Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [4th June],
That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair:" and which Amendment was, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in order to obtain a safe and effective Reform, it would be inexpedient and unjust to proceed further with the proposed Legislative Measure for the Representation of the People until the House has before it the results of the Census authorised by the Bill now under its consideration.
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
said, he had put a notice on the paper to postpone the Order of the Day for going into Commit- 27 tee on the Reform Bill for England till after the Scotch and Irish Bills had been read a second time. He had taken that course, although a very unusual one, relying, as he thought, on precedent and on the best advice which he had been able to procure. He felt extremely grateful to the Speaker for the caution which he had given, and for having saved him from the position, so embarrassing to a young Member, of being placed in antagonism to the rules of the House; he was, therefore, obliged to adopt another course, although that of which he had given notice, he believed, was only open to question. He hoped to be able to show that although the step he was about to take was unusual, the circumstances which had led to it were so extraordinary, and, perhaps, unprecedented, that the House would assent to the Motion he was about to submit, and thereby, in an indirect manner mark their sense of the course taken by the Government with respect to the Scotch and Irish Bills, and thus cause the Government to retrace their steps. To keep himself in order he begged, instead of the Motion of which he had given notice, to move that the debate be now adjourned. To render this Motion intelligible it was requisite that he should shortly go over the history of the three Bills which were before the House. Four months had now elapsed since those measures, dealing with the composition of the electoral body of the country, and involving consequences of great importance, had been brought forward. On the 1st of March the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, in fulfilment of the pledge which led to his accession to office—and, however embarrassing that pledge might have been to the Cabinet of which he was a Member, he took it for granted that the noble Lord would not have held office in it if that pledge had remained unfulfilled—submitted to a crowded and anxious House the most important Bill with regard to the representation of the people which had been laid before it since the settlement of 1832. The progress of that Bill had been but slow. After this grave introduction nearly another month elapsed before another discussion was taken on this measure, to the second reading of which no opposition had been offered. Easter found that discussion unfinished, and after the recess the debate received a new accession of strength from the public criticism which had been freely lavished on the proposals 28 of the Government. Every inducement was offered to the Government to accede to what he took to be the prevailing opinion in the House, endorsed by public feeling out of doors, and to withdraw the Bill. But still so chary was the House of appearing to set itself against an extension of the suffrage—a measure which, on all hands, for some years had been allowed to be inevitable, that no opposition was offered to the second reading; but again a delay intervened before a further stage was attained; another month elapsed before it was proposed to go into Committee on the details of the Bill, which might before then have become part of the Statute-book. But at the very juncture when it appeared probable that that important step would have been taken, the disapproval which had been gaining strength day by day assumed a shape, not by any proposition on the part of the constitutional Opposition, but by the proposition of a Member sitting behind the Government, and usually a supporter of their measures. And he ventured to say that if hon. Members on the Liberal side of the House would only speak out honestly the sentiments they entertained it would be found that that proposition gave expression to the feelings of the majority. What he desired that the House should mark was this, that on every occasion the English Reform Bill appeared in the Notice Paper side by side with those for Scotland and Ireland, until for the first time it had been announced that evening by the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary that the Scotch and Irish Bills were to be postponed till next year. He was far from insinuating that the noble Lord in delaying that announcement intended to take advantage of the House, and to avoid the discussion which he must be aware hon. Members from the sister kingdoms would raise on those measures, but he did say that by withholding so long the profession of his intention, the noble Lord had placed it beyond the power of the House, in the regular and established manner, to protest with effect against the postponement of measures so vitally affecting the parts of the kingdom which they represented. It was in consequence of being now debarred from moving an instruction to the Committee that he now took the course of endeavouring to delay the further progress of the debate on the English Reform Bill. He did so with the view of inducing the Government to take the discussion on the Irish and Scotch 29 Bills pari passu with that on the English Bill, or withdraw the three Bills together, and thus deal evenhanded justice to all parts of the kingdom. Had the Government announced its intention of withdrawing all three Bills he should not have had a word to say; nor had it at first declined to deal with the representation of Ireland and Scotland should he have made any objection; the Government might have seen difficulties in dealing with it that would have justified it in so declining. But suppose the English Reform Bill to be passed; and statements had been made by supporters of the Government that it had resolved to make the English Reform Bill a Cabinet measure; and that if the House should have to sit till Christmas the Government was determined to pass it. He thought that was a straightforward and constitutional and sincere course to take. But should the English Bill be passed, he wanted to know in what position the House would stand next year with regard to the probable dissolution? The right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) had stated to the House, in a clearer manner than he (Sir James Fergusson) could pretend to do, the inconveniences which would arise from that state of things. The experience of the youngest Member was enough to tell him that a dissolution was always a possible—after passing a Reform Bill, a very probable—contingency. It could not be expected that the new constituencies, outnumbering in many places the old electors, would tolerate a denial of the exercise of their newly obtained electoral privileges. During the discussion of any future Irish or Scotch Reform Bills, the newly-enfranchised electors would hardly consent to have no voice upon them, Members of the House would be pointed out as representing but a small portion of their constituencies; there were other Gentlemen, in the House and out of it, who would not be slow to agitate the public mind, and twit those constituencies with having been denied the exercise of the privilege Parliament had conceded to them. The Members of that House, it would be said, until a re-election, represented but a very small portion of their constituents, and it would be felt that a House which was, to use the word of the noble Lord the Member for North Leicestershire, moribund, and condemned by itself to an early end, was incompetent to decide questions that should be discussed in the most in- 30 dependent spirit? The peculiar advantage the House possessed over democratic assemblies, was that independent spirit gained by its being free, for a certain time, from the necessity of appealing to the people. It could decide fairly on great questions, without being swayed by the passions of the day. But the House of Commons knowing it must soon be dissolved, would not so freely express an opinion, according to the conviction of its Members. And the Government by having a dissolution in its hands would be able to exercise more than a legitimate control over the House. There was a further danger also, not of a control from above, but from below. Hon. Members who were certain they should soon have to meet new constituencies, including more of the democratic element than the old, would be far more apt to address the electors out of the House than their fellow Members in it. Having stood out against a principle they thought dangerous they would endeavour to efface the memory of many unfortunate expressions, by the expression of opinions more consonant to the feelings of the new electors they would soon have to meet. It was a state of things closely resembling the influence ascribed to annual or triennial Parliaments. But suppose the dissolution, as a natural consequence of passing the English Reform Bill, to take place, would it be fair that the English Members should be returned by a more democratic or lower franchise, while the Irish and Scotch Members were returned by electors on the old qualification? The English Members so returned would be likely to regard the Irish and Scotch Reform Bills in a very different spirit from that of the preceding Parliament. In support of this view he was entitled to quote the language of a petition, presented by the noble Lord (Lord John Russell), from a meeting held in St. Martin's Hall, on the 17th of May. It said—That while advocating Parliamentary representation on the basis of manhood suffrage and the ballot, your petitioners accept for the present, as an instalment, the Bill introduced by Lord John Russell, the provisions of which, in connection with a lodger qualification and the abolition of the ratepaying clauses, will confer the franchise on a considerable portion of the working population.The Manchester School made no secret of their views in this respect. They openly expressed their conviction that the Reform Bill of the noble Lord was only an instal- 31 ment; that it was not a Reform Bill; but merely a Bill for the extension of the suffrage. He wished the House to recollect that several years ago it was decided that a Parliament on the eve of a dissolution ought not to deal with any subject unless it was of immediate urgency. When the first Government of the Earl of Derby was about to dissolve Parliament, it was proposed to deal with the four seats rendered vacant by the disfranchisement of Sudbury and St. Albans. That course was opposed and successfully opposed by the right hon. Gentleman the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, on the ground that a "moribund" Parliament was incompetent to deal with such an important question. If a Parliament about to expire was incompetent to deal with only four seats, how much less competent would a Parliament, on the verge of dissolution, be to deal with the representation of two portions of the kingdom? The expression of opinion of the right hon. Gentleman was as follows. He said—…There is a great inconvenience attending the introduction of such a question…Surely it is a sound canon of Parliamentary proceeding, that for all measures whatever, except those of immediate urgency.…. the eve of a dissolution of Parliament is the worst possible moment for their introduction, because it is plain it is a moment at which local partialities and personal interests are most alive, at which there is the most difficulty for a Member of the House of Commons to give a deliberate and dispassionate judgment."—[3 Hansard, cxxi., 459.]He had gone on to say—So far from this being the time when there is a peculiar convenience in the entertainment of the present question, it is, of all periods, the worst and most inconvenient that could have been selected, and a period at which it is impossible for us to expect that that decision shall give satisfaction to the many claimants upon those franchises which we are bound to hear."—Ibid.He had also referred to some of the numerous places and corporations, which he said preferred fair claims to these seats, and added—I put it to the right hon. Gentleman and to the House whether he thinks this House of Commons, this 'moribund' Parliament, is in a fair condition at this moment to give a fair hearing to and consideration of those claims."—Ibid.Now, let him (Sir J. Fergusson) suppose that the English Reform Bill were passed into a law, and that a dissolution as a consequence took place, must there not, he would ask, in the event of the Scotch and 32 Irish Reform Bills receiving the assent of the new Parliament, be in common justice another dissolution? The noble Lord, indeed, had relieved him of one doubt that had occurred to him, with respect to the dissolution, by pointing out that a dissolution for the three kingdoms should take place at the same time. But it had not seemed to him very absurd that separate dissolutions should take place; because, why should the Scotch and Irish Members be sent to their constituents in consequence of a Reform Bill being passed for England. Why should English Members be sent to their constituents in consequence of Reform Bills being passed for Scotland and Ireland? These questions the House must bear in mind were forced on the notice of hon. Members by the exceptional manner in which it was proposed to deal with Scotland and Ireland, as compared with this country. For his own part, he should confidently maintain that upon a subject of so much importance as that of reform it was most inexpedient there should be a distinct mode of proceeding in reference to different portions of the State, while, if there were to be a dissolution in consequence of the English Reform Bill next year, and one in the year following as the result of the passing of the Scotch and Irish measures, we might as well at once have recourse to annual Parliaments, the immediate tendency of which would be to make the House of Commons a democratic assembly. Now, he should wish to direct for a moment the attention of the House to the probable effect upon the Irish and Scotch measures of the course which the noble Lord proposed. To have parties fairly represented in that House during the important discussions to which they would give rise ought to be the object of everybody who was anxious to make and render the Bills as conducive as possible to the public weal. But was it to be anticipated, he would ask, that parties would be so represented if the House, exhausted by the debates which must take place on the English Reform Bill, were to be called upon to take up the Irish and Scotch measures, which he understood, from the observations of the noble Lord that evening, he was about to postpone for three months?
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
What I said was that I would propose to postpone these Bills for three months or withdraw them, the one proposition being equivalent to the other.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
That strengthened his argument. He was justified in contending that the Scotch Members had acquired an enviable notoriety for not obtruding questions relating to that country unnecessarily on the attention of the House. They were in the habit of settling such questions, as far as possible, quietly up stairs; but they were, he thought, perfectly justified in demanding that the settlement of a question which concerned the whole nation should take place in a full House, and receive the most careful consideration at the hands of hon. Members representing all parts of the United Kingdom; for, if the contrary course were adopted, and principles which were held of importance, as applied to England, were treated lightly or altogether set aside when their application to Scotland or Ireland became the subject of debate, the result must tend to the disadvantage of the country at large. It had been made a cause of complaint in the case of the first Reform Bill that but little regard was paid in framing it to the landed interest, and the consequence of that complaint being founded on justice was, that a large majority of the Members for Scotland, not only in towns but counties, were returned by urban influences. He trusted, therefore, that in disposing of the important question of the reconstruction of the representation of that country, the English Members would be afforded a fair opportunity of lending their assistance, which, however, could not be the case if hon. Members were preparing for an approaching election. That legislation for the two countries should proceed upon an equal footing was an opinion so strongly impressed upon the mind of the hon. Member for Montrose that he had, upon the introduction of the Reform Bill of the late Government, felt it to be his duty to go so far as to move an Amendment to the Motion, because the Government did not propose to deal in it with the representation of Scotland or Ireland. The hon. Gentleman on that occasion said:—He rose to oppose the Motion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer for two distinct and separate reasons. In the first place he did so in the interests of Scotland, which were not fairly dealt with in the scheme of the Government. He had originally intended to have proposed his Resolution on going into Committee, and he still thought that would have been a fit time for the Scotch and Irish Members to have interposed; but the statement they had just heard from the right hon. Gentleman afforded them ample reasons for protesting against the piecemeal legislation proposed 34 by the Government.…Had the right hon. Gentleman, instead of confining his survey to England and Wales, looked abroad upon the United Kingdom, he would hare had no difficulty in discovering many towns, and counties, too, that were not sufficiently represented in that House. The hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) had in this respect, at least, satisfied the just requirements of Scotland.…the great benefit of the Bill proposed to the country by the hon. Member for Birmingham was that it dealt at once with the whole of the United Kingdom, and all the Scotch and Irish Members should lift up their testimony against any measure which was less extensive. He claimed for Scotland 19 additional members, &c.He went on to say,—…. He inferred that the representation of Scotland (in point of numbers) was to remain just as it was. He stood there to protest against that injustice, and he should warn the Government that the Members for Scotland would give the most strenuous opposition to any measure which did not deal fairly with that country."—[3 Hansard, clii., 1005–6.]Now, the hon. Member for Montrose was, he felt assured, too honest and straightforward a politician to make such remarks as those from mere party motives, and would doubtless pursue the same with regard to any Bill, by whatever Government introduced, if it should fall short in those respects. He (Sir J. Fergusson) himself, in addressing the House on the present occasion, was actuated with no desire to make the question to which he was referring a Scotch grievance, but by the conviction that if the course which the Government proposed were adopted great injury to the interests of that country would be the result. He would point out to the House that, in accordance with the principles on which the Union between Scotland and England was carried out, the former was entitled, whether upon the ground of the relative proportions of taxation or population, to an increased number of representatives. At the time of the Union the amount of the Customs and Excise in England was £2,289,161; in Scotland, £63,500, or as thirty-six to one; while in the year 1830 the amount for England was £35,768,067, for Scotland, £4,134,082, or as eight and a half to one, which was also the present proportion. Next came the test of population, the population of the United Kingdom being 29,013,893, that of Scotland alone 3,139,860, while the scale of taxation was as £62,708,566 to £7,216,358, thus demonstrating that, these several elements being taken into account, Scotland was indisputably entitled to an increase of fourteen or fifteen Members. Now, unless the Reform Bills for the two 35 countries were discussed in conjunction, it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to succeed in carrying an Amendment providing that a certain number of additional seats should be conferred upon Scotland, while, if such an Amendment were adopted, what, he should like to know, was to become of those seats in the event of a dissolution taking place before the Scotch and Irish Reform. Bills had passed into a law? On constitutional grounds then, on grounds of expediency and of general convenience, the course which the Government were pursuing was open to the gravest objections. He had stated that the Scotch Reform Bill in 1832 followed the English in the same year. It was during a weary autumn Session the Bills were discussed; and the first sentences of the chapter of the Annual Register, giving the history of the Scotch Bill, said:—The carrying of the English Bill, and still more the manner in which it had been carried, insured a rapid course to the Reform Bills for Scotland and Ireland. Resistance on any point which either party deemed of importance was now ascertained to be useless. Deliberation was at an end. Both Bills had already been read a first time, and had then awaited on the table of the House of Commons the fate of the English Bill in the House of Peers. The forms of Parliament remained to be gone through before they could become law.…On the second reading no opposition was made, the Opposition knew that resistance was hopeless. Some of the Scotch Members who had adhered to Ministers in regard to the English Bill complained, however, that the Scotch Bill did not do justice to the landed interest, the county representation bearing no fair proportion to that of the boroughs. Sir G. Murray contended that the total number of Members given to Scotland was too small.…The smallest English county had two Members; the largest Scotch had but one.…The Amendment was rejected by 168 to 61. Various other Amendments were moved in the details of the Bill, and pressed to divisions, but always with the same result. Many of the geographical arrangements for the grouping of burghs were most undesirable, but were maintained in many cases avowedly to assist the Ministerial influence."—[See Ann Reg., v. 74, p. 195.]The writer went on to mention instances in which the arrangements connected with the Bill were notoriously made with regard to the exigencies of the Government party; and he could himself mention two towns in his own county which ought to have been united, but were not, because it was said the influence of the one interfered with the Ministerial majority in the other, and they were actually joined, the one to a place fifty miles off and the other to towns, between which and it the sea intervened. 36 He would read one other extract, showing the opinion held by a Liberal Member occupying an eminent position in that House as published in a work on the history of the Reform Bill, and strongly condemning the legislation separately for different parts of the United Kingdom. In Mr. Roebuck's History of the Administration of the Whigs he said:—The Bills for Ireland and Scotland were to be brought in; the first by Mr. Stanley, and the second by the Lord Advocate. The mode attempted before of making all these three Bills proceed pari passu had been found inconvenient, and now, therefore, a separate discussion was to take place of each Bill—a mode of proceeding fraught with great mischief, as it makes the people of Ireland and Scotland (but more especially the former) consider themselves a separate people, subject by this distinction in the process of legislation to direct oppression, because of the different measures of justice with which the three nations are served. One Bill might have been easily made applicable to the United Kingdom, and the whole people would then have found therein their one constitutional code.…. It gives a colour of truth to the charge of unfairness and unequal dealing on the part of England and English Ministers with respect to the less powerful Members of the United Kingdom. The belief that such injustice prevails in all our legislation is carefully inculcated upon the minds of the ignorant, and habits and feelings of antipathy and hate are the natural consequences.He had thus endeavoured imperfectly to state a case which he hoped would be endorsed, in no party spirit, by both Scotch and Irish Members, as so nearly affecting the interests of their constituents. He also hoped that English Members on both sides would, if they attached any weight to the arguments used, impartially ponder the propriety of by their votes inducing the Government to reconsider their decision with respect to the Scotch and Irish Bills. He should certainly regret if the Motion should become in any sense one to embarrass the Government. He might also be allowed to express his belief, although, as a private Member, he could not speak with authority, that in the different debates which had taken place during the present Session, in which the Opposition and those who conducted its proceedings had found it necessary to take exception to various measures proposed by Ministers, they had been actuated by no desire to disturb the Government. The statement was endorsed by those who led the Conservative party, and enjoyed their confidence, that they would shrink from displacing them on any party grounds; but, because they held that patriotic opinion, were they to be deterred from expressing their opinion upon 37 measures which they believed fraught with danger to the institutions of the country? If so, they would be as much wanting in duty to their party as to the country of which they were citizens. The postponement of the Scotch and Irish Reform Bills to a future Session was a perilous, or, at least a doubtful course, against which he sincerely and earnestly protested. The noble Lord—to use a simile he had himself employed in introducing a measure of education with which he had fondly hoped that his name would be associated—had launched a triple venture in a sea which had already proved fatal to many gallant barks. With a clear sky, and no opposing gales, he had been compelled to return to port two of his vessels which had not encountered the first sea breeze. Could he hope that next year the circumstances under which he might renew his venture would be as fair and promising as now? Could he hope that it would not be with a clouded sky and increasing mutterings of the storm? He of all others in the country must know whether we are likely to have a peaceful and unclouded year. But, even if there were not so many whisperings of danger, it was at least a hazardous policy to build so much on a doubtful future. He had considered it his duty to protest against the postponement of two Bills vitally affecting Scotland and Ireland, thus dealing with three portions of the kingdom in a fragmentary manner, when they ought to have the same measure dealt out to all parts of the kingdom. He hoped Parliament would not lightly give its consent to a course the danger of which could not be estimated. He begged to move the Resolution of which he had given notice.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."
