much further without being also extended much lower; and I should like to know whether the poor man who now pays his proportion of income-tax in infinitesimal instalments throughout the year would thank the Legislature for sending the tax-collector to call upon him for half a sovereign every six months. I believe that if you were to pick out a hundred average specimens of the working men of different trades in the country you would find their grievances amounted substantially to this—"A little less labour, a little more pay, and a glass of beer to drink your honour's health." So much, then, for the grievances of the working classes. Another reason which may be given why Reform is necessary is the composition of this House, which, in the opinion of some Gentlemen, would be greatly improved by a large infusion of the working classes. I do not deny that if we could obtain the services of men of superior intelligence who had risen from or still belonged to the ranks, it would contribute in many respects to the information of this assembly; but I am sure that if there were a large "infusion" of men of that class, the time of the House would be wasted in the discussions which they would raise as to the standard of wages, the relations of capital and labour, the grievances of journeymen bakers, who disliked night work, the demands of the Early Closing Association, and other questions of that kind, which did not he within the province of legislation, and their consideration would only be a waste of the time of the House. If, then, reform is not necessary for these reasons, on what ground can it be demanded? I think three principal reasons may be named. First, it is agreed on all hands, by hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House, that it is time to remove some of those anomalies which are 353 admitted to exist in the distribution of seats, and that a redistribution cannot be much longer postponed. In the next place, we are all agreed that it is quite possible to extend the franchise to a large section of the working classes without injury to the constitution. Whether the standard of the franchise shall be lowered as proposed in the Bill of the noble Lord, or whether the working classes shall be admitted by means of the fancy franchises suggested by the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, is a question rather of detail than principle. In either case the object sought to be attained is substantially the same. There is, however, at this moment a third, and perhaps a more important reason why Reform is demanded; and that is, that expectations have been held out for a great number of years back that some measure of Reform would be granted. That man would put his fingers in no little jeopardy who kept a piece of meat dangling before the nose of a dog, even when not very hungry, and requiring a good deal of poking to make him shake off his drowsiness; and I think it is dangerous to keep this question of Reform from year to year, held out as a sort of temptation to the working classes, to be withdrawn as soon as it appears to be put in a shape which enables it to be taken hold of. Another question is whether, Reform being admitted to be necessary, this is the season when it should be conceded. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Hertfordshire (Sir E. B. Lytton) has urged, as a great objection to a measure of Reform at this moment, that it necessarily involves the immediate dissolution of Parliament, which at the present time he regarded as a serious evil, when a deficit was expected in next year's Budget, and when the state of affairs was certainly not such as to leave the country entirely free from anxiety. But it does not follow as a matter of course that the passing of a Reform Bill should be immediately followed by a dissolution of Parliament. I think it would be a great crime in the Government to dissolve Parliament merely for the sake of collecting the additional amount of intelligence which would be furnished by the £6 and £10 constituents. I can see no reason why, even after the Reform Bill is passed, Parliament should not go on till some other reason should arise to require its dissolution. Then, Sir, comes the question, much more easily asked than answered, what is Reform? Does Reform mean, as its name denotes, the pulling to pieces 354 and reconstruction of the whole political machinery, or does it imply merely the removal of the decayed parts and the substitution of sounder material? I will illustrate what I mean by reference to the remark made by the chairman of one of the Manchester meetings — a gentleman whose good taste has already been commented upon when he spoke of the "roaring business" which a certain firm was doing, and of whose logic I will now give you a specimen. I allude to Mr. Wilson, who, after complaining that the House of Commons contained 400 Members connected with the aristocracy and the warlike professions, said,—Since the last Reform Bill all had changed, and progress had manifested itself to a greater extent than was ever known in the history of mankind. All had improved since then; the political machine was the only one which had remained stationary. If they lent their hands to that, they might give it breadth and principle, so that it should represent the requirements and the intelligence of the people.Now, mark the singular nature of the argument. The argument was that, because since the Reform Bill of 1832 there had been greater improvements in wellbeing, in national prosperity, in trade, commerce, and legislation than had ever been known in the history of mankind—because all that had been done and could only be done through the political machine which they possessed, therefore that machine should be pulled to pieces. Now, Sir, I have had some experience of machinery. I am the owner of machinery of various descriptions. Now, suppose the person who had the charge of my machinery came to me and said—"It is true, sir, that up to a certain period your business went on indifferently, and you experienced great difficulties; but you introduced great improvements; your business increased; you have made your fortune, and are going on swimmingly; yet some people out of doors think your machine should be tinkered, and therefore, without being able to demonstrate to you how the alterations which they suggest will be any improvement, I advise you to let me pull your machine to pieces, and put up some other of which no human being can foretell how it will answer." Should I not say, "It is very true there is certain to be wear and tear in all machinery, and machinery requires to be overlooked and overhauled, but the reasons which you have given are an argument, not for pulling it to pieces, but for keeping it together; and, unless you can prove to me 355 that some improvement will follow the alteration, I shall be cautious how I meddle with a good thing which I have already got in working order." I am not contending that no improvement is necessary, or that there is not some wear and tear in the great political machine, as well as in other inorganic machines. We all know that motion and change (perhaps I might say motion and change rather than progress) are the condition of human affairs. But those are things which require to be watched with great care and delicacy, and he is the true statesman who applies remedies which time has proved to be necessary with the least disturbance to the existing state of things and with the greatest certainty of future good. To come now to the Bill immediately before us— this child of the noble Lord's old age — which the noble Lord treats with paternal fondness, or, as some one has said, with grandfatherly affection, but which its unnatural relatives seem to look upon with unconcealed dislike. Putting aside the redistribution of seats, which does not involve a question of principle, the two main principles of this Bill are the representation of minorities and the extension of the franchise. I think the clause which gives third Members to certain constituencies is one of great importance, and I entirely concur in the object which the noble Lord has stated that the clause is intended to accomplish—namely, the representation of minorities. A great deal has been written and spoken upon the subject, and any one who has taken the trouble to read the pamphlet of Mr. Mill, and that of Mr. Hare, referred to by Mr. Mill, will have seen that of all the impracticable and impossible schemes which have ever been devised, theirs are the most impracticable. They remind me of the aphorism of Lord Bacon, that the speculations of some philosophers were like stars, which gave so little light because they were so high. If those schemes were ever so reasonable in appearance, we know from experience that they are so impracticable that it is useless to discuss them, and I believe it would be found that any proposal to accomplish this desirable object, except in a very indirect manner, would not be listened to for a moment. It is impossible to assign grounds on abstract principle for giving one, two, three, or any number of votes. The safest course is to take things as we find them, and I think that this scheme of the noble Lord to accomplish the object by an appeal 356 to the good feeling of the constituencies is likely to be a very successful and useful improvement. With regard to the extension of the franchise, I am not going to follow those Gentlemen who have spoken at great length into the much-controverted question as to the mode of rating. As far as I am concerned, I care not whether 100,000 more or less are added to the constituencies. I believe that it would make no appreciable difference whatever. The true question to determine, as it appears to me, is the degree in which those classes whom we propose to enfranchise are qualified, by their intelligence and respectability, for the privilege about to be intrusted to them. A great deal has been said about trusting the working classes, and we have been told not to be frightened at them. For my part, Sir, so far from feeling any distrust or alarm with respect to the working classes, I declare I could not go to bed in peace if I had any such fears. But we must recollect that in periods of excitement the working classes are especially liable to be misled by popular orators. If we are called upon to apply any other standard besides our own knowledge to ascertain the intelligence of the working classes, we must naturally turn to those who are assumed to be their leaders. The hon. Member for Birmingham, a most distinguished man, no Chartist or Socialist agitator, but a man who is in a position to compliment and patronize Chancellors of the Exchequer, is the acknowledged leader of the people in those places to which we are accustomed to look for demonstrations of public opinion. Let us sec what is the estimate which that hon. Gentleman forms of the intelligence of the working classes, whom it is proposed to enfranchise. The hon. Gentleman told us the other night, in the discussion on church rates, that he was a member of a sect whose religion, from his description of it, must be the essence of Christianity, as it pervaded all Christian sects. Therefore the hon. Member, of course, always speaks with a sense of responsibility and in a spirit of angelic charity, the very reverse of that quality which he attributes to his opponents. I am sorry the hon. Member has left his place, because the charge which I have to make against him is rather serious. I am not going to rake up a collection of passages from the out-door speeches of the hon. Member. If any one wishes to see the hon. Member's portrait, painted by himself, it is to be found in the last number of The National Review. I 357 am about to refer to a speech not alluded to in that Review, which I thought of great importance. I must first refer to the speech which the hon. Member made in Manchester on the 14th of February, at a meeting of the Lancashire Reformers Union, where, after telling his audience that there had been a regular trade of imposture upon the Duke of Wellington's letter to Sir John Burgoyne since 1847, the hon. Gentleman proceeded to say:—The real fact is that the Treaty has been received with great coldness among those classes from whom your representatives are chiefly chosen. They know perfectly well that if ever there grow up between England and France the commercial independence and unity which now exist between England and the United States, then it will not be in the hands of Prime Ministers or Foreign Secretaries, or diplomatists, or intriguers of any kind to provoke disunion, and ultimately bring about war between the two countries. We are threatening by this Treaty to cut down the tree in whose branches all those unclean birds are lodged; and that is precisely the reason why those whose aim in life is patronage, salary, expenditure, taxation,—that is precisely the cause why all those look coldly upon this Treaty.I suppose the hon. Gentleman must have been reading his Virgil, and was thinking of the obscenœ volucres—the harpies which gobbled up the dinner of Æneas's companions, and dirtied their table. As for the compliments to Prime Ministers, Foreign Secretaries, and diplomatists, I will leave them to answer those for themselves. Early, however, in the present month, the hon. Member went a geat deal further, in a speech at Manchester, and made charges which I think should not be passed over, but should be noticed by some one on this side if not by any one on the other side of the House. After repeating the statement made in a former speech, that the Treaty was received with a marked coolness in the House, and was opposed by a large minority of Members, the hon. Member proceeded to explain the motive of that opposition:—The real objection to the Treaty, I say, has been, for the most part, concealed. It menaces the great patrimony of the taxes. It takes away, or threatens to take away, that which has been for 170 years almost the only cause of your incessant increase of expenditure, of debt, and of taxation. It promises confidence and peace with France, instead of perpetual distrust and occasional war.Again, he says:—I have said that they are afraid that this Treaty menaces the great patrimony of the taxes upon which this great aristocratic power in your country so much depends for promotion and for income." [Cheers.]358 Do hon. Gentleman cheer that? Are we to be told that a great minority in this House opposed the treaty, not because they thought that the Apostle of free trade had been overreached to some extent by the Apostle of annexation, but because they thought it would produce the greatest blessing which could befall mankind? Did the hon. Member for Birmingham give them credit for the most diabolical motives which could influence human beings? Sir, when an hon. Member enters this House he claims to be a statesman. He cannot play the part of a demagogue and a statesman at the same time, and he has no right to go down to the great centres of population and tell the people in unmeasured terms that large numbers in the House of Commons have been actuated by motives of the grossest baseness in opposing treaties, not on account of defects which they have discovered, but because they thought those treaties would confer the greatest blessings upon mankind, and that for the sake of the beggarly pittance which the military and naval professions received in the shape of pay for their services. I will not trouble the House with any remarks upon the other topics referred to by the hon. Member for Birmingham— about his ideas of social liberty as connected with the tenure of land, or with his letter to the people of Glasgow, in which he wondered how a man could breathe in a country in which the land was monopolized by the nobility and gentry. But the hon. Member has asked whether we distrust the working classes. I say God forbid! but I certainly do distrust those who address to them such language as this. I am as little of an alarmist as any one. I think that neither property nor even life is a subject for alarm to any one who entertains a due sense of the dignity of human nature; but, so long as one has to live in this world, one would like to be governed with some regard to the principles of truth, honour, and justice; and I should rather expect to find those principles exhibited under the dictatorship of a second Cromwell than under a Government based upon the doctrines of the hon. Member for Birmingham. Sir, I have not made these remarks without considerable pain. It is painful to speak of any man in terms of reproach, still more of one with whom I have sat in Parliament for many years, and with whom I hope to sit in Parliament for many years more—most of all, of one who is so distinguished as the hon. Member for Birmingham for his prowess in the noble art of Par- 359 liamentary self-defence. But I know that my remarks are just; I feel that they are not uncalled for; and I think, from the manner in which they have been received, they will not be altogether thrown away. Sir, I have but one more remark to make before I sit down. The noble Lord, the author of this Bill, spoke feelingly the other night of the period which had elapsed since the passing of the Reform Bill of 1832, with which his name is indissolubly connected, and referred with just pride to the various measures of improvement which had been carried since the passing of that measure. It has been the noble Lord's happiness to witness the growth, maturity, and success of that great measure; but it can hardly be expected that the noble Lord will be permitted, after another similar lapse of years, to bear his testimony to the effects of the present measure. He must feel that he is committing it to the care of tutors and guardians with some degree of uncertainty and anxiety as to the result. The Bill we are now discussing, and which I hope will soon go into Committee, and pass in some shape or other, is one which will not affect the noble Lord and men of his age, but us and our posterity. Yet the noble Lord's reputation will be inseparably connected with this measure. His reputation is dear to every man in this House, whether on this side or on the benches opposite, and I therefore trust that we shall all do our best in the discussions which will follow so to improve and amend this Bill as to send it forth to the world in a shape in which it will prove, not a disgrace, but an honour to the noble Lord's name, and not a curse, but a blessing, to the country.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, that in dealing with this proposed measure of Reform the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) seemed to think that because the Reform Bill had worked well since 1832, it was necessary to subvert the Constitution it had established. The noble Lord had gone on to enumerate the various beneficial measures that had resulted from the passing of the Bill of 1832, namely, the abolition of slavery, the Commutation of Tithes, the advent of peace and plenty in the place of disturbance, and famine, the beneficial alteration and modification of the whole of our Indian empire, and so on. But surely it was competent to him to draw out an equally long catalogue of disasters that had happened since 1832, and refer them likewise to the operation of the same measure. 360 For instance, it might be said that the destruction of property of our colonists in the West Indies, the terrible rebellion in India, the Russian war, the Chartist insurrection in 1848, the Irish mortality, and the Irish exodus, and all the other calamities we had had to endure, were the results of the Bill of 1832. There was just as much common sense and sound logic in the one argument as in the other. But admitting the noble Lord's premiss to be correct, what was the logical conclusion for it? Why that they should "leave well alone;" for if they had a constitution that produced these beneficial results, why did they propose to change it? Now the noble Lord the other day was silent as to the principle of the Bill; but in his opening speech the noble Lord had dealt with the principle, if such it could be called, or chief portion of his Bill—namely, that part which related to the borough franchise, and that principle was purely arithmetical He had said, "We first took a £9 franchise, but we found it would not give us more than 30,000 or 40,000; then we took an £8 franchise, and we found that that would only give us 70,000 or 80,000 additional electors." The House would observe that it was always to quantity, never to quality, that the noble Lord looked. They then tried the £7 franchise, and that would give, they found, 122,812 additional voters. But still that was not enough to justify any alteration in the estimation of the noble Lord, so they went down to the £6 rental, and that gave the exact amount required—the golden medium—namely, 194,000 additional voters to the boroughs. The £6 franchise was therefore determined on as the basis of the new Constitution. Such was the principle, as stated by the noble Lord, of the Bill then before the House. But with reference to the figures upon which the noble Lord's calculations had proceeded the House had had an expression of the most discordant views. The hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) had said it was all nonsense to suppose that a £6 franchise would give 194,000 additional voters, for there would not be more than 162,000 from such a rental being adopted as the qualification of an elector; and a few days afterwards, to his (Lord John Manners') great astonishment, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department (Sir George Lewis) had backed up the statement of the hon. Member (Mr. Bright), and admitted the actual condition of the register would not 361 give more at that rental than 160,000 new electors. Then they had the remarkable evidence of the hon. Member for Marylebone. There was no one in that House who could presume to say whether the figures of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Marylebone were correct or not. The whole question was perfectly at sea, and the Government had been obliged, by force of argument, to consent to a Committee of the other House of Parliament, where the figures were being sifted; and until they had received the Report of that Committee he protested against proceeding with this measure, which according to the noble Lord was based upon figures and upon figures alone. But the noble Lord evidently apprehensive that in large towns his figures would fail him would seem to hove adopted the fallacious theory of his coadjutor and friend, the hon. Member for Birmingham, that the small boroughs were merely an extension of the county representation, and said that if they took all the boroughs in England under 20,000 increase in the number of voters would be found to be so insignificant that there would be no serious change in the existing constituencies. Now, he (Lord John Manners) had taken out the first six boroughs in point of population under 20,000,and six of the lowest; and what were the results as showing what the real effect of this bill would be? Shrewsbury had a constituency of 1,404; the noble Lord Calculated that be would add 834; but for reasons assigned by many hon. Gentlemen in the course of that debate, it was far more likely that the next column in the Return would show the actual number, and then the increase would be 1,043. Colchester had a constituency of 1,257. According to the noble Lord there would be added 573; but according to the more reasonable calculation, the addition would be 716. King's Lynn had 1019; according to the noble Lord it would be increased 665; but according to the more reasonable calculation, 831. Whitehaven had 571; the noble Lord said the increase would be 474; the more reasonable calculation made it 592, or more then the whole of the present constituency. Kidderminster had 487; the noble Lord said the addition would be 1,173; the more probable calculation, 1,473, added to a constituency of 487. Would the noble Lord say that was not swamping the present constituency? Canterbury had a constituency of 1564; the noble Lord said the 362 addition would be 482; the more probable calculation, 650. He then came to the six lowest boroughs; and he began with Totnes. The constituency at present was 341; the noble Lord said the addition would be 47; the more probable calculation was 59. Now, he would make the noble Lord a present of Totnes, as probably, even under his Bill, it would remain the same Whig fief as at present. Lyme Regis had a constituency of 265; the noble Lord said the increase would be 139; the more probable calculation was 174. Ashburton had a constituency of 193; the noble Lord made the increase 71; the more probable calculation, 89. Honiton had 287; the noble Lord made the increase 46, the more reasonable calculation 58. Arundel had 196; the noble Lord's increase was 80; according to the more reasonable calculation it would be 100. Was not that a considerable increase? But now, he would ask, taking whatever figures they pleased— whether those of the noble Lord, the Home Secretary, or the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone, whether there was not a preliminary question which ought to be settled before they went into these schedules and figures that had so perplexed them? The Question had as yet been neither asked nor answered;—it was this —"What are the evils and defects of the present system, and what are the remedies fit and proper for their mitigation or removal?" It was not alleged, or if alleged it was not true, that the populations of the large cities and boroughs were not fairly represented in this House as to their predominant opinions. Take the two first boroughs on the list in point of population, the Tower Hamlets and Liverpool. Would any one assert that the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Ayrton) who so ably and zealously represented the vast and varied interests, and the enormous population of the Tower Hamlets, and his hon. Friend (Mr. Horsfall) did not fairly represent the preponderating opinions of those places? This, therefore, was not the defect of the existing system. What was it then that was complained of? Why, it was, that when they came low down in the present constituencies they found the poorer voters liable to corrupting influences, and by means of Committees and Commissions they had received information of so startling and so painful a nature that it had become a scandal, and a scandal which they all thought ought to be put an end to as speedily as possible. But then he would ask what 363 effect this Bill was calculated to have in a remedial point of view. How was that Bill calculated to diminish the influences of bribery and corruption amongst the poorer classes of voters. As far as he could see the only effect would be to double and treble and even quadruple the area in which those corrupting influences might hereafter be exercised. Allusion had been made to the Bill of last year. No one could deny that that Bill, by the variety of the franchises which it proposed to confer, did tend to bring new classes within the pale of the Constitution, and infuse into the life of Parliamentary boroughs fresh and healthy elements, elements drawn from the intelligence and industry of the country, which might have had, and probably would have had a most beneficial effect in raising the general standard of electoral morality. But the Bill of the noble Lord was entirely silent upon that subject. It would not do to say "Wait until we get into Committee, and then we will make the Bill all that it ought to be;" for of course the Bill must be treated as representing the matured views of the Government on the subject. He would sum up his objections so this part of the Bill, by saying that whereas the Bill of last year sought to raise the working man to the level of a franchise easily obtainable by industry and honesty; the Bill of the noble Lord merely lowered the franchise to the level of bribery and corruption. