HC Deb 19 March 1860 vol 157 cc839-915

Order for Second Reading read.

LORD JOHN RUSSELL moved that this Bill be now read the second time.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."


said:—Sir, I understand that the promoters of this Bill claim for it the merit of simplicity. Simplicity in the operations of nature is admirable, because there we see adequate means adapted to the end proposed, without complexity; but in matters of legislation simplicity is a quality of an ambiguous character, because if we find that the means are not adequate to the end then it is not simplicity at which we arrive, but rather imperfection and incompleteness. Now, what is the end proposed by this Bill? The end is, "to amend the representation of the people in England and Wales." Are the means adequate to that end? My first impression, when I took up this Bill, was that it might have been drawn up four or five centuries ago. Except the land on which we tread, and masses of brick and mortar, I do not see any property referred to as a qualification for exercising the franchise, and that in a country where for more than a century the people have been doing nothing but creating and accumulating various properties to an incalculable amount. The claims of intelligence, of acquirement, and education are not noticed. The bill, indeed, is of a mediaeval character, but without any of the inspiration of the feudal system or any of the genius of the middle ages. It proposes to itself three principal objects, which I suppose I may consider three principles. It is to extend the suffrage in counties and in boroughs, and to effect some redistribution of Parliamentary seats. These certainly are objects well worthy the attention of the House, but there are objects almost as important connected with the exercise of the franchise, and with the better representation of the people of Eng- land and Wales, which, singular to say, are not alluded to in this Bill. It has been thought that, besides extending the possession of the franchise, it was one of our first duties to consider whether, by a more perfect registration, and by affording greater facilities for polling, the exercise of the suffrage might not be rendered far more valuable and far more advantageous to the community. I may remind the House that in the Bill which I had the honour to introduce to the notice of the late House of Commons there was a proposition, carried into effect by numerous clauses, to establish a self-acting registry. There was a scheme perfectly worked out, which would have so multiplied polling places that the Ministers of that day felt justified in asking the House to declare that the payment of travelling expenses to a voter should thereafter be illegal—a provision which would greatly have checked that corruption of which we all so much complain. But in this Bill to amend the representation of the people, so limited are its conception and the objects of which it treats, that I do not see any allusion to these primary and absolutely necessary topics. The general aspect of the Bill is highly unsatisfactory. Its omissions are its principal features. The qualifications from which it draws its franchises are of a limited character, and some important topics connected with the exercise of the suffrage are entirely omitted. That is the general aspect of the Bill; let us now consider it in some detail.

The Bill has three principles. It extends the franchise in counties, and in boroughs, and it effects a redistribution of Parliamentary seats. I will first touch upon the arrangements which are proposed with reference to the borough franchise, and for this reason, that in the somewhat meagre statement with which Her Majesty's Ministers introduced this measure that was the only part of the Bill with regard to which they laid down any principle of action; and, therefore, there we have an opportunity of ascertaining to a certain degree the principle on which the Government has acted in that reconstruction of the constituency which is one of the principal objects of this measure. Now, Sir, when upon another occasion I laid down on the part of my colleagues the principle on which we had acted in reconstructing the constituency of this country, I ventured to observe that our sole object had been to confer the franchise upon those persons to whom we thought that high privilege might safely be intrusted, and who would, we believed, exercise it for the general welfare of the country, and, therefore, I said that in making the propositions which I then laid before the House we had not stopped to calculate what number of persons they would enfranchise. The point which we placed before us was the fitness of the recipients. We did not embarrass ourselves with calculations or alarms as to the number who might receive the suffrage, so long as we were persuaded that those upon whom it was to be conferred would be classes who would accept it as a high privilege, and to whom it might safely be intrusted. That is not the principle upon which Her Majesty's Ministers have proceeded in framing this measure. On the contrary, the noble Lord, laying down the principle upon which he has acted, said that he had to consider what would be the number added to the constituency of the boroughs by the different methods which were under his consideration, he said, "If I had taken a rating of £9 I should only have got so many. If it had been £8 it would have given me so many more, but I don't think enough, and I have, therefore, for boroughs fixed upon a particular figure, which will give some 257,000 votes. I think that is enough, and I do not think the House will be of opinion that it is too much."

I object to that principle. In proposing to confer the franchise upon those who do not now possess it we ought to look to their fitness; we ought not to consider how we can obtain a certain number of additional votes, and then ask the House to support our measure because the number is one which may not alarm them. I say that, if instead of 257,000 there had been 557,000 men who, in the opinion of the House, were fit to receive the suffrage, the suffrage ought to have been given to them; and, at the same time, I assert that the fact that the number to be enfranchised is only half is no proof at all that the class proposed to be admitted to the franchise by this measure is one upon whom the suffrage ought to be conferred. I am not now giving any opinion on the policy of the proposition before us; but it appears to me that the founding a recommendation to extend the franchise merely upon a consideration of numbers is an unsafe and shallow proceeding.

What is the addition which the noble Lord is about to make to the borough constituencies? Here are his figures. The present constituencies of the cities and boroughs of England and Wales may be placed at 440,000, including freemen, and the noble Lord makes a proposition by which they shall be increased to 658,000. Let us consider what is the character of the present constituencies, and then let us see what is the character of the addition which is to be made to them. There is no fallacy so great as to suppose that, because a man is registered and votes under a ten-pound household qualification, he therefore lives in a ten-pound house. Reflection and observation, especially after the debates of the last twelve months, have impressed that pretty generally upon the conviction of society. In the existing body of 410,000 housekeepers—I deduct the freemen—all classes almost in Her Majesty's dominions are included, from the patrician resident who, perhaps, pays a rent of £1,000 a year for his dwelling, to the weaver and the dock-labourer of the Tower Hamlets who exercise the franchise under the lowest degree of qualification. But between Grosvenor Square and the Tower Hamlets, or rather between the classes which they represent, there is scarcely any class in England that is not included in the existing borough constituencies. All the mercantile class, all the professional class, all the various classes of retail dealers — classes of different political opinions, of different religious opinions, of different habits, of different social standing—at present exercise the franchise in cities and boroughs. To these 410,000 persons, whose feelings, whose position, whose opinions, whose habits are all so varying and so contrary, the noble Lord, under this Bill, proposes to add 248,000, who are all from the same class, and whose opinions, feelings, and habits are identical. Let us consider what will be the effect upon our present constituent body, with its various elements, of the introduction of a class so purely homogeneous. It may be said that raising the constituent body, considering the question only numerically, from 440,000 to 658,000 is not a very great experiment; that it is, as the noble Lord has told us, an increase of only one-third. But it appears to me that if we accept that calculation, we shall embrace a fallacy which, may greatly mislead us. What we have to consider is, what will be the probable effect of the proposed extension of the franchise upon the present borough constituencies. As it happens that the proposed new elec- tors will produce what, generally speaking, may be described as no effect whatever upon the present Metropolitan Constituencies, and as, of course, they will produce no effect upon the constituencies of the Universities, we must deduct the amount of those constituencies from the existing constituent body before we can attempt to estimate what will be the effect of the new body upon the old one. If we deduct 145,000 electors, which is the amount of the metropolitan constituencies and the constituencies of the Universities, from the existing constituent body, we shall find that the number of the remaining voters is only 288,000; making a deduction of 20 per cent from the addition which the noble Lord proposes there will remain 203,000; and, therefore, we have to consider what will be the effect upon the present constituent body of 288,000 of a homogeneous class of 203,000 coming into competition with it at public elections. But even that mode of putting the question, which is an accurate and a true one, will hardly convey a complete idea to the House of the manner in which the new electors must necessarily act upon our cities and boroughs; because, to ascertain what will be the effect of 203,000 voters, all of one class, bound together by the same sentiments and the same habits, upon 288,000 animated by different opinions, influenced by different feelings, and regulated by different habits, we must recollect that, as appears by the returns which the Government have placed before us, in six boroughs —and those among the most important in the country—the constituency is trebled, in 28 it is doubled, and in 48 the addition is equal to at least one-half of the present electoral body. It results, therefore, that about half of the boroughs of England and Wales will, so far as we can form any calculation, be under the influence of the new class of voters. I give no opinion at present upon the policy of the measure; my only object is to put before the House what is the real state of the facts, and what may be the probable results of the proposed extension of the franchise.