said, that as a representative of an Irish county, and feeling deeply the slight which had been put on his country, he rose to second the proposition of the hon. Baronet who had just sat down. He was not of the number of those against whom the accusation had been made so freely that they were opposed to reform, or actuated by motives of factious opposition. They had been accused of dealing in these matters in a party spirit. He did not hesitate to declare that he would rather see the sides of the House changed. Had the Conservative party been in power during the last year they would not have had a commercial treaty which, by its negotiation, had effec- 38 tually paralysed our foreign policy; they would not have had a Budget which, with, all deference to the brilliant but deceptive eloquence with which it had been introduced, had never seduced him, and which was, in fact, one of the worst Budgets ever proposed. They would have been discussing bonâ fide and useful measures of reform; instead of wasting their time with miserable abortions. Another accusation had been brought against that side of the House. The noble Lord opposite (Lord John Russell) had accused them of conduct unworthy of a great party. He (Colonel Dickson) did not pretend to belong to that great party, but he had given them a ready and conscientious support, because he believed their policy to be the best calculated to confer benefits on the empire, and that portion of it which he had the honour to represent; and he would tell the noble Lord what he considered unworthy conduct. There were two noble Lords opposite not supposed to entertain any great political or party affection for each other, who, refusing that fair consideration to their political opponents they expected should be extended to themselves, joined in a factious vote, and with a narrow majority, to oust a Conservative Government from power. They introduced their Bills, but, finding they could not carry them, instead of honestly dropping them, they delayed them from day to day, from week to week, and from month to month, till they were now in the middle of June discussing a measure which, had Ministers wished to carry it, they might have compelled the House to discuss it in the middle of February. Such conduct was unworthy of the noble Lords and of the position they held. He did not wish it to be understood that he was enamoured of the present Reform Bill. "What he complained of was that the Bills for Ireland and Scotland should not move on, pari passu, and that the House should not have an opportunity of discussing and deciding the one with the others. He would not detain them by discussing the clauses of the Irish Bill, but he must say he thought they were totally unworthy of consideration. In fact, in the Irish Bill, there was scarcely anything to discuss. There was simply a reduction of the franchise, very small and unimportant; and a clause to enable Irish peers to represent Irish constituencies in the House of Commons. As a measure of reform it was entirely unworthy of consideration. But he protested against the system of treating 39 with contempt any measure tending to the advantage of Ireland. When Irish measures came on they were discussed in thin Houses or met by counts out; yet they were approaching the end of the Session, and no Irish measures had been passed. He was not in the habit of bringing before the House Irish grievances. He did not profess to be an Irish patriot. He was for a thorough union with the mother country. He thought the union was mutually beneficial to the two countries. But the union should be on fair find equal terms. The Irish would not be the mere pioneers of civilization; they would not be hewers of wood and drawers of water for their Imperial masters. They claimed equal shares in British freedom and British laws. They heard great sympathy expressed for those who were suffering under the King of Naples, but there was a great part of Ireland which stood as a monument of disgrace to England, and as a proof of its misrule. He saw in Ireland a country with every natural advantage, and a people who, with their faults, were noble, amenable to discipline, and open to fair treatment; but what was the fact? A great portion of the country was still neglected, uncultivated, and waste, and the people deprived of those moral and physical advantages which separated the freeman from the slave. This was a state of things which ought not to be allowed to exist, and the only remedy to be applied was to have equal legislation in every part of the empire. He did not blame the present Government only. He thought all Governments had been equally to blame. In conclusion, he would repeat that it was his opinion that it would, be unjust to postpone the Scotch and Irish Reform Bills, which ought, on the contrary, to be considered at the same time as the Bill for reforming the representation of the people of England.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
Sir, I did not hear the opening portion of the speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ayrshire (Sir J. Fergusson), but now that I have heard the Motion with which he concluded I am at a loss to comprehend what possible relation there can be between the Motion of the hon. Gentleman and the speeches which have been delivered in support of it. Still less can I conceive how the adjournment of the debate could assist the object which the hon. Gentleman had in view—namely, the earliest possible consideration of Bills amending the represent- 40 ation of the people for all parts of the United Kingdom. The hon. Member for Ayrshire began by reminding the House that he was a young Member and deficient in experience as to its forms. I must, however, congratulate him, after having taken counsel with his friends, upon having manifested the skill and ingenuity of an experienced tactician in having developed a new mode, after others have been pretty well exhausted, of interposing delay and obstruction to the further progress of a Bill which no hon. Gentleman on the Opposition benches has yet met with the direct and manly opposition that the Government are entitled to expect. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who last spoke, said there was no disposition on the part of hon. Members near him to embarrass the Government, or displace them in favour of hon. Gentlemen in Opposition, and he claimed for them the right, which no one would deny, to assert their principles in a manly, open, and Parliamentary manner, and to oppose measures which they consider prejudicial. That is what we ask them to do—not to cavil at them, and not to obstruct them by dilatory manœuvres—but to meet them with a direct Motion, upon which the sense of the House may be taken. Not only are hon. Gentlemen opposite entitled to take that course, but they are bound to take that course if they believe the Bill to be one which they ought not to sanction, and prejudicial to the interests of this country. But although the hon. Member for Ayrshire says he is a young and inexperienced Member, he has sat in former Parliaments and taken a frequent part in debates, and I am, therefore, astonished that the hon. Gentleman should have shown such a want of experience, such an utter ignorance of the forms and proceedings of the House, and even of the nature of the Constitution. First of all, the hon. Gentleman gave notice of a Motion yesterday diametrically in opposition to one of the Standing Orders of the House, so clear and unambiguous that no one can doubt its purport. I assume that he received from you, Sir, an intimation that his Motion was contrary to the Standing Orders, and that it would be your duty, as the guardian of the forms of the House, to interpose when the Order for the Debate came on, and prevent his submitting that Motion to the House. The hon. Member says it is doubtful whether he would have been in order if he had moved the Resolution he originally drew up, but I appre- 41 hend there is no doubt whatever that the opinion he collected from you in private is in strict accordance with the orders of the House, and that it would have been your duty to interpose if the hon. Gentleman had made his Motion on the Order of the Day being read. The hon. Gentleman again talks of three Parliaments—a Parliament for England, Scotland, and Ireland, forgetting that since the Act of Union with Scotland there has been but one Parliament for England and Scotland, and that since the Union with Ireland there has been but one Parliament for the United Kingdom. A dissolution of Parliament is, therefore, a dissolution of the Parliament of the three kingdoms, and it is impossible to suppose three Parliaments—one for each portion of the United Kingdom. He also fell into a mistake which showed that he was little conversant either with the Bill or with former Reform Acts, in assuming, as he did, that as soon as the Bill for amending the representation either for the whole or a portion of the United Kingdom was passed, it would be the bounden duty of the advisers of the Crown to recommend the Crown forthwith to dissolve Parliament, in order that the new constituency may exercise their privileges. The passing of the Act does not bring those constituencies into existence, and a very considerable interval must elapse before the claims of persons entitled to be placed upon the register under the new law could be taken into consideration. If the Bill were passed before the close of the present year it would be impossible, until the close of the next year, after the registration had been completed, that they could exercise the franchise that Parliament had bestowed upon them. If a dissolution of Parliament took place at the close of next year after the registration had been completed, no doubt the constituencies would then claim to exercise the franchise, but not before.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
was understood to say he had not asserted that a dissolution would necessarily take place, but that he was led to think by their conduct that that was the object of the Government.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
Well, I am sorry I misunderstood the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman has also read as part of his speech a petition which was presented by my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, from some of his constituents in the City of London; and has fallen, as I imagine hardly any one else in 42 the House could have done, into the error of supposing that an hon. Member in presenting a petition makes himself responsible for the opinions and sentiments contained in it. I have myself often presented petitions, from the sentiments expressed in which I entirely differed; but, as they came from my own constituents, and were drawn up in accordance with the rules of the House, I felt it my duty to give the petitioners an opportunity of making known their views to the House. I certainly never heard that in presenting a petition an hon. Member identified himself with the opinions contained in it. I must say I am not at all surprised at the course which the hon. Gentleman has taken. I am not surprised, especially after the debate the other night, that there is now a desire to change the issue which was tendered by my hon. Friend the Member for Rye (Mr. Mackinnon) and that hon. Gentlemen opposite, feeling the absurdity involved in that proposition, have devised this other Motion in which there is no reference to it whatever. It is significant, too, that the hon. Gentleman, in proposing the Motion, made no allusion to the debate which he proposes should be adjourned. I cannot believe that any number of Gentlemen in this House could seriously entertain the Motion of the hon. Member for Rye, as one which should be conclusive as to the fate of the Bill. After having, by agreeing to the second reading, affirmed the principle that there should be a reduction of the franchise both in the county and the borough, so as to admit certain classes who are now excluded from the exercise of that privilege, I do not believe that the House could seriously entertain a Motion to postpone for an almost indefinite period the consideration of those rights, in order that they might ascertain, with arithmetical precision, the exact population of a few small boroughs, from each of which on account of their comparative unimportance it is proposed to take away one seat, in order to confer it on some more important and populous community. I was glad the other night to hear the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) speaking in the name of that party which he so ably leads, repeat the declaration which he made at the beginning of this present Parliament, that he adhered to the principle which he thought the country had affirmed by the last election—that the borough franchise should be reduced in order to admit a por- 43 tion of the working classes. That principle has unquestionably been affirmed both by this House and by the country; and I now call upon those hon. Gentlemen who represent the boroughs in the schedule to reflect whether they are doing justice to their constituencies, and placing them in a position which they would wish them to occupy before the country, when they seriously ask the House to postpone the consideration of the whole question of Parliamentary Reform until they shall, by means of the Census—the results of which will be ascertained two or three years hence—be able to show that these boroughs have been improperly scheduled? I am glad to find from what has taken place tonight that that proposition has been abandoned ["No, no!"] I have too much faith in the justice and the common sense of the House to believe that, after no one has ventured to meet the Bill with a direct negative, and after the principle of the Bill has been affirmed, they will avail themselves of the miserable pretext of waiting for the Census. The hon. and learned Member for Guildford (Mr. Bovill) the other night made a long and able speech which he might have made with more propriety in Committee. If he had in Committee brought forward reasons why the borough of Guildford had been improperly placed in the schedule, he would have received a patient and impartial hearing, and that borough might be withdrawn from the schedule, without affecting the ultimate fate of the Bill. Instead of taking that course the hon. and learned Member has determined to place Guildford in the van—in the van of obstructives, and proposes to hang up the consideration of the whole question of reform until the results of the Census have been made known, and it can be authoritatively decided whether Guildford has more than 7,000 inhabitants. Notwithstanding the few cheers which came from the other side of the House some minutes ago, I believe that when my hon. Friend the Member for Bye goes to a division, if he ever ventures to do so, he will find that the common sense of the House is against him and that they are not disposed to take the course he proposes. The Census has really nothing whatever to do with the essential portions of the Bill. The principle of the borough franchise and county franchise does not depend in the slightest degree on the population which may be proved to exist in certain boroughs and counties by 44 the Census of 1861. The only portion of the Bill to which the Census can at all apply is that which relates to the redistribution of seats, and even to that I hold that it can apply only in a very small and infinitesimal degree. No one can expect to find anything in the Census which would prove that the Ridings of Yorkshire or South Lancashire are not entitled to receive additional representatives. The same may be said as to Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, and other large cities. Although some of them may have increased, of late years, in a more rapid ratio than others, no one can believe that they have altered their relative position to the other boroughs of the kingdom, nor is there any reason to believe that the mere Census would show that the boroughs now contained in the schedule ought not to have been placed there, even if we were to limit ourselves to decide such a question on mere arithmetical grounds. We must of course draw the line somewhere, and 7,000 has been chosen as a fair point at which to draw it; but it is not to be pretended that that number constitutes a substantial principle of the Bill. If this Motion is really to be supported by hon. Gentlemen opposite, as I am led to believe may be the case from the cheers they have given, I would ask them why they did not start the objection on the second reading of the Bill, when it would have been just as applicable as now? And, further, why did they not make the same objection to the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, to which it would have applied almost in the same degree as to the present measure, the only difference being that there was then an interval of two years, and now of one year before the taking of the Census? The hon. Member for Ayrshire, who comes forward now in the character of an ardent Scotch Reformer, expresses himself extremely dissatisfied with the state of the representation in Scotland, and anxious that the Session should not close without some Amendment taking place. I think the positions he has laid down in expressing those views are as liable to criticism as those I have already adverted to. He has asserted that it has been uniformly the custom to proceed pari passu with the Reform Bills of the three countries which form the United Kingdom. [Sir JAMES FERGUSSON: I said just the reverse.] I understood the hon. Gentleman to complain that the Go- 45 vernment was departing from the course taken on the former occasion.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
What I said was that in 1832 the course of proceeding with one Bill before the other was adopted with great disadvantage to those countries the Bills relating to which were postponed.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
It appeared to me the hon. Gentleman entertained the idea that it would be possible to go into Committee one day on the English Bill, and then, having advanced it a little, to take up the Scotch Bill, and so on. ["Oh, oh!"] If the hon. Gentleman had been in the House during the last Parliament he would have known that the course taken by the present Government is much nearer that which he deems the right one than that pursued by the late Government. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks not only did not, when he introduced the Reform Bill for England, lay the Bills for Scotland and Ireland on the table at the same time, but he actually invited the House to read the English Bill a second time without ever having given the slightest intimation to the House of the principle on which the other two measures were to be based. The right hon. Gentleman even went further, and said it was the intention of the Government, if the second reading of the English Bill should be acceded to, to ask the House to go into Committee on it before Easter. Consequently it would have been impossible previously to that time to lay on the table, and ask the House to read a second time, the Bills for Scotland and Ireland. I am bound to suppose that the hon. Gentleman is sincere in assuming the character of an ardent reformer; and I would ask him whether he is taking the course that will most promote the object he professes to have in view? After the experience we have had of late years as to the pressure of business on the Government, and the difficulty of obtaining full and ample time during the period when the House is fully attended by hon. Members for the consideration of all the important business which the Government has to submit to Parliament, I very much doubt whether the best mode of securing full and ample discussion for a Bill of this kind is not to attempt less in one Session. [Cheers from the Opposition.] I mean that it might be better to be content with passing one Bill of this kind in one Session. I am satisfied that greater progress will be made by 46 taking the measures separately than by attempting to take the three together. I believe that that would be the course most conducive to the end which those Gentlemen profess to have in view. But of this I am sure, that to adjourn the consideration of this Bill to no named day is merely to interpose an obstacle to its passing, without enabling the House to come to any decision, or to express any opinion with regard to its future progress. I can understand many Gentlemen who are really honest Reformers feeling the great difficulty which attends the progress of a Bill of this kind during the same Session in which an unusual amount of time has been occupied by financial measures of extraordinary magnitude and importance. I can understand their feelings that it is a difficulty which is entitled to some weight; but I cannot understand any hon. Gentlemen professing to be reformers, and to desire to see the representation amended, lending themselves to these merely dilatory and obstructive Motions, without in the least advancing the views which they profess to entertain. With regard to the question of dissolution, I have already reminded the House that if the prerogative of the Crown be exercised at any time, it can only operate upon what are then the constituencies by law capable of electing Members. If this Bill should pass before the close of the present year, it will be absolutely necessary that many months intervene before the registration is completed. I do not say that there will be no dissolution, but if it should take place it will merely affect the constituencies now existing in the United Kingdom. No dissolution can operate on the new constituencies until towards the close of next year. If this Bill is disposed of in the present Session, the House will have ample time to consider and to pass measures of the same nature affecting both Scotland and Ireland before the new registration can be complete. After all the measures have received the consent of Parliament a dissolution may take place, though not at so early a period as some anticipate, so as to operate on the new constituencies. I hope, therefore, that the House will not now encourage these Motions, which, as I have said, only tend to obstruct and delay, but will take a course more worthy of its character, and one which will enable it to stand better in the opinion of the country, which cannot be deceived by professions of a desire for Reform in the face 47 of acts which only tend to delay. If the House wishes these Bills to be put off for two or three years, let them express that wish by a direct vote, and not under the shelter of professions of a desire to advance Reform lend themselves to Motions which only tend to defeat an object which successive Governments have proposed to effect, with a view to a safe and salutary amendment in the representation of the people.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, he must congratulate the right hon. Baronet upon having made a speech which he must have been anxious to deliver on the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rye. The right hon. Gentleman said that was the question before the House, but he had heard the Speaker put the question that the Debate be now adjourned. Towards the conclusion of his address in answer to the hon. Member for Rye, the right hon. Gentleman did condescend to make some observations in reply to the statesmanlike speech of his hon. Friend the Member for the County of Ayr, and he wished to call the attention of the House, not to the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman against the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rye, but to those observations with which he attempted to reply to the statements of his hon. and gallant Friend. The right hon. Gentleman assumed an air of injured innocence, and said that this was one of those paltry attempts at procrastination and delay by which hon. Members on both sides, equally reluctant to sanction the provisions of this measure, had from time to time attempted to impede its progress. The right hon. Gentleman should recollect that, as far as the Opposition side of the House Was concerned, up to the present moment not a single Amendment had been put from the Chair. It was true that two important Amendments were submitted to the House—one by the right hon. Chairman of Committees, a Gentleman certainly not connected, however remotely, with the party who sat on that side of the House; and the other by an hon. Member who stated that it was the pride of his life to be the devoted follower of the noble Lord at the head of the Government. And yet the right hon. Baronet could look across the table and taunt the Opposition with attempts at delay and procrastination when he knew as well as any man in the House that those who were most anxious to defeat the Bill sat upon the benches immediately behind him. But he would ask 48 the right hon. Baronet, under what circumstances was it that his hon. and gallant Friend felt compelled by his duty to his constituents and to the country to submit the Motion for the adjournment of the Debate? The right hon. Baronet told them that as an earnest and sincere Reformer he was now convinced of the inutility and impossibility of proposing to reform the representation of the three countries in the same Session. When did that light dawn upon the mind of the right hon. Gentleman? Why was Parliament summoned a fortnight earlier than usual? [Sir GEORGE GREY: Not a fortnight—only ten days.] The right hon. Gentleman said it was only ten days. Well, be it ten days. Why was Parliament summoned any number of days earlier than usual? Why was it announced from the Throne that measures would be introduced for the reform of the representation of the three kingdoms? Why, above all, upon the very evening when the Reform Bill for England was introduced, were separate Bills for the Reform of Ireland and Scotland also introduced? And why, if the right hon. Gentleman's view was entertained by the Government, were those two Bills made to follow in the list of business night after night the Bill to Amend the Representation of the People in England? It was clear from the first that it was then in the mind of Her Majesty's Government—and most properly so—to reform Parliament in the three divisions of the Empire, if not simultaneously, clearly within the limits of the present Session of Parliament. He asked whose fault was it that the Session was so far advanced that in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government now it was impossible to pass three Reform Bills? Was it the fault of the Opposition? He would like to know when in the annals of Parliament measures of such vast importtance had received such slight consideration and discussion as that with which the financial measures of the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been allowed to pass. If there were any fault—and he admitted that there was—it was not the fault of the House of Commons or of the Opposition, but of Her Majesty's Ministers, who, by their treatment of the business of the House, had shown that they did not regard the reform of the representation of the people as the first, the greatest, and the most paramount duty which they had to discharge. Parliament was called together earlier than usual and was suffered 49 to dawdle away time until the health of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was re-established. Why was the Reform Bill not proceeded with at once; why was it subordinated to and placed behind the financial measures of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and why was the interest of the Session concentrated upon those revolutionary financial measures? The conduct of the Government taught Parliament and the country that they regarded free commerce with France, and the measures which hinged upon it, as of paramount importance, and Reform of the Representation as a matter of merely secondary consideration. Thus it was that, at the end of the first week in June, Her Majesty's Ministers found themselves reduced to the pitiable condition that they were compelled, as they said, to throw over the Irish and Scotch Bills, and to make an attempt—he believed only a colourable attempt—to proceed some stage further with the Reform Bill for England. When, on Monday last, for the first time, the noble Lord made the unexpected announcement that it was the intention of the Government not to proceed this Session with the Scotch and Irish Reform Bills, every hon. Gentleman representing Ireland and Scotland found the position completely changed; and that it was no longer possible for them, with the high and manly feelings which they undoubtedly entertained, to submit in silence to this extraordinary change in the policy of Her Majesty's Government. The feeling was not confined to the Opposition. It at once became incumbent on the Representatives of Ireland and Scotland, without reference to considerations of party, to mark their sense of the mode in which the interests confided to their charge were slighted and neglected by the conduct of Her Majesty's Government. It was then that his hon. and gallant Friend was induced to put on the paper notice of the Motion on which the right hon. Baronet had remarked. That Motion not being in order, his hon. and gallant Friend, determined to mark his sense of the conduct of the Government, did not yield to the technical objection, but took a course, which he ventured to say would call the attention of the House and the country to the extraordinary position of these Reform Bills in a most pointed manner. The hon. and gallant Gentleman deserved the gratitude of the House and the country for the temperate and manly manner in which he had 50 discharged his difficult and delicate task. He could not sit silently by, therefore, and hear the right hon. Gentleman treat his hon. and gallant Friend as though he was a mere novice, ignorant of the forms of the House, of the history of the country, and of the spirit of the Constitution. On the contrary, he had shown that he was thoroughly acquainted with the history and the Constitution of the country and that he was thoroughly alive to the importance of the subject, which the right hon. Baronet had greatly under valued. The right hon. Gentleman gave the House to understand that it was almost impossible for a dissolution of Parliament to take place in the year in which the Reform Bill was passed; but in 1832 two or three Reform Bills were passed, and yet there was a dissolution in the same year; and if the Government had properly conducted the business of the Session, they would not have had so great difficulty in passing their three Reform Bills, and dissolving in the same year, as was experienced in 1832. The right hon. Gentleman now intimated that he and his colleagues had changed their opinions upon the subject, and that they held piecemeal legislation to be the proper mode of proceeding with respect to the question of Reform; and he affected, moreover, to discover in the conduct of the late Government a precedent for this course. But there was this considerable difference—the late Government introduced their Bill at the very earliest possible moment. The right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, as the organ of the late Government, made his statement in February; and he stated, in the most distinct manner, that the English Reform Bill would be followed immediately in the same Session by the Scotch and Irish Bills. They expressed no more than they showed they were able and willing to perform, whereas the present Government began the Session with loud boasts and empty promises, set aside the Reform Bill for gigantic and revolutionary measures of finance, and now, in the middle of June, found themselves face to face with a discontented Parliament and a deluded people. That was the position of affairs; and whether the noble Lord, who had special charge of these unlucky Bills, would take the advice to withdraw them all three, so freely tendered on both sides of the House, and by those organs of public opinion which gave a general support to the Government, it 51 was not for him to say; but of this he was convinced, that the country must feel grateful to the hon. and gallant Gentleman for having so pointedly and so ably called the attention of Parliament and the country to the anomalous position in which this most important question, which had long agitated and distracted the country, was placed; and that the conduct of the Government would be reprobated from one end of the kingdom to the other as fully as it deserved.
§ SIR EDWARD COLEBROOKE
said, that as a Scotch Member he could not assent to the proposition that the English Reform Bill should be stopped because the Government intended to postpone the Scotch and Irish Reform Bills till next Session. That proposition, while it would damage the English Bill, would not in the slightest degree advance the interest of Scotland or Ireland. It was urged as an argument in favour of that proposition, that if the Scotch and Irish Bills were postponed until the English Bill was passed, those Bills would have to be considered by a moribund Parliament; but that, he thought, would be an advantage instead of a disadvantage, because those Bills would, so far as the English Members were concerned, be discussed by men whose opinions would not be influenced by a dread of offending their constituents. He had not concealed from his constituents or from the Government his opinion that the interests of Scotland had not been fairly considered in the distribution of seats proposed by the Government, but he had told his constituents that their prospect of obtaining redress lay in appealing to the justice of the English Members. That appeal, however, would not be made more successfully if they assisted in not merely delaying but destroying the English Bill. When that Bill went into Committee the Scotch Members would have an opportunity of making their appeal to the English Members. The Scotch and Irish Members would have had reason to complain of the Government if, at the commencement of the Session, Reform Bills for Scotland and Ireland had not been introduced simultaneously with the Reform Bill for England. In the present state of the business of the House, it was not unreasonable to propose that the Scotch and Irish Bills should be postponed. There was nothing in the history of legislation or in the practice of Parliament to make it imperatively necessary that the Scotch and Irish Bills should 52 proceed, pari passu, with the English Bill; and he felt, therefore, it to be his duty to oppose the Motion of the hon. Baronet.
§ MR. LONGFIELD
said, he should support the Motion of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, as it would lead at once to that which must certainly take place sooner or later—the postponement of the English Reform Bill sine die, and would afford the Government an opportunity of bringing in next Session a general Reform Bill totus, teres, atque rotundus, dealing with the United Kingdom as a whole. Looking at the number of Amendments on the paper, he maintained that there was not the slightest probability that the Bill could pass during the present Session. Those Amendments were directed to almost every detail of the Bill, and if carried would so thoroughly revolutionize the spirit in which it had been framed that entirely new machinery would become requisite to carry out its provisions. It was merely a question of time when the Ministry would think it right to announce that the business of the Session did not admit of the Bill being proceeded with; and it was a mere anomaly to go into Committee to consider one, two, or three Amendments, out of sixty or seventy which had to be disposed of. It had been said that the Opposition were guilty of bringing forward Motions which could not be carried, in order that the measure might be indefinitely postponed. He denied that such a charge could with justice be made against hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House. The blame was really attributable to the period of the Session at which the Bill had been brought forward. Who did not recollect the triumph with which it was introduced on the 1st of March—the noble Lord's fortunate day, "his crowning mercy of Worcester," "his Day of Dunbar," "his Battle of Austerlitz"—for equally with Cromwell and Napoleon he had yielded himself up to a petty superstition in being an observer of days and times—and no day would do for him for the purpose but the one in which he had slain and scattered his foes to the winds. With what pride had he not turned to his hon. Friends at either side, and with what blank dismay their faces met this, for it was only the noble Lord who had the good fortune to remember the circumstance which had dwelt so tenaciously in his memory, that on the 1st of March thirty years ago he had introduced the Bill to regenerate his country. If the present mea- 53 sure had been brought forward, not with an eye to coincidences, but with the serious intention of passing it into law, would it not have been submitted to the House upon the 1st of February? He did not set himself up as a modern Reformer in any sense of the word. He was not one of those who thought it impossible to carry on the business of the country unless the House were composed of representatives chosen by £6 householders, or by constituencies definitely fixed at 6,000 or 7,000. He believed that by "Reformers" were frequently understood those who set themselves to imagine inefficiency and the reasons for it, instead of making the best of the existing appliances. He believed that the hon. Gentlemen whom he was then addressing were just as capable of conducting the business of the country with dignity and efficiency, as would be the case if the most ideal Reformer of modern times, after covering quires of paper, and convening meetings innumerable to give effect to his views, were allowed to carry out all his crotchets, and suffered to return Members of Parliament by £8 or £6 constituencies, or by household suffrage. It was always the bad workman who complained of his tools, and instead of taking the slightest trouble to cut down the Army Estimates, which they alleged to proceed from an abuse of aristocratical power, "Reformers" spent their time complaining that the Members of the House of Commons were not selected by a certain number of £6 voters. He was not the advocate of change, but he accepted it as a painful necessity that certain alterations in the manner of electing Members were inevitable. But while admitting that the nauseous draught must be taken, he thought that the only way in which the change could be fairly carried out was by an equitable redistribution of seats in England, Ireland, and Scotland, which must be accomplished by the withdrawal of the separate Bills and the introduction of one general measure. By the course which the Government adopted in bringing forward a separate measure for England they prevented Irish and Scotch Members from feeling any interest in the question. What was it to them that Tiverton, Tamworth, and Tavistock—principally to be remembered by the alliteration—were spared, while Guildford and Hertford were smitten? What interest had Irish Members in the fate of those three happy T's—the teetotums he might call them? To them it 54 was perfectly indifferent what course might be pursued in England; what family boroughs returning Whigs were spared, while increasing boroughs returning Tories were swept away. As long as the same number of Members were returned for England, it was matter of comparative indifference how they were distributed; for injustice to Ireland would equally be perpetrated. Indeed, if additional Members were not to be given to Ireland, he could not see what that country wanted with a Reform Bill. There had been one in 1832, and another in 1842, the third time he supposed was the charm; and the opportunity was to be taken of usurping on behalf of the peerage the representation of the Irish peasantry. If a general Reform Bill for the United Kingdom were introduced, the rights of the different countries could be fairly and equitably considered; but the consequence of dealing separately would be that neither Scotch nor Irish Members would have an opportunity of urging the respective claims of their countries from an Imperial point of view. At the time of the Union, Lord Castlereagh made a calculation, based on population, revenue, exports and imports, showing that Ireland was entitled to 108 Members; but, with that partiality for round numbers to which many persons were prone, he reduced the number to 100, which had since been raised to 105. If a calculation were now made, Ireland, upon the basis of the population, would be entitled to 164 Members, and on the score of revenue to 82. The mean of these two numbers would be 123, but he was willing to fix it at 118. All that the Government Bill proposed to allow was four additional Members, to be divided equally between Scotland and Ireland. Further to illustrate the inequality of the representation, it would only be necessary to instance the county of Cork, which was as large as any four or five counties in England, with the exception of Yorkshire, being 110 miles long and seventy broad, its population amounting to 600,000 or 700,000, nearly equalled that of Wales; and it had 15,000 registered electors, principally of the better class. Adding the boroughs included within the limits of this great county, it only returned eight Members to Parliament, while Devonshire, which was not more than half the size, returned twenty-two, and Wales, with an equal population, returned twenty-eight. They had, therefore, an irresistible case in favour of regu- 55 lating the representation of the entire kingdom, instead of passing a Bill dealing with it in detail. It was really impossible the present Bill could make any progress. The Estimates must be brought on; could another Vote on account be taken? The noble Lord (Lord John Russell) had said that a very slight reduction was over made on the Estimates, when introduced. But this was only because they were brought in late in the Session, when the Members of the House were worn out and wearied, mind and body. It was morally certain that the Bill could not progress; but a few evenings were at the disposal of the Government, and there were seventy Amendments to be considered. The measure must have an end, and he advised the Government to withdraw it quietly with a graceful bow and as much magniloquence as they pleased. His object in voting for the Motion of the hon. Member for Ayrshire was not delay—that had been fully attained by the course of the Government itself and the long speeches of the hon. Gentlemen behind them, who had so often found occasionTo hint a fault, and hesitate dislike.His object was not delay, but justice; and that would be best obtained by supporting the Motion.
§ MR. INGRAM
said, he had heard with regret the statement of the noble Lord the Member for the City, that he was willing to consider the propriety of raising the proposed franchise. If the franchise established by the Bill were changed from a £6 holding to one of £7 or £8, or if the franchise were made a rating instead of a rental one, the whole character of the measure would be destroyed. With regard to his own constituency (Boston), he had just received a return which he knew to be correct, showing that the Bill as it stood would increase the number of electors by 1,000; but if a rating franchise were substituted for that fixed by the Bill the increase would only be 97. He would sooner have no Reform Bill during the present Session at all than enter on the consideration of the present measure with the view of altering the proposed franchise from a rental to a rating. An alteration of the franchise from £6 to £7 or £8 would not be satisfactory to the working classes, who were fully entitled to the franchise proposed by the Bill. If the holding were altered from £6 to a higher amount he believed the agitation would continue for years to come. What antagonism existed 56 between the £6 householders and those of £7. The £10 householders who now had the franchise showed no opposition of interests of those of £12. What grounds were there for supposing that the class to be enfranchised had interests opposed to those of the other inhabitants of the boroughs in which they resided? He would rather see the Bill postponed to another Session than that any alteration should be made in the £6 franchise, and he hoped to hear from the Government that they were determined to maintain it.