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down repudiated the taunt of being unmindful of the claims or wishes of the working classes; he had no fear of the behaviour or the principles of the working classes, but yet he hesitated to give his support to a Bill for an indiscriminate degradation of the franchise. He (Lord John Manners) agreed with the hon. Gentleman. He did not object to the introduction of working men within what was called the pale of the Constitution, although he denied that they were excluded from it at present. Much had been said, especially by hon. Gentlemen opposite, about the ignorance of the working classes concerning the principles of political economy. He was no great political economist himself, and after what had lately happened he doubted whether the originators and authors of the French Treaty of Commerce could fairly propose to keep out the working classes upon the sole ground that they were not adepts in political economy. He did not fear the use the working classes would make of the franchise. Probably the first questions 364 which a House of Commons representing the views and wishes of working men would discuss would not be those great political changes which some Gentlemen apprehended, but questions which would come home to the hearts and interests of the working classes — questions affecting the relations between employer and employed. He did not wish to dwell on that subject, but as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham had more than once at meetings in the country made significant allusions to the present position of the working classes, and had given them some advice, he (Lord John Manners) would take the opportunity, as he was not able to go to those meetings graced by the presence of the hon. Gentleman, where he,Like Cato gave his little senate laws,And sate attentive to his own applause—as he (Lord John Manners) had no opportunity of referring, excepting through a free House of Parliament, to the arguments of the hon. Gentleman, he proposed to say a few words on the arguments which the hon. Gentleman had twice recently brought before the notice of the working people. He had said in effect to the working man, "You have at the present moment, a most important, a most influential, but I must say a most dangerous organization; the organization of your clubs and your trades unions. Believe me nothing can be more fallacious or more fatal than the object to which at present you are directing your organization. But trust to me—give me and my friends the direction of your trades unions and organizations, and then you will see what wonderful political effects I will produce for you." Now he (Lord John Manners) thought the hon. Gentleman had not found that the working classes had shown any great disposition to take his disinterested advice on that subject, and the reason was obvious. The working men of the North had memories, and they were shrewd men, and they knew perfectly well what they were about. They knew what they proposed to themselves in their organization, and in maintaining their organization. They knew the past career of the hon. Member for Birmingham, in that House, and when he came before them and said, "I am your friend. Give up the machinery of your organization by which you purpose to improve the relations between employers and employed; suffer me to divert all that machinery to the political objects I have at heart," the working men naturally said, 365 "We have watched your past career in Parliament. You were in Parliament in 1846 and 1847, when a great question to which we attached the utmost importance was brought forward—a question which had inspired our energies, and for which we had toiled and sacrificed our hard earnings for years. How did you behave when that question, to which we attached such paramount importance, was under discussion in the House of Commons?" They looked at the records of that House, and they saw that the hon. Gentleman was one of the most pertinacious of all the opponents of the Ten Hours Bill. He succeeded in defeating it by a narrow majority in 1846. It was brought forward again in 1847, and then the hon. Gentleman not only spoke against it, but acted as a teller for the small majority against the second reading of the Bill. The hon. Gentleman perhaps might answer and say, "Oh, that is an old story; that is thirteen years ago. I admit that I was then an enthusiastic political economist; but I have seen enough in the last thirteen years, to make me admit that my predictions have been falsified, and that great benefits have resulted to the manufacturing districts from that legislation to which I was opposed." But was that so? Only the other day, a month ago, there was under discussion a supplement to the Ten Hours Bill—a Measure which attracted the sympathies of the great body of the working classes whom it would peculiarly affect. No doubt the working classes would say to the hon. Gentleman, "What was your conduct on that Bill?" And the hon. Gentleman, if he condescended to answer them, must give an answer of a very remarkable character. He must say, "True it is, that I was in the House of Commons before that Bill came on; for, working men of England, there was a Bill which was to do you good by depriving the bloated Church of England of some of its revenues. I was in my place to support that Bill, and to give it my hearty and cordial support; but when the Bill relating to the sufferings of the bleachers was proposed, knowing the use I wished to make of you on the subject of Reform, I had not the courage to carry my convictions into action and vote against the second reading of the Bill, and so I absented myself from the House." Now he (Lord J. Manners) trusted the working men, with their shrewdness, would not place confidence in the hon. Gentleman, and follow his insidious and pernicious ad- 366 vice. He now came to the second portion of the Bill of the noble Lord, by which he proposed to cut down the county franchise to £10. Well, now, here again he might ask what were the evils of the present system, and how were they proposed to be remedied? [Lord J. RUSSELL: The same as in your own Bill] But their position was this, that their Bill dealt with the evils, and the only evils which the present system of representation ever had alleged against it; but the Bill of the noble Lord remedied, and was intended to remedy none. The noble Lord, in introducing his Measure, said:—During the progress of the Reform Act through this House it was decided that freehold and leasehold tenures should no longer give the sole title to a county vote; but that an occupation merely of the annual value of £50 should also confer on the occupier the right of voting. That was an obvious change on the nature of a county franchise. That claim having been sanctioned by Parliament, those who since that time have looked into the subject, with the view of amending the law, have very naturally said, 'If an occupation merely is to give a title to a vote, it should no longer be restricted to a £50 holding; the occupier of a £20 or £10 holding is as fully entitled to a vote, and would form as good a class of elecors as the occupier of a value of £50." That view of the question has been more than once adopted; in principle it was adopted by the late Government."—[3 Hansard, clvi. 2051.]But he (Lord J. Manners) took leave to say that the simple reduction of the county franchise was not the principle of the Bill of the late Government, as alleged by the noble Lord. The late Government asked itself what were the evils of the existing county franchise, and they found that they were two; first, that in some of the populous counties the freeholders resident in boroughs were likely to overwhelm entirely the voice of the purely county constituencies, and trench on the rights and privileges of the rural districts of which his hon. Friend (Mr. Newdegate) had spoken, that was the first defect. A most unfounded and unfortunate prejudice was immediately raised by the noble Lord, and those who acted with him, against that portion of the Bill, an amendment of the law in favour of which so many sincere and earnest Reformers in that House had spoken, and which was held by them to be legitimate and proper in 1832, but which was now stigmatized by the noble Lord as something unheard of in the annals of Parliamentary history. Was it pretended that by the present county franchise an opportunity was not given to the rural districts for the free expression of 367 their opinion? Nobody pretended that the counties were improperly or unfairly represented by the county Members, nor was it alleged, as in the case of the boroughs, that anything like bribery and corruption prevailed in the counties. In point of fact, the only county Member petitioned against on the ground of bribery at the last election was himself, and although the allegations of bribery and corruption were of course made, nobody who knew anything of North Leicestershire was surprised at his retaining his seat. The charges against county Members of bribery, corruption, and intimidation were confined to the platforms of Birmingham and Manchester; nobody in that House rose to repeat them. The only other defect that the late Government had to deal with was this,— that whereas a person living in a £10 house in a borough exercised the privilege of the franchise, his equal or superior in intelligence or social position residing immediately outside a Parliamentary borough, though he might reside in a £20, or £30, or £40 house, was denied that privilege. The Bill of the late Government completely cured that defect. But, he asked, did the Bill of the noble Lord cure it? It merely reduced the franchise in counties from £50 to £10, and in boroughs from £10 to £6; so that in principle and in practice the defect remained as before. The noble Lord had begun at the wrong end of the scale. He was confident that the noble Lord must feel that he had made a great mistake. His Bill perpetuated the defect, and up to the present moment there had been no indication of the intention of the noble Lord to modify that portion of the Bill in Committee. He (Lord J. Manners) had not the slightest fear of the influence which the £10 householders would exercise in county elections, but he could not submit to any very large extension of the franchise in counties without some counterpoise, which would give a security for the future character of the county representation. It was impossible for any one who was acquainted with the larger counties, not to see that, from year to year, owing to the increased wear and tear of public life, the early and late grinding in the Parliamentary mill, the increased demands upon their time and attention, there was a great and growing indisposition evinced by the country gentlemen of England to continue the part which they had hitherto borne in the public business of the country. He said, then, it was not the part of an 368 English statesman, nor consistent with the wisdom of Parliament, to do anything which could tend, by possibility, to increase that lamentable indisposition. The noble Lord continued the borough freeholders, and cut down the franchise in counties to £10. The late Government not only proposed to remove the borough freeholders to the borough, where justice demanded that their votes should be given, but they divided several of the very largest counties. Did the Bill of the noble Lord do anything of that sort? Not content with increasing the difficulties now standing in the way of county gentlemen, of ability and high position, representing their native counties, he not only added to that indisposition by this great reduction of the franchise, but compelled several of the larger and more populous counties, where the difficulty was greater, to send three Members instead of two. That brought him to that portion of the Bill which dealt with the question of the re-distribution of seats. He viewed, with the greatest distrust and dislike, the proposal of the noble Lord to add another Member to large towns and large counties. If they were to have these Unicorn seats at all, upon what principle were they to be established? Population? Hardly that; because the Tower Hamlets, which stood at the top of the list, was not to be permitted to have more than two. Would the noble Lord say that he had withheld the additional Member from the Tower Hamlets, because there was no diversity of interests to be represented? Hardly that, because there was no borough in the kingdom in which the interests were more diverse than they were in the Tower Hamlets. Perhaps it was thought unnecessary to give an additional Member to the Tower Hamlets, because, being contiguous to London, it was thought the Members for London and for Westminster, or Southwark, would look after its interests; but if that was the case, why should Manchester have three, and Salford, which was contiguous, only one? He really thought that the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets had been somewhat hardly dealt with by his noble Friend. The Tower Hamlets had the largest population, and the greatest diversity of public interests; and though it was unquestionably represented by Gentlemen of great energy and ability, its claims to a third member, if that principle were conceded, ought to be admitted; and the hon. Member was perfectly justified in asking that one or two Members should be taken from the City, 369 and added to the Tower Hamlets. These seemed some of the principal sins of commission in the noble Lord's Bill. The sins of omission in this Bill were enormous; they were past all enumeration, and they were so important and so weighty, that he confessed, when he heard the noble Lord introduce the measure, and witnessed the melancholy silence with which the dispirited colleagues of the noble Lord had listened to the dreary catalogue of stale proposals as they fell from his unimpassioned lips, he was inclined to ask himself, was this the great measure of Parliamentary Reform, the deliberate judgment of a Cabinet which arrogated to itself all the intelligence, all the Liberalism, and even all the enlightened Conservatism of the day; or was it rather the dreary, perfunctory redemption of a rash pledge, given for a party purpose? That was the impression produced on his mind when the Bill was introduced. Not a Minister spoke on that occasion, and the duty of defending the Bill was left in the hands of the hon. Member for Birmingham alone. To him and the hon. Gentleman, the Member for Rochdale, England owed the Commercial Treaty, about the effect of which the various Chambers of Commerce were now so ecstatic and so eulogistic; to him they were indebted for the defence of the cession of Savoy and Nice to our magnanimous Ally; and now he appeared as the great defender of this Reform Bill. He (Lord John Manners) thought that the time had really come when the gangway ought no longer to separate the hon. Member for Birmingham from the Government which he supported; for he it was to whom was entrusted the defence of our foreign as well as domestic policy; and therefore it was that he thought he ought to be placed in some position where he might share the honours he had earned, and answer the responsibilities he had incurred. The practical question, however, before the House was, what were they to do with the Reform Bill — how were they to treat it? It struck him that the House were very much in the position of the immortal Mr. Pickwick and his friends, when they were walking about the country with an enormously tall horse, which they did not know what to do with. There was a Gentleman in that House told them that it very much interfered with his business, which he performed as Chairman of Committees with the greatest possible urbanity and ability. He gave the House to understand the 370 other day that he had got a very nice horse-box into which he could put this very disagreeable horse until it was wanted; the House bailed the proposition with delight; but no, the noble Lord was inexorable, and would have him trotted out again; and now what were they to do with this most mischievous and unruly animal? What were they to do with the Bill? In that magnificent oration to which no reply had yet been made, and to which he ventured to say no reply would ever be made, which rendered memorable the debate of last Thursday, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hertfordshire (Sir E. Bulwer Lytton) appealed in most patriotic terms to the noble Lord to withdraw the Bill. The noble Lord spoke after him; but he could not collect from the speech of the noble Lord, that he was prepared to adopt that patriotic recommendation. He hoped the noble Lord meant to withdraw the measure; but should he insist on proceeding with it in Committee, he ventured to say that all the resources of the most distinguished statesmen, and all the qualities of mind and body that could be brought to bear upon it, would be required to carry it through, and to render it an effective reform of the Representation of the People. But what was the position of the noble Lord? Was he capable or able, however willing he might be, to devote that time and those energies to this question which its importance demanded? The noble Lord was at that moment directing the foreign affairs of this mighty empire, and at a crisis in the condition of Europe the dangers and difficulties of which no one could exaggerate. Let any one go into society, and say to the warm admirers and friends of the noble Lord, that you were disappointed with the noble Lord, because he had not managed our foreign policy with that skill and that success and vigour that was expected of him, or that you could not understand how it was that, when Members of the House of Commons brought forward statements with regard to the ambitious designs of France upon Savoy and Nice, although the Foreign Secretary was constantly receiving despatches on the matter from our Ambassador at Paris, he seemed to be entirely ignorant of the nature of those important communications or most culpably indifferent to them. "Oh," replied his friends, "don't be so unjust; at that moment the noble Lord was deep in the mysteries of the Reform Bill, in the consideration of £5 and 371 £6 franchises, removing the scruples of reluctant colleagues, and, in short, was doing that which would send down his name to posterity as the greatest reformer of the age." But, on the other hand, if any one complained to the friends of the noble Lord that he had not produced such a Bill as the House and the country had a right to expect, their answer was "Don't be so unjust; could you expect that the noble Lord was able to pay attention to questions about the franchise when he had in his hands the management of the whole affairs of Europe, and had to penetrate the designs of ambitious monarchs and restrain the fury of undisciplined peoples?" He did not mean to quote the description of the noble Lord given by a facetious Canon, but it was hardly a metaphor to say that the noble Lord had exceeded even the anticipations of his reverend friend and was undertaking the operation of cutting for the stone and commanding the Channel fleet at one and the same moment, for he was cutting and carving and slashing at the vitals of the Constitution of England, and at the same time was directing, not the movements of the Channel fleet only, but of all the fleets of England over the globe. It was plain to him that the noble Lord was overtasked, and could not properly perform the double duty which he had undertaken to discharge. He could not properly and successfully be engaged in remodelling the Constitution of the country and managing the foreign affairs of a mighty empire in the present condition of Europe at one and the same time. The consequence was that the want of success in his foreign policy was excused by his attention to domestic concerns, and the failure of the noble Lord in domestic concerns was explained by the time and attention which he was obliged to give to foreign affairs. He trusted that the noble Lord would make a selection between resigning the seals of the Foreign Office or shelving this unfortunate Reform Bill. He must confess he would far rather see the noble Lord holding the seals of the Foreign Office, because, though he had little confidence in his skill as a diplomatist, he had confidence in his generous English sentiments, though he greatly doubted whether those sentiments were shared by some of his colleagues. At all events it was plain that the noble Lord must take one course or other, or it was clear that the nation must expect a failure in our foreign policy, and a miserable abortion in the shape of a 372 Reform Bill. Would the country blame the noble Lord if he adopted the course now recommended to him of withdrawing this Bill? He believed that the country would not blame him or the Government; he was certain that on that side of the House no taunt, no insinuation would be heard against the noble Lord if he adopted such a course. It would be the patriotic course; and on that side of the House he was safe from all reproach. But would the country blame him? The country was not so apathetic as some pretended on the subject; it was not so eager as the hon. Member for Birmingham believed. But the country was anxious lest, through want of consideration or through prejudice or party feeling, an ill-considered and fatal change should pass over those institutions which had so long reconciled liberty with order and blended into one harmonious whole the various classes of an ancient and illustrious community. Let us, then, he said, respect that just and noble apprehension, and let us cease to present the startling spectacle of a reluctant Parliament forcing on a still more reluctant people, legislation so devoid of merit, so full of errors, and so fraught with danger to the institutions of the country.