Let us now consider whether the particular class upon whom the noble Lord is about to confer this great political power are a class who are incapable, or who are unlikely to exercise it. Are they a class who have shown no inclination to combine? Are they a class incapable of organization? Quite the reverse. If we look to the history of this country during the present century, we shall find that the aristocracy, or upper classes, have on several very, startling occasions shown a great power of organization. I think it cannot be denied that the working classes, especially since the peace of 1815, have shown a remarkable talent for organization, and a power of discipline and combination inferior to none. The same, I believe, cannot be said of the middle classes. With the exception of the Anti-Corn-Law League, I cannot recall at this moment any great successful political organization of the middle classes, and, living in an age when everything is known, we now know that that great confederation, which ultimately proved so triumphant, owed its success to a great and unforeseen calamity, and was on the eve of dispersion and dissolution only a short time before that terrible event occurred. [An ironical cheer from Mr. BRIGHT.] I can only say that my authority is one of the most eminent members of your own confederation. But the fortune of the League does not affect my argument, which is founded on the fact that the working classes have shown on various occasions, and for long continuous periods, powers of organization, discipline, and combination quite equal to those of the upper classes; but that the middle classes, with the exception of the Anti-Corn-Law League, have not, in my memory, conducted any great political confederation to a successful issue. Then the class to which you are about to give this predominance, is perfectly capable of organization; and from the days of the Luddites to the present period, the tradition of frequently secret, but always well disciplined, organization has been preserved among the working classes. It is said that the working classes are exceedingly intelligent and educated, and therefore likely to appreciate the possession of the franchise. But these are reasons why you should take care in legislating on this subject, that you do not give them a predominance. What has been the object of our legislative labours for many years past but to put an end to a class legislation which was much complained of? But you are now proposing to establish a class legislation of a kind which may well be viewed with apprehension.

It is highly necessary, in dealing with this subject, and in attempting to confer the franchise on the working classes, that you should not establish by that means a class legislation with which, considering its power and probable consequences, no class legislation that has hitherto, though only partially, prevailed can for a moment be compared. It was obvious policy that while you attempted to introduce the working classes to the exercise of the franchise, you should counteract the tendency to this class domination, by giving a variety of franchises, and by effecting a natural counterpoise to consequences which all must deprecate. This was attempted in the Bill brought forward last year, and how were the propositions contained in that measure met? They were called "fancy franchises," and that was considered an answer. Alliteration tickles the ear, and is a very popular form of language among savages. It is, I believe, the characteristic of rude and barbarous poetry; but it is not an argument in legislation. I thought it a remarkable circumstance, after hearing so much of the objection to "fancy franchises," that the present Bill was not a fortnight on the table of the House before I found distinguished Liberals rising in every quarter on the opposite benches and proposing the introduction of what they denounced last year as "fancy franchises." Let us see what you mean by "fancy franchises." We never had an opportunity of arguing the question last year, because the Bill was not allowed to go into Committee. I will take a "fancy franchise"—a franchise dependent on the partial occupation of a house, and which is popularly called the "lodger franchise." Hon. Gentlemen speak of the lodger franchise as if lodging were a casual circumstance in our social life; that it might be as well as not to give a lodger the franchise; that he was very likely to be a respectable man, but that, after all, it was not a matter of any great importance. Now, lodging is not an accident of our social life: it is a condition of our social life. The richer the country gets, and the greater its trade, the more numerous will become the lodger class. Just as the retail trade takes every year larger dimensions the shopkeeper must have a larger shop, either as a magazine for his stores, or as a means of exhibiting his goods. The larger the shop, the more disproportioned is the house to his social wants; and so, just as the country increases in wealth and trade, the shopkeeper will feel the necessity of filling his ample and commodious chambers; and in that way the lodger class comes into existence, with ample or sufficient means, and with all the habits that make men respect- able in this country. They are educated, and feel a sense of responsibility in the performance of public duties. When you give a vote to the mere householders, surely those who really occupy the house, and are infinitely more wealthy, and frequently much better educated, ought not to be debarred from a trust of which they are worthy. What is the use of calling it a "fancy franchise?" It is not a "fancy franchise," but a real franchise; as real as, and more likely to be worthily exercised than, the householders' franchise, which, according to a limited and barbarous notion, you consider the only proper franchise.

The payment of direct taxes might well be a basis of the suffrage. You are now in this country substituting, in a great degree, direct taxation for indirect taxation. The careful and limited substitution of direct taxation for indirect, which has gone on now for some years, is a matter, no doubt, of the utmost importance, and highly advantageous to the country, but it is a system which, if pursued without great prudence and caution, would make the Finance Minister who proposed it the Necker of this country. It is a process connected with great consequences, and at a moment when you not only propose to confer the franchise but predominant power on a class that does not pay direct taxation, I hardly know any qualification which could be more properly recommended than a suffrage based on the payment of direct taxation. It will be answered, though momentous consequences may depend on a class enfranchised on this basis, it is a mere "fancy franchise"— but it is unnecessary to pursue the subject further, because every one must feel what a silly and unmeaning phrase that is.

I have placed before the House some critical remarks with respect to the borough franchise. I think the noble Lord made a mistake in founding his proposition on a mere consideration of numbers. I think the noble Lord ought to have considered, in the first place, fitness, and not numbers. Following his principle, this appears to be the consequence, that the noble Lord is about to introduce a body homogeneous in character and interests of upwards of 200,000 into our boroughs, in addition to what is really not more, so far as the question of their influence is concerned, than a body of about 288,000. Then, in one-half of the boroughs in England the new constituency will be able to command the seats, and by so doing you are changing the depositary of political power to a very great extent, and are, in fact, conferring power on a class,—a result, which your recent legislation, during the last ten years, has endeavoured in every way to avoid. I cannot, therefore, approve this mode of increasing the suffrage in boroughs. I do not think this proposition ought to have been brought forward, unless accompanied by means through which the elements of the constituency should be more various in character, and unless a counterpoise to the predominance of any particular class were established. I know it may be said that the result of the last election was favourable to the introduction of the working classes into the constituency by the mode of reducing the franchise. It is difficult to say what was the result of the last general election. That is a matter of very considerable doubt; but there is no doubt that the noble Lord took a prudent course when he took a prompt one, and called for the opinion of Parliament at the moment of its meeting. What might have been the opinion of Parliament after sitting a few months longer I leave the House to judge. The opinion of the country on this question of admitting the working classes to the suffrage was given in no decided, but rather in a hesitating, manner; and I think the opinion of the country was this, that it was desirable that a certain portion of the working classes—those who by their skill and conduct had proved themselves worthy of the electoral privilege—should be admitted into the constituency under certain conditions, which would guard the community from the predominance of that class. That, I believe, was the real verdict of the country.