§ MR. PERRY WATLINGTON
was unwilling to occupy the time of the House, but as the representative of an important constituency, which would be largely and in a peculiar manner affected by the measure now under consideration, it seemed to be his duty to make a few observations upon this occasion. When he considered the conduct of previous Administrations upon this question he was free to admit that it had seemed to him that there was but one course open to Her Majesty's Government, and that was the course which they had thought it right to pursue. At the same time he could not believe that there was any strong feeling in favour of Reform at all throughout the country, much less did he believe that there was any strong feeling in favour of such a measure as that which had been introduced by the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. He was quite sure that there was no desire to press forward legislation merely for legislation's sake, or to complete a Bill which would be attended with any amount of risk. But, whilst he was quite prepared to admit the necessity which compelled Her Majesty's Government to introduce a Reform Bill during the present Session—since the measure they proposed had been introduced—the effect which it would have upon existing constituencies seemed to be so doubtful—the want of accurate statistical information so manifest, and the importance of that information so great, that he trusted the Government would see the wisdom of withdrawing for the present that Bill from the consideration of the House. It was true, indeed, that the House had agreed to the second reading of the Bill—it was true that they had thus affirmed its principle, but this principle, after all, was so wide and general that the whole work of legislation yet remained to be accomplished. That the principle agreed upon was a broad and general one, no one could doubt. 57 It was, indeed, simply the principle of extension of the suffrage, for what the principle was upon which the suffrage was to be extended had not yet been determined. No distinct reasons had been given for the details of the Bill. So much had to be accomplished he did not think the Bill could be passed this Session. The noble Lord had told them that it was his desire to increase the number of electors in the borough constituencies by one-half, but upon what principle this proportion was selected he had not shown. Why one-half was better than one-third, or better than two-thirds, he had left altogether unexplained. The noble Lord had told them that the Government had well considered this question—and it was certainly quite right that they should do so; that they had considered the question of the £9 franchise; that they thought that would not add a sufficient number to the present body of electors; that then they considered the question of the £8 franchise, and that that was rejected for the same reason. Then, said the noble Lord, we considered the question of the £7 franchise, but we did not stop here; we took the £6 franchise. But why the Government did not stop there, and why they took the £6 franchise, the noble Lord had not attempted to explain. If it were desirable simply to enlarge the constituencies by adding to the number of electors only, why add in so irregular a manner?—why should we double the constituencies of Bradford and Salford, triple the constituency of Wolverhampton, whilst the constituencies of Ashburton and Arundel will be increased only by one-half, and that of Honiton by one-sixth? If, on the other hand, it was desirable to enfranchise particular classes, why enfranchise these classes in a certain set of boroughs, and leave them unenfranchised in others, merely because the rents in one are higher than those in the other? The fact was, that though they had agreed to the second reading of the Bill, the real principles of the measure had yet to be discussed, and he did not believe that they could get through a satisfactory Bill this Session. Then, with respect to the Returns which had been laid before the House. If the extension of the suffrage was mainly to be in the direction of a diminution of the amount of rent, which gave a qualification, it did seem of great importance that they should be able to ascertain with tolerable accuracy the probable number of electors that would be 58 added by the Bill. With respect to boroughs, the Returns had certainly been shown to be most unsatisfactory, neither were they less so as regarded counties. The Government had republished some of the results of the Returns of 1856, and the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department had given to the House certain calculations upon them. He had deducted 15 per cent for female occupiers, non-payment of poor rates, &c., from the number of occupiers of houses from £10 to £50 rateable value, in order to obtain the probable number of additional electors, and 50 per cent for other causes—a total deduction of 65 per cent—whilst he added nothing for the difference which a rental qualification would make, instead of a rating qualification, and nothing for the probable increase of £10 occupation since 1856. But even applying these principles to the case of South Essex it would appear from calculations that the effect upon South Essex would be to give to one town in the division, Stratford, 20 per cent of the whole electoral power, instead of 12 per cent which it now had—a very important alteration, and one upon which more accurate information ought to be obtained. It appeared from the Returns before the House that there were—
Now, he had ascertained that there were in Stratford alone 4,790 houses, at rents between £10 and £50—houses which, therefore, might give qualifications under the present Bill;—but, supposing only one-fourth of these were taken, that would give of new electors in Stratford 1,197, and adding to these 700 present electors, we should have 1,897 total electors in Stratford, out of a constituency of 9,285, or about 20 per cent, instead of 12 per cent, as at present.
In South Essex of houses of rateable value, between £10 and £50 7,362 Deduct, according to Home Secretary's calculation, 65 per cent 4,778 There would then be of new electors by present Bill 2,584 Add present electors 6,701 New constituency 9,285
The fact was, he believed, that no satisfactory calculations of numbers of electors, whose qualification is rent, could be obtained from Returns taken from the "gross estimated rental" column of our rate books. And why? First, because the 59 term, "gross estimated rental" was differently understood by different people; and secondly, because, as that column was of little practical importance in our rate-books, and did not govern the rate, it was often very carelessly filled up by valuers and parochial officers. According to the view taken by the Poor Law Auditors, it meant the rent received by the landlord, the tenant and landlord each paying respectively his own proper charges and expenses; but he found it laid down in Mr. Lumley's book that the "gross estimated rental" signified the rent which the landlord would receive, suppose he were to pay the tenant's rates and taxes and his own. Now, there was a vast difference between those two opinions, and, it being impossible to arrive at any satisfactory conclusion from the Returns which had been furnished, he, for one, thought it was long ago expedient that the Bill should be postponed until further and more reliable information had been obtained. Then as regards the care with which this column in some parts of the country is filled up. In the Returns of 1856 he found that there were no fewer than 69 parishes in Cheshire, where the "gross estimated rental" was the same as the "rateable value," and 24 parishes in which no "gross estimated rental" was entered at all; whilst in Northumberland there were no less than 306 parishes where the "gross estimated rental" was the same as "the rateable value." How could calculations be made upon such uncertain data as these? The hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham told those indeed who sat upon that side of the House that the course they ought to follow was very plain and simple. He told them that it was their duty to accept this Bill of the noble Lord's as it were upon trust. The noble Lord said the hon. Gentleman knows much more of the subject than you do—he has given much more attention to the matter than you have done—he is not a statesman from whom you need dread any injury to the Constitution of the country—therefore, says the hon. Gentleman, it is your duty, aye, more, your obvious and pressing interest, to accept the measure which he has introduced. Now, he (Mr. Perry Watlington), differed entirely from the hon. Gentleman in his view of the fitness of the noble Lord for a leader of the Conservative party. As an humble Member of that party he could at any rate feel no confidence in the noble Lord. He could not forget that only last year the noble 60 Lord, when occupying a seat upon the Opposition side of the House, told them that he could see no reason why a Reform Bill should not be introduced and carried during the autumn of that year; but, as soon as the noble Lord changed the side of the House upon which he sat, and took his place upon the Treasury Bench, he quickly found a reason why this should not be the case, though that reason was never satisfactorily explained to the House. Again, the noble Lord, in July last, repudiated altogether the idea of entering into a negotiation for a Commercial Treaty with France; and in this he was warmly supported by the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government. Hon. Gentlemen went down, in consequence, to the country at the close of the Session, fully impressed with the belief that the policy of the Government was directly opposed to such a proceeding. They returned to find that the negotiations for a Treaty were not only commenced, but fully completed, and the Treaty itself signed. Again, he (Mr. Perry Watlington) could not but remember that in 1852 the noble Lord introduced a measure for Parliamentary Reform; in 1854, he also introduced a measure for the same purpose. But the principles of those measures differed, and they both differed from that of 1860; and he believed that, if a longer tenure of office was granted to the noble Lord, he would, in 1861, introduce another measure differing in principle from all three, and, perhaps, one that would be more in accordance than his present Bill is with the wants and wishes of the people of this country. For such reasons as these he felt no confidence in the noble Lord as a political leader, and he differed most completely from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham in the view which he took of his duty and his obvious and pressing interest. He confessed when he first heard the hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham declaiming with that warmth and energy by which his addresses were characterized; when he heard him with so much earnestness and apparent sincerity explaining to him his duty, he felt almost inclined to say, surely the hon. Gentleman must be right, and I have mistaken the course I ought to follow with regard to this Bill; but when he further considered the matter, when he calmly reflected upon the advice that had been given, he asked himself this simple question—Why should he follow the advice which the hon. Gen- 61 tleman gave to him as one of his audience in that place, rather than the advice which he would have given to him had he been one of his audience elsewhere? So he turned to an account of the meeting which had been held at Bradford last year, and he found that had he been fortunate enough to have been one of the hon. Gentleman's audience at that place, he should have been recommended to "repudiate without mercy any Bill of any Government, whatever its franchise, whatever its seeming concession, if it did not allot the seats obtained from the extinction of the small boroughs mainly among the great city and town population of the kingdom. This question of distribution is the very soul of the question of Reform." Surely in this there was an indication of the absolute necessity of an extensive re-distribution of seats. How, then, could the hon. Gentleman recommend him now to accept the Bill of the noble Lord? Again, upon the same occasion the hon. Gentleman said: "Well, shall we do the work, or shall we only nibble at it? If we are not to do it satisfactorily, we had better not attempt it at all. Unless we are ready to have a good Bill, let us have no Bill at all. A bad Bill is a revolutionary Bill; a little Bill, though it may not be revolutionary, is of no good, and is very perilous." And, in order to discover what, in the hon. Gentleman's opinion, a good Bill was, he had looked a little further, when he found that the following resolution had been carried at the meeting unanimously:—That the public opinion of the country is ripe for a large and comprehensive measure of Reform that will include the admission of £10 occupiers to the county franchise, the establishment of household suffrage in boroughs, vote by ballot, and a more equitable distribution of representatives to population; and pledges itself to use all constitutional means to procure the passing of a measure through Parliament in the ensuing Session that shall embrace these points.With such views, how could the hon. Gentleman give him the advice that he did to accept the measure now introduced by the noble Lord? He had certainly heard since he had had the honour of a seat in that House many different views expressed as to the duties of a representative of the people, varying from the idea of a mere delegate to that of one possessed of complete independence; but the view which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham had put forth was a most extraordinary one indeed. According to that, they had not come there to represent the 62 opinions of their constituents—they had not come their to express their own individual views; but they were there to follow the leading of a noble Lord, a Member of the hated and much-abused aristocracy, and he, too, one whose principles they had always most strongly repudiated upon the hustings. In such a view of his duty he could not concur; he could not follow the advice of the hon. Gentleman to accept the noble Lord as his leader; he must take the liberty to act in accordance with the dictates of his own conscience, and his views of what was right, which led him earnestly to express a hope that the noble Lord would withdraw his Bill until further and more exact information could be obtained to enable the House to legislate in a manner more satisfactory to the country and conducive to the public interests than their present information permitted.
§ MR. ALCOCK
said, he was not disposed to deny that there existed an apparent apathy of the people upon this question, but he attributed it, not to diminished interest in Reform, but rather to the superabundant confidence they felt in the pledges of the Government, and their power to carry the measure through Parliament. Let Ministers turn their backs on the Bill, or let the House of Commons unwisely interpose to prevent its being carried, and they would arouse a feeling of disappointment and an amount of just indignation of which they could form no adequate conception. In the two counties with which he was connected—East Surrey, which he had the honour to represent, and North Lincolnshire, where he had property—the £10 franchise would double the constituency, and raise the number of the electors to about 20,000 in each of those two divisions. To refuse such a boon to the counties, after it had been assented to by the previous Government, would be a grievous injustice. With respect to the £6 franchise, he thought Earls Derby and Grey had done the working classes great injustice, attributing to them at once bad motives and dangerous objects, and had spoken of them in a very disparaging manner. The working classes were assuredly not actuated by base and personal motives; but they were too heavily taxed, and it was earnestly to be hoped that the time was coming when they would be able to exercise political power, and so to use it as to obtain their rights. Until lately they paid as much on each of the articles tea, sugar, malt, and tobacco, as was 63 raised by the income tax on the whole property of the country. The income tax for one year up to Michaelmas last did not amount to £5,700,000; whilst the average amount of duty on tea, sugar, malt, and tobacco, was at that time as much, so that the revenue raised from these four necessaries of life altogether was four times the amount of that derived from the income and property tax. He recollected having read a report in The Times of a public meeting in favour of Reform held by working men in Smithfield, in November, 1858, in which one of the speakers, after referring to the taxes on tea and sugar, two articles in which a working man spent about one-eighth of his earnings, asked, "Would this be suffered to exist for one moment if we had the power to elect representatives?" In all fairness, propriety, and justice, the working men of London were entitled to the franchise, and it was for the House to dare to throw out the Bill. He was most anxious to see the Reform Bill passed this Session. He was perfectly satisfied with it; and he hoped the noble Lord and his colleagues would either insist on its passing or dissolve Parliament.
§ MR. CUMMING BRUCE
said, he was disposed to think, if the English Reform Bill were postponed, the fact would in any degree create that indignation which had been referred to by the hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House, nor did he think that his fellow-countrymen would go into mourning on hearing of the withdrawal of the Scotch Reform Bill; but of this he was very sure, as a Bill to amend the representation of the people of Scotland was inevitable sooner or later—as it had been promised, and so many were anxious to enjoy the franchise, it would be the grossest injustice if the Bill for England were proceeded with while the Scotch Bill was postponed, thus excluding all chance of claiming that due increase to the number of the representatives of Scotland to which she was fully entitled. The people of Scotland would be very grateful to the hon. Baronet for having brought forward this matter. He was glad to see present the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) who had long turned his attention to the claims of Scotland to an increase in the number of its representatives. If the Bill for England were proceeded with they would be excluded from anything more than the paltry addition of two Members. Was it not most unjust that Aber- 64 deen, with a population of 100,000, and Inverness with a population of 90,000, should be only allowed a single Member each, whilst many smaller places in England enjoyed a double representation? The noble Lord received the support of two-thirds of the Scotch Members, and it was therefore rather ungrateful of him to disregard the claims of Scotland, more especially as the Members for that country had never been returned by means of bribery or corruption. The noble Lord was a very able leader of the House, and he had been selected to drive the unicorn team which pulled the chariot of Reform. The first thing he did, however, was not only to discard the unicorn, but to reduce his team to a single old gray horse, which he expected would pull that heavy machine up hill. The people of Scotland were not disposed to accept an inferior position; and, without laying too much stress upon the whole contests between the lion and unicorn, he thought that they were entitled to demand that legislation for them upon this subject should proceed pari passuwith that for England.
§ MR. BAXTER
said, that having addressed the House on the question of the Second Reading of the Bill he should not have again risen but for the pointed reference which had been made to him during tin's debate, by hon. Gentlemen who had spoken from the opposite side of the House. He wished therefore to say a few words in explanation of the course which he had thought it his duty to take last year, and the course which he intended to take that evening, in regard to the question of reform. He would remind the House that the circumstances under which the House was now asked to go on with this Bill were very different from those under which he last year proposed his Resolution that the House would deal with the representative system of the United Kingdom not by three separate Bills, but by a single measure. At that time Her Majesty's then Government had given notice of their intention of introducing a Bill for amendment of the representation of the people to be confined to England alone, and had given no promise that they would bring in a Bill to amend the representation in Scotland. His impression was then, as now, that such a Bill never had an existence, and he thought it his duty to call the attention of the House at that time to the injustice of proceeding in that manner. He felt very strongly that it would have 65 been far better to have considered the whole subject in one Bill than in three different measures. However, his proposition did not meet with the general acceptance of the House, and, in deference to many appeals which had been made to him, he withdrew the Motion. But now the circumstances were different. They had arrived at the month of June, and believing that the people of Scotland were extremely anxious for a reform of her own representative system, he had to ask himself what was the best and most likely mode by which that object might be attained as speedily as possible? He could not shut his eyes to the fact that at the time of the year it was altogether out of the question that the House should pass Reform Bills for all the three kingdoms, and therefore, as a friend of reform, he felt it his duty to do his utmost to secure the passing of this measure with the certainty that in that case the Bills for Ireland and Scotland would follow as a matter of course early in the next Session of Parliament. Therefore he could not support the proposition of the Member for Ayrshire (Sir James Fergusson), nor could he separate that Motion from the policy which bad of late characterized the whole proceedings of the Opposition in reference to this question, namely, a policy of delay and of obstructing the public business, which he scarcely expected from the great Conservative party in that House. By speaking against time, by prolonging the discussion in the most unnecessary manner, and by frequent attempts to count out the House, even during the consideration of the Army Estimates, they had endeavoured to prevent this Reform Bill, which they had not the manliness openly to oppose, from passing into a law during the present Session. He believed that the Motion of his hon. Friend, (Sir James Fergusson) was only a part of that policy, and he should think himself wanting in his duty to Scotland, as well as wanting in his duty to the cause of reform generally, did he for one moment entertain the idea of giving to that Motion his support. At the same time, he hoped that if no progress was to be made this Session, that eventually there would be legislation on this subject in the way which his hon. Friend had pointed out. He certainly adhered to the opinion that this question ought to be dealt with, not by three separate Bills, but by one general measure, under which plan alone could Ireland and Scotland fairly raise the ques- 66 tion of their claims to a redistribution of Members, and he only regretted that his hon. Friend had not last year supported his Resolution, which had for its object the attainment of that result. An hon. Gentleman opposite had referred to the claims of Ireland to additional Members; but he reminded the hon. Gentleman that the Returns supplied to the House a year or two ago showed that upon the basis of population and taxation Scotland was entitled to nineteen additional representatives, while Ireland had now one too many. For the reason he had given, he could not support the Motion of his hon. Friend.
§ MR. GEORGE
said, that notwithstanding the hon. Member for Montrose had accused every one who stood up on the Conservative side of the House of being actuated by obstructive motives, he should endeavour to express his views on the question before the House. He was not one of those who thought that an Irishman was to be precluded from expressing his opinion on matters affecting the United Kingdom. He considered that the whole subject should be dealt with in an united Bill; and when the Bill for Ireland was indefinitely postponed, he thought, as an Irishman, he had good reason to complain. It was impossible to alter the franchise in England without indirectly affecting the representation of Ireland. If the franchise was reduced in England to £10 for counties and £6 for boroughs, it would be impossible even for a single Session to maintain the franchise in Ireland at £12 for counties and £8 for boroughs. He was of opinion that those franchises ought to be maintained in Ireland, and therefore he was much interested in any question of an alteration in the suffrage in England. The original franchise in Ireland—almost from the time of Henry VIII.—was the old 40s. freehold franchise. That went on increasing to an inordinate degree; so that there was scarcely a rood of land without its voter. Even every garden and every tree qualified a voter. In 1792 or 1793 the electoral franchise was most properly and rightly conferred on the Roman Catholics in Ireland; but afterwards it was found that the constituencies had become so unwieldy that an election sometimes lasted for twenty-one days. Accordingly in 1829, when the question of Roman Catholic emancipation came to be considered, it was found necessary to extirpate the 40s. franchise and to substitute in its stead a £50 freehold and a £20 leasehold franchise, 67 with some £5 and other franchises which were not worth mentioning. It was, however, found in 1849 that owing to famine, and emigration, and other causes, the number of electors had been lamentably and fearfully reduced from the figure at which it stood immediately after the Act of 1829. In 1849 and 1850 the population of Ireland was about 6,000,000, while the entire number of electors was only about 34,000. In the county which he had the honour to represent, out of a population of 180,000 there were not more than 1,000 electors, and in the year 1849 and in the year 1850 the number of voters had decreased to 815. A Bill was that year passed creating an entirely new franchise in Ireland—an occupation franchise of £12 for counties and £8 for boroughs. That franchise was on the rating and not on the rental. A general valuation of the country had been made, and all parties were agreed as to it. The basis of rating was therefore one that gave satisfaction, and he should recommend its adoption in England instead of a basis of rental. It ought to be borne in mind that there was reform legislation for Ireland so late as 1850, and many reasons might exist for altering the franchise of a country in which there had been no such legislation since 1832, which might not apply to one the franchise of which had been remodelled at so comparatively a recent period as 1850. So great had been the alteration made in the number of voters in Ireland by the Bill of 1850, that the electoral body had been raised from 34,000 to 173,000. It was impossible to argue, then, that it was necessary to increase the numbers of the constituencies on the ground that they were too small, either in Ireland at large, or in the particular counties to which he had referred; and he contended that the question of English representation could not possibly be disposed of with fairness to Ireland, and the same might be said as to Scotland, without bearing in mind the circumstances and necessities of these two parts of the kingdom. A £12 rating franchise in the counties of Ireland, and an £8 rating franchise in the boroughs, constituted a fair representation, and speaking of one large constituency in that country he could take upon himself to say, without reference to politics or religion, that he did not know one out of that 6,400 electors that he would willingly see deprived of the franchise at this moment; but he was equally certain if the proposed Reform Bill for Ireland were carried, and 1,191 now votes were added 68 to that particular constituency, that, so far from improving, it would greatly detract from the respectability of that constituency. What applied to one county was applicable to all. He would not enter into the question whether the representation of Ireland might not be amended in other respects. But with regard to a distribution of seats that was a question which required the subject to be postponed till it was before them as a whole. He did not believe it possible to legislate for England by itself without indirectly affecting the representation of Ireland, and he was inclined to think that it would be better to give England a franchise of £12 and £8, as it existed in Ireland, than to give to Ireland a £10 and a £6 franchise, as would be the case if they dealt with the state of the English franchise alone. Upon these grounds he could not be a party to advancing further with the measure relating to England.
§ MR. PEASE
said, he believed that the country was anxious for the time when deeds should give place to words, and he would not, therefore, detain the House at any length. For thirty years he had been connected with the working classes, and it appeared that the observations which had been made in reference to them had been made from the want of practical information upon the subject. Hon. Members seemed to have formed their opinion of the working classes from what they had seen of them at the hustings, when even children were in the habit of making a noise; but from what he (Mr. Pease) had seen of them—having been intimately associated with them in business, in commerce, and in the various institutions established for their benefit, he was prepared to say that, whatever the number proposed to be enfranchised by the Government Bill might be, whether 300,000 or more, inspired him with no alarm. The right hon. Member for Hertfordshire (Sir E. B. Lytton) had imagined a conversation between a candidate and an elector on the elector being asked for his vote, and he apprehended that many of them would know nothing about China. Now, in the course of his (Mr. Pease's) canvass he was rather closely catechised by a working man as to the conduct of England in reference to the opium trade, and also, as to what was to be done about the revenue of the church by a miner in his working dress; but he told him that as he did not think they would be dealt with by the Parliament of his time, he had not given 69 the matter his consideration. He could, however, assert that the working classes took an intelligent interest in what was done by that House. They drew upon the working classes to enable them to carry on their wars, and a heavy burden of taxation had been imposed upon them, which they bore with a magnanimity greatly to their credit. The numbers of those classes greatly increased, and why should they not have a greater share in returning representatives to Parliament? The subject had been recommended to them by Her Majesty in her Speech from the Throne, and two Governments in succession had said that a reform of the representation was necessary, and it would be greatly to be deprecated if it should go forth throughout the land that that House had spent weeks in idle talk, as being afraid of infusing too democratic an element into their councils. The language sometimes used in speaking of the working classes was, he thought, greatly to be deprecated, for, with very few exceptions, they looked up to persons of station in society as their representatives. He trusted that the House would not endanger its reputation or shake the confidence now reposed in it by postponing the consideration of this Bill in Committee.
§ MR. STIRLING
said, he did not think the remarks of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down were relevant to the question then under discussion. That question indeed was most important, and had been too long neglected; and he therefore felt grateful to his hon. Friend the Member for Ayrshire, and was glad that the matter had been brought forward in so able a manner by a Scotch Member even at so late a moment. He could not think, however, that either that side of the House or his hon. Friend was responsible for the delay. He was tempted to rise on that occasion by the remarks which had fallen from the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter). That hon. Member had accused hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Opposition benches especially, with endeavouring to obstruct and delay the passing of this Bill; but looking at the history of these debates he believed he was entitled to say that obstruction had come quite as much from one side as the other. The present Motion, it was true, had been made at a late period, but that was mainly owing to the hon. Member for Montrose himself, who placed a notice upon the paper several weeks ago for the discussion of the very 70 point which was now under consideration, the hon. Gentleman being of opinion that Scotland was entitled to a larger share in the representation than the Scottish Reform Bill conferred upon it. That notice appeared on the paper about the middle of May, and until last Monday he (Mr. Stirling) had not the least idea that it had been withdrawn. He thought, therefore, that some hon. Member for Scotland or Ireland was bound to bring the question before the House. So far were the Scotch Members from doing anything to delay the Bill that, up to that moment, very few of them had taken part in the discussions. Indeed, with the exception of his hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Black), who made an able and damaging speech against the Bill, he could not then call to mind the name of a single Scotch Member who had spoken since the discussion on the introduction of the measure. On that occasion he himself ventured to remark that great disappointment would be felt in Scotland at the circumstance that it was not proposed to increase the number of Members for several important places. He was of opinion that five counties justly deserved such an increased representation—he alluded to Lanark, Ayr, Fife, Perth, which he had the honour to represent, and Aberdeen—counties which possessed a population varying from 150,000 to 200,000, who bore their full share of the burden and impost of taxation. That clay he had received from the University Court of the University of Glasgow a memorial addressed by them to the noble Lord at the head of the Government, and to that memorial he begged to call the attention of the Lord Advocate, not only because the right hon. Gentleman was the representative of the Government in this House for Scotch affairs, and the introducer of the Scotch Reform Bill, but because he held an office of dignity and trust in the University of Glasgow, which he (Mr. Stirling) had once the honour to fill. In their memorial the University Court said—In the Bill now before the House of Commons it is proposed to give to the four Scottish Universities only one representative—a concession which is totally inadequate to satisfy their just demands, and would be attended in its working with much practical inconvenience.He had lately been in correspondence with several persons in Scotland, who were acquainted with its Universities, and he would undertake to prove at the proper time that the number of persons who would be represented under the Bill by this single 71 Member, was much more considerable than the learned Lord seemed to think, and that if the Universities in England had five representatives in this House, the Universities of Scotland might fairly claim two. Now, supposing the English Reform Bill to pass and the House to assent to the proposition that it would be an injustice to refuse additional Members to the places he had named, how, he asked, would they then be able to repair that injustice? Why, it would be utterly out of their power. There was another point to which he would advert for a moment. He was never more surprised in his life than when he heard the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary inform the House the other evening that he saw no difficulty in passing a Reform Bill for England in the present Session and leaving until next Session the duty of passing similar measures for Scotland and Ireland. To adopt such a course would, as it was well put by the right hon. Member for Bucks, have the effect of disqualifying for one or more Sessions all the English Members of the House. The right hon. Gentleman would no longer represent the constituency of Buckinghamshire. The noble Viscount at the head of the Government would not represent the constituency of Tiverton; and the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary would not represent the constituency of London. He had the greatest respect for the Scotch and Irish representatives, but he had no desire that they should be promoted into a sort of Rump Parliament, and become the only Members of the House who were strictly qualified to legislate for the nation. Next Session they would have to meet the great deficit which the Budget for this year had so marvellously provided, and, it was not beyond the range of possibility, that provision would at the same time have to be made for the expense of a European war. Surely, therefore, they ought to take care that no disqualification should be attached to any portion of the Parliament which would be called upon to dispose of these great and important questions. Under these circumstances he thought that the statement of the noble Lord might well create astonishment through the length and breadth of the land. As a test of the opinion of the House upon the reasonableness of the noble Lord's views, he hoped his noble Friend would divide the House upon his Motion.