§ MR. HODGKINSON
said, the debate was well nigh exhausted, as was proved by the variety of extraneous topics upon which succeeding speakers had enlarged. The noble Lord who had just sat down (Lord John Manners) had treated of the Ten Hours Bill, the Bleaching Bill, the builders' strike, and the manner in which the noble Lord the Member for London conducted the foreign affairs of this country, topics which seemed to have very little connection with the Bill before the House. Indeed, if a stranger were introduced into the House he would suppose from the constant allusions to the hon. Member for Birmingham that he was the chief occupant of the Treasury Bench, and that the House was engaged in discussing a vote of want of confidence in him; and if he were told that the object of all their vituperation was a Reform Bill, he would imagine that it was not the mild and temperate measure of reform introduced by the noble Lord that they were discussing, but that the measure they were deliberating upon was the other Bill promulgated to the country by the hon. Member for Birmingham, sixteen months ago, but which from a wise discretion had not been brought before the House. Something had been said 373 of the great power possessed by the industrial classes through the means of their great organization, as shown by the recent strike, which, it was said, made it dangerous to intrust them with the franchise. But there was no analogy between the builders' strike and the exercise of electoral privileges from which it could be inferred that the organization in question could be made applicable to political purposes. It was to be expected that the working classes would agree upon a question involving the subject of wages and the hours of labour; but it was by no means so clear that they would agree upon political questions in which their interests were not so direct and immediate. Hon. Members on his (the Ministerial) side of the House were told that they supported the present Bill, not because it was in accordance with their convictions, but because they were impelled by pledges delivered on the hustings at the last election. He repudiated such motives, and it seemed to him that this argument was inconsistent with another argument which had been made use of by hon. Gentlemen opposite, that there was an apathy in the country on the question, and there was no desire for reform out of doors. If that was so where was the pressure from without upon them, and what had Liberal Members to fear when they went to the hustings by-and-by?" There was not after all so wide a difference between hon. Gentlemen opposite and those on his side of the House. The substantial difference between them limited itself pretty nearly to two points— the reduction of the borough franchise from £10 to £6, and the omission from the present Bill of the fancy franchises included in the Bill of the late Government. However much hon. Gentlemen might object to the reduction of the borough franchise, they can hardly be surprised that it should form an ingredient in any Bill to be introduced by the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell); for was it not the fact that the reduction of the borough franchise was the very rock upon which the Bill of the late Government was wrecked? Was not the country appealed to in consequence? And if there was one real intelligible issue before the country at the last election was it not with reference to this very point? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, in the speech he made upon the vote of want of confidence last Session had himself described the answer made to that appeal, and admitted dis- 374 tinctly that the country was against him, on the subject of the borough franchise. The right hon. Gentleman said—The question of the borough franchise must be dealt with, and it must be dealt with too with reference to the introduction of the working classes. We admit that that has been the opinion of Parliament, and that it has been the opinion of the country, as shown by the Gentlemen who have been returned to this House. We cannot be blind to that result. We do not wish to be blind to it. We have no prejudice against the proposition. All we want is to assure ourselves that any measure we bring forward is required by the public necessities, and will be sanctioned by public approbation and support; and therefore we are perfectly prepared to deal with the question of the borough franchise and the introduction of the working classes by lowering the franchise in boroughs, and by acting in that direction with sincerity, because as I ventured to observe in the debate upon our measure, if you intend to admit the working classes to the franchise by lowering the suffrage in boroughs, you must not keep the promise to the ear and break it to the hope."— [3 Hansard, cliv. 139.]If the words of the right hon. Gentleman meant anything, they meant that if he had been spared for another Session to sit on the Treasury benches, he was prepared so to lower the franchise as to admit the working classes to such an extent as not to "keep the word of promise to the ear and break it to the hope." The hon. Member who, in last Session, moved the Address in Answer to Her Majesty's Speech likewise stated that the Ministry had shown a wise discretion in announcing that their measure of Reform would be considered in the next Session, and that he had reason to believe that it would propose a diminution of the borough franchise. Those who enjoyed a power or privilege were not usually predisposed to dilute that power or privilege by extending it to others, it must therefore be regarded as conclusive evidence of the strong claims of the working classes to the franchise, that at the recent general election, the existing constituencies evinced their willingness to concede it to them. Hon. Members who affirmed that there was apathy out of doors on the subject of reform assumed that which all recent experience had disproved. People were not usually noisy and clamorous in asking for the fulfilment of a pledge, the non-fulfilment of which they had no reason to expect. On both sides of the House reform had been promised—a substantial measure of reform, which would admit the working classes to a large share of the franchise, had been promised, both by those who occupied the Ministerial benches, 375 and those who should occupy the Opposition benches if they were present. Why, then, should the people out of doors doubt that such pledges would be honestly fulfilled? If, however, the House should be induced to reject this measure of reform, or so to limit its provisions as to lead the people to believe that the promises which had been made to the ear were to be broken to the hope, then he believed the tone of the people out of doors would be changed; and, although he felt satisfied it never would exceed constitutional bounds, yet it would suffice to convince those who believed them apathetic how mistaken they had been in entertaining such a belief. It seemed to have been assumed by those who opposed the Bill, that the admission of the working classes to the franchise was an experiment of a perfectly novel character. It might be some consideration to hon. Members, whose respect for our institutions were almost in proportion to their antiquity, to be reminded that the Bill, so far as reducing the borough franchise from £10 to £6 was concerned, gave but a partial restoration of many of the boroughs to their ancient rights. He was one of the representatives of a borough (Newark) which was a type of a class, and in which, prior to the last Reform Bill, there were upwards of 1,600 electors. The effect of the Reform Bill had been to reduce the electors of that borough to less than half that number. He did not allude to the freemen, but to those who bore scot-and-lot, and who then enjoyed the franchise. The effect of the present Bill would be to increase the constituency again to something over 1,000. Had the privilege of the franchise been abused in that borough prior to the last Reform Bill? On the contrary, it was not within the memory of the oldest man living that any petition had ever been presented to the House charging that borough with bribery and corruption. The hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Peacocke) had alluded to the borough of Newark as an illustration of the advantage of a small constituency, because it had had the judgment to introduce into Parliament such men as the present Chancellor of the Exchequer and the noble Lord who had last spoken. A third might have been added to the list, the late Lord Chancellor Truro. But although the fact was used as an argument in favour of small boroughs, the hon. Member who employed it had mistaken his mark, for when he (Mr. Hodgkinson) told the House that 376 the introduction of the three Statesmen he had named took place before the constituency became reduced to its present limits— he believed two of them were returned when the constituency was between 1,400 and 1,500—it could hardly be said that that was a case to be quoted in favour of small boroughs, although it might be quoted as an instance of the judicious selections which were made by a constituency, of which a large part belonged to that very class in-ended to be restored to the franchise by the present Bill. With regard to what were called "fancy franchises," he could not help thinking that the lodger franchise, the payment of direct taxation, and some of the franchises embodied in the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Buckinghamshire, might with advantage be added to the present Bill. The lodger franchise would certainly add a large number of intelligent, well-educated men to the constituency, and, if proposed in Committee, he should give it his support. He hoped, however, that the House would speedily pass to the second reading of the Bill, and not disappoint the just expectations of the country.
§ MR. HOPWOOD
expressed his belief that general apathy did prevail in regard to the question of reform. A tolerably correct estimate of the amount of interest excited by any public measure might be formed from the number of petitions presented concerning it, and he found, from a statement in The Times, that while 3,330 petitions, with 211,262 signatures, were presented with reference to the wine licences, and 10,986 petitions, with 794,045 signatures, with reference to church rates, only 96 petitions, with 33,756 signatures, had been presented with regard to Parliamentary Reform. This, he submitted, showed that great apathy existed on the subject of Reform. He believed that if the country were polled, the great majority of the people would be opposed to a measure of this kind. In the agricultural districts he had been hardly able to discover an individual who wanted reform; and speaking of Lancashire, he knew that in Burnley, which was one of the new boroughs to be enfranchised by the Bill, they cared very little about it indeed; on the contrary, they said it would be the worst thing that could happen to the town to have the privilege of returning a Member conferred upon it, because a contested election gave rise to so much bitter political feeling; in short, that they were happier 377 without representatives than they would be with them. The hon. Member for Birmingham had pointed to the fact that when he was last at Manchester 7,000 persons came to listen to him, as proof that there was a demand for reform; but surely 7,000 persons out of a population of 400,000 were but a very small proportion, and no doubt as many would have assembled to hear the right hon. Member for Bucks, or the right hon. Baronet the Member for Herts, had either of those Gentlemen gone down to address them. The fact was, that it was holiday time, and the people had nothing better to do than listen to an animated and energetic speech from the Member for Birmingham. That hon. Member had also stated that he had gone through a large warehouse in Manchester, where be saw a quantity of goods of various fabrics, the produce of the ingenuity of the working men, who, he complained, had not a voice in the election of the Members of this House. He (Mr. Hopwood) contended that it was not these men exclusively who manufactured the goods, which were the produce lather of the ingenuity, the thought, and the care of their superiors. It might as well be said, with respect to the Reform Bill, that the men who printed it had no votes; but the Bill itself had been prepared, not by the men who printed it, but, he was sorry to say, by the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary, in redemption of an unfortunate pledge, and to gratify the prejudices of Gentlemen below the gangway. It appeared to him that Governments in the present day were becoming mere delegates of a certain section of the House. To secure the support of the Members for Birmingham, Tavistock, and Swansea, noble Lords on the Treasury bench chose to outbid right hon. Gentlemen on that, the Opposition, side of the House. If they wanted anything they had only to ask for it, arid if possible it was yielded. Our foreign diplomacy was managed by the hon. Member for Rochdale, whose absence from the House he (Mr. Hopwood) deplored, although, no doubt, Her Majesty's Ministers were glad of it, because possibly some ugly questions might have been put to him had he happened to be present. He regretted the even balance of parties, because it begot insincerity in public men. In his opinion, the time had arrived when the only method of forming a strong Government was by an admixture of the Conservative element on both sides of the House. If that were the case, he believed that we 378 should see better measures introduced; that Government would not succumb to the anti-church rate agitation; and that there would be no question raised about Parliamentary Reform. The differences between the Conservative portion of the Ministerial party and the Opposition were now mere matters of history; they no longer existed in reality; and it was only with the view of obtaining the support of Gentlemen below the gangway that many measures had been introduced and pressed forward through the House in the past and present Session. As this Bill had been brought in, however, they might as well have had a good one, and if the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary was the author of it, he must endorse the opinion that the noble Lord was the most overrated Statesman that had ever sat high in public office. There was plenty of time to have prepared it in, as well as ample experience on the part of the Government. He must, however, submit that, as far as the present Parliament was concerned, it had performed its duties well, and that it would be unwise to kill the bird that had laid the golden egg. But it was difficult to find any one who spoke in favour of the present measure. Indeed, it was apologised for by the noble Lord himself when he brought it in, for its unpretending character, although they were now told that it was most democratic in its provisions. It had not been well and maturely considered, and he believed that if an Amendment were put, that it did not satisfy the just expectations of the people, it would receive the support of every honest man in the House. It contained no provision for registration or for new polling places. It made no attempt to protect the exercise of the franchise by means of a system of voting papers or otherwise. It omitted to introduce a lodger franchise. It failed to admit a certain amount of intelligence to counter-balance the £6 voters, and it left the present boundaries of boroughs untouched, although no one could doubt that they required revision and extension, owing to the increase which had taken place in buildings and population since the year 1832. The present system of employing agents at elections was admitted on all hands to be most mischievous and he thought that the disfranchisement of beerhouses would be an excellent thing. He disapproved also of the practice of canvassing. He did not think that it was a good thing at all for Members or paid agents to go about 379 canvassing the electors. Let hon. Gentlemen content themselves with getting on the platform and making speeches, and cease any longer to resort to a practice which was prejudicial to the morality of the country, and lay at the very foundation of all the bribery and corruption of which they heard so many complaints. Again, he would ask why should four brick walls be the only test of fitness for the possession of the franchise in boroughs? Why-did they give the vote to the house and not to the man? This, too, was a subject which might well be considered. Were there no other means of conferring the franchise? Had not the people who paid income tax some right to be represented in this House? The noble Lord, had he chosen, might have brought in a Bill that would have rendered his name illustrious in the annals of the country, but instead of that he had prepared a measure about which one-half of his own colleagues on the Treasury Bench cared nothing whatever. Their only care, indeed, was as to on which side of the House they should sit. What be wanted to see was, not the franchise lowered to the man, but the man raised to the franchise. The noble Lord and the Member for Birmingham used the term "working classes" in a very different sense. The working man of whom the noble Lord spoke was the artisan who devoted his time, talent, and energy, to raising himself in the social scale; whereas the working man of the hon. Member for Birmingham was a mere mechanic, who stood behind a machine, was acted upon by all kinds of influences, was the creature of impulse, and peculiarly open to bribery and corruption. The working man of the noble Lord and the working man of the hon. Member for Birmingham were, therefore, totally different persons. He saw the hon. Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe) sitting opposite. That hon. Gentleman was a Member of the Government, but seeing the reception which he had once met with from the working men of Kidderminster, he presumed he was not very anxious to entrust the franchise to such hands. Then at Sheffield, too, he understood that the master-manufacturers were not desirous that so much power should be given to the working classes. Indeed, he had heard reports that a short time ago, in consequence of a disagreement with their masters concerning the introduction of machinery, or something of the sort, the workpeople took the matter into their own hands, went to the 380 manufactories, and attempted to set them on fire by throwing vitriol and other combustibles about the premises. The magistrates were applied to, but they dared not take notice of it lest a riot might have been the result, and subsequently he understood the matter was laid before the Home Secretary. How it ended he did not know; he spoke only from what he had heard reported on the subject. He believed that if the Bill were to go into Committee, it would be met by such a volley of Amendments that it would be impossible to pass it in the present Session. The Bill had disappointed the just expectations of the country, the people were disgusted with it, and he hoped that the Ministers would gratify the wishes of many even of their own friends by withdrawing such an imperfect and unsatisfactory measure.