But it is a mistake to suppose that the working classes at this moment have no share in the representation. I must consider the freemen of England as a part of the working classes, though they are always treated with such contempt by some hon. Gentlemen. Moreover, the result has shown that in the metropolis the great body of the working classes are in possession of the franchise; and that they also possess the franchise in many of the most important northern boroughs no one questions. I do not suppose that you can estimate the share of the working classes in the representation at less than one-ninth or one-eighth even of the existing constituencies. But when hon. Gentlemen lay it down as a principle that the working classes ought to enjoy the franchise we must remember that working men are not confined to towns alone, and that there are others who also have a fair right to consideration. The superior class of rural labourers and of working men in the country, if you look at their knowledge of their pursuits, their general conduct, and the great skill which is required in their daily duties, need not shrink from a comparison with the workmen of the towns. If you are to recognize the claims of skilled mechanics, you must equally take into consideration the claims of English woodmen, English shepherds, English gardeners, and some of the higher class of labourers in husbandry. It is impossible to deal with the question in a general way, and, therefore, you necessarily have to make a selection of the working classes, in order that their voice and influence may be heard. It follows that you must have limitation, that you must have qualification; and I say that the only effect of the noble Lord's Bill will be to give a predominance, in half the boroughs of England, to a class who, if they act in conformity with their antecedents, will evince decision, combination, discipline, and will probably return to this House a body of men who will exercise a great and, perhaps, a controlling influence over the Government of the country. Now, are you prepared to sanction such a course? Is it a course to be justified—I will not say on the principles of political expediency, but—on the principles of political justice? I contend that it is not, and therefore I cannot agree that the method by which the noble Lord proposes to adroit the influence of the working classes in the election of Members of Parliament is a wise and well-considered one. I think he ought to have increased the borough constituencies by various means, and not merely by this perilous monotony of process; and while he might have introduced the most skilful mechanics among the working classes into the constituency, he might have done it under conditions which would not have neutralized the voice of all the various classes comprised in the present borough constituencies.

I proceed now to consider the next principle on which this Bill is founded—namely, the reduction of the county franchise. I, for one, have never opposed the creation in the counties of an ample constituency. Believing that the influence of the land is most beneficial for the preservation of our constitutional liberties, I have been always anxious that the great landed proprietors in this House should come here supported by the voice of a numerous constituency, and should be at the head not merely of their tenantry, but of their neighbours. I have always felt that that would add to their influence and power, which are of the utmost advantage to the State. But in increasing the county constituencies one condition should be observed. The persons thus enfranchised should be fairly connected with the chief property and the chief industry of the county. A constituency is not connected with the chief property and chief industry of a county if, for example, the county suffrage is possessed by some town which may be a new community developing itself by means of some special interest of its own, or some decaying borough without any sympathy with the property and pursuits of the county. I don't think also that the condition I have just laid down is observed when the inhabitants of a great borough teeming with a population which has over passed the old parliamentary limits affixed to the town in 1832, but connected with that borough by every tie and duty, social and political, are permitted to send out their hordes of electors, who ought to have votes for the borough of which they really form a part, to elect a county member having little sympathy with their local interests and feelings. I don't think that main condition is observed when at any time, but especially at a time when you are establishing the franchises of England more and more upon occupation, you allow freeholds in towns to become the great manufactories of split votes, by which, at a general election, bands of voters are enabled to pour forth, and elect Members of Parliament for a district with which they have no local sympathy and no common interests. In the Bill I do not find any means adopted by which that great injustice can be rectified. The noble Lord, though his measure is a small one, can, however, condescend to details where the county suffrage is concerned. For example, I find that Clause 4 will effect disfranchisement on a large scale, by enacting that the occupation of a building jointly with land is not to confer a right of voting, unless the building be of £5 annual value. That clause is a new one, and would disfranchise a large number of voters in the rural districts. The noble Lord has a terror of disfranchisement, which with adroit misrepresentation he opposed in the Bill submitted last year, while pro- posing it in every measure of his own; but when simplicity is the order of the day, the noble Lord, though he will not establish a just franchise in the counties, adopts a sweeping measure of disfranchisement, applying only to rural voters.

The county franchise as proposed in the Bill will greatly reduce the influence of the landed proprietors and of the landed interest in this country. I object to any such reduction, and I will tell the hon. Member, who seems alarmed or annoyed by that expression, why it is I object. I look round upon Europe at the present moment, and I see no country of any importance in which political liberty can be said to exist. I attribute the creation and the maintenance of our liberties to the influence of the land and to our tenure of land. In England there are large properties round which men can rally, and that, in my mind, forms the only security in an old European country against that centralized form of government which has prevailed and must prevail in. every European community where there is no such counterpoise. It is our tenure of land to which we are indebted for our public liberties, because it is the tenure of land which makes local government a fact in England, and which allows the great body of Englishmen to be ruled by traditional influence and by habit, instead of being governed, as in other countries, by mere police. Well. Sir, believing that the proposed reconstruction of the county franchise has a tendency to diminish the just and salutary influence of the land of this country, I highly object to the noble Lord's plan.

Now, the third principle upon which this measure is founded, is the re-distribution of Parliamentary seats. Let us see whether the application of that principle be a just and wise one. There are two schools of opinion upon this subject. There is the school of politicians who would entirely reconstruct the borough system of England, and who would not only entirely reconstruct it, but I may say would entirely subvert it. They are of opinion that what should be obtained by public parliamentary election in this country is a declaration of the opinion of the mere numerical majority of the population in the country, and they would subvert the present system and reconstruct it on a scale which would obtain that result. That is what I call the American system, and it works sufficiently well in the United States. The population of the United States greatly exceeds that of any other American community; it is rapidly increasing and is sustained by the resources of an illimitable territory; therefore, when their Legislative Assembly, or Parliament, is elected on the principle of numerical majority, they have a first-rate assembly founded on that principle. But that would not apply to England. If we take a mere numerical majority as the test of our representative system, we are very inferior to many countries in our population; and if we had a representative assembly elected on that principle, all we should have would be a third-rate assembly.

The other school of politicians is of opinion that population of course is an element in representation. Nobody would be so absurd as to deny that. It is an element just the same as property is; but in a very ancient country, highly civilized, with a complicated social organization, they hold we are bound to represent all the interests of that country, and they are essentially local, If you have a representative assembly elected on this principle you will, inasmuch as you have in England the most powerful social organization in the world, have a first-rate representative body, that is to say, a House of Commons. These are the two schools. No one pretends that our borough system was invented to obtain these results, but it is a system which in this country secures that description of representation, and it is cherished and preserved because an ancient machinery has been found existing which produces a desirable end.

I can quite understand the scheme of the hon. Member for Birmingham and his friends, which so startled the country a year ago, because they act consistently on the American principle. But those who act on the English principle must be ruled by different considerations, and must propose different ends. All they conclude in the redistribution of seats is this: When they find in the periodical revision of the representation of the country that new and powerful interests have arisen not duly represented, then following the example of their predecessors—not merely Parliamentary precedents, but the precedents of our Sovereigns in the exercise of their prerogative—they confer upon these new interests a political representation, and inasmuch as it is the custom of this country, now long settled, that the number of this Assembly is not to be increased, they hold that the mildest course which they can take is to deprive existing boroughs in some degree of their representation; and therefore it was a sound principle which the late Government adopted last year for meeting these wants, when they proposed that some of the least important boroughs of the country should contribute their fair share of the means by which that result should be obtained. So far as he has followed that example I approve of the course which the noble Lord has taken; but the noble Lord has carried the point too far, or not far enough. If he is of the opinion of those who think that the borough system is indefensible, he should have proposed a great change; but if his principle is the English principle, and he believes that there are no abstract grounds on which you can even partially disfranchise a borough which enjoys the privilege of returning Members to this House, then I think that the noble Lord has gone too far. The noble Lord ought to have made enfranchisement precede disfranchisement. There are a few boroughs in the north of England whose claims to representation cannot be denied. But it is not consistent with the spirit of our Constitution to enfranchise boroughs in the north of England without enfranchising others in the south, because we should study the distribution of power throughout the whole country. There are one or two counties where the representation is inadequate; for they contain vast interests of a different and contrary character. There is a district in the West Riding, extending over seventy miles, whose interests—agricultural—are different from those of another portion of the same county, where manufacturing industry is teeming, and it is advisable therefore that the interests which are not adequately represented should be called into this House. The noble Lord, however, goes past that.