§ THE LORD ADVOCATE
said, it was his intention in the few observations he 72 was about to make, not to allude to the general features of the Reform Bill, but to confine himself to the observations which had fallen from hon. Gentlemen on the other side respecting the Irish and Scotch Bills. He had listened to the hon. Member for Ayrshire (Sir James Fergusson) with that pleasure which he always experienced in hearing a well-composed, well-expressed, and well-delivered speech, but he wished that the hon. Gentleman had had a more consistent topic and a more consistent Motion. The professed object of his hon. Friend, was to point out the importance of considering the Reform Bills affecting the three countries at the same time. But his Motion had not the slightest connection with that subject, and could not even have the smallest bearing upon it. The House was about to enter on an adjourned debate upon a Motion declaring it inexpedient to proceed with the Reform Bill until the result of the Census had been obtained. By a singular caprice, which had not, however, been very unusual in that debate, the details of the measure had been discussed on the Motion for the second reading, and they were now, on going into Committee, met with a Motion to postpone or destroy the Bill altogether. But not content with that, his hon. Friend the Member for Ayrshire moved that the debate upon that very question be adjourned. What result he expected to arrive at from such a Motion it was not easy to understand. His object was that the English Reform F5iil should be withdrawn, inasmuch as the Irish and Scotch Bills were not brought forward at the same time. But if the Motion on which the debate was adjourned were carried the Bill would be substantially withdrawn, and therefore the present Motion would not bring him one step nearer to his object. It was not easy to follow out the logic of his hon. Friend's speech, or to reach his conclusions; but the substance of his argument appeared to be that it was wrong to split the question of Reform into three separate Bills for England, Scotland, and Ireland—that it ought all to be embraced in one measure—and that, as it was not so, none of the Bills ought to be proceeded with. He went on to argue that the Bills could not be proceeded with this Session, because they could not be properly considered at morning sittings, when the House was wearied of the subject. Having thus cut off the possibility of legislating this Session, he then proceeded to cut off the possibility of legislating for next Session also. He argued 73 that they must not count upon legislating next Session, because they might be then in troublous times. He also argued that a moribund Parliament, as he called it—a Parliament which was doomed—ought not to take cognizance of great public questions. But if that argument were carried out to its legitimate result, no Parliament could ever pass a Reform Bill. For, according to his reasoning, a Parliament which passed a Reform Bill was doomed and moribund by that very act. But he (the Lord Advocate) entirely demurred to the constitutional view of the question which he had heard from very great authorities in the House upon that subject. He denied altogether that because a Reform Bill had been passed the House which passed it ceased to represent the constituencies of the country. There was no foundation whatever for such a doctrine. Many measures might be passed affecting the representation of the people, either general measures in regard to the whole country and the whole franchise, or measures to affect only a part of the franchise and of the constituency. Take the case of a Registration Bill, to alter the registration of voters, which might very materially affect the constituencies of the country. But would any man tell him that, until a subsequent dissolution, the House of Commons were not the representatives of the people? It was quite clear that if the English Bill were passed this Session there could be no registration in order to have a dissolution in less than a year and a half, and if the hon. Member really desired that the Scotch and Irish Bills should be considered, there was a very simple and easy mode which might have suggested itself to his ingenious mind. The hon. Gentleman might have gone to his friends and said, "Do not let us in the month of June waste the precious moments before going into Committee on the English Bill. Let us go into Committee upon it, and possibly the Government will relinquish the notion of giving up the other two Bills; but, at all events, if we pass the English Bill we can come, not in a weary autumn Session, but fresh in February, to consider the Scotch and Irish Bills, to pass them before Easter, and to have a general election under the three Acts at the same time." There was nothing to prevent that simple plan being adopted, and all those bugbears which the hon. Gentleman had reared up to show the evil and danger of passing one Bill were really pure delusions of his own. 74 He wanted to know what hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition bench were going to say to this Motion. Did they hold that it was unconstitutional to pass a Reform Bill for England, and to postpone the Bills for Scotland and Ireland? If they did, why had they not given expression to their views before? The Bills were introduced separately. They were observed upon the night of their introduction. The second reading of the English Bill had passed without a division, and not a word had been heard from any one to argue that the three Bills ought to have been passed together. His hon. Friend the Member for Ayrshire spoke on the introduction of the Scotch Bill. If he held his present views then, why did he not express them? Since 1832 the question whether it was more convenient to deal with the whole representation of the United Kingdom in one or in three Bills, had been considered over and over again, and the conclusion always had been that it was better to take the three kingdoms separately. They were taken separately in 1832, in 1852, in 1855, and they were now separate in 1860, and it was only when they were going into Committee on the English Bill, after the second reading had passed without a division, and when the question was raised whether or not they should adjourn the consideration of the measure till after the Census of 1861, that Gentlemen opposite had discovered that the question should not be dealt with in separate Bills. The real inference was plain enough. He should not stop to point it out. He had heard the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli) say, "The question is not of putting them into one Bill, but of withdrawing the two Bills." But that was not what the hon. Member for Ayrshire said. He said, "Do not let us go wearied and fagged into the consideration of the Scotch Bill in August." He said they ought to go on with the three Bills pari passu. But they could not go into Committee with the three Bills pari passu. They must consider them clause by clause, and one after another. Why talk of withdrawing the Irish and Scotch Bills? Did hon. Gentlemen opposite affect to doubt that if they would only help the Government to go into Committee—if they would only do what he thought they ought to do—and consider the details of the English Bill that the Government might even this Session proceed with the Scotch and Irish Bills? If those Bills were withdrawn it would be because 75 it was plain that there was no time to pass them. But why was there no time to pass them? He would not stop to answer the question. [Ironical cheers.] He was not going to be betrayed into an argument upon the general character of the Bills; but there were a few observations he desired to make. It was said, in the first place, that the people were indifferent to the Bill—that they were not enthusiastic about it. That statement was true to a large extent if it was meant to compare the present state of feeling with what took place in 1832; but if there was less enthusiasm than in 1832 there were plain and manifest reasons for it. The gross abuses in the system of Government which had been long growing up in the State, and which had culminated in 1832, had since been entirely swept away. It should be remembered that a nation never did stir itself as this nation did in 1832 unless there was good and real ground for it. He should be sorry to see the nation stirred as it was in 1832, for it was manifest that a period of public excitement was not the best for the correction of public abuses. He was glad to say that in this country we could discuss measures for giving a larger portion of power to a lower class than now possessed it, without such excitement as prevailed in 1832, and there was nothing that gave him more hope as to the future prospects of this country than that fact. The question of the representation was now a simple matter of legislation that might take place just as any ordinary legislation; and happily they were in such circumstances of peace and tranquillity that they might do so with effect. Hon. Gentlemen opposite had been looking to the future, and saying that other times might not be so quiet as the present. Why, then, did they not help the Government to legislate on this question now? But it was said that the working classes admitted by the Bill would overwhelm the present constituency. He had no distrust of the working classes. He believed that the accession which they would draw from the working classes by the Bill would add fresh, new, and vigorous blood to the constituencies. Under what was categorically called the working classes was embraced a great variety of interests and a great portion of ability, industry, honesty, and intelligence. He believed the upper portion of the working classes would bring to the exercise of the franchise an intelligence and an interest in political affairs which perhaps they would not find among many 76 of those embraced in the present constituency. Hon. Gentlemen talked as if the measure would overwhelm and swamp the old constituencies, but it was a vain imagination to suppose that the working men would band themselves together for one candidate, or for the promotion of certain peculiar ideas. They would often go with the classes above them, and they would be split into parties by differences of opinion, just as the constituencies were at the present moment. The traditions of this country led people to look to the upper ranks, and it was a mere chimera to suppose that by this Bill they were opening the floodgates of democracy and undermining the foundations of the Constitution. They were told of trades unions and strikes, but would the fancy franchises of the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman opposite have saved them from the trades unions? They embraced the very men who were in the trades unions; for it was not the reckless portion of the working classes, but the intelligent among them, who were members of these associations. The trades unions might show that they were not good political economists, especially when they thought they could keep up by combination the price of their labour, but he would not say on that account that they were not fit to vote for Members of Parliament. If that argument were carried to its legitimate result it would affect the franchise of more than the working classes. The question before the House was whether the Amendment on the order for resuming the adjourned Debate should be sanctioned by the House and the Bill virtually defeated. Believing that this was a measure which would go deep into the foundations of the constitution, and which would produce very large results for the benefit of the country, he trusted the House would not confirm the Motion of his hon. Friend.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
It appears to me that the learned Lord has affected to misunderstand the main question before us. The immediate question, no doubt, is whether this debate shall or shall not be adjourned; but I did not understand from the hon. Baronet the Member for Ayrshire that this was the form in which he wished to bring his views before the House. He only did so because he had been informed by the highest authority in the House that he would not be in order in bringing forward the precise Motion of which he had given notice. The proposal now before us is a consequence of the extraordinary course 77 taken by the noble Lord who has had charge of all the Reform Bills that have been introduced during the last thirty years; the real question is, whether Government, having proposed to Parliament a measure consisting of three Bills, and having stated that these included the entire subject of Parliamentary Reform, were entitled, after having permitted the question to be in that position for several months, to make two of the Bills disappear, in order that they may appear hereafter to cause fresh discussion in this House, and fresh agitation throughout the country. I remember that some months ago the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) acting in the interests of Scotland, and, like a true Scot, having her interest ever at heart, called upon the noble Lord to say whether he meant to submit a measure of Reform for Scotland at the same time that he brought forward his Reform Bill for England. The noble Lord undertook to do so, and assured the hon. Members for Scotland and Ireland that all those blessings were to be inflicted on them that he has always so ready at command under the name of Reform. I assure the noble Lord that I am speaking quite sincerely when I say that he took the right course in answering that he meant to do so—that the Scotch Bill should be introduced in due course, and that the Scotch Members should have an opportunity of discussing it before the question of Reform was entirely disposed of, as it virtually would be, for all purposes of representation, by the Bill for England. The noble Lord was as good as his word. He has done precisely what was done in 1832, when after the Bill for England came the Bills for Scotland and Ireland. They proceeded pari passu, and they were disposed of before the end of the Session, and at the end of the year there was that dissolution which naturally follows the passing of Reform Bills. The noble Lord, being; eminently versed in constitutional learning, naturally desired, as he said himself, "to walk in the paths of the Constitution," and to act on the precedent which he had laid down, and the three Bills, therefore, were brought in this year at the same time. The hon. Member for Lanarkshire (Sir E. Colebroke) to-night used an argument which was not as clear and logical as those which he generally uses. He said he wished to serve Scotland—and he was of opinion that his county—and a very important county it is—ought to have more Members. [Sir E. COLEBROKE: Certainly.] That is 78 his opinion; but if the English Bill is passed as it stands, and that for Scotland is postponed, it will be quite impossible for him to get any more Members for Lanarkshire. Where are they to come from? It will be of no use then for the hon. Member and the other Scotch Members to exert their eloquence—of which nobody is more sensible than I am—or the noble Lord the Member for London and the noble Viscount at the head of the Government—the most enthusiastic Reformer of the age, because they will say "You have spoken too late, you should have prevented the English Bill passing; why didn't you support the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member for Ayrshire; if that Motion had been carried, the question of additional Scotch Members might have been argued—it was arguable; but you have waited too long, and now poor Scotland must be content with the amount of representation which she possesses." I must appeal, therefore, to the hon. Member to reconsider his argument—or rather to listen to the force of his argument—and to vote for the Motion, as I contend he is imperatively bound to do. As to Ireland, I do not mean to say that I am much struck with the Bill which has been introduced, though upon this, as upon many other Irish questions, I have also been disappointed. I was most anxious to hear what the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant had to say. I wished to hear him explain on the second reading what is the meaning of this Reform Bill, because having conversed with hon. Members from Ireland, of all politics, I have not found any one of them able to explain what the right hon. Gentleman exactly meant to accomplish. I believe he intended in one or two particulars to upset the Act of Union. I am certainly surprised that a Statesman of his eminence should deal with the Act of Union as if it were a measure of no importance, a trifling matter like a Turnpike Bill or a Beer Bill, as if it were a settlement to be unsettled as a matter of course. It was described by the great Minister whom you profess to follow as one of the most important compacts ever entered into between two nations. There is a clause in this Irish Bill relating to the Irish peers. They are Gentlemen who have not much to do, and it was intended to give us in Ireland the advantage of having them to represent our towns and counties. But so long as Marylebone continues I do not see any particular necessity for infringing on 79 the Act of Union in this particular. Nobody respects the Peerage more than I do; but if I have the opportunity, which the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenancy seems determined not to give us, I shall certainly give my reasons why I think the Act of Union should be permitted to remain on the firm basis on which Mr. Pitt imagined he had placed it. I for one do not think it ought to be looked on as a matter of course—though the argument would come, perhaps, with more force from an English Member—that, a Minister of the Crown should alter the Act of Union at his pleasure. This is a matter which has been very much overlooked. If you deal with the Act of Union as a mere trifling measure, whatever there is in that Act favourable to Ireland may be laid aside at any moment, though I have always understood that it was a great national compact not to be disturbed. What is the position in which we stand at the present moment? I have provided myself with the three Bills—the Bill for England, the Bill for Scotland, and the Bill for Ireland. I observe with some astonishment that the Bill for Scotland is thicker than either of the other two. I intended to ask the learned Lord Advocate how it was that he had contrived to lengthen out to such a prodigious extent the small matter which he had to work upon in reference to Scotland; but I perceived that the learned Lord has shown his usual good sense, and that he has done for this Bill what was desired for the English Bill, incorporated in it a system of registration. That is a practical reform, and of course it would be instantly rejected by English statesmen. "A system of registration," says the learned Lord, "is a good thing;" so he puts one into the Scotch Bill; but the noble Lord the Member for London just sketches out two or three lines in this thin and feeble affair of his, and throws it down, leaving the practical question of registration to take care of itself, perhaps to be drawn upon as fresh matter for agitation in another Session, or to be of use when he wants to carry an abstract Resolution against the good sense of Parliament and the best interests of the country. I will take the liberty of asking the noble Lord why these three Bills were brought before us? I have asked myself that question, and I have answered it, I believe, to my own satisfaction. The noble Lord, being an eminent authority on the Constitution, would be asked what was to be done by 80 the Cabinet, who of course defer to him in all questions of altering, amending, or spoiling the Constitution, and he would reply, "As we hav'n't three Constitutions, three Parliaments, or three separate kingdoms, but one Constitution, one Parliament, and one United Kingdom; and as whatever is done in reference to Scotland and Ireland will act upon England, therefore we must deal with the whole question of Parliamentary Reform at the same time." I presume that was the reason why the noble Lord introduced these three Bills together. And he was quite right in doing so; but, if he was quite right, so he must be quite wrong in withdrawing two of them. The ingenuity of the noble Lord is great, but I should like to ask him how it was that he persuaded the noble Viscount at the head of the Government—contrary to the good sense which he has usually shown in this matter—to introduce three Reform Bills when one was too many, and how, having introduced three with a view of settling the whole question, he justifies himself in the withdrawal of one and proceeding with the other two? I listened with great attention to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Mallow (Mr. Longfield) on behalf of the county of Cork. That county he tells us is 100 miles long—I was not aware of it before—and I do not know how many miles broad; that is perfectly true; and has a population as large as the Duchy of Modena, with perhaps that of the Romagna into the bargain. I know what was impending over the Chief Secretary for Ireland if the debate had come on. Hon. Gentlemen would have said, the size of this county, and of that county, their riches, their population entitle them to additional Members, and, if you had given an additional Member to Cork, you would have had Donegal and Antrim, which are nearly as large and populous, and more wealthy and important in a commercial point of view, putting in a claim also for additional Members. You would have had a very interesting debate, but I do not think the Chief Secretary was at all desirous that that debate should come on. He has brought in a Bill which gives an additional Member to Cork county; but I ask the right hon. Gentleman, if he had been convinced by fair arguments on the part of the Irish Members that he ought to give additional representation equally to the North and the South of Ireland, where were the Members to come from if the English Reform Bill were passed? 81 The discussion would have been an absurdity, and nothing is more repugnant to the House of Commons than a discussion without any point. [Loud cheers from the Ministerial benches, and counter cheers.] I feel that that cheer explains satisfactorily the course taken by the Government, because it is quite clear that every hon. Gentleman who cheered means that if the Reform Bill for England were settled and the numerical representation decided as to England, any discussion concerning the number of representatives for Scotland and Ireland would be a ridiculous waste of time. If that is not the reason of hon. Gentlemen opposite, I trust one of them will give his reasons in a manner perhaps less audible but more tangible. After you have decided the numbers to be given to England there would be nothing left to give to Ireland or Scotland. The Lord Advocate, like the right hon. Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey) in his speech to-night, never answered a word of what had been said by his opponents. That is a very convenient way of conducting a discussion, no doubt, and of the two the Lord Advocate did it in the most judicious way. "What do you mean," he says to us, "to maintain that it is impossible to have a reform of Parliament without a dissolution immediately following—do you mean to impugn the validity of an Act of Parliament agreed to by both Houses?" No, we do not mean anything of the sort, and therefore the learned Lord has been triumphant on that part of the question. But that is not the question. The question is not whether this Reform Bill should be followed by a dissolution, as we were told to-night would not be necessary, but whether by the mere passing of the Bill the House of Commons would not lose character, and sustain a diminution of weight and influence in the country. That is the true question. You first condemn the House of Commons, you declare that a certain number of boroughs shall not. return Members to Parliament; you declare that certain others shall lose one Member—and then, according to the Lord Advocate, you may proceed to legislate as if nothing had taken place. I admit that the measure of the House of Commons would have the same effect in point of law as they had before;—but suppose the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hertford (Mr. Cowper) happened to be promoted,—than which there is nothing more likely—in what manner will you act? You will already have taken 82 away one Member from Hertford. You have condemned that borough, and declared that from the time of the passing of that Act of Parliament it shall give up one of its representatives; will you, then, as a matter of course, issue the writ and fill up the vacancy, having just declared by the voice of Parliament that it shall not be filled? Is that a constitutional course? Why, I venture to say, that it is not for a moment maintainable in argument. The noble Lord the Member for the City of London might have said manfully—I have laid on the table three Bills composing one measure; I abide by it, and if you were to sit from now to November that measure shall be carried. I could understand the noble Lord being persuaded, I will not say by his colleagues, but by his own good sense, to withdraw the whole measure until a more convenient opportunity arose to resume the question of Parliamentary Reform; and, to do him justice, he is always ready to resume it whenever a fair opportunity arises; he is prepared either to oppose Parliamentary Reform by an abstract Resolution, to carry Reform after his own fashion, or not to carry it at all, as the case may turn out. I could understand his saying—"The circumstances of Europe are grave—I have not received much encouragement—the state of the question is not very favourable to legislation, and I will postpone the measure to some future time." All or any of these courses I could understand; but I should like to hear from the noble Lord a reason for the course which he has adopted, for that I cannot understand. I can assure him, if he cares to hear it, that he surprised us all very much the other night, when we thought we were in full career towards a great settlement of Parliamentary Reform, by the sudden announcement that he intended to withdraw the Scotch and Irish Bills. Is this his intention—to withdraw the Scotch and Irish Bills, to proceed a certain length with the English measure, and then to drop it likewise; and at another time first to take up England, then to take up Scotland, and next to deal with Ireland, and so to keep the question of Parliamentary Reform for ever hanging over our beads like the sword of Damocles? I have the greatest pleasure in listening to the noble Lord on every subject except Parliamentary Reform, but to hear him perpetually on that theme, either in relation to England, Ireland, or Scotland, is a thing, I frankly confess, that would be very painful to my feelings. And, therefore, I 83 earnestly regret that the noble Lord departed from the course he originally intended. I fancy he must have come to the conclusion in his calmer moments that the good sense of the nation was as much opposed to the principle of his Bill as it is to that other great delusion which was introduced to us with such triumphant eloquence by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I have no doubt the noble Lord is perfectly sincere in the course which he has taken; but, after the question has been critically examined in "another place" which I dare not name—after the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone (Mr. Edwin James) and many other gentlemen of extreme Liberal opinions have impugned the returns on which the Bill was recommended—after Whig gentlemen of high position and eminent talents and learning have likewise impugned them—that the noble Lord should deliberately abandon two parts of the Bill and endeavour to squeeze through the third in the month of June, announcing in effect to Irish and Scotch Members that it is no use for them to speak, as there will be nothing for them to do after it is carried but to assent to whatever is proposed—is a measure that I certainly should not have expected from the good sense which usually characterizes the noble Lord. I should have thought the noble Lord had enough on his hands without wasting his time on Parliamentary Reform. Has he not enough in the affairs of Europe to occupy even so large and liberal an understanding? Why, he has Russia to quiet, Belgium to counsel, Prussia to inspire, France to conciliate or confront, as the case may be, and Switzerland to lament with! I confess I cannot understand why he should not reserve his talents—and no one has a higher respect for him personally than I entertain—for a subject worthy of those talents, and leave the poor old Constitution of this country where he found it. The Lord Advocate and another hon. Gentleman who spoke tonight said they could not see why separate Bills might not be carried for Scotland and Ireland as well as for England, remembering that a separate Bill was carried for Ireland some few years ago. That is a plausible argument, but it has no foundation in fact. It is a Registry Bill which the Lord Advocate has worked up into this formidable precedent. But it did not add to the representation of Ireland or take away from that of England. If the question to be discussed were not limited, as at present, it might be very useful for you to 84 consider whether our system, founded on a valuation which was extended all over Ireland by that very Bill to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, might not prove a good measure for you to imitate before carrying out any new Reform Bill for this country. I must do the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Canterbury (Sir W. Somerville) the justice to admit that the measure in question was a real reform—and that is an important distinction to make; it has been attended with great advantages, and I speak of it with respect. If we were now discussing the case of Ireland, I might suggest that it would, perhaps, be advisable to postpone your measure even for a few months, to try the effect of a general valuation in England, such as you have given us in Ireland. But you have no confidence in your own measures, nor yet in your own principles. Having given us that Bill not more than five or six years ago, will you not abide by it—will you not let us enjoy its effects? In introducing the three Bills simultaneously, I think the noble Lord was right in every point of view. It was the course he recommended in 1832—it was the course taken by Mr. Stanley, when Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, and it is the course taken by the right hon. Gentleman on the present occasion. I should like to hear him explain why the Act of Union is to be subverted in two or three particulars; he has, unfortunately, not had that opportunity, and the object of this Motion is to afford it to him. If it he carried, the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland will be able to state why Irish Peers are to represent Irish boroughs, and why, if a man gets a place, he is not to be called on to face his constituents. I cannot comprehend why a Minister should have taken the course which is now proposed. I am induced to suppose that he resolved to do so as a last expedient; and that as it was impossible to carry the measure in its entirety, as it was physically impossible to expect that Parliament could discharge the work which had been laid upon it, the noble Lord the Member for London said, "I will carry the Bill for England, and leave Scotland and Ireland to take chance on future occasions." And it is very possible he may have added, that when the time came to fulfil that Resolution, he trusted to the good sense of the House of Commons to reject the proposal.
§ MR. BRIGHT
Sir, I do not know that I am wiser than anybody else with regard 85 to the end of this discussion, but with regard to its object I think there can be very little difference of opinion. We have before us one Amendment attempting to defeat and apparently succeeding in tripping up another Amendment. The first Amendment was moved on this side of the House, and at the outset was rather a tempting bait to the hon. Gentlemen opposite, but after examining it a little further, they came to the conclusion that to base the rejection of the Bill on the reasons stated in that Amendment would be false, and, more than that, would be ridiculous. Therefore they found that they could not as a party support the Amendment, and to get rid of it this second Motion is proposed to-night. [Cries of "No" from the Opposition and cheers from the Ministerial benches.] Per-we shall discover the truth if we come after the division to-night to decide on the Amendment of the hon. Member for Rye. I shall not say anything about that Amendment after what has been said by so many previous speakers, and I am quite sure that hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House must have made up their minds on it. I will make only one observation on the speech of the hon. Gentleman who has addressed us. It was of that inconsistent character which I have observed in the speeches of Gentlemen on both sides of this House who opposed the Bill. He told us, in a manner the most confident, that the working classes did not care in the least for reform, and read a letter which he had received from some person with whom he is brought into connection at a Committee on which he is sitting, who said that the working classes did not care for this Bill, because it did not admit them in sufficient numbers to the franchise. And then, towards the latter part of his speech, he held out to us, in most portentous shape, Mr. Potter, the Secretary to the Builder's Union, and pointed out that an army of no less than 600,000 men, every one of whom would obey the behest of Mr. Potter, would be admitted to the franchise, if this Bill became law. The question before the House is really not whether we shall wait for the Census returns, or whether this Bill shall be postponed until the Irish and Scotch Bills have made their reappearance; but the question is this, is the House willing during the present Session, or as long as its present Members remain in office, to grant any measure of reform? That is the question which the House is bound to answer. If I held the opinion that reform was not necessary, and 86 that it was better not to grant it, I should belie the course that I have always taken in this House and out of it, if I had not the manliness to make that declaration to the House and to the country. I will not quarrel with hon. Gentlemen opposite, but I will put it to them whether the position they are taking up this Session is fair and honourable with regard to this question. I know how much, for I have seen it here, men's reasons may be impaired and disturbed by party spirit; but still for all that I think there are facts with regard to this question which might make many men upon that side of the House, and some upon this, doubt the wisdom of the course they have recently adopted. Last year the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) proposed a Bill on this question. He thought it important—or else he played false to the House and the country—he thought it so important that he proposed to add 500,000 new electors to the present electoral body in the United Kingdom. I am merely stating what he stated over and over again in the speeches he delivered. I know that he says now, and that his friends say, that they did not take those 500,000 in a gross lump, like the noble Lord is said to propose to do in this Bill. He has informed the House, and his friends have repeated it, that his plan was to select all the good men everywhere, and from those good, respectable, and I presume, conservative, and reverential citizens, to add 500,000 to the electoral body. I ask where do these 500,000 pattern citizens live? They do not live in houses of the value of £10 and upwards, at least in boroughs, or they would be already enfranchised. Hon. Gentlemen opposite say they do not live in houses between £10 and £6, because it is clear that not half of 500,000 would be included in any scheme which did not lower the franchise to £6. I do not know where they are. I suppose these intelligent men live somewhere in tents, but they certainly are not citizens, nor heads of families, nor householders, and are not included in the number which the noble Lord intends to include by this Bill. They are to be found somewhere else, and some ingenious mode of discovery is to be adopted by means of "fancy franchises" to bring them out. But the right hon. Gentleman was not content with that offer, and I ask his followers just to attend to the case I will submit to them. He said afterwards that he would go further than that Bill proposed; and 87 he would reduce the franchise in boroughs, and more than that, he admitted the claim of the working classes to enfranchisement, and said he would admit them with generosity and sincerity. ["Hear, hear!"] I am glad to hear hon. Gentlemen on that side admit that they are animated by the same feelings as myself. But more than that. The right hon. Gentleman is understood to have given a distinct pledge to certain Members of this House, not that he would do just that in this particular shape, but that if he was enabled to bring forward a Bill again—that is, if we were not able after the general election, to dislodge him from the Government, he would bring in a Bill which would give a franchise of £10 in counties and a £6 franchise in boroughs.
§ MR. DISRAELI
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, and would rather myself take a proper time in the course of this debate, but when the hon. Gentleman's argument is founded upon statements which are entirely fallacious I feel bound to correct him. What the hon. Gentleman has said about anything I have stated in this House is correct enough, and any hon. Member may judge from the records of the House, and I do not dispute or impugn his statement about it, but anything the hon. Gentleman has heard from hearsay I beg to state is perfectly unfounded. I never made any representation, directly or indirectly, to any person at all inconsistent with that which I have stated publicly in this House.