§ MR. CAIRD
said, that when he heard the observations which had been made by the hon. Member who had just sat down, but more especially of those of the noble Lord the Member for Leicestershire (Lord John Manners), with regard to the hon. Member for Birmingham, he was at first sorry that that hon. Member, having already spoken in the debate, was thereby prevented from defending himself; but when he reflected on the public spirit and political disinterestedness of his hon. Friend, he then felt that no defence was really required, He would therefore turn to the speech of the right hon. Member for Herts (Sir E.B. Lytton) which he thought more brilliant than conclusive. It rested mainly on the proposition that if one class should predominate over any other class, the common interest was gone. Now, it was on that very ground that he supported the Bill of the Government, as it was his belief that the working men were not only predominated over in the present constituency, but could hardly be said to be recognized in it at all. He would readily grant all the conclusions of the right hon. Gentleman, if the result of this Bill should be to reverse the present system, and to give to one class, and that the lowest, the predominance. But he should endeavour to prove that no such result would ensue, and, unless the Bill of the Government had been framed with the very object of admitting a due proportion of the working classes to the franchise, it would not have had his support. It was conceded on all sides that the exclusion of the working classes was the main defect of the first Reform Bill. 381 Would this Bill afford a safe remedy for that defect? He should endeavour to show that it would. And first, as to the extent of the change—from the Census Returns of 1851 —it appeared that there were 4,800,000 inhabited houses in the United Kingdom, and as the present constituency numbered about 1,200,000 there was thus one elector for every four households in the country. The Secretary for the Home Department, who had the best means of knowing, estimated an addition of 400,000 at the utmost, as the effect of this Bill. That would give one elector for every three households in place of one in four; and that being the extent of the change it could not be deemed either sweeping or dangerous. It was not only very far short of universal suffrage, but it was also very far short of household suffrage, inasmuch as only 1,600,000 householders would be admitted, while upwards of 3,200,000 would still be excluded. He agreed with the right hon. Baronet that in the next thirty years large numbers of those still excluded would gradually come in; but that was a result which ought naturally to flow from increasing prosperity and intelligence. An illustration of the effect of such a change as would be made by this Bill might be found in Scotland and Ireland. One man in twenty of the whole population in England at present had a vote, one in thirty in Scotland, and one in thirty-four in Ireland. On the two latter countries the addition made to the constituency by this Bill would be to give to Scotland and Ireland the same proportion of electors to population—namely, one in twenty—as had been with perfect safety enjoyed by England for the last thirty years. During all that time the franchise, though equal in name, was practically one-third more democratic in England than in the sister kingdom, and yet no one would charge English Members with any special leaning to democracy. But let them take another view. Assuming that the whole of the present voters were above the class of working men, and even admitting for a moment that the whole of the new constituency would be of that class, there would still be more than three to one against the latter. Not only was there no proof, however, of the new constituency being solely composed of the working class, but he would be able to show that the proof was the other way. The Return from the city of Edinburgh, which he held in his hand, would satisfactorily dispose of another objection that had 382 been raised by the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, namely, the monotonous character of the new constituency. This Return, which was attested by the assessor for Edinburgh, and the particulars of which had been collected by him with great care, furnished information regarding the occupations and pursuits of the people of every class, down to the poorest, such as had not before been exhibited in a form so full and complete. It was shown by it that, instead of monotony in their pursuits, the new constituency followed 174 separate occupations. The population of Edinburgh was at present about 180,000, and the male householders were 22,058. Of these about 8,000 were occupiers of £10 houses and upwards. By the £6 franchise about 4,000 would be added, but upwards of 10,000 householders in Edinburgh would still be excluded; so that if Edinburgh were to be taken as a tolerably fair example of the general result of the new Bill among large populations, not metropolitan, it appeared that no such sweeping changes as had been attributed to it would be effected by this Bill. He would quote some figures from the Return which he thought would be of interest to the House. Of the new constituency, that is of those between £6 and £10, nearly three-fourths were of the working class, skilled artisans chiefly, the remaining fourth comprising the same classes as now possessed the £10 franchise. Of mere labourers there would be but a fortieth part of the new constituency, and less than 100th part of the whole body of electors. Among those to be enfranchised there would be 33 agents, 2 architects, 12 artists, 10 booksellers, 34 bakers, 111 clerks, 31 commercial travellers, 15 engravers, 14 drapers, 61 Government officials, 14 inspectors, 11 lithographers, 11 missionaries, 3 naval and military officers, 4 photographers, 6 sculptors, 8 stationers, 2 surgeons and physicians, 10 teachers, &c. Referring to the different trades and occupations in which there were more than 500 persons engaged he found that of clerks there were 544, of whom 377 were at present on the roll as £10 householders, 111 others would be enfranchised by this Bill, and 56 would be still excluded. Of 1,171 boot and shoemakers, 202 were at present on the roll, 202 would be added to the number, and 745 would continue to be excluded. Of 528 cabinet-makers and upholsterers, to the 154 who were already on the roll, 157 would now be added, and 217 would remain unenfranchished. Of 710 car- 383 penters, 230 would now be added to 127 already enjoying the franchise, and 353 would continue to be excluded. Of 519 printers and compositors, the 126 who were already voters would be strengthened by an addition of 166; and 227 would remain still off the roll. And in the case of common labourers, to whom more than any of the others the objection on the score of monotony ought to be applicable, out of a total number of 1,767 there were 17 who were already on the roll, 113 would be added, and 1,637 would be excluded. These facts showed that no constituency could be more various in their interests and pursuits or less likely to combine against any one class. The lodger franchise, if it were added, would give little more than 300 voters in Edinburgh—men well qualified, and to whom the franchise could be most safely intrusted. He hoped these facts would satisfy the House that, while the Bill of the Government would, on the one hand, make no dangerous or overbalancing addition to the constituency, it would secure representatives from every class in the community at present excluded. As to the fitness of such men to exercise the franchise, he would urge the great extension of education among the people which had taken place since 1831, the diffusion of cheap and instructive literature, the increased intelligence among workmen from the universality of the application of steam-power, which required and created intelligence, the prevalence of order and content, and the loyalty exhibited on a recent occasion by the establishment of numerous volunteer artisan corps throughout the country. If at the time of the Reform Bill of 1832 £10 was considered a criterion of sufficient intelligence, surely the occupiers of £6 houses now were equally intelligent with the class of £10 householders then. He could not give the same favourable opinion of the county franchise proposed by this Bill, and he thought that the character of monotony would be much more applicable to it. As it stood it was a lower franchise than that of the boroughs, for, as the value of land was included, any allotment tenant or small dairyman whose house might not he worth more than 1s. 6d. a week might be admitted. The land which a man occupied for his means of living should no more be taken into account than the stock in trade of a small tradesman, the tools of a skilled artisan, or the looms of a handloom weaver. In this respect the Scotch Bill was much better, for it contained a proviso 384 that the dwelling-house should be of £5 value; and unless it was the intention of Government to swamp the 40s. freeholders by the admission of a numerous body of the most dependent class, he would strongly urge upon them the adoption of a similar proviso in this Bill. As a Scotch Member, he could not but condemn that portion of the Bill which related to Scotland, as unfair and unjust. Scotland had always shown herself able and willing to bear her fair share of the public burdens, and she had a claim to be treated exactly on the same footing as England in regard to the distribution of seats. The noble Lord had repeatedly declared that in apportioning Members he was obliged to be guided by population. If he had taken population alone, or population and property combined, and if he had treated Scotland exactly on the same footing as England, he could not have run his eye along the list of counties and boroughs, and have passed by the great counties of Lanark, Ayr, Aberdeen, Perth, and Fife, and the great towns of Dundee and Aberdeen. Every English county, except one or two, had at present four Members; every Irish county had two; and every Welsh county, having a population over 70,000, had two. Not a single Scotch county had more than one. It was proposed to give an additional Member to certain English counties. The five Scotch counties he had named were as populous and rich as five of those in the schedule, each of which was now to have five Members while these important Scotch counties continued to have but one. Lanarkshire was three times as populous and five times as wealthy as West Cornwall, to which it was proposed to give another Member. And the disparity with regard to boroughs was even greater. Dundee, with 90,000 people, and Aberdeen, with 80,000, were together to have no more voice in Parliament than the borough of Cockermouth. A great deal had been said in the discussion of this question on the example afforded to us by American institutions. He certainly had no desire to see them imported here. They were better fitted for the wants of a vast new country, where our cumbrous and slow modes of procedure would be a clog upon its progress. But had there been, since the world began, any similar instance of progress? There was no Established Church there; but there was a Christian church to every 3,600 inhabitants. Within seventy years a scattered population of less than 4,000,000 had grown up to 385 nearly 30,000,000 of people. Within the last thirty years the value of her native produce exported had increased five-fold, her steam tonnage ten-fold, her coinage twenty-fold, and within the same time she constructed upwards of 20,000 miles of railway. Instead of being wasteful of the public money, as had been alleged, her total expenditure of every kind, both federal and local, in 1858, was only £23,500,000; and in that was included upwards of £3,000,000 for public education, besides the whole charge for lighting her sea coasts. Her public debt had been reduced from £25,500,000 in 1816 to £6,200,000 in 1856. The manners of the people were rough and uncouth—or appeared so to Englishmen—but the great body of them were comfortable and independent, and every one had his political rights. It had been charged against them that they had no enlightened legislation; but any one who would run down the list of the Acts passed in the Session of 1858 would see at once that their legislation was very far from being deficient in prudence and foresight. There might be impending dangers in our European alliances, and it would be well if, instead of endeavouring to raise a feeling which might separate the two countries, we would remember that there was an Anglo-Saxon nation on the other side of the ocean, and do all in our power to bind England and the United States together. We had plenty of hopeless mismanagement and extravagance at home. This was no question of a form of government; but, having some experience of the United States and having witnessed the wonderful progress that had been achieved there, he would not accept the lesson which noble Lords and hon. Gentlemen had attempted to draw from that nation as an argument against the British people being intrusted with any share in the government of their own country. Hon. Gentlemen opposite seemed to be afraid of numbers. If the country was in danger would it not be to numbers that they would look for defence? Would there be any selection of £10 householders then? We trusted the lowest class of the people to defend the Empire and guard its honour, and, whether in the Crimea or in India, nobly had that duty been performed. Should we then fear to extend to the best of that working class a limited share in the election of a Member of Parliament? And, if a struggle were really impending over Europe, was it not more necessary to enlist every 386 sympathy of our own people by bringing within the pale of the Constitution many of the vigorous hands who might yet be called to aid in its defence?