I object to his system on two grounds. First of all I think he is acting on a complete fallacy in establishing what I venture to call cumulative Members for places already represented. Now I want to know from the Government on what principle they have so acted. You do not act on that principle in the electoral body. If a man has £100,000 a year he has only one vote, and on very good grounds, for you know that although the man has a large fortune, and you give him the same vote as the humblest dweller in a £10 tenement, he has an indirect influence in the community which asserts itself and sufficiently protects his property. Why should you do that for Manchester and Birmingham which you do not do for the wealthy individual? Hon. Gentlemen are sent here to represent the opinion of places, and not the power of places. Does anybody suppose that if the interests of Manchester were assailed they would only be defended by the two respectable Representatives who sit in this House for that borough? Not at all. We know that there would be scores and scores of Members, not confined to one side of the House, who would support the interests of Manchester; and, therefore, I entirely disapprove of this principle, which appears to be perfectly unconstitutional, and which would change the character of this House, because, if representation is to be meted out according to population and property, you would soon have very few places indeed represented in this House, and representation would be confined entirely to large manufacturing and commercial cities and large counties.

I admit that in the Reform Bill of 1832 you did confer on some counties a third Member. But the circumstances under which that was done could not be drawn into a precedent, but if it were one, as I shall perhaps be told, it would be a very bad one. In the Reform Bill of 1832 it was necessary to increase the county Members. There were some counties in which you exceeded the number of voters which authorized the conferring of two Members, and yet which did not reach that number which permitted division, and this plan of having a third Member was consequently had recourse to. But some of those counties we now know have reached an amount of population which authorizes division, and it would be better, if you wish to increase the county representation, to divide those counties than to have recourse to this system of cumulative members, which cannot be defended, and which is entirely opposed to the spirit of the Constitution.

But there is another ground on which I think it is equally objectionable. It would appear to be the happy practice of the Constitution that almost every class and every interest, and every great institution is represented, and though under our constitution in that sense the minority may be represented, still when a constituent body is formed the majority ought to decide, and the minority in that sense ought to have no claim. It is the custom of the country, and that is a very strong reason; but beyond that the principle is based upon all our constitutional precedents and practice, and it would appear to be a principle which can also be upheld on sound political reasons, even abstractedly. The noble Lord in 1854 proposed that the minority should be directly represented in this House. In my opinion a more unconstitutional course could not have been suggested, for there is only one proper way by which the minority of a constituent body should be represented, and that is by becoming a majority. The noble Lord has now proposed, not directly, but indirectly, to secure a representation to the minority in several places in some cities and some counties. I entirely object to that; but it is done, although indirectly, in this Bill, and there are some counties and some towns to which a third Member is added on that principle. We have complained of late years of a want of distinct parties and of distinct principles in this House. So far as I can learn that is a want which will in a very short time disappear. I think we shall soon have distinct parties and distinct principles on both sides; but if anything could be devised which would introduce into this House a timid and temporizing spirit, it is the political and parliamentary machinery that recognizes the representation of the minority of a constituent body in Parliament. A want of conviction and a want of energy and spirit in public life would be the consequence, and therefore I entirely disagree with the second object which the noble Lord wishes to obtain by thus dealing with the redistribution of seats. It appears to me that the principle of the redistribution of seats, as the noble Lord applies it, is unsound. It can satisfy none of those opposed to the English element of parliamentary life who want to reconstruct the House of Commons on the American principle, while at the same time it fatally alters the only sound principles upon which the disfranchisement of boroughs ought to be permitted—namely, that of conferring a representation on interests not already represented.

I have now touched on the three principles of this Bill. What is the course we ought to take with respect to it? That is the question. It is a very bad measure. That, I think, is the universal opinion. In fact, I believe I do not know more than two individuals whom it perfectly satisfies—namely, the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary and the Member for Birmingham; and the Member for Birmingham, with that candid audacity which in his case greatly neutralizes the pernicious opinions he expresses and the dangerous course he pursues, has already told us that no sooner has this Bill passed than he shall agitate the country to obtain a much more extensive change. But if we reject this Bill on the second reading, we know what will be said. It will be said by the noble Lord, "You are against Parliamentary Reform, you are against extending the franchise, which, when you were in a responsible position, you yourselves brought in a Bill to effect." I am not against extending the franchise. If we are to deal with the subject at all, I think the franchise might be extended, and safely extended, in a way, on the whole, beneficial to the country. My opinion is, so far as I can form an estimate from the documents in my possession, that under the Bill of 1859 the franchise would have been more extended than under this Bill, therefore I am not against extending the franchise. Nor, if it is necessary to consider the subject at all, am I against the redistribution of seats; that is to say, to call into Parliamentary representation interests not now sufficiently represented. I wish to see in counties and boroughs the constituencies increased, because I think they can be increased in a manner which would strengthen the Constitution, and because I think the means and materials are in existence by which that result could be obtained, and by which the working classes might have an increased power of representing their opinions in this House, while, on the other hand, the due weight and influence—so important and so necessary to the liberties of the country—of the landed interest might be adequately represented. Therefore, so far as the alleged principles of this Bill are concerned, I consider I am not justified in saying, though I think the application of those principles is most objectionable, that we ought to reject the Bill on its second reading.

We shall have the opportunity of considering this Bill in Committee. What will you do in Committee? That will be deferred to a period which will allow all, high or low, deeply to consider the responsibility which falls on those who meddle with questions of this importance. I do not feel called on now to intimate what may be done by myself or my friends in Committee after Easter. I am not at all sure whether I shall propose anything myself after Easter. I am not sure whether the responsibility of this measure may not, considering the circumstances under which it was introduced and projected, fairly rest with the noble Lord and Her Majesty's Government. Indeed, if I were to take a limited and Parliamentary view of the consequences of this Bill, it would not be for the Conservative party that I should feel very great alarm. I do not think the 100 boroughs of England that are to be delivered over to one class, whose interests and opinions and habits are identical,—I do not think those 100 boroughs are represented, generally speaking, by Members of the Conservative party. But the loss by this House of a vast number of Members who now adorn it, and who give to it weight and responsibility and knowledge, though they do not sit on the same benches as myself, I should not the less regret as a national calamity. I should be very sorry to see the just influence and authority of the Whig party curtailed. I think it one of the best securities for public liberty and good government in this country, that when a change takes place in the administration of this country, at least power is handed to a party, on whichsoever side of the House they sit, who are prepared to exercise that power on English and not on American principles. I think it is something when such changes take place, that power should be handed to those who respect the traditions of the country, and who will be faithful to its prescriptive claims; therefore I should deeply deplore this serious blow, so far as the Whig party is concerned, and from hands from which twenty years ago we should not have expected such a blow to come. I shall, therefore, not oppose the second reading of this Bill, but I shall be curious, when the House is in Committee, to see what propositions will be made to render it, even in the opinion of hon. Gentlemen opposite, who have already shown a great disposition to make Amendments, a Bill not injurious to the interests of the country.