§ MR. BRIGHT
If what I have advanced be correct, I shall not hold it to be inconsistent with the statements the right hon. Gentleman has made in the House. I have my information from speeches which hon. Members of this House must have read as well as myself; speeches delivered by Members of this House in various parts of the country after the last Session. I shall not charge—I shall not hold, the right hon. Gentleman to that statement—because I must say that I could not, after what the right hon. Gentleman has said, repeat it. But at the same time the House will admit that when Members of this House have stated elsewhere—. [Cries of "Name," and "Read !" from the Opposition.] It is very easy to read. I can read extracts from those speeches; and if hon. Gentlemen would like to hear I will read. I do not wish to do so, because I do not wish to bring Members of the House into collision upon matters of this kind. I was willing to take the statements of the right hon. Gentleman that 88 there was some misunderstanding. But hon. Gentlemen must be aware that a speech was made by the hon. Member for Sunderland in August last year, in which he stated that one of the conditions on which he offered his support to Lord Derby was, that the late Government in regard to reform should declare they were prepared to bring in a Bill, and to use all their power to pass it, providing that the borough franchise should be a £6 franchise, and that for the counties a £10 rental franchise, and that at least thirty of the smaller boroughs should be disfranchised. That was one of the conditions he had made before he promised his support to the late Administration; these were the conditions he enforced when he gave his consent to the opposition to that party move, which was headed by the noble Lord the Member for London.
I rise to order, Sir. That statement was contradicted at the time. The correspondence was published containing the contradiction.
§ MR. BRIGHT
Why, Sir, coming on to this Session, the right hon. Gentleman has been himself up to a certain point not inconsistent with this statement. For if the House will remember the tone and the manner of a speech which he has delivered upon this question, they will find that his intelligent judgment led him to the conclusion that it might not be undesirable to endeavour to settle this question during this Session upon the basis proposed by Her Majesty's present Government. Did not the right hon. Gentleman tell us he would move no Amendment upon the second reading? And further, he went so far as to say he doubted extremely—I speak of the impression which I think his words must have produced on every Member of the House—whether he should think it necessary or desirable to offer Amendments in Committee. All this was fair to the House, and it was all along eminently satisfactory, because it showed that the man of the greatest eminence upon your side of the House, the man most competent to form an opinion, the man the most foreseeing with regard to the views and wants of the country, did not materially differ from Her Majesty's Government upon this great question. I grieve now to find he has taken another course—a course not into which he has led his party, but into which he has been driven by the more violent Members by whom he is surrounded. And when I have looked at the eminent 89 position the right hon. Gentleman holds; when I know how clearly he must see what ought to be done with regard to a grave subject like this; I have lamented to see he was not able to persuade his followers to a course so enlightened and so sensible as that he was prepared to take himself. I have lamented to see that, like a character of old, he was "bound to grind in brazen fetters with that heaven-gifted strength." I believe if hot). Gentlemen opposite would now, not so much drive, as follow, the right hon. Gentleman, they would find that upon many of these great questions Parliament would act more in unison with the wishes and the true interests of the people. But I will turn to another point:—hon. Gentlemen opposite assume to be particularly loyal. They sometimes say that some of us are not so. But five times has the Queen of England told the Parliament of England that she wishes this question to be considered and settled. Five different Cabinets have expressed an unanimous opinion in favour of this question being undertaken and adjusted. There have been several Resolutions of this House and speeches—almost volumes of Hansard—of eminent men upon both sides of the House, admitting this not only to be a great question, but one that pressed for a Parliamentary settlement. But still you are unwilling; you still oppose a measure so moderate as this, which you say, because of its moderation, the working classes, whom you dread, do not wish to see passed into law. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Rye (Mr. Mackinnon) gave us to understand that the House—I forget the exact words, but it was an unpleasant observation—was a mass of hypocrisy on this question. ["Hear, hear!" from an hon. Member on the Opposition side.] The hon. Gentleman opposite is not a hypocrite. Nobody charged him with that vice. But the hon. Member for Rye told us what some Members had told him on the stairs—that they were going to vote for the Bill, but they disliked it, and he led the House and the country to believe from what he said that a great number of those who support this Bill wish for no Bill at all, and hope there never may be one. It is a very perilous vice in a Parliament is hypocrisy. I believe the people of England will have infinitely more respect for any man who honestly believes, as a honest man may honestly believe, that it is better to keep the franchise restricted, and to keep the Government of the country in 90 the hands of the rich. They will have more respect for such a man who avows his honest convictions than for those men who deal with such a question as this in one Session in one light, and in another light in another Session, just as it may suit their party objects and party purposes. We may be coming, and we shall come upon troublous times, if the House of Lords becomes omniponent and the House of Commons becomes contemptible. There are some things upon this question which are agreed to, and some that are merely asserted and figure as matters of dispute. Now, I should like to ask the attention of the House to two points. Without going to the Census of 1861, we all know what the population will be when the next Census is taken. The population of the United Kingdom will be about 30,000,000. We know that if there be 30,000,000 of people in the United Kingdom, there will be 7,500,000 of men of twenty-one years of age and upwards. We know that at present not more than 1,000,000 of men can come up to vote; and we know, therefore, that even allowing for those who are in the army and the navy, or who may be incapacitated from pauperism or crime, or other causes, there are 6,000,000 adult males to whom Parliament has not yet conceded the right of the suffrage. The Bill of the noble Lord proposes to make a slight advance. It proposes to open the door to a number—it may be 300,000, and a very extreme calculation might make it 400.000 fresh voters. I believe it may be 300,000, and I doubt if it can be 400,000 throughout the whole of the United Kingdom. If it be 300,000, it is only opening the door so far that only one man in twenty of those now excluded will be allowed to come in. Can anybody believe that the terrors you have expressed or that your alarm at this proposal is well founded? It is utterly impossible. I do not believe any man in this House or out of it, if he were told that only one in twenty of the adult males now excluded were to be admitted by this Bill, could honestly say he believed it a measure perilous to the country or to the constitution in any sense whatever. I think I may take that to be almost agreed upon. But there are some things merely asserted; and I wish to allude to one or two of them. It has been asserted during these discussions—I will not quote particular speeches, but I trust to the House for confirming what I say—it has been asserted over and over again, that the admission 91 of this number, and therefore I may almost say of any number, of men to the franchise above the 1,000,000 is to give up the representation of the country and the power of Parliament to classes altogether unworthy of it. I may refer to the language of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hertfordshire (Sir E. Lytton), in one of the most eloquent and elaborate speeches ever made in this House, a speech every word of which had been considered over and over again, and which therefore was not delivered in the heat of debate—I say upon referring to that speech it is there asserted that to open the door to one out of twenty men now excluded, that is to 300,000 or 350,000 of our countrymen, is to hand over Parliament and the Government to what he designated as poverty and passion. I cannot very well permit myself, especially with the great and unfeigned respect that I have for much in the character of the right hon. Gentleman, to speak of that phrase in the language which necessarily arises to my lips when I think of it. But the noble Lord, the Member for the City, quoted the other night from an article in a periodical which is supposed to represent hon. Gentlemen opposite. I confess I was rather surprised that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire appeared to take some offence at it, because I thought the noble Lord intended to say what was friendly of him and complimentary to the right hon. Gentleman. [A laugh.] Well, so it struck me, and I think the right hon. Gentleman will not deny that that was the tenor of the observations. That article did not spare a good many people besides the right hon. Gentleman. It is said, I do not know on what authority, to have been written by a noble. Lord I see opposite me (Lord Robert Cecil). I believe the authorship was first indicated by the supposed hostility which exists in the mind of the noble Lord to the general policy of the right hon. Gentleman. Well, I understood the author of the article to say that the course of policy we were now pursuing, and the result of such a measure as this would be to leave us for the Government of the country to a "blessed choice" between "debauchery and crime." He referred to public houses as furnishing the debauchery; but he might have known that if in any particular borough the public-house interest amounts to 10 per cent of the electoral body, inasmuch as no more will be admitted under the Bill, the influence of that interest will be diminished in 92 proportion as you increase the numbers and the influence of the general body of electors. Now, I want to ask the House to consider these three statements—one made by the right hon. Baronet, the other assumed to be made by the noble Lord (Lord R. Cecil), and the statement of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) that there was a danger lest everybody admitted to the franchise would combine to conspire against all the institutions of the country. To what does this argument lead us? According to the right hon. Baronet six-sevenths of your population—that is, 6,000,000 out of 7,000,000 grown men in the United Kingdom—are suffering and passionate. The argument of the Quarterly Review is that they are sunk in debauchery and crime. That they are ready to combine against all the existing institutions of the country and against all classes above them is the prime and the sole argument of the right hon. Gentleman's long speech. Now, if I thought this were true I confess I should despair of the future of my country. But I will undertake to show that this testimony is not worthy of the slightest credit. I will undertake to say that I know a great deal more of the working classes of this country, and especially of those in the north of England, to whom this Bill especially refers, than either the right hon. Baronet, the right hon. Gentleman, or the author of the article in the Quarterly Review. Excepting the Sessions which I have had, it may be the honour, but certainly the ill-fortune to spend in this House and in London, I have been for thirty years, at least, in daily communication with these classes. I have lived among them; many of them were playmates of mine when I was a boy; I have superintended their labour; I have paid their wages; and have had as great an opportunity as any man in this House of knowing what are their opinions and their wishes with regard to those great political questions which we have to discuss. Now, I shall ask the attention of the House to a statement respecting the working men of Rochdale. After the accusations which have been made, which were not necessary for your argument, and which I grieve were ever made at all, I feel bound in defence of the working classes to make this statement to the House; and, if hon. Gentlemen on the other side are really interested in those classes, they will thank me for the facts I am about to lay before them. They refer to certain associations in the borough of Rochdale, whereby 93 working men exclusively have created large mercantile concerns, and have managed them for many years past with the greatest possible success. A co-operative society was established at Rochdale in 1844. It began with twenty-eight members, who subscribed £1 a-piece, so that they started with a capital of £28. At the end of 1859, fifteen years afterwards, it had no fewer than 2,703 members, and a capital of £27,060. It had done business during the year to the amount of £104,000, and had divided among its members, in proportion to the amount of their purchases from its various shops and establishments, the sum of £10,739. During the first quarter of the present year, ending on the 20th of March last, the business transacted was £34,000, or at the rate of £136,000 per annum, leaving to be divided among the members a profit for the quarter amounting to £3,375. Its establishments consist of a large grocer's shop, one for the sale of clothing, a butcher's shop, and another I think where shoes are sold. Hon. Gentlemen who suppose that these working men are not aware of what is being said and done in this House will attach some importance to the facts I am now about to adduce. The society has a library and reading-room, open free to all its members, who now number 2,900. Two-and-a-half per cent, amounting during the past year to £300, is deducted from the profits of the business to purchase books and newspapers for the use of the literary institution. The library contains between 3,000 and 4,000 volumes, and is increasing rapidly every quarter. The news room is well supplied with daily and weekly papers and monthly and quarterly periodicals; and doubtless, some of the members have read the article in the Quarterly of which we have been speaking. Maps, globes, telescopes, microscopes, and other scientific apparatus of the most recent construction, are provided for the use of the members, and a Sabbath school is attached to the institution. The Society has at various times subscribed to the Dispensary, the Deaf and Dumb Asylum, the Blind Asylum and the Manchester Royal Infirmary, and it has recently presented to the Corporation of Rochdale, at a cost of £100, a beautiful drinking fountain in bronze, which has been put up in a central position in the town for the benefit of the public. It has also established—and I am sorry Mr. Urquhart, once a Member of this House, is not present to hear this, great 94 credit being due to him for having taught the use of such places—it has established, at a cost of £200, a Turkish bath, which is already remunerative, and the advantages of which are appreciated by many of the middle as well as of the working classes. As a proof of the wise system upon which the society is conducted, I may mention that no credit is given even for a single day. Frugal and provident habits are inculcated. To save something, it is pointed out, is the first step to independence. Pauperism has been diminished; and education, intelligence, and morality have been greatly promoted. Now for another remarkable fact. Arbitrators have long been appointed, for the purpose of adjusting any differences, which may arise between a Member and the Committee, and yet in the fifteen years during which the institution has been established those arbitrators have never once been called upon to give a decision. That is not all. In this same town of Rochdale the workmen have established a corn mill, which was begun in 1850. In 1851 the capital was £2,163. In that year it suffered a loss of £421, which was made up by subsequent gains before any division of profits was made. At the end of 1859 the capital was £18,236; the business done was £85,845, leaving a profit of £6,115 for the year ending March 24, 1860, the number of Members was 550, and the state of the concern stood thus:—capital, £21,192; business done, £92,270; and profit, £8,278. There are many hon. Members in this House engaged in the cotton trade. I am one of them. Well, the Rochdale Co-operative Manufacturing Society likewise has now 1,600 members, with a capital exceeding £50,000. Its present business is not large, but it ha3 built, and is now filling with machinery, a new mill, which will cost not less than £32,000. The mill is paid for, and the machinery will be paid for on delivery. The whole is expected to be complete in September next. Each of these societies is managed by a Committee of eleven Members. Meetings are held, in the two first mentioned, every three months, and in the last every six months. All Members can attend and vote, and no Member has more than a single vote, I have thought it desirable to place these facts before the House, because I am able to produce evidence in support of everything I have said in regard to them; for I know many of these men and the establishments. I know something of the working population among 95 whom I live, and I believe there is not a person in this House who will dare to stand up after I sit down and say with respect to the men who have thus conducted a large business, saved their money, and promoted all these means of spreading education, intelligence, and sobriety among the people, that it would be perilous to the institutions of this country, if those institutions are worth anything, to give such men a vote for Members of Parliament. But there is another point urged, and that is that by this Bill, if you pass it, you hand over the Government of the country not only to ignorance and to passion, but also to poverty. Now, I should like the House to listen to one or two facts which appear to me important; and I advise the House to look fairly into this question between the working-classes, who wish to be admitted to the franchise, and you, who wish to exclude them. If you are ignorant of the facts, you may possibly commit an error which you will live to deplore some day. It is generally assumed that the great body of the people are very poor and ignorant, and that they cannot use any political influence you may give them judiciously; that is, that they cannot tell whether any gentleman living in their neighbourhood is a suitable man to be intrusted with the expression of their sentiments and with the care of their interests in this House. Now, if we contrast the wealth of the represented classes with that of the unrepresented classes, the difference is not so great as hon. Gentlemen imagine, and as I imagined before I looked into the facts. By the Census of 1861 the population will be, say thirty millions—of these, seven millions and a half will be adult males. There are now about one million of voters, and there must be six millions and a half not on the list of voters. Assume that 500,000 of these do not belong to the working classes, or are engaged in the army or navy, or are paupers, or criminals, and cannot be electors, and there will remain six millions of men earning wages unenfranchised. Suppose this Bill to pass, and that it adds to the number of electors, which it will not, 500,000 from the upper end of this mass, consisting of small traders, clerks, foremen, small capitalists, and the more highly paid working-men, there will remain not less than five millions and a half unenfranchised after the passing of this Bill. Now, let us compare the yearly income of these working men with the income derived from all the real property in the United 96 Kingdom, including lands and buildings, and adding to it the income of all the farmers as shown by the income tax returns. From a return to the House of Lords dated July 20, 1859, it appears that the total income under Schedule A in Great Britain and Ireland is £136,000,000, and under Schedule B, being the income of farmers, £52,000,000, making £188,000,000 in all. Assuming the income of each of the 500,000 persons proposed to be enfranchised under this Bill to be £80 a year, or 31s. weekly, the annual income of the whole would amount to £40,000,000. If you take the 5,500,000 persons still to be excluded from the franchise, and estimate their annual income at only £40 per head, or 15s. 6d. weekly, then their total income would amount to not less than £220,000,000. The annual income of these two classes taken together would amount to £260,000,000. That of itself is a strong fact, and shows that the men now excluded from the franchise have, though not in real property, lands, or buildings, an annual income arising from wages paid for honest labour nearly double the income derived from real property, lands, and buildings, together with the income of all the farmers. But, estimating the number of women who work at 2,000,000, and that they individually earn about 8s. a week, then we have a further sum of £40,000,000. Next include the wages of 1,000,000 of young persons of both sexes, between the ages of 14 and 21 years, and, estimating their average earnings at 5s. a week, you have a further sum of about £12,000,000. The whole income of these working classes I believe to be understated at £312,000,000 a year, while the whole income represented by all the income-tax schedules in April, 1857, amounted to £313,000,000. The whole of this latter income is represented more or loss equally in both Houses of Parliament. The land is represented in and controls almost entirely one House, and has at least half the power in the House in which I am speaking, but the other income to which I have just drawn the attention of hon. Members, the price of labour received in the shape of wages, returns not a single Member to Parliament to defend its interests or express its wants. It does not give one single vote at the polling booth to any single Member of Parliament at this moment. I shall go into no more facts, and I think the two statements I have made will carry conviction to any impartial mind that it is not wise or just to treat lightly 97 the character and condition of the unenfranchised classes of this kingdom. If the charges made against them were true, what would they prove but the utter condemnation of the whole system of your Government in past times? And, if these charges are not true, then I say, you are pursuing an unwise and dangerous course in making them. What is the object of hon. Gentlemen opposite in the persistent delays with which they meet this proposition? I am told—of course hon. Gentlemen opposite will very likely contradict it—it is said you want to batter and damage the Government, so that by and by you will be able to come to this side of the House, and the right hon. Gentlemen on that bench will come and sit on this bench. I have no doubt whatever that there is considerable anxiety on that score. I have observed that when the Gentlemen who sit on this side of the House sat in Opposition, they were very anxious to get on the Ministerial side, and sometimes took means which I thought unworthy of a great party to dislodge their opponents. I am happy to say that I never co-operated in any of those attempts. ["Oh, oh."] You will recollect that when you (the Opposition) were on this side of the House, your Government was continually taunted with the charge of being kept in office by the right hon. Member for Ashton (Mr. M. Gibson), and myself, and those who acted with us. They said of you and us then what some of you have—I was going to say foolishly—said of the present Government and us now; but I can make great allowance for the feeling which actuates the Opposition to change sides, because, from the anxiety which every one shows to get on the Ministerial Bench, there is, I presume, some peculiar happiness in arrriving there. I will assume that you (the Opposition) succeed in getting the noble Lord to withdraw the present Bill, which, however, is not likely, and that you so damage the Government that it cannot continue as a Government any longer, but breaks up as many other Governments have been broken up before, and that the Earl of Derby comes back to power. Well, then, is this Reform question settled? Is the right hon. Gentleman opposite prepared to carry out the statements which he made?—I do not mean private statements, but statements made in public, and which he has not yet repudiated, and probably never will. The right hon. Gentleman expresses his assent; therefore he proposes, if he comes back to power, to 98 add 500,000 electors to the present number. Nay, more than that, because after the general election he found he must go further, and open the door to the working classes, as he said, with sincerity and generosity. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, however, do not seem to calculate on any such concession, for I understand them to think—those 6,000,000 of persons to whom I referred being now excluded from the exercise of the franchise—that if they can get rid of this Bill the door of the Constitution will be locked and barred for a long time to come—nobody knows how long; that the question of Reform will not re-appear, and that we may go on in the old humdrum fashion, regardless of the wishes of that multitude of our fellow-countrymen who during the last thirty years have asked you in the humblest and most deferential tones for some portion of influence in the State. Do you, let me ask, imagine that you can go on raising £70,000,000 per annum, or rather £71,500,000, as we are now informed by another authority, from the population of this country, and calling upon those 6,000,000 whom you exclude from all voice in Parliament to pay their full share—nay, in my opinion, much beyond their full share—of this amount? Do you propose that they should still contribute to this enormous revenue and that not one of them should even be able to speak through the lips of a Representative in this House on the subject of the imposition of taxation or of the mode in which it is laid on the shoulders of the various classes of the people? The noble Lord who sits opposite to me (Lord R. Cecil) upon a former occasion referred to this question, and expressed his apprehension that if we were to have a Reform in Parliament there would be an undue interference with what he called the incidence of taxation; but for my part I believe that there is no class of people in this country who, taken in the bulk, are more just than the working classes. There are, of course, exceptions to that rule; there are among them individuals who are ignorant, violent, and unjust, but there are as many such in your class in proportion to its numbers. Those who know the working classes best, who mix with them intimately in the north of England—in Lancashire and Yorkshire—fear them least and trust them most. If you who sit on the benches opposite were as well acquainted with them as we are you would not have exhibited that affected patriotism and that unaffected ignorance 99 which you have displayed in dealing with this great question. In making these observations I do not mean to threaten the House with the occurrence of any terrible or immediate disaster in case they should throw out the present Bill, and refuse to deal with this question of Reform; but I would strongly advise you to adopt the contrary course. I should wish, as you are aware, to see a much more extensive measure of reform passed into a law than the Bill provides. I may, however, remark, that hon. Gentlemen opposite, many of whom are the most inaccurate speakers on these topics I have listened to, especially when they set about quoting anything I happen to have said, have over and over again stated—and I have more than once corrected them—that I regard the present Bill merely as a measure which, if it he passed this Session, will have cleared the way for the advocates of reform to rap next Session at the door of Parliament for one of a more extensive character. Now, those hon. Members who may bear in mind anything I have said on the subject will recollect that, so far as the question of the suffrage is concerned, I never made any such statement. My honest opinion is, although I believe it would be desirable to go further than this Bill does in the extension of the suffrage, yet that if the suffrage were brought down to the rate of £6, a considerable number of persons would, as a consequence, be admitted to the exercise of the franchise, and that a point would be fixed within which a number equally great might, by the exercise of frugality and industry, hope at no distant day to be included. Such a concession, therefore, would, in my opinion, be of the greatest possible benefit to the working classes—I speak particularly of Lancashire and Yorkshire—and a line would he drawn at a point which could be reached by them if they exert the virtues which you say it is necessary that the working man should have before he is entitled to a vote. With regard, however, to the redistribution of seats, I am prepared to say now, as I have often said before, that this Bill touches merely the fringe of that question. I have over and over again stated, both in public and private, that I would as soon see the Bill a simple suffrage Bill, not dealing with the redistribution of seats at all, as in its present shape. As, however, the Government have made proposals on the subject—it may he the best they could under the circumstances—I have been willing to lend them all the 100 support in my power in the honest conviction that it is the duty of the House of Commons to pass the Bill, and that if they do not pass it many hon. Members may live to regret the course which they shall have taken in its regard. I am sure the House will admit that I have not said a single word in a tone of menace with respect to this question. I am not in a position to menace anybody. Some hon. Members say that I do not possess the confidence of the working classes, and I can safely say that I never took any special steps to obtain that confidence. They, like all other classes, have their crotchets and their foibles, and of them I have always spoken with that sincerity—you may, if you please, call it severity—with which I hope it is my habit to express the opinions which I entertain. I have opposed them as much as I have worked with them. I have told them from public platforms what I felt to be the truth as honestly as I speak it here. The idea of making my speech palatable to lord or commoner, or working man, by taking a particular political course to meet the wishes of any one of them is one of the very last which I should think of harbouring, and I should despise myself for ever if I were turned a single hair's breadth by such influences from the path which I deemed it to be my duty to pursue. But, passing from that topic, I would implore you now to bear in mind that the greatest events in history have risen apparently from the most trifling causes. There has, however, almost invariably been a groundwork laid in those instances which it may have occupied ten or twenty years or more to construct. How that may be in the future nobody can predict. At the present moment you have an unfavourable season; weather very cold for June: rains almost incessant. If such weather should continue during the whole of this month a bad harvest may be the result. The time may come when two or three such harvests may cause a gloom throughout the land. I would also say to hon. Gentlemen opposite, who seem to me to be always trading in the apprehension of war, that it is not so much war you have to fear as insurrection and revolution on the Continent. Such events light up the fire of excitement in England, for so long as man is man and possesses human sympathies this must be the case. Even the noble Lord who generally sits on the seat below me (Lord Elcho), but who is I know not where now—I suppose with the 101 Rifle Volunteers—and whom I never heard give utterance to a single syllable in favour of Reform—talked—I forget his exact words—at a meeting of those gentlemen who are organized to defend us against some imaginary foe, about the lion heart of Garibaldi, who had left Italy to snap asunder the chains and bonds of the Sicilians. Now I do not object to that sort of phraseology, but when you find a man who never, so far as I am aware, used his influence to give those of his countrymen who are excluded from the franchise a vote, express all this enthusiasm for the achievements of Garibaldi and the liberation of Sicily, what, I should like to know, must be the effect of passing events on the great mass of his countrymen supposed not to be subject to the same mental control as a Member of this House? The time I say, then, may come when your rashness may give way to terror, and when the accusations you have brought against the working classes may be deemed unsuitable, and something like flattery usurp their place. I do not say that such a period will ever arrive, but when I see an attempt made to preclude the passing of a proposition so moderate as this—which, wherever a public meeting has been held throughout the country since it has been laid before Parliament to consider its provisions—and many such meetings have been held, although you may be in perfect ignorance of the fact if you read only The Times—has been received by the members of the working classes, who mainly composed those meetings, with a great feeling of satisfaction—I cannot help feeling strongly on the subject, and warning you against pursuing the course which you are pursuing. The demands of the working classes are most moderate and constitutional. They ask you merely to advance a little beyond the line which was laid down by eminent statesmen who presided over affairs in this House in 1832. They seek at your hands nothing unheard of, novel, or perilous, but simply call upon you to extend the boon which was then with so much subsequent advantage to the country granted, to them, somewhat further at the present day. There are among hon. Gentlemen opposite many who now listen to me who I am perfectly certain are not individually satisfied with the course which they are urging the Government to take with respect to this measure. You refuse this slight concession, and yet you do not refuse it in a manly manner. The 300,000 102 or 400,000 members of the community whom the Bill proposes to enfranchise, and the small number who at some future day may hope to come within its scope, cannot but imagine that you have treated them with distrust,—nay, that some of you, in speaking of them, would appear to have been animated by a feeling still more contemptible and deplorable. I recollect the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hertfordshire published a work some years ago in which he said, "Who knows the great generosity of the people of this country?" and he did what I shall not do, exclude from the comment the nobility who constituted the Government of the State. I concur, however, with the right hon. Gentleman in the opinion which he entertains of the great generosity of the English people. I say the people are generous. On their industry are based your wealth and greatness; and, believe me, I am no less your friend than theirs when I implore you with all the power and earnestness which it is possible for me to infuse into words to pass this Bill and treat your countrymen with generosity and justice.