§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE
said, it used to be the annual custom to call the attention of the House to the state of the nation, but on this occasion he thought the attention of the nation ought to be called to the state of the House. People outside that House ought to understand what the real sentiments of those inside were, not from the manner in which they voted, and from what they said in the House, but from the real sentiments which they expressed of the Bill in the lobbies. He would undertake to say, that if every Member would vote according to the opinion he really held with regard to the measure, the result of a division would show an immense majority against the Government. It was a Bill upon which every epithet of contumely and ridicule had been thrown. To use the language of Mr. Shiel, it conceded without conciliating and interfered without prevailing. It satisfied no person outside and no Member inside the House. It was one which Members were discussing early and late, simply because leading statesmen on both sides had made ill-considered pledges, which they sought to redeem in a most ill-considered manner. There was one point, however, upon which they would all agree, and that was that it was only an instalment, but not a settlement of the Reform question. He (Mr. Cochrane) fully agreed with the sentiments expressed by the right hon. Member for Hertfordshire, whose brilliant speech would live in the memory of man as long as the English language existed. He fully believed that if a deed could be drawn up, the terms of which should be an agreement that this Bill was a settlement of the question of Reform for twenty years only, and if that deed were signed by the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), by the noble Lord (Lord John Russell), and by the leaders of the Opposition, that, bad as he considered the Bill to be, it would be desirable to pass it. But when they were told that it was but an instalment—that it was to be followed up by another immediately after it had passed—then he thought it an act of perfect insanity to allow a Bill so fraught with evil to be carried. It reminded him of one of Æsop's fables. A woodman went into a wood and asked the wood to give him a handle for a hatchet. To so modest a request as that the whole forest unanimously 387 consented. The handle was fitted, but no sooner fitted than the woodman began to cut down the finest and tallest of the trees, and, as he approached an old and aged oak the oak bent over to a noble cedar and said—"One concession has ruined us all." Such was the position in which the House then stood if they conceded this Bill, not to Her Majesty's Government, but to the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright). For his own part he readily admitted that if they were to have a Reform Bill at all they must carry the franchise down to as low a rental as £6. But he would boldly state, as he had done on the hustings, that he was altogether opposed to a Reform Bill. The present system worked well. It might not be the most perfect constitution, but it worked well. There was no popular desire to change it; but if they were to change it they could not do otherwise than drop at once from the £10 to £6. Indeed, he did not see why they should stop at £6, or even £5, or £4. nor why they should not at once have universal suffrage. He saw no advantage in treating it homœopathi-cally. There was no doubt of the result of such a Bill as this—it was as certain as anything could be that it would lead indubitably to universal suffrage. He thought everybody ought to look with great pity upon the Treasury Bench; there was no mincing the matter—the whole thing was in a fix. It reminded him of that scene in The Critic where everybody had got a dagger, and Puff says to Sneer—"Now there's a situation—there's a dead lock, and I don't know who'll get out of it first." Such was the situation of the Treasury Bench at this moment, and it was difficult to know who would get out of it first. But the fact was, that the Government had misapprehended the people's anxiety for Reform, and when they made the pledge they had uttered to bring in a Reform Bill they had not anticipated the Treaty and the Budget, which had been forced upon them by the hon. Member for Birmingham and the hon. Member for Rochdale; and he thought, therefore, they might very fairly withdraw this Bill, until at any rate they were acquainted with the result of the Committee appointed by the Lords to inquire into the state of the franchise. With respect to the working classes, he desired it should be most distinctly understood that he had no dread of them, for he knew they were deeply sensible of having been born under the blessings of a free constitution, of the advantages they possessed over other 388 countries in Europe, and, strong in that conviction, he certainly entertained no sense of danger from such a quarter; but he did fear the influence of those who controlled the movements of the working classes. They had ascertained the enormous influence exercised over those classes by those who controlled their political opinions. They knew the political opinions of one hon. Gentleman in that House, the weight they carried in the country, and how far they influenced the working classes. He thought the views of the hon. Member for Birmingham had been latterly very much overlooked in that House. [Laughter.] He meant the views expressed by that hon. Gentleman outside, not inside, that House had been overlooked. Inside and outside that House the hon. Member for Birmingham assumed totally different characters. It was said that March came in like a lion and went out like a lamb; but the hon. Member reversed the proverb—he came in like a lamb and went out like a hon. It was difficult to say, indeed, whether he was a wolf in sheep's clothing inside the House or a sheep in wolf's clothing outside the House; or whether they rejoiced when they heard him speak in the voice of Jacob or that of Esau. But, for the purpose of showing what the hon. Member's sentiments really were, he would refer to a collected edition of his speeches made at Birmingham, Manchester, London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Bradford, and Rochdale, and all revised by himself. He made this reference because he thought it right, when they were going to legislate at the suggestion of the hon. Gentleman, that at any rate they should know of what dangers they had to beware; and then, if after that they were foolish enough to pass a Bill which he told them would promote the objects expressed in his speeches, they would have to complain of themselves alone. In 1859 the hon. Gentleman had rather modified his views, for he found a little danger would result from them; like the woodman, he had to begin cutting down his trees carefully and cautiously; and therefore it would be as well to go a little further back, when he was somewhat bolder, in 1858, for then they would get at what his real opinions were. On the 27th October, 1858, the hon. Gentleman, in a speech he made at Birmingham, had said—How can I reconcile a free representation of the people in the House of Commons with the inevitable disposition which rests in a hereditary 389 House of Peers? Now we must decide this question. Choose you this day whom you will serve. If the Peers are to be your masters, as they boast that their ancestors were the conquerors of yours, serve them [Never!] But if you will serve only the laws, the laws of your country, the laws in the making of which you have been consulted, you may go on straight to discuss this great question of Parliamentary Reform.So that the hon. Member argued that there could be no free representation of the people without the abolition of the House of Peers.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, he was ashamed to say anything about this matter, but the hon. Member (Mr. B. Cochrane) had furnished the sentence he quoted with words which he (Mr. Bright) had never uttered. He only asked for fair play.
§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE
said, he had merely stated what he conceived to be the inference fairly to be drawn from the hon. Member's speech. It proceeded thus:—"I am not going to attack the House of Lords." [Mr. BRIGHT.—Read it all.] He was sorry if he had expressed himself in a manner to lead to any misapprehension, but he merely intended to convey to the House his own inference from what he had read. He would, however, make another quotation. Further on in the same speech the hon. Member said—There is another kind of Peer, which I am afraid to touch up—that creature of—what shall I say? of monstrous, nay, even of adulterous birth, the spiritual Peer.[Mr. BRIGHT.—Hear, hear.] There was no mistaking that "Hear, hear!" Then having touched up the House of Peers as a body, they came to the opinions and views of the hon. Member as to the great territorial families of England, thus expressing himself:—What has been the fate of those who were enthroned at the Revolution, and whose supremacy has been for so long a period undisputed among us? Mr. Kinglake, the author of an interesting book on Eastern travel, describing the habits of some of the acquaintances he made in the Syrian deserts, says that the jackals of the desert follow their prey in families like the place-hunters of Europe. I will reverse, if you like, the comparison, and say that the great territorial families of England which were enthroned at the Revolution have followed their prey like the jackals of the desert.The hon. Member for Birmingham went on to state—That there is no actuary in existence who can calculate how much of the wealth, of the strength, of the supremacy of the territorial families of England has been derived from an unholy participation in the fruits of the industry of the people, which have been wrested from them by every de- 390 vice of taxation, and squandered in every conceivable crime of which a Government could possibly be guilty. The more you examine this matter the more you will come to the conclusion which I have arrived at, that this foreign policy, this regard for 'the liberties of Europe,' this care at one time for 'Protestant interests,' this excessive love for the 'balance of power,' is neither more nor less than a gigantic system of out-door relief for the aristocracy of Great Britain.This was the way in which the hon. Gentleman spoke of the aristocracy and the Church of this country, and they were called upon to pass a Reform Bill which the hon. Member described as an instalment towards lowering the franchise, in order to enable him to take ulterior steps to overthrow the Church and aristocracy. The hon. Member for Birmingham had further said he foresaw the day when a Revolution would arise between the upper and the working classes of this country, and that after the Reform Bill was carried—what would he do? Why, he should attack the Established Church and the feudalism of the dark ages.
§ MR. BRIGHT
The hon. Member did not say where he got his last quotation from. I have no recollection of saying anything of the kind, and I think he might entertain the House with something better than mere imaginary speeches.
§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE
could only say be had copied it from a report of what purported to be a speech by the hon. Gentleman. If he disavowed it, he only hoped that his intercourse with the bench on that side of the House had moderated the views of the hon. Gentleman. He would not complain so much of these particular sentences, but he would ask whether the entire tone of his speeches was not calculated to excite the feelings of the country against the upper classes? The hon. Gentleman further said in another speech—Do you not see the same interests arrayed against you, the same greed of power, the same hate of reform, with our military services grown up into unheard of magnitude;And again:—If I tell you that peace and peaceful industry are your path of wisdom and of greatness—if I say that it is your taxes that are spent, your sweat which is pawned, your blood which is shed in war, am I less your countryman, or less loyal to my country?Was not this language, he would ask, calculated to anticipate the time when one class in this country would be set against another? When the hon. Gentleman dealt with matters abroad he should state the facts of history. The other day he endea- 391 voured to establish a parallel between the state of this country and of France when a Reform Bill was previously attempted, and led his audience to suppose that it was this country that began the war with France in the first Revolution. Everybody except himself knew that France declared war against us, and that we fought not for any selfish interests, but for the liberties of England and of the whole of Europe:—though no doubt there were then, as now, those who would say, "Perish Savoy and liberty, and everything except commercial advantages." The hon. Gentleman was very fond of referring to the advantages of American institutions. It was strange that, according to a writer in the last number of The Quarterly, American families were constantly engaged in tracing back their descent from English families, and that a Mr. Bright, of Boston, had actually published a book to prove that he was descended from the Brights of Suffolk, at the same time repudiating any connection with the family of the hon. Member for Birmingham. It had been said that this was just the time to pass the Bill, because it was not asked for; but he believed the noble Lord wished to pass the measure, although he had been taunted with not wishing to do so; and his dealing with reform had been likened to the periodical process of taking down a suit of clothes, brushing them up, and putting them away. But what was really the remarkable thing about the measure was the apathy and indifference that existed with reference to it. In order to pass a Reform Bill they must have some moving power, what the sailors call some steerage way, some great guiding impulse. Carlyle had well said that "nothing was so fatal to men or measures as apathy or indifference." A gale of wind in any quarter was preferable to a dead calm; and a horse that went cither way was better than one that stood still; and a passionate woman better than a silent one that would not speak at all. He believed they could not carry a measure of this sort unless there was an indication of its being wanted out of doors, and that the people took an interest in it. The noble Lord could not have foreseen the error of the hon. Member for Birmingham in describing the Bill as an instalment, or the error of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in stating that the finances of the country would be considered and settled by a House of Commons which more adequately represented the wishes of the people—a most significant statement when 392 coupled with the scheme propounded by the hon. Member for Birmingham for the abolition of Customs' duties, and the institution of a gigantic tax upon property. The proposed Bill was not solely one of reform in Parliament, but one that would ultimately affect the whole financial interests of the country; and if they passed this Reform Bill they would have another of a more overwhelming description when the new Parliament met, and that was the reason he dreaded the present measure. What was the opinion entertained abroad of the constitution of this country? What said Montalembert, one of the most eminent men that France had produced, and whose comparison instituted between England and France rendered him worthy of the honour of an imperial prosecution. Speaking of the Constitution of England, he said:—When I am stifled under the weight of an atmosphere charged with vile and corrupt influences, I start to breathe a purer air and take a bath of life in free England. Not only does the nation not demand any organic change, but no party, new or old, seriously entertains it. Never has the constitution been so universally respected, so faithfully guarded, so affectionately invoked by all who wish—'That England long may be,The holy and the happy, and the gloriously free.'This was the opinion of one who contrasted this state of things in England with that universal suffrage and division of property, which had led to despotism at home and spoliation abroad—measures that the hon. Member for Birmingham wished to introduce. These were the reasons, frankly and freely, why he should give his vote against the Bill; and he believed that if every hon. Member voted according to his honour and conviction, they might vote upon the Bill with the certainty of throwing it out by two to one. After what he had quoted from the speeches of the hon. Member for Birmingham, he thought the House would be able to see what they would have to trust to if this measure were carried, and which, if passed, would be fraught with unknown evils to the constitution of this country.
§ MR. POLLARD-URQUHART
said, this Bill had been before the House several weeks, and the subject before the country several years; but, as an Irish Member, he felt it right to say a few words. It was a most important consideration that five-sixths of the Members of that House were elected by England, so that Ireland was deeply interested in any change 393 in the constitution of that House which legislated for the whole kingdom. The last Reform Bill had produced a greater effect on the Government of Ireland, and more beneficial measures had been passed for that country than it ever had from the time of Strong-bow to the time of George IV. It was a great truism that every advance in popular privileges was a blessing if the people were fit to receive it, and a curse if they were not, and we were now in a tolerably good position to judge of the fitness of the people of England. We did not exist in the comparative darkness of 1831. A change had been effected without alarm, violence, or convulsion; and what was the tone and temper of the nation now? Was not the monarchy in much less danger than at the time when Ministers were afraid to allow even a popular Sovereign like William IV. to go and dine in the City just prior to the proposal of the last Reform Bill? Was not the property of the country in very different condition to what it was at the time of the Swing riots? How differently were the Church and the aristocracy regarded? Go where they would in the former period, either to public meetings or outside a stage-coach, and it was the invariable custom to run down the aristocracy and abuse the Bishops. How different even were the public caricatures. They now saw no exhibitions of Bishops hanging, and calling it justifiable homicide. How different was the meaning attached now to the word "Radical," to then. Then it was thought that a Radical was a low, vulgar, impudent person, who showed both his independence by his ignorance and by his disrespect of others. It was then impossible to be an honest reformer without being abused, and indeed the words Radical and blackguard were at that time synonymous terms. Experience had however now shown that a man might be an honest reformer of abuses, and an honest advocate for the extension of popular rights, without indulging in the low scurrility that was held to characterize the Radical of a former day. Reform measures were then and now proposed in a different temper, and it was felt that no great country like England could go on without having from time to time to lop off old abuses. It was said that even supposing that a popular Parliament should be able to manage public affairs effectively in time of peace, they would be unable to do so in time of war; but the answer to that alle- 394 gation was, that the disasters in the Crimea were speedily corrected under the direction of a reformed Parliament, while it took fourteen years to correct the mismanagement of the army until the Peninsular war, when the Government was in the hands of an oligarchy. It was notorious that a greater portion of the expenses was paid during the late war out of the current expenditure than during the great French war; and was there not reason to suppose that a fresh infusion of the popular element would now produce corresponding benefits? The objections to the Bill had been mainly directed against the extension of the franchise to £6 occupiers in towns; but the objections could not be sustained, when it appeared, from the evidence before the Masters and Operatives' Committee, that the operatives had wonderfully improved during the last ten years in self-respect, intelligence, economy, and conduct; therefore he thought it was but right that these classes should be admitted within the pale of the constitution. Some persons regarded with fear any great extension of the intelligence of the working men, because it would enable them, to combine against other classes; but social science was now better understood by both upper and lower classes, and the result was that neither class had any sort of antagonistic feeling against the other. It was apparent to the working classes that they had no interest in attacking capital and property, and that such attacks were likely in the long run to have a disastrous reaction upon themselves. He had heard a great deal of the preponderance that was likely to be given by this Bill to the working classes in certain constituencies, and believed the case was exaggerated; but supposing that their preponderating power in certain constituencies should lead to the return of sixty or eighty Members under the influence of the working classes, would that be too largo a representation for them in an Assembly composed of 658 Members. Nothing was so likely to show both what could be done and what could not be done for the working people, as the presence of a few of their representatives in the House. This would do a great deal to put down agitation and humbugs of all sorts, and when the demands of the working people were well weighed, they were not so absurd as some persons supposed them to be. In the year 1842 a petition was presented from the working classes by the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. T. Duncombe) deploring the existence 395 of any kind of monopoly—condemning taxes on the necessaries of life, and particularly the articles required by the working classes—also complaing of the monopoly in land, in machinery, in the press, and in railways; and if all these complaints were now considered, it would be evident that the working classes were not so wrong as they were thought to be at the time in setting forth their alleged grievances. If the legislation of the country had not been in error since 1842, the working classes of that time had some reason to complain, for the whole course of legislation since that time had been to take off the taxes on articles of necessary consumption. It was a wrong assumption that the working classes would always remain in their present position. With equal laws, diffused intelligence, and freedom of transfer of land, they would have such facilities for rising in the world that we might hope to see such a fusion of classes as would render class legislation absurd and impossible. Since the year 1832 the line of demarcation between the manufacturing and commercial classes on the one side, and the landed aristocracy on the other, was not so strongly marked as it was before that time; and he indulged in a sanguine hope that a similar fusion would take place between the middle and working classes. It was not fair to draw a comparison between the political state of this country and that of Australia or the United States; for the colonists and the Americans had not yet had time to form a class which would have any great preponderance to counteract, what might in common language be called the "rowdy" element. He frankly owned he would willingly have seen the redistribution of seats go a little farther than it did at present. He believed, however, that practical difficulties existed in that way, which rendered it necessary to make some sort of compromise. He had heard that if there were too large a redistribution of seats made, the brilliant orators, such as existed in the unreformed Parliament, would not be found in it. He dissented from that objection, for their object was to get good legislation, and he recollected that the very brilliant powers of the orators, who figured in the unreformed Parliament, were often employed in making the worse appear the better. Was it not more desirable to have cheapness, plenty, and the "unadorned eloquence" of the honourable Member for Rochdale, than what had been termed by the noble Lord the Member for London 396 "the umbrageous fancy of Mr. Burke," and "the magnifying power of oratory in the mouths of such men as Mr. Fox and Mr. Canning" together with laws the avowed object of which was to produce dearness and scarcity. He firmly believed, that by the results which would flow from this measure, we should be the envy of all the nations of Europe, by the rational liberty which it would give to the people of this country; and he had great confidence as to these results.