It has been said of English statesmen that they are more remarkable for their active qualities than for their prescience, and I am not surprised at that. Man is rather an active than a contemplative creature, and it is the privilege of few to have the power of prediction. I think on the whole it is better for England that public opinion has been rather in advance of Parliament than that it should be the reverse. One result has been to make this Assembly a practical one, and though we may have occasionally blundered, it is better to blunder by adhering to an old-established system than to blunder by adopting a new system that has never been tried. I admit that with reference to this question of Parliamentary Reform English statesmen have been much to blame. There is no doubt that from the period when the Duke of Wellington was at the head of affairs, and for two or three years previously, warnings were given to our leading public men, which were unhappily disregarded, and opportunities in consequence lost which, if they had been turned to account, might have been productive of great advantage. No doubt, when the noble Lord re-opened this question he was influenced by a sincere, and, as he thought, a sound feeling, and was anxious to avoid the error of the Duke of Wellington. The House knows its history from that time. The noble Lord has more or less been in power for these ten years. He has kept this question in hand, so that when we were in power it had become a weapon always ready to be drawn from the armoury of politics, and brandished against a Conservative Ministry. The time had then come, in our opinion, when the question might have been terminated, and we endeavoured to terminate it on conditions which, I think, are spoken of now by the country in a more kindly manner than when they were first introduced, and which if they had been accomplished would, as I think, have strengthened the Constitution. But, Sir, I believe the noble Lord was premature in the measure which he introduced ten years ago, and that those who have followed him are equally in a certain degree to blame. Our course was in self-defence, and because it was impossible to carry on the Government, from the manner in which that measure was left, if we were not prepared to deal with it. Sir, I do not wish to escape from my share of blame. But, then, it may be said, in excuse of the noble Lord and of his successors that the time was opportune, if changes were ultimately to be carried, to anticipate political necessity. The country was at case, it was prosperous; there was a prospect of foreign tranquillity as well as of domestic contentment. What is your condition now? Is it the same? Is the state of affairs the same as when the noble Lord and his successors endeavoured to deal with this question? A great military nation, of matchless valour, with a public organization more complete than any that has existed since the days of ancient Rome, abounding in resources of men, money, and military material, and so enamoured of glory that it has freely bartered freedom for fame, no longer conceals its thirst of general empire. As far as Europe is concerned, the prospect is much more dangerous than in the days of the Great Monarch; for in the days of Louis XIV. Europe was full of military energy; Europe now is prostrate and spiritless. As far as England is concerned, the prospect is infinitely more dangerous than in the days of the French Republic and the old French Empire; for France was then our implacable foe; France is now our unswerving friend. France then menaced our hearths; France now decorates our citizens. France harassed our trade then by a continental blockade; France now facilitates commercial intercourse by treaties of amity. There is nothing to keep the English people watchful or awake. Superior to rapine, hardly condescending to force, France is building up a colossal despotism by all the arts of the most advanced Liberalism—by universal suffrage—by secret voting—by electoral districts. Will you never be warned? Is this the time and the condition of affairs when you should attempt feebly, but in the same vein, to imitate these political schemes? Is this the time when you should still further deviate from that old, that free, and that aristocratic, constitution which has formed the Empire of England and framed the liberties of Englishmen? Sir, I must say that is not my opinion. The noble Lord the Secretary of State, since the night when he entered into the fatal pledge on this side of the House which has placed his Government in consequence in a position of great embarrassment, has been called upon to preside over an office of the State very different from that which he then contemplated. The noble Lord is in receipt every day of information which may well make him look grave, and the perusal of which cannot but teach him that it is a great thing for a Minister that he can fall back upon the ancient institutions of a country which have proved their power to stem any storm. Well, Sir, that being the case, I will not relinquish the hope that before we are summoned to go into Committee, a relieved House of Commons and a grateful people will learn from the noble Lord that this unnecessary, this uncalled-for, and this mischievous, measure has been withdrawn.


said, he should not have risen had he not been aware that the constituency which he had the honour to represent entertained, with regard to the Bill of the noble Lord, and with regard to the wide question of reform, opinions the emphasis of which would only be imperfectly expressed by a silent vote. He, therefore, trusted he should receive the indulgence which the House invariably extended to those who were unused to the ways and unskilled in the practice of debate. If they regarded this merely as a suffrage Bill he thought it fully deserved the quiet, but at the same time, hearty reception which it had met with throughout the country. As a suffrage Bill it appeared to him to be incomparably better than any other measure which had been laid on the table. One of its great merits was its simplicity, and another was its reality. There was no attempt to juggle with the franchise, no attempt to conceal sinister features by fancy franchises. The noble Lord's left hand was welcome to know what his right hand did. The main object of the Bill appeared to him to be the admission of the working classes to the franchise. Fears were at one time entertained that that class could not be admitted without admitting the petty traders, who had few political sympathies, and whose admission, it was apprehended, would deteriorate the morality of constituencies. He held in his hand some statistics which had been prepared by the Reform Association of the borough which he had the honour to represent (Huddersfield), and which appeared to him to be calculated to remove those fears. They found that under the extension of the franchise proposed by the noble Lord something like 2,000 claims would be made in the borough of Huddersfield. The present number of electors on the register amounted to between 1,600 and 1,700. Of the 2,000 new claims about a fourth would be for houses at rentals varying between £8 and £10, and the remaining three fourths for houses at rentals varying between £6 and £8. Of the houses between £8 and £10 only forty per cent belonged to the working classes, but of the class between £6 and £8 no less than ninety-eight per cent belonged to the working classes. Those who knew anything of the social position of the working classes of such boroughs as Huddersfield knew that it was impossible to find persons more independent than was the upper class of artizans, and this was precisely the class which would be admitted to the franchise by this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down severely criticised the Bill, and it would be distasteful to the House if he, a young member, were to attempt methodically to follow him; but there were a few observations to which perhaps he might be permitted to reply. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that the effect of this Bill would be to transfer the predominance of power in something like half the boroughs of England to another class, but he admitted that already the working class exercised a great influence in these constituencies. The right hon. Gentleman also referred to the lodger, as a fancy franchise; but the lodger franchise appeared to him (Mr. Leatham) to be no fancy franchise at all. The lodger franchise admitted the remainder of a class which they had already enfranchised by other means, but a fancy franchise was a franchise that selected individuals of a class not already enfranchised. The right hon. Gentleman had deprecated Americanizing our institutions. He had some difficulty in understanding what was meant by Americanizing our institutions. He remembered in a work edited by the noble Lord, the Life of Tom Moore, that Curran said to Moore, "When I can't speak sense, I talk metaphor." In this respect it would seem that Curran was not without imitators. But it was not merely as a suffrage Bill that they must regard this measure. The noble Lord undertook to deal with our whole electoral system, to remove anomalies, to redress injustice, and to abolish abuses; but regarding it from this comprehensive point of view he regretted that he was unable to extend to the measure the same humble but hearty approbation. In the first place he greatly regretted to find that there was no mention whatever of the Ballot. Such was his apprehension of the difficulty, the inconvenience, and the danger which might accrue from the exercise of intimidation upon persons in subordinate positions in counties that did he not think that after the passing of this Bill the Ballot would become inevitable, it would be with reluctance that he should support those clauses of the measure which proposed to deal with the franchise in counties. Another glaring defect was the feeble and tender way in which Her Majesty's Government proposed to deal with microscopic constituencies. Indeed, such was the noble Lord's chivalrous feeling towards the weak that there was not one borough in England so diminutive and so corrupt but that it must continue to re- tain a voice in the legislature, and a voice which was equal to that of the gigantic constituency of Salford. What were the arguments which the noble Lord advanced for the retention of the privileges of these small boroughs? He yielded to no Member in that House in most profound respect and most hearty admiration of the noble Lord, and it was therefore with great diffidence that he ventured to differ from him. But, did he not understand the noble Lord to imply that it was to the petty boroughs that they must look for their statesmen? Did he not imply that the large boroughs sent up persons absorbed in trade, and the counties persons absorbed in agriculture, and that it was from the petty boroughs alone that sprang that divine race, ignorant perhaps both of commerce and agriculture, to whom it seemed Providence had committed the care of this great agricultural and commercial country? But the noble Lord's argument was not altogether original. He thought they had heard something like it before, and that it proceeded from the other side of the House. He thought the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks had startled them on a previous occasion by telling them that if the House were to be composed alone of the representatives of great interests, the Government of Her Majesty must revert to the despotism of 1640, and that the minions of the Court would usurp the place of the representatives of the people. But he altogether denied that large constituencies only sent up persons who had not the ability or the leisure to conduct public affairs. When he heard that assertion his eye wandered involuntarily to the Treasury bench, and, passing over the noble Viscount at the head of the Government, who till recently represented a large constituency, but who for personal convenience no doubt consented to represent Tiverton, it fell on the noble Lord himself (Lord John Russell), who, sitting for the greatest commercial City in the Empire, was the first to tell them that commercial constituencies did not send up statesmen. Next to him sat the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone), whom he thought all would admit to be a statesman, and who represented one of the most influential constituencies in England, the University of Oxford. Beside him sat another right hon. Gentleman, the President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Milner Gibson), representing the large borough of Ashton; then came the President of the India Board (Sir C. Wood), representing the populous borough of Halifax. Amongst them also was the Secretary for War (Mr. S. Herbert), sitting for the great constituency of South Wilts, and there was the Home Secretary (Sir George Grey), who till recently sat for Herefordshire, and in addition there were the Attorney General (Sir Richard Bethell) and the President of the Poor Law Board (Mr. Villiers), who represented the important borough of Wolverhampton; and the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. Cardwell), sitting for Oxford city. It appeared to him then that the great boroughs and cities and counties vied with one another in sending up statesmen to Parliament, and if they did not send up more it was not because they had no disposition so to do, but because there were no more statesmen to send. The noble Lord defended small boroughs, because twice in the course of a century great statesmen had been unfortunate enough to quarrel with large constituencies, and lose their seats. And the noble Lord bad great respect for the feelings of the people of Little Peddlington, but had no compassion for the hundreds and thousands of electors throughout the country who had been keenly smarting under the sense that they were not sufficiently represented. He (Mr. Leatham) submitted whether it would not have been more statesmanlike to have dealt with this great question without reference to Parliamentary majorities. On one memorable occasion the noble Lord and his friends followed this course, and the result was a great accession to our constitutional dignity, and a place in history for the noble Lord. Possibly Her Majesty's Ministers might have lost some portion of the confidence of that House, but they would have gained the confidence of the country, and they would eventually have passed a great measure not only of reform but of justice and of security. He feared that hon. Gentlemen had been to a certain extent misled by the representations which had appeared in the public press, that the people cared nothing about reform. This assertion had been made with a feverish anxiety of reiteration which convinced him that those who uttered it had but little confidence in its truth. No, the people of England were anxiously watching that House, and it would be well not to arouse passions which were slumbering. At that moment great prosperity prevailed, and there were no symptoms of agitation; but when there was a recurrence of those periods of disaster with which Providence saw fit from time to time to visit them, would that be a time to deal with this grave, and with what would then be this perilous question? He should have thought that the time when the demand for reform was couched in moderate and respectful language, when the desire for it was still a desire and not a passion, and when the hand of the people was extended in entreaty and not in menace, was the very moment granted by Heaven for passing a great measure which the people would receive as an evidence, not of weakness, but of good will, and would accept with gratitude for the privilege bestowed, and not with exultation over the right extorted. He regretted that Her Majesty's Government had not felt it their duty to introduce such a measure. He regretted it because the work which engaged them to-day would engage them again to-morrow, but still more, because a great opportunity for securing the confidence of the people had been flung away. So long as that House pursued such a policy as was recommended by the right hon. Gentleman opposite—a policy of apprehension, suspicion, and distrust, so long would they have to deal with a suspicious and distrustful people; but if they once took the nation fairly into confidence, instead of creating the evil which had been anticipated, they would add new life to the State, new lustre to the Crown, and glorious centuries to the history of England.