§ SIR HUGH CAIRNS
Mr. Speaker, there are few subjects which the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) is not capable of understanding perfectly. There is no one more capable of understanding what is the real question before the House; and when the hon. Member for Birmingham rises in his place and, complaining of delay in the progress of this measure, pronounces a speech in which he never once approaches the subject which is really at issue, there can be one reason, and only one reason, for such a course, and it is that the hon. Member prefers to speak on a different subject rather than on the subject which is before the House to-night. The hon. Member for Birmingham has made a speech which, if it be relevant to anything in particular, is a speech in favour of the third reading of this Bill; and I cannot help myself thinking that it had occurred to the hon. Member that, perhaps, an opportunity might not be given of pronouncing the speech upon the third reading, and that he determined to seize the opportunity he has rather than wait for an opportunity he never may have. Now, Sir, whether there ever will be a third reading of this Bill; if so, whether the hon. Member for Birmingham will again repeat the speech we have heard to-night; and, if so, whether any person will then answer that speech, 103 I do not venture to speculate, but I would desire, with permission, to address a few observations to the House on the question which I think is really before it. The right hon. Baronet the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who first spoke in this debate on the side of the Government (Sir George Grey), complained that my hon. Friend the Member for Ayrshire (Sir James Fergusson) had changed the issue of the question before the House. The answer to that charge is short and conclusive. Those who have changed the issue before the House are Her Majesty's Government. The issue before the House for the last three months has been whether we should have in the present Session a measure for the amendment of the representation of the United Kingdom; and on Monday night, for the first time, upon the Motion that you, Sir, should leave the chair, the Government announced that their course was changed, and that, whereas the issue up till then had been a measure for the representation of the whole kingdom, the measure now was one for England only, and the Bills for Scotland and Ireland were to be withdrawn. Then, inasmuch as that announcement was not made until we were on the very eve of going into Committee, there was no opportunity of bringing before the House the grave consequences that result from such a change, except by means of the Motion which has, with such ability and effect, been made tonight by my hon. Friend. Now, on the question of order, let me add a word or two. I think the House has some reason to complain of the course taken by the Government on this matter. On Monday last we had on the paper a number of Instructions intended to be moved on going into Committee on the Bill. Two of those Instructions raised questions of great gravity and importance—questions of registration, polling places, and polling papers. The hon. Gentlemen about to move the Instructions stated to the House that they desired these questions should be discussed, not with regard to one part of the kingdom, but with reference to the United Kingdom, and, as such, to make those Instructions to the Committee about to be formed. What course was taken by the Government? The noble Lord the Foreign Secretary opposed the Instructions, and upon this ground, that they were Instructions going to the case of the United Kingdom, whereas there were other Bills for Ireland and Scotland before the House.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
The hon. and learned Gentleman is under a misapprehension. The opposition to the Instructions arose on a point of order, and was raised from the Chair.
§ SIR HUGH CAIRNS
I must remind the noble Lord of what I myself heard. After you, Sir, had suggested the irregularity, when an hon. Member proposed to cure it by inserting the words "United Kingdom," the noble Lord rose, and in his place said that was a greater irregularity still; for, said the noble Lord, this Bill relates to England only, and here are Instructions which relate to the United Kingdom. Of course, Sir, we bowed to your decision on the point; but the question I ask is—was it right in the noble Lord, hearing and knowing the ground of your decision, and knowing, which we did not, that although there were Bills for Scotland and Ireland on the paper, that was a mere form, and that the Government had determined to withdraw them—was it, I ask, right in the noble Lord to take the objection he did, to hear the decision you gave, and sit in his place without rising and saying, "I cannot allow this to pass; no doubt there are Bills before the House for Ireland and Scotland, but the Government are going to withdraw them, and therefore these Instructions ought to be discussed on the Bill for England as if the other Bills were not before the House." So much for the question of order. The question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Ayrshire is one, I think, of very great gravity and deserving well the attention of the House. I hold the opinion myself that, with regard to the question of amending the representation of the people, there are two courses that may be pursued by the Government. They may come down to the House and say, "We think there ought to be an Amendment of the representation of the people, but the only place that requires amendment is England, and there is no occasion for Bills either for Scotland or Ireland, and we do not mean to propose any." That course would be quite plain and intelligible. I can well understand, with reference to Ireland, for instance, that the Government should not consider there ought to be any further reduction in the franchise, there having been one so lately. Another course is to come down to the House and say, "We think there ought to be an amendment of the representation for all parts of the kingdom; at the same time, it is not convenient to put 105 the three branches of the kingdom in one Bill; we will have separate Bills, but still those Bills may be considered as one great measure for amending the representation of the people." That was the course the Government adopted; and what I contend, what I shall show conclusively, is this,—that if you adopt that course you are bound, I do not say to put the whole measure into one Bill, but I do say to pass the whole measure in one Session, or else postpone it to such a time that it may be considered in one Session. Now, although we have three Bills in name they are so intimately connected together that virtually you cannot dissever them. Take the question of the disfranchisement of boroughs. That is a very delicate question. It comes home, I am sure, as much as any question can to the feelings and prejudices of hon. Gentlemen; and it is most deeply affected by the course which the Government proposed to take. On what principle do you disfranchise boroughs? On that point there is no difference of opinion on either side of the House. The noble Lord announced his principle very much in the same terms as my right hon. Friend (Mr. Disraeli) did last year. You do not disfranchise a borough merely because it is a small borough. You first try what seats you want to obtain for enlarged or newly-created constituencies, and when you sum up all the seats which you require you cast about to see how you can procure the means of gaining those seats by disfranchisement. The course the Government took is this—they told us "We desire twenty-five seats for England; we desire two for Scotland and two for Ireland. That makes twenty-nine seats in the whole," Now, what are the materials out of which the Government are to obtain these seats? They start with four from the disfranchised boroughs—Sudbury and St. Albans. They then take 25 boroughs of England, from each of which they take one Member, and that at once makes the whole 29 seats. As long as you proceed with all your measures together it is a complete plan—enfranchisement and disfranchisement going side by side; but what do you propose to do now? You say we put off the Irish and Scotch Bills; what is the consequence? Who knows when they will be brought in again, or if they ever will be passed? In the meantime you do not want 29 scats, but only 25 seats. As the Government has four seats already at com- 106 mand, they only want 21; but the present Bill is to disfranchise 25 English boroughs to supply 21 seats. What is the consequence? You have got, in point of disfranchisement, four seats too many. No doubt, the Government may say, "We will set that right in the Bill; we will disfranchise four seats the less." But what 21 boroughs out of the 25 will you take? Your principle is to take all the boroughs under 7,000 population, and which return two Members,—these are 25 in number; that rule cannot be applied to produce you only 21 seats. Now, although you have got separate English, Irish, and Scotch Bills, you have linked the whole three together by your scheme of enfranchisement and disfranchisement; and I appeal to the House whether it will consent actually to disfranchise four seats before being satisfied that there are four places to which those seats may be assigned. I will take now another question, which has been already touched upon—a very delicate and tender one—that of a dissolution of Parliament. But I must first set right the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor for the Duchy, who, with rather scant courtesy, and no small energy of manner, corrected, as he thought, my hon. Friend the Member for Ayrshire upon this point. I do not think it is quite the way, in this House where arguments have been adduced with such temper and ability as were evinced by my hon. Friend, to say that an hon. Member, when he talks of a dissolution of Parliament and a new constituency, shows he knows nothing about the Bill of which he is talking. I will not say of the Chancellor of the Duchy that he knows nothing of what he is talking about. But take this Bill. I open the Bill at the 20th clause, and I find the proposal of the Government is, that the new constituencies are to be entitled to vote after any dissolution that takes place after the last day of November in the present year [Sir GEORGE GREY: "Read to the end."] I will read to the end, "and subject to the conditions affecting his right to be registered in any year shall be entitled to be registered in any register of voters to be formed for such county, riding, or division, or for such city or borough, in or after the year 1860. [Sir GEORGE GREY: He must comply with the conditions.] The right hon. Gentleman is exceedingly rapid in his conclusions, and I am following him as fast as I can. Thus the register of voters is to be formed not only after the year 1860, but in it. 107 The right hon. Baronet says the conditions must be complied with. Well, what are they? That before a certain day notice must be given of the claim to be placed on the register for the present year. That day is six weeks off. We do not know if the Bill is to be proceeded with; but if so, it may possibly receive the Royal Assent within six weeks, and every person qualified by it may give the legal notice. But if not, what is to prevent the insertion of words enlarging this 20th clause—it is a mere form—and giving time for the notice? The result would be the same as that produced in 1832, when at a later period of the Session than this the Reform Bill received the Royal Assent, and many weeks after the Bills for Scotland and Ireland were passed, and yet there was a registration, a dissolution, and an election, the time having been enlarged for giving the necessary notice. Having cleared the ground so far, I hope the right hon. Gentleman is satisfied that we can have a dissolution and an election. The next point is a delicate one; of course we cannot ask the Government what advice it will tender to the Crown with regard to a dissolution; and if we did we should not get a reply, and the refusal would be a very proper one. But there is one proposition on the subject that is very safe; and I think I may hazard it without any dispute, even from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. If the English Reform Bill is passed, I presume the Government will either advise the Crown to dissolve Parliament, or it will not. That is a safe and logical division of the subject; and I am quite indifferent as to the alternative the Government may select, because the only difficulty is to know which of the two will be the more absurd. I will take the first supposition, and assume that the Government does advise the Crown to dissolve Parliament. Then, if the election is taken on the new registry, the consequence will be that we shall have a Parliament in which the Members for English boroughs and counties will be elected by a constituency wholly different from that which returns the Irish and Scotch Members. I will not go into figures, but you will have the English Members elected by a constituency, say, double the number of that which returns the Irish and Scotch Members. And that is not all. As soon as this Parliament is brought together, what will it have to do? The first thing it will have to consider will be the 108 Reform Bills for Scotland and Ireland. In the meantime the Irish and Scotch Members will sit as criminals brought up for judgment till such time as these Bills receive the Royal Assent. And who will be their Judges? We have heard a petition quoted this evening which designated the present measure as an "instalment" only, and only as such was accepted. The meaning of that I take to be that the new Parliament is considered likely to go much further than the present House is prepared to do. Thus, the English Members elected by the new constituency will be the judges of the measure of Reform to be applied to Ireland and Scotland. Is it fair that this should be done by a Parliament that is neither the present one, nor elected by a constituency like the present? Nor is this all. If the Government advises the Crown to dissolve Parliament after the passing of the English Reform Bill, will it next year, also advise the Crown to dissolve it after passing the Irish and Scotch Bills? If so, the very pleasant and convenient consequence will be, that this winter we shall have a dissolution after passing the English Bill, and in the next winter another dissolution following the Scotch and Irish Bills. That is one branch of the alternative; now let me take the other. I will assume that the Government does not advise the Crown to dissolve. What will then happen? Having a new constituency double the number of the present, you will have this House sitting next spring, taxing the people and legislating for the people; at the same time there will exist in the country a constituency wholly different from that which elected the present House, And perhaps the House may be acting entirely against the wishes of that constituency, while it is taxing and legislating for the whole of the country. Talk of a division between representation and taxation! Was there ever a division between them like this? Was there ever such a case known in this country as the existence of a new constituency, having the right to elect the Members of Parliament, yet not permitted to exercise that right, and being taxed and legislated for by Members they did not select, and which, if they had had the opportunity, they would not have returned to serve in Parliament at all? We have heard some observations by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on this matter well worthy of remark. There were many points in his Budget; but one not less surprising than the others was this—he told 109 us that the great object in producing the Budget of the present year was to leave everything beyond it—the income tax, tea duties, and sugar duties, as totally open questions for the Parliament in the next year. And not only that; the right hon. Gentleman used these remarkable words; he spoke of the masses—[The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER expressed dissent]. The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but if accurately reported his words were these:—If masses of our fellow-countrymen…are to be admitted to the franchise…. do not let us presume to lay the foundations of jealousy—perhaps of disloyalty and disorder—by promulgating the doctrine that in proportion to the larger number of the people responsible for the election and conduct of Parliament the powers of that Parliament are to be limited.This was said in answer to a remonstrance against the course of the right hon. Gentleman in not making permanent some of the taxation for years in advance. The right hon. Gentleman put his refusal to do so simply on this ground, that if you were going to admit the "masses" of the country to the franchise, you ought not to fetter the hands of the new Parliament with regard to the financial arrangements for future years. But if you do admit these masses to be registered as the electors of the country, and if they find next year, by some Budget equally remarkable as the present, a system of taxation imposed which, to judge by past experience, will probably be as opposite as possible to the present, do yon not think some of these masses may say, "The Chancellor of the Exchequer prepared us last year for showing jealousy, disloyalty, and disorder," and that that jealousy, disloyalty, and disorder, they will be much more entitled to show, if, having given them the franchise and placed them on the roll of electors, they find the House of Commons continue to impose taxation of which they disapprove, and on which they have had no opportunity of expressing an opinion? I take the question of a dissolution, therefore, on either alternative the Government pleases. I have shown what will follow if the Crown is advised to dissolve Parliament; and what will be the results if it is not so advised. The proposition of the Government is that the House should go into Committee on the English Bill, and that the Irish and Scotch Bills shall be abandoned. If the English Bill is to be pressed on in this urgent manner, and disconnected from the two Bills that have 110 always been associated with it, I think it is desirable, at all events, that we should be quite sure we have got full and proper materials for the consideration of the English Bill. That is more necessary for this reason—the noble Lord admitted distinctly that the Government first tried an £8 franchise, but, finding it would not bring in a great number of new electors, it was not thought worth while to disturb the country for that. It then tried a £7 franchise, which brought in a somewhat greater number, but not enough. Then it tried the £6 franchise, and that brought in something like 200,000 voters. This the noble Lord thought was not so many as to endanger the constituency of the country, yet enough to justify the introduction of the Reform Bill. Now, that argument depends entirely on the correctness of the noble Lord's data as to his figures. Let us now see how matters stand with regard to the materials. Upwards of three months have elapsed since the Bill was introduced. I want to know what the Government have done in the meantime. From various sides questions have been raised with respect to the accuracy of the Returns upon which the Government proceed. Yet, so far as I am aware, no step has been taken by the Government either to satisfy the House that its fears are groundless and that the alleged errors do not exist in reality, or, on the other hand, to correct those errors and supply us with better materials. We have been told, indeed, that in "another place" about which we know nothing, the Government have assented to an inquiry; but even with respect to that inquiry we have, I think, some right to complain. If there were no grounds for inquiry, if the Government were satisfied that the materials already in their hands were perfectly correct, why were our minds disturbed by finding them evince so much weakness as to their own case that they assented to the appointment of a Committee in "another place?" But if the Government have a doubt as to the correctness of their Returns, why should we not have a similar inquiry here, in which we might ascertain for ourselves the truth of those rumours which are spread abroad, and which no individual Member has the means of testing? I shall not attempt, at so late an hour of the night, to deal in any large manner with the Returns of the Government; but I may be permitted to state, in the briefest way, three particular points on which I charge those Returns with being 111 delusive, as to which I have never yet heard an answer, and as to which I do not believe an answer can be given. The first ground of inaccuracy is this. We have been shown the direction given with regard to the making out of these Returns, and in those directions there were the roost careful, and I must say the most ingeniously framed, orders to the Poor Law authorities to remove all duplicate names from the list of persons entitled to be put upon the new constituency. But the Government entirely overlooked what is an equally important point, the fact, namely, that there is not a large borough in England with a considerable number of electors upon the roll, in which, among those electors there is not upon the present roll, a great number of duplicates. Take the case of Bristol. The Government Returns inform us that in Bristol there are 12,929 electors. But among those electors there are 3,082 duplicates. It may be supposed that, as there are freemen in Bristol, those duplicates may be attributed to them; but such is not the case to any great extent, for I am told that only about 800 duplicates are attributable to the circumstance of some freemen being electors by virtue of occupation. From the way in which the tables of the Government are framed, the 3,082 duplicates are reckoned a second time in the column showing the excess of the new electors over the old, and the consequence is that, whereas the Returns show that the excess in Bristol would be 3,487 as compared with 12,929, the real excess is 6,569 as compared with 9,847. It is vain to talk of legislation upon data of that kind. I cannot give any other case, but I have no reason to suppose that Bristol is an exception; on the contrary, I believe it will be found that the same circumstances exist in every other large borough in the kingdom. The second head upon which I impeach the accuracy of the Returns may be equally briefly stated. The tables give you the names of the occupiers of tenements rated to the poor, but they wholly overlook what is well-known to every one acquainted with the language of the revising barristers—namely, that there is hardly a tenement in any populous town inhabited by the working classes in which there are not what the revising barrister calls separate houses. In the language of the revising barristers, a single room may be a house. The question whether it is so or not depends upon a nice and interest- 112 ing inquiry as to whether there is a common staircase, whether there is a door which all the lodgers can open, and whether the landlord resides in the building. Anybody living in a largo manufacturing town will tell you that he knows scores of houses containing four, five, and even six separate dwellings, each of which, the rent being at least 2s. 6d. a week, would give the occupier the right to be put upon the registry as the tenant of a house of the yearly value of £6. The Government have entirely overlooked that circumstance, which I have no hesitation in saying will multiply the number of electors in many populous towns four and five-fold. I shall state a single case—that of Leeds. In the Government Returns the gross estimated rental of the borough of Leeds in given at £548,198; but the Property Tax value, representing exactly the same property, is £688,000, making a difference of about £140,000.
§ MR. BAINES
I can assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that the land is very valuable indeed, for Leeds is one of the most extensive boroughs in the kingdom.
§ SIR HUGH CAIRNS
Does the hon. Member mean to say that the estimated value of the land in the borough of Leeds is £140,000. If he does, he makes the most surprising statement I ever heard in my life. Leeds is divided into a number of townships. The assessment is made in each township for itself. It is a matter of indifference to the township whether the rate is high or low, provided it is even and equal; but over the whole town there is a borough rate which covers all the townships, and the overseers vie with one another in keeping their assessments as low as they can, in order that the incidence of the borough rate may be as light as possible. The result is what I have stated, that there is a difference of £140,000 between the gross estimated rental and the property tax value, and the consequence will be that there will be a much larger addition to the existing constituency than is shown by the Returns of the Govern- 113 ment. The present number of electors is 5,945; the Government tables represent the addition as 5,000, but it will be as much again, for the circumstance I have stated will bring in occupiers between £5 and £6, who are upwards of 5,000 in number. I have now stated the three points upon which I impeach the accuracy of the Government Returns, and I think I have shown reason enough for an individual Member why we should not be driven into rash and precipitate legislation upon a subject where the ground for legislation is the correctness of those data. I shall now call the attention of the House to another matter. The noble Lord asks us to go into Committee upon the English Bill, admitting that the state of business is such that he cannot hope to press on the Irish and Scotch Bills. I would ask the House for a moment to take a view of the business of the Session. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the peroration of a speech which I shall long remember, told us that he expected that this Session would be memorable because it would be fruitful of blessings. Well, we are four months advanced into the Session of Parliament, and I think it is nearly time that we should, as merchants say, "take stock" of our blessings. I do not think that even the exuberant fancy of the Chancellor of the Exchequer ever led him to suppose that the Bill which is now under consideration was one of the blessings which, to use an expression of my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Dublin, was to be inflicted on the people of this country. Therefore I put it out of consideration; but I will look at the other blessings to which I think that the right hon. Gentleman was referring. First there was the Budget. Well, various opinions have been entertained with regard to the Budget, but I am rather disposed to think that even its most sanguine admirers are beginning to consider that they are something like the people in the Eastern tale who were credulous enough to take a present of fairy gold at night, and who woke up in the morning and found that their gold had turned into dried leaves. Then we have the French treaty. Of course, it is not now the time to discuss any point with regard to that treaty, but only two days ago I happened to see a statement upon the subject in a very great and authoritative commercial organ, generally one of the strongest supporters of Her Majesty's Government; and what did it say? It said this:— 114The dissatisfaction among various English manufacturers at the consequences of the hasty manner in which the French treaty has been framed is manifesting itself, not merely in the silk districts, where the immediate consequences to the operatives have been especially disastrous, but also at Huddersfield, Leeds, Manchester, Leicester, and other important towns.Then it gave a number of details as to matters affecting these different towns, and concluded thus;—It is disagreeable to have to make these statements, but they are on the lips of all mercantile people, and remarks respecting them may have the effect of drawing forth contradictions if they are incorrect, or, in the opposite case, encouraging assurances that there is a prospect of amelioration. It is but fair, likewise, to explain that those who expressed gratification at the treaty when it was first announced may now, without inconsistency, avow misgivings, since they naturally assumed that it had been well considered, and that they might take for granted it would meet all the reasonable wishes of the manufacturing classes, in whose interests it had been specially arranged.Now, that is a very candid statement with regard to our blessing No. 2. We will go a little further. I suppose I may take the speech from the Throne as a programme of what our blessings were to be, and what do I find announced in that speech? A very attractive programme with regard to law reform. We were to have a fusion of law and equity, we were to have a measure for the amendment of the law of bankruptcy, we were to have a consolidation of the law as to public companies, we were to have a measure for the consolidation of the statutes, and we were to have a measure for simplifying titles to land. All these were mentioned in the Speech from the Throne. I do not see my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General in his place, and, as he is not present, I will say this with regard to him, that I do not believe there is in this House, I do not believe there ever sat in this House, a man more sincere, and certainly there never was a man more capable of carrying into effect any measure of legal reform. Therefore, in the observations I am about to make, I attach no blame to him; I am describing the state of the business of the Session. What has happened with regard to those measures of law reform? We have heard something about the fusion of law and equity. We have seen no measure having that object, but we have heard a story about what has happened elsewhere. We have heard that such a measure was produced in "another place," but that the moment it saw the light it was sat upon 115 and hustled and trampled, and ultimately, after a life of a very few days, it has retired into that limbo in which all Bills of that kind find refuge, and from which it is not likely to emerge. The Bill for the Amendment of the law of Bankruptcy has been brought into this House, and I will say that whatever difference of opinion there may be as to its details, it is a great and worthy measure of law reform. But let us see how the business of the House stands with regard to it. It has been discussed for one night. It consists of 500 clauses and upwards, and in one night we got through, I believe, twenty-five. At that rate it would take nineteen more nights in Committee; and I want to know what prospect there is of the Government being able to give half of that number of nights or days for its discussion. The next measure which was promised was a Bill for the amendment and consolidation of the laws with regard to public companies—a measure which is loudly cried out for by the country, and is a practical measure about the advantage of which there can be no dispute. Well, that Bill has come down to this House, and it lies on your table. It consists of some 400 or 500 clauses, and not a clause has been read in Committee up to the present moment, and there does not seem much chance therefore of making much progress with it during the present Session. The next measure was that for the consolidation of the statutes. I do not know whether the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. L. King) is in his place, but I am speaking upon a subject to which he has devoted no small attention, and I can fancy his disappointment at contrasting the present state of affairs with the promise in the Speech from the Throne. Where is the measure for the consolidation of the statutes? Why, we have had brought down from the House of Lords the old crop of hardy annuals which come down to us every year—the Bills for the consolidation of the law as to offences, beginning, I believe, with offences against rabbits and ending with high treason. We have them every year, and they have come back this year; but as to the measure for the consolidation of the statute law, I have neither seen nor heard anything about it in this House. I come now to the last measure of law Reform. That is a Bill about which there really is unanimity in the country; there is a great demand, great necessity for it, and great delight when it makes its appearance. I mean the measure for simpli- 116 fying titles to land. What is the history of that Bill? We have had upon the paper ever since Parliament met a notice of Motion by the hon. and learned Attorney General that on such a night he would move for leave to bring in a Bill to simplify the titles to land. That notice is on the paper still. It has been there week after week, but the Motion has never been made, the Bill has never been seen, and to talk of passing such a measure this Session is out of the question. I do not know what more blessings there are coming to us, but at all events we have secured very few of these. I want to know why these measures to which I have referred are not gone on with. They are postponed from day to day and from week to week in order to make way for this unfortunate production of the noble Lord's, which since the day of its unhappy birth has never heard a kindly word and never received a friendly smile from any Gentleman on either side of the House. The hon. Member for Birmingham has to-night given us a valuable piece of information. He said, "If you only would not take The Times, but would take another paper, and would read the accounts of the meetings which are being held in the country about this Bill, you would no longer say that the country is not anxious for it." He did not mention the name of the other paper that we were to take. [Cries of "The Star."] I hope that in private he will communicate the information to some of us, because I should like to see something of the meetings. In the absence of that paper, however, we have a document in this House which gives us some information. We have the Report of the Committee on Petitions. The hon. Member for Birmingham says that there are 6,000,000 of unrepresented adults in the country, who are extremely anxious for representation. I must say they keep the secret very much to themselves, because I find that up to the present time the petitions from these 6,000,000 adults do not include 10,000 names. Well, Sir, the aspect of this question with regard to this Bill, which has changed from week to week, which changed in consequence of the announcement of the noble Lord as to the Bills for Ireland and Scotland, has changed also in another respect, in consequence of another announcement which he made that night. I mean the announcement by which he invited us to go into Committee, and promised us changes 117 which might be made in the Bill. Now, I certainly was surprised at that announcement from the noble Lord, and I will tell the House why. I remember what happened last year. I remember that my right hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire (Sir E. B. Lytton) made a speech upon the Reform Bill which few who heard it will ever forget, in which, in answer to the Resolution proposed by the noble Lord, he said, "You object to certain things in this Bill, you object to the franchise and to other matters; well, state your objections in Committee, prove them, and they will be considered." That was the statement of my right hon. Friend, and what happened after that? Why, Sir, one after another, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War—whom I do not see in his place—and other Members of the present Government rose in their places and used language of this kind. They said, "Was there ever anything like this? Here is a Government which proposes a Reform Bill. Of course, it has some principle; and yet the Government, after proposing it, as soon as a Motion impugning certain parts of it is proposed, come down to the House and say, 'If you will only go into Committee and prove a case we shall be quite willing to consider it, and we may perhaps come to some agreement upon the points in dispute.'" I thought that after that a very different course would be pursued by the Government this year. But what is the statement of the noble Lord? Speaking of the borough franchise, he said:—I have since heard many objections to that franchise. I have heard it said that it would quite overwhelm property and intelligence. That again is a question for Committee. And this I will say, that if you will propose any of the measures that have been mentioned this evening, either for raising the franchise by making it a rating instead of a rental franchise, or by increasing the amount of the rental, or in another way that has been pointed out, by admitting a great number of voters who are distinguished by property, or by a high degree of knowledge from those belonging to the working classes, any proposition of the kind shall be fairly considered by us in Committee. We certainly shall not declare ourselves so completely wedded to the franchise which we have put forward that we will not submit to treat on the subject. If, in Committee, such a proposal as I have alluded to be made, and if the House should prefer it to that which we have originated, it will be our duty to see whether the Bill with such an alteration would be a valuable measure, whether it would extend the franchise in a manner that would strengthen the institutions of the country; and, in that case, though we might not think it a change for the better, we should be ready to adopt that alteration." [3 Hansard, clviii., p. 1992.]118 Well, Sir, there is a thing called retributive justice, and if ever there was an instance of retributive justice in a short space of time it is to find the noble Lord, whose Resolution was then supported by his present Colleagues, rising in his place and using with regard to this Bill language to which that held by my right hon. Friend was almost as nothing. The proposal of the noble Lord itself requires a word or two. If the noble Lord, in the month of February last, had said on behalf of the Government, "Here is our Reform Bill; here are our statistics with reference to it; we think the franchises we have proposed are the best. If, however, you distrust our data, we are willing to have an inquiry into its accuracy. If you go into Committee it shall be an open question, whether you should adopt our franchises, or whether reason may be shown for altering them." If the noble Lord, speaking in relation to the Bills for the reform of the representation of the entire United Kingdom, had said this last February, I think it would have been a reasonable proposition, and one which I am satisfied would have been gladly accepted by this side of the House. But when four months of the Session have expired, and there hardly remains sufficient time for us to pass the Estimates and dispose of our other ordinary routine business, for the noble Lord to tell us, "We abandon our Irish and Scotch Reform Bills; we maintain our English Bill; let us throw it loose upon the Committee, leaving you to scramble there for clause after clause as best you may," is, I say, unworthy treatment towards this House, and a mode of proceeding to which we cannot creditably assent. Suppose, however, we go into Committee. What is the first clause of the Bill? Why, it prescribes what shall constitute your county franchise. But the noble Lord has admitted again and again that the principle on which the Government is acting is to fix the borough franchise first and then to keep the county franchise not identical with but higher than that for the boroughs. But if he says, "You may fight about the borough franchise; you may turn it into a rating franchise, or raise the rental if you prefer that course; we shall be satisfied to accept that proposal, although we do not think it the best," how, I ask, are you to pass the county franchise, the subject of the very first clause, until you know what is to be the borough franchise which the House will approve and the Government 119 adopt? The Committee would, therefore, be entirely useless and illusory, as we should find the moment we came to the first clause. I say it is not intended to go into Committee to do what the hon. Member for Birmingham stated was recommended in the Speech from the Throne in five separate years. We are not asked to go into Committee now for the purpose of settling the whole question of Parliamentary Reform for the United Kingdom. More than that, I say, we are not going into Committee actually to settle or with the time and the materials for settling the question of Reform even for England alone. We shall be asked, as hon. Members who usually support the Government have told us, to dispute about abstract questions that will bear no fruit and lead to no result except, perhaps, as being a rehearsal for some future effort of the noble Lord. But I appeal to the House to rescue themselves, and also the Government, from so undignified a position. Let me ask you these three questions, the answers to which are most important—first, are there the materials on which we can depend for the discussion of the details of this Bill? Secondly, are there, consistent with the other business of the Session, time and opportunity for sifting those materials? And, thirdly, is it a wise or a constitutional proceeding to deal with the subject of an alteration in the law for the representation of the people as to different parts of the United Kingdom piecemeal? If, as I confidently believe, the answer of the House to each of these questions will be in the negative, then, I say, the right, the politic, and even the necessary course for us to pursue is this—the Bills for Scotland and Ireland now being withdrawn, let the Bill for England also follow their example.