§ MR. DU CANE
said, he did not rise to follow the hon. Member who had just sat down through the speech he had just delivered with so much energy and rapidity. He did not wish to dispute the correctness of his definition of the term "Radical" in 1832, nor had he any desire at that moment to question the moderation of the Chartist sentiments of 1842. He had followed with much attention the debate on this Bill, and had listened to speeches both for and against it on both sides of the House; yet he now rose to address them in a state of considerable mental bewilderment as to who were its supporters. He remembered that it was said, towards the close of the great debate which preceded the downfall of Lord Derby's Administration, that they were about to witness a little wholesome clearance of the political atmosphere, that old differences had been healed, and that from henceforth a perfect unanimity of sentiment would be found pervading the hearts of the great Liberal party. He had not the least doubt that at that particular moment there was a perfect unanimity of sentiment pervading the hearts of the great Liberal party; but looking at the amount of contradiction which had been manifested, as regarded the purpose of this measure, in the course of this debate on both sides of the House, he was induced to fear that, like other instances of Liberal cohesion, which they had witnessed within the last few years, it had been of a somewhat short-lived character. He had certainly been surprised at the contrariety of some of the opinions which had been expressed on the other side of the House as regarded the merits of this measure. The hon. Member for Birmingham—["Oh, oh"]—he could assure them his reference to the hon. Member for Birmingham would be very short and very harmless. The hon. Member signified his gracious acceptance of the Bill because it was a simple Bill, because it was an instalment, and because it entirely excluded fancy franchises. 397 On the other hand, the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone (Mr. B. James) condemned the measure for the self-same reason. The hon. Member for Birmingham spoke with something approaching to contempt and indifference of the limited number of those that the Bill would admit to the exercise of the franchise; while the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone was in raptures at the thousands or rather tens of thousands he hoped shortly to embrace as his new constituents. The hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Black) in an honest and unvarnished tale that did infinite credit to his political sagacity, did not hesitate to denounce the Bill as dangerous and revolutionary. But, on the other hand, the hon. and learned Member for Tiverton (Mr. Denman) cordially supported the Bill because when he had succeeded in introducing into it all the provisions of the Bill of last year, he thought upon the whole it would be rather Conservative. But his (Mr. Du Cane's) faith in the hon. and learned Member's Conservatism received a rude shock at the commencement of his speech, when he said that in that masterpiece of eloquence which had been delivered by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Hertfordshire (Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton), he could see no argument, and that the House had nothing to do with the Government of Franco or the condition of the United States. He must say he questioned the depth and the soundness of that Conservative feeling which, when we were on the eve of a great political change, shut its eyes to the past, and closed its ears to the lessons addressed to us through the page of contemporaneous history. Then the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary recommended the Bill because, he said, it would at least do us no harm; but the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Massey gave it as his opinion, both by his speech and that Motion which so abruptly vanished, that it would do him no good; while the hon. Member for Bristol (Mr. Berkeley) said that he swallowed this Bill as he would an homœopathic globule, convinced that it would do him neither good nor harm. When he saw the state of complete contradiction at which they had arrived, though he did not wish to introduce party topics, he thought they had a right to ask who it was that had brought this question to such a dead lock? He thought they had a right to ask the noble author of this measure what practical benefit the country or the House had obtained from affirming his Resolution of last year; and 398 how it was that some of them, at least, were not now assembled in the first Session of a Reformed Parliament. It was somewhat difficult for any one to discover what novelty of a startling character this Bill contained that might not have been introduced into the Bill of last year in Committee. Let them take the first feature of this Bill. In the Bill of last year they had the materials ready to hand to effect a reduction of the county franchise to £10. As to the second feature, they might have also effected a reduction in the borough franchise. The then Government opposed the Resolution of the noble Lord because it was brought forward at an unfair time, and raised an unfair issue; but they had no evidence that if they had gone into Committee on that measure, and an Amendment had been brought forward to reduce the borough franchise to £8 or to £6, and if that Amendment had been carried, that the Government would not have accepted the proposition. And supposing that they had not, but had declared that the carrying of the Amendment would be fatal to the Bill, even then the House would not have been in any worse position than they were now, inasmuch as they would have obtained from the House a direct expression of opinion as regarded the limits to which it was inclined to extend the borough frachise. To come to the third and last prominent feature of the noble Lord's Bill they surely might, without any superhuman amount of exertion, have extended the redistribution of seats to the somewhat narrow limits at which even now the noble Lord intended to rest it. But they had in the former Bill what they had not now, but what they must have again before they witnessed a satisfactory settlement of this question. They had various franchises, which acted upon the working classes on the principle of self-selection, and which would have extended the franchise to thousands of industrious and intelligent artisans who were entirely passed over by the present Bill. The noble Lord now made a present of his measure to the House, and said, "Go into Committee on the Bill, and then do what you like with it; raise the franchise in boroughs if you think that it is too low; introduce a lodger clause; restore the fancy franchises—in point of fact, do whatever you like with the Bill, only pass a measure of Reform before Bristol is sacked and Nottingham Castle is in flames." But the noble Lord must allow him to say that this sudden gush of gene- 399 rosity came one year too late, and that, I patient and long-suffering as they always were, he was taxing at that moment somewhat severely the generosity and forbearance of the Conservative party. It was certainly rather trying to the temper to have a commodious residence that it had been the labour of months to erect and furnish, blown about your ears, and to survey from the opposite side the broken and disjointed fabric; but Job himself would venture a gentle remonstrance when the crafty engineer who fired the mine took forcible possession of the ground and pressed you into the service of himself and his colleagues to reconstruct and refurnish the building on the original model. He would not say whether it might be possible to reconstruct the edifice of Reform on the somewhat slender foundation which the noble Lord had lain down, but this he did not hesitate to say, that this Bill, as it now stood, was by far the most dangerous and one-sided that had yet been presented to them. The Home Secretary told them the other night that he was quite unable to understand the arguments that they on that side of the House had advanced—that this Bill, to begin with, was insignificant and an abortion, and then that it was dangerous and revolutionary. But with due deference he would tell that right hon. Gentleman that this particular measure was obnoxious to both these charges. The Conservatives said that as regarded any immediate proposition for satisfactory settlement the Bill was both insignificant and abortive, and inasmuch as it would thus unsettle everything and settle nothing, in its future consequences it would be both mischievous and revolutionary. What they said was, if a measure of Reform is to be passed this Session, let it not be a Bill merely framed to be passed, but one that will include every branch of the representative system which it appears to the House to be desirable to Reform. This measure did not even profess to do that. Upon the great subject of registration, upon those of polling booths, and payment of travelling expenses for voters, this Bill was silent as the grave. A hint had, indeed been thrown out, that they were to be treated to a Supplementary reform Bill, containing provisions on one or two of these heads when a certain Committee on corrupt practices had published their Report. This, if it was an argument for anything, was an excellent one for postponement of the whole question until that Report was published, 400 for all must agree that if any matter was more intimately connected than another with corrupt practices it was the extension of the suffrage. This Bill largely increased the number of voters in the county constituencies; but did it make any provision for remedying the disparity between the number of borough and of the county Members? On the contrary, the noble Lord appeared to have done just enough to show that he acknowledged, whilst he refused to grapple with, the grievance. He appeared to have acted on this plan. Something must be done to stop the mouths of the county Members, and he must, of course, make a special reservation in favour of Lancashire and Yorkshire; and, as to the others, why he would subject them all to the operation of the Ballot, and take the first twelve counties that turned up for increase of Members. On what other principle could the noble Lord have given a Member to a division of the county that he (Mr. Du Cane) represented—of which he did not complain—but how was it that this county, having a population of 189,000 and a constituency of 5,400 should have an extra Member, when the Bill passed over 17 divisions of counties, all of larger population and, he believed, all with a larger number of registered electors? The noble Lord might, perhaps, say, that, inasmuch as he proposed to take away a Member each from Harwich and Maldon, he thought it fair enough to give a Member to the division of the county in which those boroughs were situated. But if the noble Lord had acted on that principle in one county, why had he not carried it out fairly and honestly towards all? Why, for instance, when he took Members away from Tewkesbury and Cirencester, had he omitted to give one to either division of Gloucestershire? But, as he (Mr. Du Cane) had previously observed, this Bill proposed largely to extend the franchise in counties and boroughs. Did it, however, in so doing, recognize any one of those distinctions they had hitherto considered essential to maintain a just and fair balance of our representative system, and for which no one had more stoutly contended than the noble Lord himself, and the majority of that Cabinet now seated around him? On the contrary, the noble Lord by this measure, proposed to sweep away the last remaining distinction which Conservatives considered necessary between the county and the borough franchise, with which the insertion of the Chandos clause had in no way interfered—to wit, that the 401 one should be based on property, the other on occupation; and he proposed to have the whole representative system on a low and almost assimilated borough occupation franchise. What was the great charge brought against the Government Reform Bill last year? Was it not that it was based on uniformity of suffrage? But the uniformity of suffrage in that Bill was as nothing compared with the dead level to which the franchise would be reduced after the passing of this measure. That was a uniformity mitigated and utilized by the introduction of no less than eight franchises, conferring the privilege on thousands of intelligent, educated, and independent classes of the community; but should this measure be allowed to pass, who from henceforth would be the predominant class in the county representation? The Returns produced were of a very slight character; but he would make every allowance for persons who might be already registered, for female occupiers, non-payment of rates, and the difference between positive and rental and rateable value, and he thought that they would add a constituency to the counties of not less than 250,000. In his own county he found that in the town districts, where they had one occupier at £50 a year they had 10 at £15 a year, and 20 at £10, while in the more rural districts they would scarcely find a single £10 occupier. Moreover, many of the present £50 occupiers in counties might be deducted from the list, because they claimed votes as freeholders; and on the register of his own county the same name might sometimes be seen nine or ten times over. So that the effect of the alteration in the county franchise would be entirely to throw the representation into the hands of the £10 occupiers resident in towns alone. It was one of the charges against the measure of last year that it extended the county franchise to £10 voters, but accompanied the boon with neutralizing provisions in favour of the county; he thought it might be urged against this Bill with equal justice that it extended the county suffrage, clogged with exclusive and one-sided provisions in favour of towns. The £5 building restriction was calculated to disfranchise a great number of small county occupiers, and the condition that a joint occupancy of land and building should qualify for a vote only when held under the same landlord would, in his opinion, operate no less injuriously. The effect of the latter restriction would be that a man 402 who occupied an £8 or £9 house in one parish and held a piece of land of from £20 to £30 value in another parish would be debarred from voting for the county unless the proprietor from whom he held the land would consent to lay out money in the erection of buildings equally useless to landlord and tenant. But who would constitute the predominant class in boroughs? He had no wish to plunge into the mysteries of the Compound Householders Act, or to enter on the difference between gross estimated rental and rateable value; but he did not think he was overstating the case when he assumed that the effect of the Bill would be to add to the borough constituencies some 200,000 voters, occupying houses of from £6 to £10 yearly rental. The existing number of borough voters he estimated at 412,000, exclusive of 40,000 freemen, the great bulk of whom were the occupiers of houses below the value of £10. But from the electoral statistics of Mr. Newmarsh, it appeared that there were already 130,000 occupiers of houses at the lowest level to which the suffrage was then extended. Therefore, if they added to that body the 40,000 freemen and the 200,000 new voters that would be added by the Bill, they would find, by a very simple sum in arithmetic, that the voters who occupied houses of a rental of £10 and under would outnumber those who were above that level by some 100,000 votes. He did not mean to say, as the hon. Member for Stirlingshire (Mr. Caird) appeared by his elaborate statistics that evening to imagine, that it was the fixed idea of the Conservative party, that that body of 370,000 voters were all of the same trade, or that they would be characterized by an identity of political sentiments. A great philosopher had told them that no two human beings ever did think alike on political matters, and the extreme diversity of opinion manifested by hon. Gentlemen opposite in regard to the question of Parliamentary Reform certainly gave confirmation to the theory. But the effect of the Bill would undoubtedly be to confine the operation of the franchise within a far narrower compass, and to produce a far greater uniformity of suffrage than was contemplated by the measure of last year. He would not presume to foretell the possible fate of the Bill, but if they went into Committee upon it he thought the duty of the Conservative party would be obvious and simple. They would have to ask themselves 403 the question whether there was in the country any one class possessing such independence of thought, such intellectual ability, and such purity of political principles, that they could afford, once and for ever, absolutely and entirely to intrust to its charge the control over our representative system. Admitting that the suffrage in counties and boroughs was to be extended, it would he for them to consider on what basis and within what limits that extension should be carried out. If the House had irrevocably decided in favour of a £10 county franchise, they were entitled, at least, to ask that it should not be established without some provision of a modifying character in regard to the large towns of the country. And here he must beg to comment briefly on a remark which fell from the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone in his last week's speech. The hon. and learned Member for Marylebone (Mr. E. James) retaliated upon a sulky Conservative elector of that constituency, who complained that his vote was neutralized by the preponderance of his opponents, by saying that the same complaint might be made, with an equal show of strength, by any Liberal voter in a Conservative county; and he instanced the county which he (Mr. Du Cane) represented as an example. Why the hon. Member had done him the honour to select his constituency he did not exactly know. Certainly he was happy to say that the county of Essex had been for many years, and he trusted would long continue to be, a stronghold of Conservatism; but he denied that the parallel was a fair one. The real subject of complaint was that the hon. and learned Gentleman was a representative, returned, according to his own admission, of a numerical majority, composed of a single class—that of the working population—while the Conservative majority in a county such as North Essex would be found to combine the representation of nearly every class in the country,—the landed interest, agriculture, commerce, manufactures and labour. And it was because they believed that by the passing of this measure the proper representation of those varied interests would virtually be neutralized, and that in point of fact three-fourths of the constituencies in the country would be reduced to the level of that of Marylebone, that they entered their energetic protest against its passing. But he must also say as regards the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech 404 that there was in it an hiatus valde de flendus at which he was somewhat surprised when he remembered a certain document that had issued from his pen in the course of last autumn. He (Mr. E. James) entered into the most elaborate statistics to prove the sweeping charges this Bill would effect in his constituency, and which he proposed to view with extreme delight. The animation of his countenance appeared, however, to be in no way reflected in that of the hon. Member for Birmingham, who evidently thought that his indiscreet companion was letting the cat slip out of the bag. But they did not hear a word from the hon. Member as regards the question of the builders' strike, or how many of these new constituents were to be found among that class so recently distinguished for their powers of combination. He (Mr. Du Cane) must say that he did not think that was a part of the question that had been fairly and manfully grappled with by the supporters of this measure. The noble Lord the Member for the City had disposed summarily of the matter by quoting a couplet from Burns, which, as far as he could understand, only went to prove that the labouring classes were extremely well contented to leave things as they, were, and did not desire any change whatever. The hon. and learned Member for Tiverton (Mr. Denman) had told them that if such strikes had occurred thirty years ago they would have been accompanied by scenes of violence and bloodshed. Doubtless the educational progress of the last thirty years had been rapid; but if the hon. and learned Gentleman had studied the page of that contemporaneous history which he appeared to regard with contempt he would find that in a state in which the various interests were not properly balanced, it was not always a high educational status that was the best guarantee for liberty of thought and independence of action, and that these other means of coercion and intimidation, besides the open manifestation of the brick-bat and the bludgeon. The hon. Member for Birmingham said that the Conservative party knew nothing of the feeling of the general population of the country, but blindly followed their leader, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks, who lived in a manor house, and knew nothing about the people; and that he, on the contrary, knew the people, and he said to the Conservative party, "Repose in the people a generous confi- 405 dence, and be assured the day will come when you will reap your reward. There was only one thing to make that statement quite satisfactory, and that was that the Conservative party should feel confidence in the hon. Member himself. But any feeling of confidence which that side of the House might have felt in the hon. Member for Birmingham diminished exactly in proportion to the rapidity of its increase upon the Treasury benches. Confidence, a most illustrious authority had once observed in this House, was a plant of slow growth, in an aged breast; but this memorable Session of 1860 was, he suspected, destined to witness the practical contradiction of more than one golden maxim both of ancient and living statesmen. What was the language of the hon. Member for Birmingham but a few days since upon that Manchester platform, when, to use