said, that unlike his right hon. Friend, the Member for Buckinghamshire, he was so far from desiring the withdrawal of the Bill, that he hoped the time had at length arrived when the House would be able to pass a Measure of Parliamentary Reform satisfactory in the present, and, above all, of a permanent character, that we might get rid of the scandal which had for some years past been exhibited of the first and leading statesmen of the country bidding against each other for political power. It was far better, in his opinion, that the constitution should be placed upon a democratic basis, than that a system of agitation on the subject should be carried on, not by reckless agitators, but by the first statesmen in the country. Such a state of things tended to destroy all confidence in the stability of the institutions of the country, as well as in the honour of public men of both parties. The noble Lord said last year that the great object of a Reform Bill should be to give satisfaction to the working classes. Tried by that test, the measure of the noble Lord was a failure. The Bill involved three propositions—First, the reduction of the borough franchise; secondly, the increase of the county franchise; and last, the transfer of representation from small boroughs to large constituencies. As. regarded the borough franchise, the basis of the Reform Bill of 1832 was a property qualification. It was supposed, in fact, and with reason, that every man who lived in a £10 house must be in the possession of some realized property. The noble Lord now proposed to give up that property qualification in practice; for it could not be supposed that a voter paying a rental of £6 a year in boroughs had any other property besides his labour. That being the case, he (Mr. Baillie) could not conceive by what process of reasoning the noble Lord proposed to draw a line between the labourer occupying a £6 house, and the labourer occupying a £5 house or a £4 house. They were equally labouring men—all equally devoid of realized property—all receiving the same rate of wages—all entitled to the same privileges, and with no difference whatever between them, except that the one lived in a borough where house-rent was dear, while the other lived in a borough where house-rent was cheap. If they were to give up the property qualification implied by the possession of a £10 house they ought to abolish all class distinctions. Therefore in his (Mr. Baillie's) opinion, the rating test or household suffrage proposed by the hon. Member for Birmingham possessed two great advantages over the plan of the noble Lord, for in the first place it was not of a temporary nature, as that of the noble Lord would assuredly be; while, in the second, it was not liable to alteration by reason of the alteration in the value of money, which was a very important consideration. If therefore the noble Lord's Bill was the only alternative, he (Mr. Baillie) would rather give his support in Committee to a proposition for household suffrage, based upon rating, than to this proposal of £6 rental, which did amount practically, in large towns, to household suffrage, without the advantages of rating. Practically, household suffrage would be the suffrage in all the metropolitan boroughs, and in most of the commercial and manufacturing cities and boroughs, and it would be only in the smaller boroughs where they would find persons in any number who were re- siding in houses below a rental of £6, and that would be no reason for excluding them from the operation of the Bill, or dispossessing them of their political rights. As regarded the county franchise, when the Reform Bill of the late Government was under discussion it was considered that there ought not to be an identity in the county and borough franchise. It was said that if they admitted the working classes to the enjoyment of the franchise in the boroughs they would so far predominate over the middle and upper classes that the latter would be deprived of their political rights, and therefore that it was desirable to give to those classes a representation with counties. Now, if that was the object of the Bill, it would not be obtained by lowering the rental to £10. In considering this subject, they ought to bear in mind that they were not merely legislating for themselves but for those who came after them, and one point they ought not to lose sight of was this, the great influence which would be exerted upon the franchise, in consequence of the fall in the value of money, which would no doubt take place through the large importation of gold from Australia. No doubt that alteration had not taken place as yet. It was, nevertheless, not the less certain to take place, if experience went for anything in coming to a conclusion on the subject. It was thirty years before the effect of the discovery of the gold and silver mines of Potosi took place in Europe; and then the alteration in the value of money was so rapid that the quarter of corn rose from 8s. to 24s., below which point it had never since receded. If a change to only half that extent took place as a result of the Californian and Australian discoveries and importation of gold, then the borough and the county franchise would practically become household suffrage, and all difference in point of identity between them would be effectually destroyed. Another reason against a £10 franchise in counties was, that the £10 householders were always only too ready to shift the burden of taxation from their own shoulders, as in the case of the house tax, which they shifted to those above them, and he was afraid that the lower class, whom it was now proposed to enfranchise, in boroughs would go still further in the same direction. He thought it desirable, therefore, that the county franchise should be maintained at a higher point than was proposed either in this or the Bill of the late Government, in order that the different classes of the country might be represented. With respect to the transfer of the right of representation from small boroughs to larger constituencies, the noble Lord appeared to be following in the steps of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, who stated last Session that the smallest class of boroughs ought not to be disfranchised, because they enabled great landed proprietors of influence to nominate gentlemen who would not find their way to the House of Commons if they had to appear before large bodies of their fellow countrymen.