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Mr. Speaker, the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down commenced his speech by rebuking the hon. Member for Birmingham for having departed from the subject-matter of the debate, and for having made, on the question whether the House should adjourn, a speech which he said belonged to the third reading of the Bill; and the explanation he was good enough to give for that proceeding of the hon. Member for Birmingham was, that, being satisfied that the Bill would never come to a third reading, he was anxious to deliver a speech which he felt he should not have an opportunity of delivering on the proper occasion. 120 But the hon. and learned Gentleman, with the most marvellous inconsistency, has fallen himself into that very error which he, unjustly and improperly, imputed to the hon. Member for Birmingham. He has made to-night a speech upon the Motion for going into Committee on the Bill which properly belongs to the discussion in Committee; but he has given on this occasion a far better reason than he ascribed to the hon. Member for Birmingham, for whereas the hon. Member for Birmingham assuming, as he says, that other people would not allow the Bill to go to a third reading, has anticipated the third reading by that speech to-night; the hon. and learned Gentleman having determined for himself and his friends that the House should not go into Committee founded upon his own decision, which he flatters himself he shall be able to carry into effect, has anticipated by a speech adapted to the Committee that stage of the Bill which he and his friends have determined the Bill shall never reach. But the hon. and learned Gentleman was not only inconsistent, but, if I may be allowed to say so, he was guilty of an act of gross insubordination. It belonged to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire at the close of the Session to perform that operation which is usually called "a review of the Session;" but the hon. and learned Gentleman in the month of June—the beginning of June—by entering into a review of the Session, has not only assumed the duties of the leader on that side of the House, but has actually infringed on our duties, for he likewise performed the operation of the "massacre of the innocents." The hon. and learned Gentleman not only diverged from the proper subject of debate by discussing the details of the Bill—a discussion which ought to be reserved for the Committee, but he went into a still wider range of digression, and began to discuss all the measures which have been proposed in the course of the Session, some of which have been, and some of which have not been submitted to the House. And, Sir, the hon. and learned Gentleman enumerated the blessings which he said were to have been showered, or have been showered down on the country in the course of the Session. But there was one blessing he forgot to enumerate, the "gift of tongue." The amplitude and the excess with which that blessing has been bestowed upon the other side of the House has been the main cause why we have been deprived of the 121 full enjoyment of all those other good things to which he alluded. Why, Sir, if we have come now to the beginning of June without even having got into Committee on a Bill, which the hon. and learned Gentleman accuses us of having hurried through the House—if that is the state of the matter, what has been the cause of it? Why, the cause has been that we have been incessantly interrupted by delays—by the delays which have been purposely interposed by the other side to obstruct the progress of the Bill, and which those who wish to obstruct have not dared openly to attack. I really wish, Sir, to call the attention of the House to the condition in which we are. The hon. and learned Gentleman called on the House to rescue itself from the undignified position in which it was placed. I concur with the hon. and learned Gentleman. I do ask the House to rescue itself from what I do think a most undignified position. Does the House mean to pass the Reform Bill, or does it not? The hon. and learned Gentleman ended by asking a string of questions. I also wish to ask a question. I ask the House whether they are of opinion that a reform in the representation of the people is proper and right, or whether they are determined that there shall be no reform? Why, Sir, the course which has been adopted during this Session since the introduction of the Bill, would lead any reasoning man to say that it was the resolve of the House that there should be no Reform Bill—no Bill at all events, this Session; and the arguments we now hear adduced might equally apply to any subsequent Session in which a similar Bill might be proposed. Now, Sir, let me entreat the House to consider the position in which public men are placed in regard to this question of Reform. As long as the proposal for Reform originated on one side of the House, with one section of the House, and was resisted on principle by the other—so long as it might be doubtful what might be the influence of argument, or what the effect of a dissolution and re-election upon the strength of those two opposing parties, so long it was justifiable for those who opposed Reform to oppose it on principle, to object at every stage to every Bill that might be proposed to Parliament in order to carry out an arrangement to which they on principle steadfastly and determinedly objected. But is that the condition in which this question is now placed? We have had, as has been stated by the hon. Member for 122 Birmingham, not only many repeated announcements from the Throne recommending this question to the consideration of the House, but now there is no longer any distinction in principle between the two parties who might aspire to the Government of the country. The moment that the Earl of Derby's Administration proposed a Reform Bill, and that Bill was supported by the whole Conservative party, from that moment it was impossible that the House of Commons could consistently and permanently refuse to pass a Bill for reforming the representation of the country. Therefore, those hon. Gentlemen who sit on the other side of the House are precluded from taking a course inconsistent with the line of argument they have pursued, with the conduct of their leaders, with their own conduct in support of those leaders, and with that which happened last year; and I say that it is not a straightforward or manly course to endeavour by delays to postpone the consideration of a measure, to the principle of which they are as much pledged as those who sit on this side of the House. Well, then, Sir, what is it that those Gentlemen object to? The Bill that we have proposed has been acknowledged to be very simple in its provisions. [Ironical cheers.] Yes, Sir, no man can deny that. It contains three leading enactments; a reduction of the borough franchise, a reduction of the county franchise, and a transfer of seats. But if hon. Gentlemen entertained those objections which they have so strongly expressed in the course of these discussions, why did they not oppose the second reading of the Bill? Every argument which they have used went to resist the second reading. They have objected on principle to the provisions of the Bill, and I say they ought to have objected to the second reading. They did not object to the second reading. They admitted, therefore, the principle upon which the Bill is founded, the principle—namely, of lowering those respective franchises, and a certain amount of transfer of seats; and their arguments entirely turned upon the details, and upon the degree to which those different arrangements should be carried into effect. Their arguments, therefore, necessarily drove them into Committee, if they were consistent in the line of argument which they adopted. If they were prepared on principle to admit and support and vote for a Bill which reduced the borough franchise and the county franchise, and provided for a transfer of seats, and their objections were only to the 123 extent to which any or all of these different arrangements were carried out, I say. that, having agreed to the Bill on principle by not opposing it and voting for its second reading, they were bound in consistency to go into Committee, and there endeavour to establish the objections in degree and not in principle which they felt to the different portions of the Bill. But then the hon. and learned Gentleman finds fault with my noble Friend for having stated on a former evening that, if, when we get into Committee, the House should be of opinion that some modification was proper to be made in those three different arrangements, the Government were not so wedded to their own plan but that they would fairly consider any proposal that might be made in Committee. The hon. and learned Gentleman says that my noble Friend is inconsistent in that; because, when the late Government proposed their Bill, he, instead of going into Committee, moved a Resolution establishing certain principles, applicable to the Bill which they had introduced. But, Sir, the cases are totally different. What was the Bill of the late Government? Why, when they brought in their Bill they stated that the one fundamental principle on which that Bill was founded was the identity of the town and county franchises, and that another principle equally essential to the Bill was that the county voters resident in represented towns should be deprived of their county votes. Consequently to have gone into Committee on that Bill with the intention of proposing any alteration in these fundamental principles would have been childish and absurd. My noble Friend, therefore, took the only course which was open to him, and asked the House to resolve before the Bill went into Committee that those principles were not the principles on which the Bill ought to be founded. Hon. Gentlemen opposite gave up their Bill consistently with the ground they had taken, because the Resolution of my noble Friend went to the fundamental principles of the Bill; but the objections now taken by the other side do not go to the fundamental principles of the Bill. They only go to the detail and to the degree in which those fundamental principles are to be carried out. As matters stood there might have been some consistency in the opposition which hon. Gentlemen opposite have made to a Bill which is founded upon principles different from those which constitued the essence of their own measure; but after that period 124 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire stated that his Government were prepared to depart from those principles, and to make a reduction of the borough franchise. Therefore, all difference of opinion between those who sit on that side of the House and those who sit on this in regard to the fundamental elements of the Bill has ceased, and it is now come simply to the question of the degree in which the principles of our Bill are to be carried out. That being the case, the hon. and learned Gentleman says, "Here we have been upwards of three weeks discussing this Bill, and have not yet got into Committee." Well, whose fault is that? I think it is a little too much for those who inflict an injury, to make that injury a cause of complaint against the party injured. But he says that our data are not satisfactory; that an inquiry has been instituted in "another place;" and why, he asks, has no such inquiry been instituted here? Has anybody asked for that inquiry? Did any hon. Gentleman, who felt a doubt about the accuracy of these returns, move for an inquiry? And have we resisted that Motion? Why, if that inquiry has not yet been made, it is incumbent upon those who thought it necessary to have proposed it, and they are not entitled to complain of its not having been made until they have brought forward the proposal themselves, and that proposal has been negatived. We have, indeed, heard one hon. Member after another, stating from his place that his knowledge of this or that borough led him to think that there was some difference, not in many cases very important, between the results of the returns which we had obtained and laid upon the table, and the results of his own personal and local inquiries. But these were precisely the points which ought to be urged in Committee, which are applicable to the Committee, and not to the second reading, or to the question of you, Sir, leaving the chair to go into Committee. Therefore I say that the whole of the discussions that have taken place, from the time that this Bill was introduced, down to the present evening, have been discussions, not embodying the opinions entertained as to the particular stage of the Bill under discussion at the time, but a series of objections, evidently urged for the purpose of creating delay, and obstructing a Bill, which either they did not venture, or did not, according to their own principles, feel themselves at liberty to oppose entirely upon the general grounds of the matter 125 and tendency of the Bill. And to-night we have really come to the climax of these proceedings. Hitherto, when a debate has been spun out by a great number of speeches, and twelve o'clock has arrived, we have been told that it is too late to go on, and a Motion of adjournment has been moved; and at that hour of the night it has been impossible for the Government with any decency to refuse their acquiescence in the Motion, when they were told that shoals of orators were ready with speeches unspoken, but ready prepared, upon the subject of debate. But this evening we have had a novelty; and the Motion for the adjournment of the debate, usually made at twelve o'clock at night, has been made at half-past four in the day. An anticipated lassitude, a foretold incapacity of sitting out the debate, has come upon hon. Gentlemen opposite; and at half-past four they declare that it is impossible for them to find strength of body or of mind to go on with the debate; and they have begged and entreated to be allowed to go home and prepare fresh speeches on the subject! That may be a very fair reason, why Gentlemen, who have been for the last few days attending other amusements, have not been able to devote that time and attention which is necessary to prepare themselves for the occasion; but I do not think it is a decorous Motion to make in the House of Commons upon a question of great national importance. It is founded upon something which my noble Friend stated a few nights ago, in regard to the respective Bills for England, Scotland, and Ireland. My noble Friend stated that the prolongation of these discussions, the pressure of other business, and the period of the Session, rendered it unlikely that we should be able during the present Session to dispose, not only of the English, but of the Scotch and Irish Bills also; and that being the case, Her Majesty's Government thought that no public inconvenience could arise from postponing, until next Session, the discussion of the Scotch and the Irish Bills. The hon. and learned Gentleman has talked of abandoning the Scotch and Irish Bills, as though it were supposed that we were going to give up both those Bills; but my noble Friend stated no such thing. What he stated had simply reference to the order of proceeding, and to the fact that, if we were able to pass the English Bill this Session, it would be too late to take up the Scotch and Irish Bills; which would, therefore, render it necessary to propose them again in an- 126 other Session. But the hon. and learned Gentleman says he has placed us on the horns of a dilemma; because either we shall or shall not have to advise the Crown to dissolve Parliament the moment the English Bill has passed; and he points out what in his opinion will be an absurdity and an incompatibility in either of those courses. Undoubtedly, it would be a most unusual and preposterous course of proceeding, if the moment the English Bill has passed, Government were thereupon to advise the Crown to dissolve Parliament, in order that a new Parliament might be assembled, and take up the Irish and Scotch Bills. Suppose, for instance, that had happened when Parliament met—which, without any great exaggeration, might have been expected—that when the English Reform Bill was proposed, all parties had given their minds fairly to consider the Bill, and earnestly to assist in passing such a Bill as they might think safe and proper, the English Bill would have passed at an early period of the Session, but would any man suppose that immediately after Easter, because the English Bill had passed, Parliament was to be dissolved in order that there might be another Parliament to consider the Irish and Scotch Bills? And yet the argument used by hon. Gentlemen opposite in regard to the postponement of the Irish and Scotch Bills to next Session would lead to that. They say, "If you pass the English Bill this Session, and therefore prospectively alter the English constituencies, then the Parliament elected by the old constituencies will not be entitled to come together next Session for the purpose of considering the other two measures." What difference in principle is there between a Parliament whose constituency has been prospectively altered going on in the same Session to deal with the Irish and Scotch Bills, to impose taxes, to pass important laws affecting all the great interests of the country—what difference, I ask, is there between such a Parliament doing that and the same Parliament performing precisely the same operation when called together after a recess? I am at a loss to see the distinction. Therefore it by no means follows that because Parliament should in one year complete the English Reform Bill, this House would therefore be incompetent to sit again next year to dispose of the Irish and Scotch Bills. It would certainly not be till these three Bills had been passed that, on that account, there would be any necessity for 127 dissolving Parliament and appealing to the new constituency. Moreover, the new Reform Bill bestows on certain classes new rights which must be recorded by the registrar, and therefore until the new register has been made, even if all the three Bills were passed, it is clear a dissolution could not on that account take place. But I have stronger grounds. I am astonished that the hon. and learned Gentleman should have forgotten what passed in his own country in 1850. A great enlargement of the Irish constituency took place at that time. I forget the exact numbers, they were however rather above 100,000 than below it—but there was no dissolution at that time. No dissolution took place till the Earl of Derby's Government came into office in 1852. So that for nearly two years Parliament went on after that prospective change had been made in the constituency of Ireland. Therefore it is absurd to contend that the course which my noble Friend shadowed forth was one which could not be adopted consistently with constitutional principles and practice. It would be perfectly possible, and would involve no impropriety whatever, for the House to pass the English Reform Bill this year, and to sit again next January or February, or at any other time that the Crown might be advised to call it together, for the purpose of going on with the Irish and Scotch Bills; the dissolution being postponed not only until these Bills had been passed, but until arrangements had been made for the registration of the newly-endowed voters. I say, therefore, that the ground on which this proposal is made will not hold water. But still more extraordinary is the inversion, which could not, in point of order, be proposed directly, but which the Motion for Adjournment is intended indirectly to effect—the inversion, in my opinion, of putting the cart before the horse; that is, putting the Irish and Scotch Bills before the English one. [Cries of "No, no!" from the Opposition.] Allow me to say that was the object of the Motion which was announced. I presume the hon. Member who made this Motion will not get up and declare that his object in proposing to adjourn the debate sine die was to get rid of the Bill altogether. The fact is, that this Motion for the Adjournment of the debate was substituted for the Motion of which notice was given, that the English Bill should be postponed till after the Irish and Scotch Bills had been advanced a stage. The hon. and learned 128 Gentleman undesignedly pointed out forcible reasons why such a course would be impossible. He said the disfranchisement is in the English Bill, and is to form the foundation of the enfranchisement in the Irish and Scotch Bills. Consequently, you must pass the English Bill before you can get the materials with which to endow Ireland and Scotland. The course, therefore, that the hon. and learned Gentleman would show by some twisted argument to be the right one, his own reasoning proves to be palpably improper and absurd, and the course we propose is the only one we can with propriety pursue. I say again, I do trust the House will seriously consider the position which this question now occupies, and the attitude which parties on both sides of the House have assumed in regard to it. Is the House prepared to affirm that there shall be no reform in the representation of the people? I do not ask hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House—I know that they will answer "No,"—but I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite whether, after all that passed when their leaders were in office, they will venture to affirm that there shall be no reform in the representation of the people? It is impossible. If, then, it be impossible, on what ground is it that they refuse to allow the House to go into the consideration of the Bill which we have proposed? I say, every argument they have used, every fact that stands recorded as to their conduct when their leaders were in office, compels them in consistency to go into Committee. It is only in Committee that they can establish those objections which have been so strongly urged by every one who has spoken on the opposite side of the House to the details of the Bill. We have told them we are ready to consider the details, and if the House agrees to any modification of these details, consistent with the principles on which this Bill is founded, we do not say that we shall not be prepared to submit to the decision of the House. But there are certain fundamental principles in the Bill which we could not consent to have infringed, because that would destroy the measure altogether. One main principle of the Bill is the reduction of the borough franchise. If hon. Gentlemen opposite are prepared to move that there should be no reduction of the borough franchise, they can do so. If they choose to say we refuse to go into Committee and discuss the details of the Bill when we object to its principles—we adhere to the principle of the Earl 129 of Derby's Bill, that there should be no change in the rental qualification for the borough franchise; if hon. Gentlemen opposite would say that plainly and distinctly, then they would be pursuing a fair, manly, and intelligible course of proceeding. But they do not, they cannot take that course, because their leader and others who stand high in the estimation of the party have pledged themselves to a reduction of the franchise. Two distinguished Members of the late Government quitted their colleagues, because, I believe, they were in favour of a reduction of the borough franchise, while the rest were against it. Well, then, if hon. Gentlemen are not prepared to throw the Bill out altogether on its merits and on the principles which it embodies, I say they are acting a part utterly unworthy of a great political party when they endeavour by delay to prevent the House from going into the consideration of a Bill the importance of which they themselves when in office have admitted, the expediency of which when in office they have acknowledged and acted upon, the principle of which they no longer contest, and the details of which form the only ground of their objection. I say that upon every principle which ought to guide statesmen, upon every principle which ought to guide the conduct of a political party, they are bound to go into the consideration of this Bill in Committee, and there urge those objections to the details of the measure which, no doubt, they consistently and sincerely entertain. Is the time of year such as to make this impossible? It is later, no doubt, than it might have been. If they had acted on those fair and manly principles which ought to guide a great political party, there might have been more time to spare. Is this the conduct proper for a party which claims to divide the country into two camps, to represent the great portion of the property and intelligence of the country—that portion of the community which is most attached to the Constitution? I say that the fair, the proper, and the manly course for such a party to have followed was either to have said at once—"Your Bill is one to the principle of which we can never agree, and therefore we object to the second reading;" or, if they did not entertain that opinion to have said—"The principle of your Bill is one to which we cannot object, but to the details we do object; the franchise is too low; it will introduce too large a proportion of the democratic element into the 130 constituencies, but as that is a question to be considered in Committee, we will go at once into Committee and endeavour to enforce our objections and establish our opinion." But such a party should not, under the shadow of a pretence of discussing without dividing, obstruct the whole of the great business of the country and prevent those measures being carried which the hon. and learned Gentleman says are so important, and some of which, in spite of all these delays, I hope we shall be able to carry before the Session is concluded. That is the course which such a party, having a due respect to its position, and a due regard to the interests of the country, should have followed. A Motion is brought forward at four o'clock in the afternoon to prevent discussion, which those who moved the adjournment seem, nevertheless, prepared to bring on, and, I hope, that the House, by rejecting that Motion will affirm that this Bill ought to proceed—that they are prepared to go into Committee, that they are prepared in Committee to hear, to discuss, and to consider all objections which can be fairly and bonâ fide made to the details of the Bill, and that this House will not, under the ill-founded apprehension of two dissolutions, which is entertained on the other side, or under the apprehension of a premature dissolution, be diverted from the straight path of public duty, but before the House separates, come to a Vote which will show, one way or the other, what is the opinion of the House with regard to the measure before it.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, I congratulate the noble Lord on his first speech on the Reform Bill, and I am not at all surprised that he should have fallen into some remarkable errors when speaking upon the subject, because hitherto he has taken less interest than might have been anticipated from a Minister so peculiarly responsible for the introduction of this measure. It is only because the noble Lord has not until this night taken a part in our debates, that I can at all account for that total misconception of what has been going on in the House with respect to this measure for the last three months which has characterized every statement the noble Lord has made this evening. What is the complaint of the noble Lord? The noble Lord does not deny that the business of the House with regard to this measure has been carried on in a most unsatisfactory manner. The noble Lord 131 does not deny that here we are advanced in the month of June, and have not yet arrived at Committee on this Bill. The noble Lord is astonished at the position in which his Government is placed with this measure, and then the noble Lord with some rashness, as I think I shall show, falls to scolding the House, and says the delay which he has experienced has been unreasonable, unconstitutional, and irrational. Not being sufficiently acquainted with the conduct of this measure, which has been left to others, the noble Lord thinks of course that the delay has been occasioned entirely by the Opposition. Why, it was only on Monday last that the Government proposed to go into Committee. Here we are discussing the question upon Thursday, and the noble Lord accounts for the little progress which the measure has made by the vexatious delays experienced, when it is on the records of this House that the Government themselves, having the management of the business of the House, having generally all the days which are usually devoted to private Members entirely at its disposal, only last Monday proposed to go into Committee. But before the appointment of last Monday let us see what was the conduct of this House. What was the conduct of this factious Opposition seeking every delay and opposing to this constitutional proposition of the Minister all the devices which the forms of the House will permit, to prevent the progress of a measure, of which the noble Lord is so enamoured? Does the noble Lord complain that the second reading was not opposed? Is that a sign of faction? Is that a means of delay? Does the noble Lord complain that upon so important a measure—admitting, as he says we do, the principle of this Bill, the House—not the Opposition merely—should have taken that constitutional and solemn occasion to discuss what may be the consequences of the application of that principle in its various details, as they occurred to them in the course of that discussion? Was a debate of five days' length so unreasonable? Was that a space of time so unusual for a discussion upon such a subject that the noble Lord is justified in turning round upon the House and accusing it of delay? [Several hon. MEMBERS: Six days.] Whether five or six days, who are responsible for the length of that discussion? Is it the Opposition? I think it was stated, and correctly stated, that in numbers, and, I believe, also in length, the majority of 132 speeches were made by the supporters of the noble Lord. The noble Lord turns round to us and says, that there is only one question to ask, "Are you in favour of a Reform Bill or not?" I say that if the noble Lord wants information upon that subject, I recommend him to apply to the hon. Member for the City of Edinburgh (Mr. Black). Let the noble Lord ask him whether he is in favour of a Reform Bill. He sits in his immediate vicinity and is in close political contiguity and sympathy with the noble Lord. For aught I know he is sitting now behind the noble Lord, and he can ask the question in a whisper. If the noble Lord is not satisfied with the opinion of the representative of that enlightened capital, the modern Athens, let him ask the hon. Member for Bristol (Mr. H. Berkeley) what is his opinion, and whether he is in favour of the Government Reform Bill. And if the hon. Member for Bristol in private conversation indulges in that invective and sarcasm for which he is publicly distinguished, I would recommend the noble Lord to address his inquiry to a graver mind—to the hon. Gentleman who must share his confidence, because he owes to his patronage his eminent post—the Member for Salford (Mr. Massey). Let him ask the hon. Member for Salford whether he is in favour of Parliamentary Reform. Sir, the noble Lord may address this question to a great number of Gentlemen on his side of the House. Here, perhaps, we have taken refuge in more general views. We have stated some large constitutional objections to the course adopted by the noble Lord and his colleagues. But, for minute criticism—for vigilant captiousness, for a devotion to details which appears to be prompted by a sentiment of personal panic, I should say on this measure that the great Liberal party were more distinguished than the Gentlemen who sit on the Opposition benches. Parliament met early—at an unusual period. For a whole fortnight nothing was done. Why was not the Reform Bill introduced? I have shown the House that when the second reading took place the duration of the debate was not unusual, and was, indeed, only becoming such a theme. I have shown that the greater portion of that debate, and the portion most adverse to the merits of the Bill, came from the Ministerial benches and from the habitual supporters of the Government. I have shown that when weeks ago that debate was closed the Govern- 133 ment did not propose to go into Committee until last Monday, the 4th of June, and now I ask the House and the country whether, under these circumstance, and in this state of affairs, the Minister is justified in the assertions which he has made this evening, and the tone which he has adopted upon the subject? But is this all? Not a tithe of the case. The noble Lord says we did not oppose even the second reading of the measure, but that we took other means to protract discussion and provoke opposition. What means? I deny the charge. Look at the records of the House, and examine those who are the authors of the Amendments to the Motion that you, Sir, do leave the chair. Where do they sit? Who are the Members who have suggested Amendments by which this measure might be arrested and ultimately defeated? I need not refer again to the hon. and much respected Gentleman who gave notice of the Motion for referring the Reform Bill to a Select Committee (Mr. Massey), a Motion, the nature of which very much fluttered the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, but which lit up the countenances of many hon. Members of the party opposite with an air of relief that was sparkling and encouraging to all who beheld them. But what is the state of the House at this moment? It is true there has been an Amendment to the Motion that the Speaker do leave the chair; but who has made it? Is it a Conservative Member who is to be held responsible for all the delays that have taken place, and whose conduct is to be the excuse for the clumsy and unsatisfactory manner in which this Bill has been conducted? I do not share the confidence of the hon. Gentleman who moves this Amendment; nor is that surprising, for he always sits behind the noble Lord, and when he made this Amendment he boasted that he had supported the noble Lord in almost every division for many years. Is it to be endured, then, that in such circumstances, instead of turning round to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, the hon. Member for Bristol, and his most confidential friend the author of this Amendment, the noble Lord, in total ignorance of what has been going on in the House—as it were just awakened from those rosy slumbers into which he always falls when the subject of reform is before the House—like an Ephesian sleeper, awakes from his dream, exclaiming "God bless my soul, what's all this? It is the 7th of June and we are not in 134 Committee on the Reform Bill. I will make a great declaration. We have been beset with vicious, factious Motions for delay!" And then the noble Lord denounces the factious and unconstitutional conduct of the party opposite to him, while all the time the noble Lord's intimate friends and supporters who, as representing great cities he ought to be proud of, are the persons of whom he should complain. The noble Lord, in ignorance of all the warnings so solemnly given, of all the predictions put forth, and in defiance of all the calculations that have been made, comes forward on this the 7th of June for the first time, and condescends to say a word, I will not say in favour of, but about the Reform Bill. But let us see what we are doing this evening? The noble Lord is clearly in error as to all that has taken place this evening. I am not surprised at it, as the noble Lord was not here, having been present, probably, in a gayer and more brilliant scene. I would recommend to the noble Lord that in future he should adhere to the salutary rule that has regulated his Parliamentary conduct throughout the Session, and not venture again to speak either about the Reform Bill or the proceedings in this House with regard to it; because he has entirely misrepresented the Motion of my hon. Friend behind me (Sir James Fergusson), who, in a speech of great spirit and intelligence, introduced the subject before us to-night, and who was led to take the particular course which he did adopt in consequence of an intimation from you, Sir, that it was not competent for him to propose another Motion of which he had given notice. The hon. Gentleman, believing that he was following the proper Parliamentary course, made the Motion which is now before us.