the expressive language of his chairman, he drove such a "roaring business?" What was his language then to that people whom he knew so well, and in whom he asked the House to repose such a generous confidence? He openly urged the people to bring and bear upon the question of Reform the vast power of combination which they had displayed in the form of strikes, so as to influence the legislature of the country. Were the hon. Member for Birmingham present, he would ask him, but in no acrimonious spirit, did he think such language was likely to inspire that House with confidence in the people, or was it likely to quicken their zeal in the cause of Parliamentary Reform? He would ask him to consider whether the brave words and open avowals of the Liberation Society tended on Friday last to quicken the zeal of the House in the cause of Church Rate Abolition. Might not the House be apt to ask themselves the simple question, Would the gift of the franchise to such parties diminish the danger of subsequent combinations, or afford any guarantee that this Bill passed, the hon. Gentleman would not soon again be doing "a roaring trade" on the Birmingham platform; telling the people that this Reform Bill was a mere drop in the ocean compared with what they had a right to expect, that this Budget of the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not half lay the saddle on the right horse, that the people should now remember they had a preponderating voice in the representation, that now was the time for appointing their delegates, making their combinations, bringing their power to bear on the House of Commons, and woe to the repre- 406 sentatives that dared to oppose the will of the people? Upon this point he would read a short extract from a journal which he believed had the largest circulation of any going exclusively among the working classes, professing to advocate their just claims and obtain a remedy for their grievances. The Weekly Dispatch, some few weeks since, had an article on the merits of the present Reform Bill. It commenced thus:—We feel some hesitation m 'letting the cat out of the hag.' The Tories are in a state of complacent ignorance on the subject of the significancy of the new Reform Bill—and 'where ignorance is bliss 'tis folly to be wise.' They are disposed to let it pass sub silentio, as too small for notice and too futile for opposition. It gives us some compunction to undeceive them and some qualms to provoke their resistance. Liberals appear to be in an almost equal predicament of omninescience. They turn up their noses at it, as Jeames of Belgravia would at cold meat to dinner. Some of them call it too poor for acceptance, and too worthless for rejection." …….The Bill is, notwithstanding, a tremendous measure—far more comprehensive, infinitely more thorough and organic in its changes, than cither its friends or its enemies even remotely conceive. The fact is, they are thoroughly deceived by utterly deceptive Returns, and the most futile and nimious statistics." ….. "We repeat the expression of our conviction that the Bill is a political revolution. It is a stride towards democracy that leaves the rest of the way but a step. In one simple clause it hands over the issues of political power to the masses. When it shall become law the working classes will constitute substantially the prevailing element in representation—be the masters of the situation." …..This does not disclose nearly the whole of the case. Of the present constituency 50 per cent, and that the most wealthy and the most thoughtful never vote. It is never found, however, that working men having a vote ever neglect to poll. Of Ancient Foresters, Odd Fellows, Amalgamated Engineers, and other Trades' Unions and Friendly Societies of working men, it is computed that there are nearly 2,000,000 enrolled throughout the United Kingdom. The builders' strike showed how intimate was the mutual understanding among these combinations. Some of them possess an organization so perfect that in a few hours the Central Council could set in motion every affiliated branch throughout the empire. It is on these classes the franchise is about to be conferred. Who or what can stand before them? They will poll to a man—will they not all poll one way? It is notorious that the middle classes do not possess the cohesion and spirit of union which support the power of the working classes. Henceforward, for weal or woe, the Democratic element reigns in England.Hon. Members might suppose that this statement was somewhat exaggerated; but, at all events, this was not a branch of the question which they could afford to pass over with contemptuous silence or indifference at a moment when they wer 407 about to inaugurate a constitutional change which, according to their own showing, was to be the prelude of other changes. He trusted that House would always represent the free and unfettered opinion, controlled by the talent and intelligence, of the country, giving their sanction to great legislative changes only after having calmly ascertained their bearing on the national welfare. In conclusion, it had been well said by M. de Tocqueville, that free institutions were necessary to a State not more to secure the lesser citizens their rights than to warn the greater citizens of their perils. He thought that they whose lot had been cast amid the peaceful scenes of an enlightened civilization, might recognize at the present moment the truth and the value of so ancient and so time-honoured a maxim. They might return thanks for the blessing of free institutions, and especially might they feel grateful for a freedom that allowed the tongue to utter and the press to circulate doctrines that warned them of the pitfalls that lay before them when they were discussing this great constitutional question. He could not reiterate a charge which had been made in the course of this debate against the Conservative phalanx for apathy and indifference in not opposing the second reading of this Bill. The principle of the measure was the extension of the franchise, and it was no part of a Conservative policy to oppose that principle. It was no part of the Conservative policy to imitate the example of another celebrated phalanx of 300 in ancient days, to buckle on their armour and court destruction to man, in a resolute and hopeless resistance to the advancing tide of popular opinion. But if he did not say to the Conservative party, as regards their present position, in the despairing and reproachful language of Byron—Of three hundred give but three,To make a new Thermopylæ.He did venture to say to the House that it was not a question for the Conservative party alone to consider, but for all in that House, whatever their party denomination, who had any regard to the safety and stability of our own representative institutions and the duration of free Parliamentary government. The noble Lord (Lord John Russell) said he had no wish to overturn or undermine the constitution of the country; but, when he quoted Burke as his justification of this most mischievous and one-sided measure, he (Mr. Du Cane) could have wished that the noble Lord had drunk 408 somewhat deeper at that fountain of inspiration. He wished he had reminded himself of another passage, worthy to be recalled of one who, liberal alike in genius and in practice, did not speak merely for the immediate exigencies of the age in which he lived, when he said—I look with reverence on the Constitution of my country, and will never cut it in pieces or place it in the cauldron of any magician in order to boil it with the puddle of his compounds into youth and vigour. On the contrary, I will drive away all such pretenders; I will nurse its venerable age, and with lenient arts extend a parent's breath.
§ MR. CLAY,
as an elector of Marylebone—not the particular, sulky elector to whom allusion had been made, but one well satisfied with the noble Lord, and the learned Gentleman who represented him—must correct the error into which the hon. Member who had just sat down (Mr. Du Cane) had fallen, in stating that elections in Marylebone were decided by majorities of the working classes. He (Mr. Clay) should not think the worse of the constituency if it were so; but the fact was, that the majority in that borough was one of retail tradesmen—a class generally as Conservative in their opinions and interests as hon. Members opposite could desire. The hon. Gentleman, in looking at this Bill, professed himself unable to see how hon. Members, who supported it, could have voted against Lord Derby's Reform Bill; and his (Mr. Clay's) hon. Friend the Member for Dorsetshire had twitted the opponents of his Bill with having found in it only a means of turning out a Government, and to this motive he attributed their votes against the second reading. The attacks of his (Mr. Clay's) hon. Friend were always so free from bitterness as to excite no annoyance; but all he said both deserved and received so much attention, that he (Mr. Clay) was anxious to correct this erroneous impression. He could say for himself—and with equal confidence for the Gentlemen who sat on the same benches with him—that his vote against the second reading of Lord Derby's Reform Bill was influenced by no such feeling as that attributed to it by his hon. Friend, but had one motive—and one motive alone—namely, that this Bill contained no provision for lowering the property qualification in boroughs. And this, they were told, was the principle of the Bill, and his right hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire called it a middle-class Reform Bill. Why he (Mr. Clay) thought that the middle classes 409 had had their Reform Bill in 1832, and he fancied that the turn of the working men was come. Their improvement was acknowledged on all sides of the House. Crime had decreased, intelligence had increased, disaffection was dead. These were the virtues of a class, and to a class the reward ought to have been given, and not by a few exceptional or, as they were called, fancy franchises. If Lord Derby's Bill had provided for any extension, however narrow, of the borough franchise, he would have voted for the second reading, and would have trusted to a Committee to make that extension more liberal. Yet there no doubt were some hon. Members who now seemed afraid of that very extension for which last year they were the advocates, and the Member for Edinburgh for this reason assured the House that with regret he differed from his friends. Why, the hon. Gentleman differed from himself as well—and, in his speech of the other night, quite forgot to say bow he reconciled that speech with his vote for the Resolution which defeated Lord Derby's Bill—a Resolution which declared that any Reform Bill to be satisfactory must contain a general extension of the franchise in boroughs. But now the hon. Member was afraid of the classes which this extension would admit—of the working classes. Why? Because they were ignorant of political economy, as shown in their strike of last year. If ignorance of political economy was to be the ground of exclusion from the franchise, they need not go back far to find the very highest interests in the country as ignorant—aye, and more so—as the working men in their strike, as to which it might be remembered that they were not wholly in the wrong. The noble Lord the Member for London might, on these terms, lose some of his very richest constituents, in the members of that great bill discounting firm, who, the other day, locked up in their drawer a million and a-half in bank notes, in utter disregard of all sound politico-economical principle, and in an insane attempt to coerce the Bank of England in the conduct of their business as bankers. But the hon. Member objected to the working classes as likely to be bribed, and he spoke of bribery as if it were the vice of the lowest classes of our society. Surely it was fair to remember that it was at least equally the vice of our very highest classes, for before a man can take a bribe some one must be found to give it. The hon. Mem- 410 ber would do better to join earnestly in the endeavour so to legislate as to make bribery impossible to the rich, rather than to distrust those whose poverty sometimes yields to temptation. The hon. Gentleman said there was no bribery in Scotland. Was this because the working classes there were more honest, or because the richer classes were more wise—too wise to part with their money in so foolish a way? If they all came from "as far North" as the hon. Member, there might be less bribery in this country. His (Mr. Clay's) hon. Friend, the Member for Norfolk, (Mr. Bentinck) claimed for the rural districts an intelligence superior to that of the inhabitants of towns, and quoted Adam Smith in support of his opinion. He (Mr. Clay) had no wish to depreciate the rural intellect, and still less desire to speak with disrespect of Adam Smith; but he objected to Adam Smith as any authority whatever in making this comparison, as he wrote before that immense development of mechanical industry which had so wonderfully acted on the intelligence of the inhabitants of towns. His hon. Friend was not satisfied with the disgracefully slow progress which the Bill was making, but advised that no progress should be made at all—until the House was prepared to acknowledge the claim of the counties to 130 additional Members, a claim which he founded on their population and property. Why, in this calculation, the hon. Member took credit for the counties for all the population and property of the large unrepresented towns—some of which would have Members under the present Bill, and all of which, if the Radicals—for he (Mr. Clay) was not ashamed of the name, in spite of the dirt thrown on it—had their way, would have Members at the expense of the small, or rotten boroughs. He (Mr. Clay) would not quarrel with this Bill, which would add, as he was told, some 1,500 electors to the constituency which he had the honour to represent. On this account, if for no other, he was grateful for it, and supported it as far as it went—though, to his thinking, it did not go very far, and left untouched some subjects with which a Reform Bill ought to deal. But he was mose disposed to lay the blame of its shortcomings on the apathy of the country, than on the niggardliness of the Government. The hon. Member for Halifax had endeavoured to explain this apathy, and had cited high authority in support of his opinion, while 411 his hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk said that agitations produced political discontent. The reverse was the case—distress naturally produced political agitation among a class who still believed that legislation could find a cure for their sufferings. To him (Mr. Clay) the cause of this indifference on the part of the unenfranchised classes to the acquirement of political rights was of easy explanation. In this couutry political agitation had always been co-existent with periods of general depression of trade, or periods of famine. The operation of the great commercial changes of late years had at least been this—to spread a more equal surface over the interests of trade, and to make in the highest degree improbable those times of famine prices from which the country in former years had suffered. Indeed, they were scarcely too sanguine if they expected that the calamities, in this respect, which they had seen they never would see again. To this, in the main, he (Mr. Clay) attributed the notorious indifference of the country to Parliamentary Ruform. In part also to this, that the honest and earnest Reformers—and there were honest and earnest Reformers—relied implicity on the promises made by the leaders of all parties that there should be an amended representation of the people in the House of Commons, and were content to wait in partience for the loyal fulfilment of this promise. Whatever the cause, this indifference was not denied, and when he (Mr. Clay) remembered how little was asked for, he confessed himself surprised at how much it was proposed to give, for it was not in human nature that those in possession of power should consent to share it with others short of compulsion; by which, of course, he did not mean violence, but that strong and general expression of a nation's will, which, for years past in this country had been taken—which for all years to come he hoped would be taken—by sagacious statesmen as sufficient indication that the time for concession had arrived. He might be told that this Bill itself was the refutation of his theory, as by it much was given when little was asked. But he was forced to remember that this Bill was only the loyal fulfilment of a promise, made some ten years back, when there was clamour—when there was agitation—such as no prudent statesman could afford to disregard. He must not be supposed to infer from this that it would be safe—much less that it would be honest—that the leaders 412 of parties in this House should now forget their promises, and that its members should forget the declarations which so many of them had made on the hustings. For, if there was a way—and there was this one way—to wake the agitation which had long slept, it would be to give to honest Reformers the idea that statesmen were disposed to play false by their pledges, and that the House of Commons was anxious to find a decent pretext for shelving an unpalatable subject. An amended representation of the people in the House of Commons there must be. What should be its nature? His right hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, not only objected to this Bill, but he objected to any Reform Bill at the present time. It was, he said, the wrong time. Jeremy Bentham had disposed of the argument—fallacy he called it—of the wrong time, by saying that when anything is wrong, the only right time to amend it is the very first time at which its remedy can be found. But his (Mr. Clay's) right hon. Friend gave two reasons why this was the wrong time. First, the menacing aspect of foreign relations. Well, if his right hon. Friend could tell him when the black cloud, big with turbulence and war, would pass away, leaving an unclouded sky, and a bright sun to shine on their efforts of Reform, he might consent to wait a little while; but if, as was most probable, his right honourable Friend could make no certain prophecy of fine weather—he (Mr. Clay), on the ground of safety, declined to put off indefinitely the settlement of this long-vexed question. But his right hon. Friend gave another reason. This House of Commons, he said, had sanctioned a system of finance so imprudent, as to have placed the country in fearful financial danger. It was their duty not to abandon their posts until they could leave to their successors a legacy of greater financial ease, and he likened them to defeated and desperate speculators about to commit suicide rather than face the difficulties which their own recklessness had brought about. He (Mr. Clay) did not admit the reckless character of the finance which the House had sanctioned, but if his right hon. Friend was right—if they had misconducted themselves—it was surely an odd argument that on that account it was their duty to continue their mischievous labours unreformed—and this plea was one which might be urged with equal justice by Mr. Pullinger, why he should be allowed to remain cashier of the Union Bank until he 413 had set right the defalcations from which his company had suffered. But his right hon. Friend objected especially to this Bill, and had embodied his objections in a speech so able and so eloquent, that its best praise was, that it equalled—if it did not surpass—any previous effort with which he had delighted the House. Yet, so fair and candid was his speech—so philosophical was the tone of his mind—that he (Mr. Clay) did not think it would be difficult for the Radicals to come to terms with him in Committee, for they would readily admit to the franchise any test of intelligence which his ingenuity could devise, and the more they admitted the better they would be liked. This Bill could only be looked on as a measure for the extension of the suffrage. Its disenfranchising clauses seemed like the cheap knives—made to sell, and not to cut. They were framed to pass. He (Mr. Clay) would look only at that which chiefly concerned him—the extension of the right of voting in boroughs. He had no fear that this proposal would swamp the intelligence of the country by its uneducated numbers, but he would confess to seeing an awkwardness—an incompleteness—in this—that all the extension was more or loss to one class. He admitted the defect, but it appeared to him of easy remedy. The lodger franchise would do much to vary the present admission of new voters, and would give a larger class of voters of intelligence and property above the common run. But beyond this, he had always been in favour of a mixed franchise founded partly on intelligence, partly on property. Let them introduce in Committee such tests of intelligence ns they could hit on. He must not be told that these exceptional franchises would be useless, with a £6 property qualification, as, under this, all would be admitted; for, if so, what became of the argument that the admission proposed was all of one class? This idea of tests of superior intelligence had, it seemed, been discussed in the Cabinet, and thrown aside. Let his right hon. Friend, the Member for Buckinghamshire, pick it up—it was in some sort his property. Such aid as he (Mr. Clay) could give, in this sense, was most cordially at the service of his right hon. Friend; and, if he would lend the authority of his name and position to Amendments such as these, everything might be done in Committee which the hon. Member for Salford could have hoped from his proposition—rather novel than 414 constitutional—of a Committee upstairs; and a Bill might be passed such as they all would like to see, more or less the work of all parties in the House—for, if there was a subject which, more than any other, ought to be removed in its discussion from party strife, it was the amended representation of the people in the House of Commons. If his right hon. Friend would give favourable consideration to this suggestion—given in all sincerity, and with great deference—his right hon. Friend might be assured that he would add much to the popularity of the great party which he led, and—better still—would deserve well of the House and the country.