I never made any such statement.


had understood his right hon. Friend to refer to Arundel as a case in point. For his own part, however, he did not believe any Reform Bill would give satisfaction which did not disfranchise these small boroughs. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire seemed to be of the same opinion, because he stated upon another occasion that if he should ever have to introduce a Reform Bill again it would contain clauses for the disfranchisement of nomination boroughs, so strong and general had been the condemnation passed upon those places in the House of Commons. It had often been said that the late Government placed themselves in a false position when they undertook to deal with the question of Reform. That might be so, but what must be said of the noble Viscount at the head of the present Government, who, having formed with great ingenuity an Administration composed of men professing every political opinion, now found himself, like another Frankenstein, unable to control the monster his own genius had created, and compelled to support a Bill from the principles of which, judging from the statements he made last Session, he totally and entirely dissented? There could not be a stronger proof of the injurious effect which the continued agitation of this question was calculated to produce than the influence which it thus appeared to exercise over the minds and morality of our public men, and he therefore trusted that under the auspices of Her Majesty's present Ministers a safe and satisfactory solution of this great and difficult question might be attained during the present Session.


said, it would not be necessary for him to reply to the hon. Member for Inverness-shire (Mr. Baillie), for the hon. Gentleman was in favour of household suffrage and the abolition of small nomination boroughs, and though he (Mr. Baxter) considered that he himself was something of a radical, he could not go much further. It was a remarkable sign of the times that this great Conservative party, attached as it was to the principles of the constitution and averse to any considerable changes in our institutions, had, notwithstanding a few critical observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks, not thought it their duty to give an united opposition to the Reform Bill of the Government. It appeared to him that that policy of the party was not only an acknowledgment of the general good working of the Reform Act of 1832, which conferred great benefits on the country, but an indication that they were not now inclined, whatever they might have been in past times, to offer any obstinate resistance to measures of gradual and rational progress. He should be glad to receive their aid in passing a Bill such as Lord Grey in 1832 said "should have a tendency to give new vigour to the constitution of the country, and make it in point of fact what it was in theory—a fair and full representation of the people." The great masses of the people were now happy and contented, and they hoped to obtain an increase of political power, but not, as in times past, through excitement and agitation, but through the good sense of the upper and middle classes, as reflected in the House of Commons. Physical force chartism and revolutionary ideas had gone down, and given place, as he firmly believed, not to indifference in regard to the privileges of free men, but to a firm confidence that political rights would be surely though gradually conceded to the people. It would therefore he wise, just, and politic on the part of the legislature to extend the franchise. They all knew what an amazing progress had of late years been made in the education of the people, All classes had advanced very materially, and he did not believe that any Gentleman could have mixed with the people without perceiving the progress which had been made in their condition. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) had represented the present measure as an extremely hazardous experiment, and had said that to extend the franchise to £6 householders would be to transfer the whole political power in one-half of the boroughs from the shop-keeping classes to the class immediately below them. He (Mr. Baxter) felt very much inclined to doubt whether any such transfer would take place. He did not believe that the people of this country were in the habit of voting in classes at all. The right hon. Gentleman had referred to the combinations which took place among the working classes, and had stated that with the exception of the agitation for the repeal of the corn laws the middle classes had never formed combinations. If the right hon. Gentleman meant not combination but class voting, then he (Mr. Baxter) might be inclined to agree with him, but the fact was, the middle classes had been in the habit of combining for political purposes in all former times. They had combined to carry the Reform Bill, to abolish the Test and Corporation Acts, and to obtain Catholic Emancipation; in fact all the great measures of civil and religious liberty had been mainly duo to combinations among the middle classes. But it did not therefore follow that the persons whom it was proposed to enfranchise would vote as a class. Still, if he granted that such would be the case, he would put it to any Gentleman who really knew the higher class of artisans, whether they were not every whit as intelligent and independent as the shopkeeping class? It was quite true that the higher class of operatives were occasionally misled; but they read the newspapers; they were possessed of much political information; they thought for themselves; and they would, he had no doubt, prove on the whole a very valuable element in our electoral polity. The supporters of the Bill had, however, to face another and a very different sort of opponents—those who said that the measure was of so exceedingly mild a character that it was not worth while to disturb the institutions of the country on its account. Such an objection was intelligible when it came from a chartist, but he was at a loss to understand it when it was put forward by a progressive reformer, and still less when it came from a Conservative. A measure that would bring between 500,000 and 600,000 additional persons within the pale of the constitution could not be very paltry. But its value consisted in this—that if it were passed at the present time it would settle the question for a considerable period, probably for a quarter of a century to come. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) had taken a great deal of credit for the "fancy franchises" in the Bill of his Government. Those franchises might very probably have conferred the right of voting upon certain classes who were extremely well qualified to exercise it; but the right hon. Gentleman forgot the answer which had so often been given to his scheme—its liability to abuse, and the facilities it would have afforded for the creation of fictitious votes. The lodgers' franchise, he might remark, was not a fancy franchise at all. No doubt theoretical objections might be adduced to a simple rental qualification; but there were many parts of the Constitution under which we happily lived of which the same thing might be said. Nevertheless the rental qualification was found in practice to work well, and he (Mr. Baxter) was Tory enough to be disposed, in this respect, to let well alone. One of the Members for the Tower Hamlets had pointed out the other day the inequality of the mode in which the Bill would operate; and he said that he would rather resign his seat than vote for a Reform Bill that would add so little to the number of his own constituents. But there were inequalities in the present system; and the Bill did not make, or even increase, those irregularities. They were a necessary incident in a rental qualification. He regretted that a £6 franchise in the boroughs which he represented would not include that higher class of artisans whom he was so anxious to see members of the electoral body; but he would not on that account oppose or even impede a measure which would certainly have the effect of enfranchising that class in all the chief seats of manufacturing industry. He would then say a few words on what he conceived to be the omissions and the defects of the Bill. He hoped the noble Lord would consider before the Bill went into Committee the propriety of altering the clause relating to the county franchise, as to render it necessary that every county qualification should have upon it a house of the value of £5; because unless that step were taken the great landowners would be enabled to enfranchise their retainers and dependents in a manner not calculated to add strength to the institutions of the country, he regretted that the noble Lord had not seen his way to grapple with the question of the redistribution of seats One word with respect to the Ballot. Without in the least believing that the Ballot would be a panacea for all the corruption that took place in so many constituencies, he failed to feel the force of the numerous objections made to a system which worked well in many institutions in this country. The hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Childers) had shown in his admirable speech a short time ago that it answered in Australia; and he (Mr. Baxter) was able to say from personal observation that it had not been brought into discredit in the United States of America. They heard a great many stories about the turbulence of American elections; but however much those stories might tell against universal suffrage and the tyranny of mob rule, they had nothing whatever to do with the question of the Ballot. In the United States there was far less of real liberty than there was in this country. Men were there dragged at the chariot wheels of party in a manner which no Englishman would tolerate; and in many of the States it was quite obvious, and indeed admitted, that individual freedom of opinion in political matters was almost unknown. There was a republican and a democratic ticket. Those tickets were of different colours, and the voters carried them in their hands, or, as was done the other day in Italy, stuck them in the band of their hats as they went to the poll. That was obviously not secret voting. There was no doubt that the Ballot had been adopted in America simply as a mode of taking the votes as rapidly as possible, and not with a view to secrecy. In some States, indeed, the tyranny of the mob (to which he had already referred as arising from universal suffrage) was used not against the democratic, but against what might be called the conservative section of the electors, so as to prevent the satisfactory working of a system of secret polling. On the subject of the redistribution of the seats, he had been anticipated by the admirable speech of the hon. Member for Huddersfield. The noble Lord talked as if it was proposed to abolish all the small nomination boroughs; but even in the scheme of the hon. Member for Birmingham there were forty or fifty left, which would surely be sufficient to find seats for ministers who might happen to incur the temporary displeasure of more popular constituencies. In the debates on the Bill of the late Government the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, who he hoped had not infected the noble Lord with his views on this point, made a very eloquent defence of the small boroughs, as the only means afforded by the present constitution for the introduction into the House of Commons of men unconnected or unsupported by overpowering aristocratic influence, who were likely to take a leading part in their proceedings at an age when they would be able to go through a proper Parliamentary training; and he supported his argument by a reference to the case of Mr. Pelham, Mr. Pitt, Mr. Fox, Lord Chatham, and Sir Robert Peel. Beautiful as was the theory, it was inconsistent with the facts. He found that Hansard's Debates in 1854 contained a list of sixty-two small boroughs which returned ninety-five Members to Parliament, and which the noble Lord in his Bill of that year proposed partially or altogether to abolish Now, it so happened that Dod's Parliamentary Companion gave the ages of the hon. Members who represented those boroughs; and of the ninety-five hon. Gentlemen there was positively only one that was under twenty-five; six were under thirty; very few were under forty; and the great majority had completed their half century. The fact was easily accounted for. The great families had each but one, or at most but two seats left; and they required them for their own relatives; so that they had none to spare for rising Foxes or Pitts. He (Mr. Baxter) hoped then that the noble Lord would no longer stand in the way of a more complete re-distribation of seats. To few statesmen had it fallen to do so much to strengthen the foundations upon which our social and political privileges rested as the noble Lord. Civil and religious liberty, all must admit, owed much to him; and he (Mr. Baxter) believed that this measure, with all its defects, if passed into a law (as he hoped would be the case) would be regarded by our descendants, not as having detracted from but as having added to his political fame.