But let me say one word as to what the noble Lord has at some length urged about the alleged opposition and criticism of this Bill by the House. Hitherto there has been no opposition, but there ought to be no criticism, on this measure, says the noble Lord, because we are all agreed in principle, and therefore discussion, except in Committee, is not to be tolerated. What does the noble Lord mean by saying we are all agreed in principle? It is desirable t to have a true and distinct conception of the use of the term. The noble Lord says that before the Government of the Earl of Derby there were two parties—one for and one against Reform, and that he says was a convenient system. No doubt, it was a 135 convenient system for the Liberal party. In Opposition they always constructed and organized themselves on the principle of Parliamentary Reform; but when they got into office nothing was ever done. The question was loft open in detail to any individual who was entirely irresponsible as a Minister. This game had gone on for a long time. Three Prime Ministers had recommended Her Majesty to draw the attention of Parliament in Her Speech from the Throne to the Amendment of the representation of the people, and had laid Bills on the subject before the House of Commons. The late Government were of opinion that, after all that had occurred, seeing that Session after Session questions of Parliamentary Reform had been carried in detail by majorities, though not acted upon, it was advisable to bring in a measure. I will not argue now on the merits or demerits of that measure, but I must tell the noble Lord, as he commenced the controversy, that we brought forward that measure because, in our opinion, it was a Conservative measure, and we view his measure with suspicion, because we think its tendencies are not Conservative. It is very well to talk of being agreed in principles. All depends upon the application of those principles. The noble Lord is by no means justified in saying that because we may agree in the principle of Parliamentary Reform, and in some extension of the franchise, that therefore we are not bound to take into our consideration what may be the possible consequences of the measure now in our hands. I do not think that would be a wise course to take; on the contrary, the time that has been taken up, from accident in some degree, but in a much greater from the aversion of the noble Lord's supporters to this Bill, has tended much to enlighten the public mind, and when we are in Committee, if ever we get there, we shall be able to consider the principles which the noble Lord has laid down with much greater effect and with much more advantage to the community. These have been the principal topics of the noble Lord's speech, but he hardly addressed one syllable to the question immediately under our consideration. Absent, I suppose, from the House during the best part of the evening, he must have entered in clear ignorance of what had taken place in his absence. He must have supposed that we were continuing the Debate on the "vexatious Amendment" made by one of his principal supporters. He can hardly 136 lay it down as a principle that when the Government have made the most important announcement that they will not proceed with the Amendment of the representation of the people as far as Scotland and Ireland are concerned, the House should not desire to consider the new position in which they are placed, and should not stop in a precipitate career to inquire what maybe the constitutional consequences of such a course. The noble Lord has not referred to the dilemma in which he was placed by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Belfast (Sir Hugh Cairns), or, if he did just refer to it, he did not in any degree extricate himself from it. There is something even beyond that dilemma on which he has not touched, or at least had said just enough about it to show that he was scared at the difficulty which was placed before him, and which he found it impossible to avoid.
The noble Lord proposes that we shall this year Reform, as is the general phrase, or rather amend, the representation of the people—that is, largely increase the constituent body of the country, and bring in a new class, and that class belonging to a much lower sphere of Society than that which now enjoys the suffrage. He tells us now very differently from what was told us by his colleagues: "When this Bill is passed we shall not have time to deal with Scotland and Ireland, and we shall not consider ourselves justified, nor do we think any Minister would consider himself justified in counselling the Sovereign to exercise Her prerogative until the Amendment of the representation of Ireland and Scotland is also accomplished." That the noble Lord has announced now for the first time in unhesitating and unqualified terms. But what is the security that next year the representation of Scotland and Ireland will be amended? Those are not times on which we can count on such results. I could dwell much on that point, but I will not at the present moment; but, admitting that next year these two great Imperial results are achieved, the noble Lord will not deny this, that, thanks to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, we shall have the whole question of the taxation of the country to consider next year, and under circumstances most difficult, most liable to misconception in the public mind, and most calculated to create disquietude and discontent among the masses who are to be enfranchised, and that these grave questions of finance are to be settled not 137 only by a moribund, but a condemned and dishonoured Parliament. Is that a question unworthy of the discussion of the House of Commons? What have we been discussing to-night but that question? It is not a question to be settled by the reckless raillery with which the noble Lord has treated it to-night. It is one of the greatest questions which can be brought before the House, and we should be unworthy of our position, we should, indeed, have offered an unanswerable argument for the reform and re-construction of the House, if, under such circumstances, we attempted to evade the difficulty. So much for the speech of the noble Lord, and for his unfounded charge against the Tory party of having offered to his suspicious and, perhaps perilous legislation, unnecessary delay. I think I have answered that point. So much, too, for the noble Lord's argument that because he has chosen arbitrarily to assume that we have agreed to what he conveniently styles the principle of his measure, we are to be debarred from contemplating and considering in a statesmanlike manner what must be the consequence of the application of that principle to the state of society in which we live. So far, in the third place, as to the remarks of the noble Lord with regard to the important theme which has engaged the attention of the House to-night—not, as I think, in a languid debate, but in a discussion introduced with much ability, under circumstances most justifiable, and sustained on both sides with that power which the interest of the subject must inspire. The noble Lord has made no satisfactory reply. We have been favoured with his virgin speech on Reform, but the noble Lord has not treated the subject in a way which inspires me with confidence in the manner in which the Government is going to deal with it. The noble Lord, indeed, has left a painful impression on the House that he has taken up this subject rather from party necessity than from political conviction. The noble Lord has challenged us to a division. On these grounds I meet him; and I look to the result of that division without apprehension.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
I will not long delay the House from a division. But there were some things said by the right hon. Gentleman of which I cannot refrain from taking notice. In the first place, right hon. Gentleman has stated, as if it were a fact, as if it formed part of; history, that when out of office we had 138 been continually engaged in bringing forward this question of Reform, and that when in office we had not carried our views into effect. Now, Sir, during the whole time from 1832 till last year I do not believe we ever brought forward the question of Reform when the party of the right hon. Gentleman were in office. Recalling to mind the periods of 1835, of 1841, of 1846, and the year 1852, I do not think we ever brought forward the question of Reform to disturb a Conservative Government; on the contrary, it was when we were in office that we always introduced the subject.
But, the question we have now to determine is—is this a real, tangible, substantial objection to proceeding with this Bill, or is it a mere pretext in order to prevent a decision? And though the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Ayrshire (Sir James Fergusson) brought forward this Amendment with great ability I cannot conceive how it can he argued that it was our duty to say we would take the Irish and Scotch Reform Bills into consideration during the present Session. If we had done so—if we had stated at this period of the year that we would not proceed with the English Reform Bill until we could entertain the Irish and Scotch Bills together with it, it is quite evident that on each of those Bills the Opposition would have consumed the time of the House; they would have taken the course which they did upon the second reading of the English Bill; they would not have opposed the second reading, but they would have wasted the time, and then they would have said—"It is now too late to proceed with the English Bill." The only practical course we could pursue was to take up the English Bill now, and to leave those for Ireland and Scotland to another Session. And what is the reason which has been given by the hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved the adjournment against going into Committee? What was the argument employed by the hon. and learned Member for Belfast (Sir Hugh Carins)—what was the reason given by the right hon. Gentleman? It was that parliament would then be condemned, and would be unable and unfit to discuss this question of Reform. But we have never said that Parliament would not be perfectly capable of legislation. We have not said, as we did in 1831, that there are 150 Members of the House who do not represent the people. After that Act was passed, I admit the House of Commons stood con- 139 demned; but what has been said with regard to the present measure amounts to this—that it would increase the value of the representation, that it would add to its force with the people, and that it would strengthen the institutions of the country, if a considerable number were added to the electors at present on the roll. But that Hoes not imply any condemnation of the House of Commons—that is no reason whatever why the House of Commons should not continue to discharge its functions for another Session, and why, having entered on the consideration of the English Bill in the present Session, it should not take up the Scotch and Irish Bills at a future period.
The hon. and learned Member for Belfast said, I proposed the borough franchise first, because I wished to keep the county franchise higher; and that I only fixed upon the borough franchise with a view to secure the addition of a certain number to the constituencies. He misrepresented me in both these particulars. I never advocated a change in the county franchise upon any other ground than that the House had repeatedly averred that a particular rate would be a proper franchise for counties; and with regard to the £6 borough franchise, I always expressed my belief that men living in houses for which they paid a £6 rental were in many cases artisans who, by their intelligence and integrity, were well deserving of a vote. Well, then, why not discuss these questions in Committee? Why not take one side or the other? As my noble Friend has said, and as it has been repeatedly put to the House, if you consider this a revolutionary measure, that will destroy the institutions of the country, oppose it manfully. But if you do not say that; if you refuse to say that you will not admit the working classes in great numbers, then your only course is to go into Committee, and determine what the franchise should be. The party opposite, however, prefer taking neither of these courses; they will not make any fair and open declaration of their views, but they seek by delay and obstruction to prevent a discussion of the measure in Committee.
§ Question put—
§ The House divided:—Ayes 248; Noes 269: Majority 21.
|List of the AYES.|
|Adderley, rt. hon. C. B.||Astell, J. H.|
|Annesley, hon. Capt. H.||Bailey, C.|
|Archdall, Capt. M.||Ball, E.|
|Baring, H. B.||Gilpin, Col.|
|Baring, T.||Gladstone, Capt.|
|Barrow, W. H.||Goddard, A. L.|
|Bathurst, A. A.||Gordon, C. W.|
|Beach, W. W. B.||Gore, J. R. O.|
|Beaumont, W. B.||Gore, W. R. O.|
|Bective, Earl of||Graham, Lord W.|
|Beecroft, G. S.||Greaves, E.|
|Bentinck, G. W. P.||Greene, J.|
|Bentinck, G. C.||Greville, Col. F.|
|Benyon, R.||Gray, Capt.|
|Bernard, hon. Col.||Griffith, C. D.|
|Bernard, T. T.||Grogan, Sir E.|
|Blackburn, P.||Hamilton, Lord C.|
|Blake, J.||Hamilton, J. H.|
|Bond, J. W. M'G.||Hamilton, Major|
|Booth, Sir R. G.||Hardy, G.|
|Botfield, B.||Hartopp, E. B.|
|Bovill, W.||Hassard, M.|
|Bowyer, G.||Heathcote, hon. G. H.|
|Boyd, J.||Henley, rt. hon. J. W.|
|Brady, J.||Hennessy, J. P.|
|Bridges, Sir B. W.||Henniker, Lord|
|Brooks, R.||Herbert, Col. P.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Heygate, Sir F. W.|
|Bruce, Major C.||Hill, Lord E.|
|Bruen, H.||Hill, hon. R. C.|
|Bunbury, Capt. W. B. M'Clintock||Holford, R. S.|
|Burghley, Lord||Hope, G. W.|
|Burrell, Sir C. M.||Hopwood, J. T.|
|Cairns, Sir H. M'C.||Hornby, W. H.|
|Calcutt, F. M'N.||Horsfall, T. B.|
|Cartwright, Col.||Howes, E.|
|Cave, S.||Hubbard, J. G.|
|Cecil, Lord R.||Hume, W. W. F.|
|Cobbold, J. C.||Hunt, G. W.|
|Cochrane, A. D. R. W. B.||Jermyn, Earl|
|Codrington, Sir W.||Jervis, Capt.|
|Cole, hon. H.||Johnstone, hon. H. B.|
|Cole, hon. J. L.||Jolliffe, rt. hon. Sir W. G. H.|
|Cross, R. A.||Kekewich, S. T.|
|Cubitt, Mr. Ald.||Kelly, Sir F.|
|Cubitt, G.||Kendall, N.|
|Curzon, Visct.||Kennard, R. W.|
|Dawson, R. P.||Kerrison, Sir E. C.|
|Deedes, W.||King, J. K.|
|Disraeli, rt. hon. B.||Knatchbull, W. F.|
|Drax, J. S. W. S. E. D.||Knight, F. W.|
|Du Cane, C.||Knightley, R.|
|Dunn, J.||Knox, Col.|
|Du Pre, C. G.||Knox, hon. Major S.|
|East, Sir J. B.||Lacon, Sir E.|
|Edwards, Major||Lanigan, J.|
|Egerton, Sir P. G.||Lefroy, A.|
|Egerton, hon. W.||Legh, W. J.|
|Elmley, Visct.||Leighton, Sir B.|
|Elphinstone, Sir J. D.||Lennox, Lord G. C. G.|
|Emlyn, Viscount||Lennox, Lord H. G.|
|Esmonde, J.||Leslie, C. P.|
|Estcourt, rt. hon. T. H. S.||Lever, J. O.|
|Levinge, Sir R.|
|Farquhar, Sir M.||Liddell, hon. H. G.|
|Farrer, J.||Lindsay, hon. Col.|
|Fellowes, E.||Long, R. P.|
|Filmer, Sir E.||Longfield, R.|
|FitzGerald, W. R. S.||Lopes, Sir M.|
|Forester, rt. hon. Col.||Lovaine, Lord|
|Forster, Sir G.||Lyall, G.|
|Galway, Viscount||Lygon, hon. F.|
|Gard, R. S.||Lytton, rt. hon. Sir G. E. L. B.|
|Macaulay, K.||Sibthorp, Major|
|M'Cormick, W.||Smith, Augustus|
|MacEvoy, E.||Smith, Montague|
|M'Mahon, P.||Smith, Abel|
|Maguire, J. F.||Smith, S. G.|
|Mainwaring, T.||Smollett, P. B.|
|Malins, R.||Somerset, Col.|
|Manners, rt. hn. Lord J.||Spooner, R.|
|March, Earl of||Stanhope, J. B.|
|Maxwell, hon. Col.||Stanley, Lord|
|Miller, T. J.||Stirling, W.|
|Mitford, W. T.||Steuart, A.|
|Montagu, Lord R.||Stuart, Major W.|
|Montgomery, Sir G.||Sturt, N.|
|Mordaunt, Sir C.||Stracey, Sir H.|
|Morgan, O.||Sullivan, M.|
|Morgan, hon. Major||Talbot, hon. W. C.|
|Mowbray, rt. hon. J. R.||Taylor, Col.|
|Mundy, W.||Thynne, Lord E.|
|Mure, D.||Thynne, Lord H.|
|Naas, Lord||Tollemache, J.|
|Newark, Viscount||Tottenham, C.|
|Newport, Viscount||Trefusis, hon. C. H. R.|
|Nicol, W.||Trollope, rt. hon. Sir J.|
|Noel, hon. G. J.||Upton, hon. Gen.|
|North, Col.||Valletort, Viscount|
|Northcote, Sir S. H.||Vance, J.|
|O'Donoghue, The||Vandeleur, Col.|
|Packe, C. W.||Vansittart, W.|
|Pakenham, Col.||Walcott, Admiral|
|Pakington, rt. hn. Sir J.||Walker, J. R.|
|Papillon, P. O.||Walpole, rt. hon. S. H.|
|Parker, Major W.||Walsh, Sir J.|
|Patten, Col. W.||Watlington, J. W. P.|
|Paull, H.||Way, A. E.|
|Peacocke, G. M. W.||Welby, W. E.|
|Peel, rt. hon. Gen.||Whiteside, rt. hon. J.|
|Pennant, hon. Col.||Whitmore, H.|
|Pevensey, Visct.||Williams, Col.|
|Potts, G.||Willoughby, Sir H.|
|Powys, P. L.||Woodd, B. T.|
|Pugh, D. (Carmarthen)||Wyndham, Sir H.|
|Pugh, D. (Montgomery)||Wyndham, hon. H|
|Redmond, J. E.||Wynn, Col.|
|Ridley, Sir M. W.||Wynn, Sir W. W.|
|Rogers, J. J.||Wynne, C. G.|
|Rolt, J.||Wynne, W. W. E.|
|Rowley, hon. R. T.||Yorke, Hon. E. T.|
|Selwyn, C. J.||Fergusson, Sir J.|
|Shirley, E. P.||Dickson, Col.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Acton, Sir J. D.||Biddulph, Col.|
|Adam, W. P.||Biggs, J.|
|Agar-Ellis, hon. L. G. F.||Black, A.|
|Alcock, T.||Blencowe, J. G.|
|Antrobus, E.||Bonham-Carter, J.|
|Arnott, Sir J.||Bouverie, rt. hon. E. P.|
|Atherton, Sir W.||Bouverie, hon. P. P.|
|Ayrton, A. S.||Bright, J.|
|Bagwell, J.||Bristow, A. R.|
|Baines, E.||Brocklehurst, J.|
|Baring, rt. hon. Sir F. T.||Brown, J.|
|Baring, T. G.||Browne, Lord J. T.|
|Baxter, W. E.||Bruce, H. A.|
|Bazley, T.||Buchanan, W.|
|Beamish, F. B.||Buckley, Gen.|
|Bellew, R. M.||Buller, J. W.|
|Berkeley, hon. H. F.||Buller, Sir A. W.|
|Bethell, Sir R.||Butler, C. S.|
|Butt, I.||Gregory, W. H.|
|Caird, J.||Gregson, S.|
|Calthorpe, hn. F. H. W. G.||Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.|
|Cardwell, rt. hon. E.||Grosvenor, Earl|
|Carnegie, hon. C.||Gurdon, B.|
|Castlerosse, Visct.||Gurney, J. H.|
|Cavendish, hon. W.||Gurney, S.|
|Cavendish, Lord G.||Hadfield, G.|
|Childers, H. C. E.||Hanbury, R.|
|Clay, J.||Handley, J.|
|Clifford, C. C.||Hankey, T.|
|Clifford, Col.||Hanmer, Sir J.|
|Clinton, Lord R.||Hardcastle, J. A.|
|Clive, G.||Hartington, Marquesseof|
|Cobbett, J. M.||Hayter, rt. hn. Sir W. G.|
|Coke, hon. Col.||Headlam, rt. hon. T. E.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Henley, Lord|
|Collier, R. P.||Herbert, rt. hon. S.|
|Coningham, W.||Hervey, Lord A.|
|Cowper, rt. hon. W. F.||Hodgkinson, G.|
|Copeland, Mr. Ald.||Hodgson, K. D.|
|Craufurd, E. H. J.||Holland, E.|
|Crawford, R. W.||Howard, hon. C. W. G.|
|Crook, J.||Howard, Lord E.|
|Crossley, F.||Humberston, P. S.|
|Dalglish, R.||Hutt, rt. hon. W.|
|Davey, R.||Ingham, R.|
|Davie, Sir H. R. F.||Ingram, H.|
|Davie, Col. F.||Jackson, W.|
|Deasy, rt. hon. R.||James, E.|
|Denman, hon. G.||Jervoise, Sir J. C.|
|Dent, J. D.||Johnstone, J. J. H.|
|Dodson, J. G.||Johnstone, Sir J.|
|Douglas, Sir C.||Kershaw, J.|
|Duff, M. E. G.||King, hon. P. J. L.|
|Duke, Sir J.||Kinglake, A. W.|
|Dunbar, Sir W.||Kinglake, J. A.|
|Dundas, F.||Kingscote, Col.|
|Dunlop, A. M.||Kinnaird, hon. A. F.|
|Egerton, E. C.||Laing, S.|
|Ellice, rt. hon. E.||Langston, J. H.|
|Ennis, J,||Langton, W. H. G.|
|Euston, Earl of||Lawson, W.|
|Evans, T. W.||Leatham, E. A.|
|Ewart, W.||Lee, W.|
|Ewart, J. C.||Legh, Major C.|
|Ewing, H. E. C.||Lewis, rt. hon. Sir G. C.|
|Fenwick, H.||Lindsay, W. S.|
|Ferguson, Col.||Locke, Joseph|
|Fermoy, Lord||Locke, John|
|Finlay, A. S.||Lowe, rt. hon. R.|
|Fitzwilliam, hn. C. W. W.||Lysley, W. J.|
|Foley, J. H.||Mackie, J.|
|Foljambe, F. J. S.||Mackinnon, W. A.|
|Forster, C.||Marjoribanks, D. C.|
|Foster, W. O.||Marshall, W.|
|Fortescue, hon. F. D.||Martin, P. W.|
|Fortescue, C. S.||Martin, J.|
|Freeland, H. W.||Massey, W. N.|
|French, Col.||Matheson, A.|
|Gallwey, Sir W. P.||Matheson, Sir J.|
|Garnett, W. J.||Mellor, J.|
|Gavin, Major||Merry, J.|
|Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.||Mildmay, H. F.|
|Gifford, Earl of||Miller, W.|
|Gilpin, C.||Milnes, R. M.|
|Gladstone, rt. hon. W.||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Glyn, G. G.||Moncrieff, rt. hon. J.|
|Goldsmid, Sir F. H.||Monson, hon. W. J.|
|Gower, hon. F. L.||Morris, D.|
|Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.||Mostyn, hn. T. E. M. L.|
|Greenall, G.||Napier, Sir C.|
|Greenwood, J.||Noble, J. W.|
|Norris, J. T.||Shelley, Sir J. V.|
|North, F.||Sheridan, H. B.|
|O'Brien, P.||Slaney, R. A.|
|O'Connell, Capt. D.||Smith, J. B.|
|Ogilvy, Sir J.||Smyth, Col.|
|Onslow, G.||Somerville, rt. hon. Sir W. M.|
|Packe, G. H.|
|Padmore, R.||Stacpoole, W.|
|Paget, C.||Stafford, Marquess of|
|Paget, Lord A.||Staniland, M.|
|Paget, Lord C.||Stanley, hon. W. O.|
|Palmerston, Viscount||Stansfeld, J.|
|Paxton, Sir J.||Steel, J.|
|Pease, H.||Stuart, Col.|
|Peel, Sir R.||Sykes, Col. W. H.|
|Peel, rt. hon. F.||Thompson, H. S.|
|Peto, Sir S. M.||Tollemache, hon. F. J.|
|Pigott, F.||Trail, G.|
|Pilkington, J.||Trelawny, Sir J. S.|
|Pinney, Col.||Turner, J. A.|
|Pritchard, J.||Tynte, Col. K.|
|Puller, C. W. G.||Vane, Lord H.|
|Raynham, Visct.||Villiers, rt. hon. C. P.|
|Ricardo, J. L.||Vivian, H. H.|
|Ricardo, O.||Walter, J.|
|Rich, H.||Warner, E.|
|Ridley, G.||Watkins, Col. L.|
|Robertson, D.||Wemyss, J. H. E.|
|Roebuck, J. A.||Western, S.|
|Rothschild, Baron L. de||Westhead, J. P. B.|
|Roupell, W.||Whalley, G. H.|
|Russell, Lord J.||Whitbread, S.|
|Russell, H.||White, Col.|
|Russell, A.||Wickham, H. W.|
|Russell, F. W.||Willcox, B. M'G.|
|Russell, Sir W.||Williams, W.|
|St. Aubyn, J.||Winnington, Sir T. E.|
|Salomons, Mr. Ald.||Wood, rt. hon. Sir C.|
|Salt, Titus||Woods, H.|
|Scholefield, W.||Wrightson, W. B.|
|Scott, Sir W.||Wyld, J.|
|Scrope, G. P.||Wyvill, M.|
|Seymour, Sir M.|
|Seymour, H. D.||TELLERS.|
|Seymour, W. D.||Knatchbull-Hugessen, E|
|Shafto, R. D.||Brand, hon. H. B. W.|
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE moved the adjournment of the House.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That this House do now adjourn."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 222; Noes 267: Majority 45.
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. DARBY GRIFFITH moved the adjournment of the debate.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
said, it was not his intention to ask the House to go on further with the subject on that occasion. He was quite satisfied with the division which had taken place; and as the sense of the House had been sufficiently expressed he should concur in the Motion 144 for adjournment, and propose that the debate be adjourned till the Monday following.
§ MR. STIRLING
said, he would beg leave to ask what was to be done with the Scotch and Irish Reform Bills?
§ Debate adjourned till Monday next.