§ MR. A. MILLS
said, that one advantage had at all events resulted from the prolongation of this discussion, namely, that the charges of a "Fabian policy" levelled at the Opposition, by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir G. Lewis) had been practically refuted. The statistics of the present debate were that before its commencement that night, 43 speeches had been made, of which 18 had been made on the Conservative and 25 on the Ministerial side of the House; of these speeches 29 were against the Bill, 12 neutral, and 2 in its favour. The Opposition had been accused of having conspired together to destroy the Bill. But was that borne out by facts? Instead of adopting the tactics which the party now in power had adopted last year to defeat the measure of the Government of Lord Derby, they had abstained from concocting any ingeniously contrived Amendment which would have that effect; but proposed—laying aside party politics—to take the miserable materials which the Government had presented to them, and to try to make something of them, if they could, in Committee. They were all convinced that the time was come when the game of politics, commenced in 1852, by the indiscreet declaration of the noble Lord, and since kept up by agitators out of doors and by public men in that House, ought to be played out, and brought to a conclusion. He had heard it said that they on his side of the House were afraid to admit the working classes to the elective franchise. Now, he asserted that not a single word had been uttered from his side of the House that could favour any such idea. He had certainly heard speeches from the Ministerial side of the House which contained arguments by no means complimentary to the competence of the working classes to exercise the franchise. 415 The Conservatives, on the other hand, were convinced that the time had come when classes which had hitherto been excluded should be included in the representation. As to the course that ought to be adopted, if he thought that there was the slightest possibility, out of the meagre materials which the Bill presented, to frame anything approaching a constitutional measure, he for one would be prepared to make an effort in that direction in Committee; but if the Bill came out of Committee in the shape it stood at present, he should decidedly give it his negative upon the third reading. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Hertford then alluded to an article upon the subject of this Bill that appeared a short time ago in a public journal which generally found some favour with the Members on the Ministerial side of the House. He alluded to The Economist newspaper. The writer said that this Bill established the competence of all men alike to wield an equal amount of political power, and pronounced that an educated man compared with a mechanic had no inherent superior qualification to legislate or to govern; it declared that though to plough a field or make a machine were matters of skill and science, to discern a fit legislator and a good ruler required no knowledge of politics or statesmanship. The Bill of 1860 was simply a deteriorated edition of the Bill of 1832, which was pretended to have conferred a sort of monopoly in this department of legislation on the noble Lord; but he (Mr. Mills) denied that the Bill of 1832 gave the Liberal party a patent right to deal with the question of Reform; on the contrary, he thought it proved that its framers were for ever disqualified from dealing with the question. The Bill of 1832 was justified by its authors and advocates by the excitement which then existed on the question throughout the kingdom—the measure of 1860 was justified by the general tranquillity and indifference that prevailed amongst the people upon the subject of reform; so that the noble Lord endeavoured to draw a pretext for his Bills from circumstances of the most contradictory character. As to the charge made against the political party with which he generally acted, that they were afraid of giving power into the hands of the working classes, he utterly repudiated any such feeling. A large portion of his own constituency was composed of the working classes, and he felt proud of representing such an independent and intelligent body of men. But what right 416 had they to expect that by enlarging the area of the constituencies of the kingdom they should be raising the quality as well as the number of the electors? A large proportion of the present ten pound occupiers, though they might be very staunch adherents to their party colours, had in fact no political opinions at all. What ground was there for supposing that the class below them would be more enlightened? Frequent allusions had been made to the hon. Member for Birmingham throughout these discussions. For his (Mr. Mills's) part he thought that they had heard too much of the hon. Gentleman. He wished not to speak in any spirit of harshness or unkind-ness of the hon. Member. At the same time he thought that they had been rather too much afraid of him. He believed that the hon. Gentleman would be more formidable if he endeavoured to be more accurate in his statements. If the arguments attributed to the hon. Gentleman were correct, he thought that there would be considerable difficulty in verifying his statistics. The subject was now well nigh exhausted, never the less he thought it a fortunate circumstance that it had been so fully and freely discussed; because if they had attempted to pass the second reading without a full discussion, or had met the Motion at the outset by a direct negative, a false impression as to the views and reasons of the Members of the Opposition would have been conveyed to the country. He contended that they had adopted the best, the safest, and most constitutional course in allowing the Bill to go forward in the House. He was, however, by no means sanguine as to its progress in Committee, or that anything like a sound constitutional measure could be made of it. He would only remark in conclusion that instead of seeking to deprive the working classes of any voice in the election of their representatives, the aristocracy of this country, whose conduct had been severely canvassed in connection with this question, had been most assiduous in their efforts to educate and to raise those classes to a position to qualify them for the exercise of the franchise. The educational statistics of the country proved that fact beyond the possibility of a doubt. They were, however, opposed to a measure the object of which was the indiscriminate admission of a mass of persons wholly unprepared for the proper exercise of this boon, and who would effectually swamp all the other elements of our popular representation. He 417 should resist to the utmost any such attempt, whether it were made by the Liberal or any other party inside or outside the walls of that House.
§ MR. JOHN LOCKE
said, he was anxious to say a few words, because he believed that with the exception of a speech from his hon. and learned friend the Member for Marylebone no Metropolitan Member had addressed the House in this debate. He believed that one of the reasons why the Metropolitan Members had been so much adverted to in the course of the discussion was, that many of them were returned by the aid of the working classes. They had been denounced as a class of men who could not be properly trusted as legislators, and there had been a comparison made throughout the debate between the Metropolitan Members, who were the representatives of the working classes, and the Members who represented small constituencies. He presumed that had been done to show that the object of this Bill was a bad object, and that the very worst thing the Bill could do was to make all the Members like the Metropolitan Members. Now for his own part he only wished that more of the Members of the House were like the Metropolitan Members. If they could have a sufficiently large net, and could include within it any eighteen Members that it fell upon in any part of the House, he thought the Metropolitan Members would not at all suffer by the comparison. It was charged upon them that they did not possess every description of talent which was required in a legislator; but they would find among them men high in position, and who in their intellect would well bear comparison with any Members of that House. They boasted that they had among them the noble Lord the Member for the City of London; they boasted that they had among them Generals and Admirals, and men who had received the favour of their Sovereign. They had among them an hon. Baronet who, when everybody else despaired of our success in the Crimea, showed how our troops might be relieved, and constructed a railway by which the object was accomplished; and he was made a Baronet for having done so. He might mention the names of eminent men who had represented Metropolitan constituencies. He might speak of Mr. Tierney and Sir Robert Wilson, and Mr. Brougham, the brother of Lord Brougham, and a long list of distinguished men who had sat for Southwark. But they were told that small boroughs sent the best Mem- 418 bers. Why, the Members for small boroughs might be counted by hundreds, while the Metropolitan Members only numbered eighteen. Some of those small boroughs were in the hands of patrons, and it was said the patrons selected Members who would be of the greatest service to the country. He looked upon the patron of a borough in the same light as he looked upon the patron of a living, who selected a person for the living not because he was a good divine, but because he was a relation or a friend. It would be a great shame if among the representatives of these small boroughs, which returned so large a part of the House, there were not found men who distinguished themselves. But it ill became the representatives of such boroughs to cast aspersions upon the Metropolitan Members, merely because they were returned by a class who he hoped would soon return a large majority of the House. It had been said that the Bill received little or no support from hon. Gentlemen on the Ministerial side of the House; but exactly the same thing might have been alleged against the Bill of the late Government. With the exception of the hon. and learned Member for Cambridge (Mr. Macaulay), there was not one of the independent supporters of Lord Derby's Government who spoke that did not express more or less disapproval of the Reform Bill brought in by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks. It seemed to be a sort of law that whatever kind of Reform Bill might be brought in it must be opposed—indeed it was not human nature to suppose it could he otherwise—but what the House had to look to were the main features of the measure that was submitted to them; and it was precisely because the main feature of the Derby Bill—namely, the non-extension of the franchise in boroughs, was disapproved of, that the Bill was thrown out. That they were discussing the present Bill at all was owing to the policy of hon. Gentlemen opposite. When the Reform Bill of the late Government was first introduced two main objections to it were pointed out—the disfranchisement of freeholders and the non-extension of the suffrage in cities and boroughs. Against these two defects the Resolution of the noble Lord the present Foreign Secretary was directed. He (Mr. Locke) thought at the time that the ingenuity of the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire would have found a way out of the difficulty by accepting the Resolution. 419 The right hon. Gentleman having given up the disfranchisement of the freeholders, was urged to adopt the Resolution; but he did not choose to do so. He dissolved Parliament, and the opinion of the country was, in fact, taken on the question of extending the franchise. Immediately before the dissolution, in reply to the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, the noble Lord, if he (Mr. Locke) remembered right, stated that he should recommend a £ 6 franchise in boroughs. This was what the country looked forward to, and the present Bill was brought in embodying that principle. The feeling of the country, he contended, was not that of apathy to the measure; but the people were satisfied that the compact made with them before Parliament was dissolved had been kept. The Conservative party knew what the extent of the impending reform was to be; and he was astonished that the same objections were still made to the extension of the suffrage, after the speech of the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, when Parliament reassembled. In that speech the right hon. Gentleman alluded to the extension of the suffrage to the working classes; the expressions made use of by the right hon. Gentleman were:—The question of the borough franchise, however, must be dealt with, and it must be dealt with, too, with reference to the introduction of the working classes. We admit that that has been the opinion of Parliament, and that it has been the opinion of the country, as shown by the hon. Gentlemen who have been returned to this House."—[3 Hansard, cliv. 139.]Considering the circumstances under which that speech was made—that Parliament had been dissolved on the Reform question, and that the noble Lord who moved the Amendment had expressed his intention of extending the borough suffrage to £6 householders, and that this was well understood throughout the country as the suffrage which was to be adopted, there could, he thought, be no question whatever that the observations of the right hon. Gentleman applied to the borough suffrage, and that the right hon. Gentleman, if restored to power, would have used his influence as a Minister of the Crown to secure its adoption.We cannot be blind to that result," he went on to say—"we do not wish to be blind to it. We have no prejudice against the proposition. All that we want is to assure ourselves that any measure that we bring forward is one required by the public necessities and will be sanctioned by public approbation and support; and, therefore, we are perfectly prepared to deal with that question of the borough franchise and the introduction of the working classes by lowering the franchise in boroughs, and 420 by acting in that direction with sincerity; because, as I ventured to observe in the debate upon our measure, if you intend to admit the working-classes to the franchise by lowering the suffrage in boroughs, you must not keep the promise to the ear and break it to the hope. The lowering of the suffrage must be done in a manner which satisfactorily and completely effects your object, and is, at the same time, consistent with maintaining the institutions of the country."—[Ibid.]It would be seen, therefore, that the opinion expressed by the right hon. Gentleman on that occasion was undoubtedly in favour of the £6 borough franchise. But what was the objection taken now? Why, that it would swamp the constituency. Now, perhaps, hon. Gentlemen opposite might object to his (Mr. Locke's) constituency, and say it could not be worse. ["Hear, hear!"] He did not suppose they meant anything personal to himself—["Hear, hear!"]—then it must be that they objected to his constituents because they consisted of the working classes. Well, the £6 franchise would make little or no change in the character of his constituency, for he did not suppose it would add more than 3,000 voters to the number already on the roll. It had been said that in the large metropolitan boroughs, such as Marylebone, Tower Hamlets, and Finsbury, there were no elections, for not a quarter or a half of the voters cared to vote at all. But that was not the case in the borough of Southwark. There an election was a matter of real interest, and the voters came to the poll. At the last election there were 10,606 electors on the register, and the number polled was 7,152, which left 3,454. From that remainder must be deducted the number of persons who had left their residence, those who were dead, those who kept post-offices or were employed in the Customs, those who were down in the register two or three times, and others. Ten per cent of the registered number, or 1,060, must be deducted on this account from the 3,454, and that would leave only 2,394 who did not vote. In such a population as Southwark, it was I probable that many persons would be away from home, and considering all these circumstances he thought this was a polling quite equal to that of any other large town or borough in the country. Therefore it must not be said that the working classes of the Metropolis, or of Southwark at all events, were not alive to the importance of exercising the suffrage when it was given to them. This disposed of one of the strongest objections which had been raised to the ex- 421 tension of the suffrage to large masses of the population in boroughs. In the City of London also, a very large proportion of the electors had always been polled. Now, he (Mr. Locke) did not mean to say that he entirely approved of this Bill; he merely gave his unqualified assent to a £6 franchise. His constituents desired that there should be a lodger franchise, and he agreed with them. Many of the working men who lived in lodgings were of a very superior and intelligent class—men who did not choose to burthen themselves with a house, because of its liabilities and inconveniences, but who were perhaps earning their £5, or £6, or even £8 a week, as engineers, or in different trades requiring great ingenuity and talent. What could he the danger of entrusting the franchise to such men as these? They were told of the spirit of combination which actuated the working classes. Why, people of every class would combine together for their own interest. No class had combined together more determinedly than the landed proprietors of this country, and having a majority in that House, in 1815 they imposed the corn laws, and maintained them until 1846. Great discussion had taken place with respect to the returns. For his own part he thought it mattered little whether the present constituencies were increased by 250,000 or 400,000; but should it prove that a very large addition were made, it would be necessary to have additional polling places, and that had not been provided for under this Bill. He was anxious that the Bill should go into Committee as soon as possible. They were all agreed on an extension of the suffrage; and in Committee Gentlemen opposite might propose any fancy franchises they pleased. Did they wish to do so? Had they any very strong wish for any Reform Bill at all? ["No, no."] Then why had they themselves brought in a Reform Bill? They had nothing to fear from a £6 franchise; for the working classes understood public questions as well as they did in that House.
§ MR. MACAULAY moved the Adjournment of the debate.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
said, he did not object to the Adjournment of the debate, but expressed a hope that the hon. and gallant Member for Southwark and other Members who had Motions or Orders of the Day on the paper for to-morrow would give way so as to allow the adjourned debate to be resumed.
observed, that some important Irish Bills stood for to-morrow, for the consideration of which another opportunity would not easily be found.
§ MR. VINCENT SCULLY
said, that sixteen English Members had spoken that night. This Reform Bill was becoming the great "social evil" of the day. Every hon. Member instead of addressing himself to the Question, addressed himself to the hon. Member for Birmingham. This question of the English Reform Bill concerned Irish Members as much as their own; for when it was settled, all the rest would follow as a matter of course. It was complained that out of sixteen Metropolitan Members only two had been heard; he should be happy to hear the other fourteen—and he hoped when the Irish Reform Bill came before the House, the Irish Members would be listened to with the same patience with which they had listened to the measure now before the House. He quite agreed in the reproach which was cast upon Irish Members, that they did not take a sufficient part in questions affecting the whole nation. If they were too modest to speak upon this question—although he had himself no intention to take any part in the debate—he would overcome his modesty so far as to detain the House for a short time in order to express his opinions upon the Bill.
§ MR. HENNESSY
said, he had an important Bill regarding the improvement of land in Ireland on the paper for to-morrow, and he could not give way.
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
stated, that the hon. and gallant Member for Southwark (Sir Charles Napier), assured him before leaving the House a short time back that it was his intention to proceed with his Motion to-morrow. He trusted that that would be the case, for he believed the manning of the navy was a much more important matter to the country than any Reform Bill that could be laid on the table.
§ Debate further adjourned till To-morrow.