said, that the favourite argument urged by those who advocated this Bill was that it Would be wise to deal with the subject in quiet times, for it was said, and said truly, that troublous times would come, and that when they came, as sooner or later they must come, no one could tell what would be demanded, or in what manner it would be demanded. He was anxious, therefore, to take the House with him for a short time to the consideration of this subject, that they might see whether, if this Bill should pass, they were likely to be hereafter relieved from any demand they might be called on to accede to if the Bill were now rejected or materially modified. If he rightly understood this measure it took a second step, and a large step, in advance towards the severance of the representation of the people from the property of the country; it proposed to increase the influence of numbers and decrease the influence of property, and he viewed with a feeling akin to dismay the fact that Parliament was called upon to legislate on that principle for the second time within less than thirty years. Undoubtedly, that was the result, if not the principle, of the first Reform Bill; and let it not be supposed that in saying this he had any desire to offer an adverse criticism on a measure to which, whatever might be the objections originally urged against it, the country had long since sworn allegiance, which had been accepted as the constitution of the country, and which men fondly hoped would bear some analogy, in point of duration at least, to the constitution which it had displaced. But a quarter of a century seemed now to be taken as the extreme measure of the duration of constitutions, and, as had been prophesied, in the lifetime of those who had framed the constitution of 1832, the Conservative party had to stand up for its preservation. As the borough constituencies now stood, they numbered about 400,000 electors, and, excluding the houses which gave the titles to those 400,000 voters, it appeared from the returns that there were within the Parliamentary boroughs about 300,000 houses above the value of £6, that is, 300,000 houses of the value of £6, but under £10, per annum, of which number 100,000 were under the value of £7 per annum. Deducting from that twenty-five per cent for the number of houses which, from some cause or other, did not constitute a franchise, 225,000 electors would be added to the list, of a class entirely below the £10 householders. This certainly was a considerable step towards the severance of representation from property, towards increasing the influence of numbers and diminishing the influence of property; and, as he had said, it was the second change in the same direction made within the last thirty years. The effect which continuous changes of this sort would have on the minds, and habits, and conduct of the people must not be put out of sight in considering this question. "Change," said the judicious Hooker, "is a great ill. It amazeth men, and causeth them to doubt whether anything be of itself good or evil, and whether all things are not rather as men at this or that time do agree to account them." If this were the effect of frequent changes in our ordinary legislation, how serious the consequence of constant alterations in the fundamental principles of our Constitution—in repeatedly changing the hands by which the powers of Government are wielded. The effect of these changes would be to weaken the tics of tradition, and set us loose on a sea of change. Increase of appetite would grow by what it fed upon, and it would be utterly impossible to say where we should stop. It followed, as certain as effect from cause, that this habituating of the public mind to constant innovations in the basis of Government must lead to changes which nobody at present dreamt of proposing. If the present Bill is accepted as it stands, it cannot be doubted that in a short time household suffrage would be a necessity; but would the change stop there? No, we must then go to universal suffrage; then the House of Lords must sustain the attack, and after that the other institutions of the country. That all these things would inevitably follow might be deduced from à priori reasoning alone. But, fortunately this was a case in which the lessons of experience were clear and ample. In such a case it would not be impossible for them to learn by the examples of ancient Greece and Borne, but in the United States they had presented to them, in the plainest manner, the inevitable development of a people, like our own, when left to the Government of a numerical majority. The people of the United States were a kindred race, using the same language, and for the most part having the same religious faith, and drawing their intellectual life from the same literature; and they saw in them the true development of the English blood and race when, loosened from their old traditions, they proceeded to govern themselves by the votes of a majority disregarding the influences of property. They were drawn on step by step from one point to another; and though they often attempted to draw a line at which to stop, they found themselves utterly unable to do so. It would be impossible, however, to contrast or compare the history of the Federal Government of America with our own position and circumstances. The great and wise men who settled that constitution, foresaw the changes that would inevitably come, and that the Union would speedily be broken up if the Democratic powers of the people were left un- checked, and they, therefore, circumscribed them with safeguards. But Her Majesty's Ministers had no such intention in introducing the new constitution of 1860. They trusted to the electors of the new Bill to say whether there should be a further change of suffrage in the year following, or at such other time as they might please. But from the history of the several American States many useful lessons might be learned. Would the House follow him while he attempted a brief sketch of the history of the State of New York; and while he asked what reason there was to suppose that they should not come to the same result under circumstances which were very similar. The constitution of New York, starting in 1777, was reformed in 1821, was reformed again in 1846. Gradually the periods of change became smaller, and by a provision in the constitution of 1846 the question whether it is to receive further Amendment is again to be considered in 1866. What was done in 1821 and 1846 was not done by the ordinary Legislature, but by Convention elected for the special occasion. The Senate of 1777 was a body of twenty-four freeholders. It was a sort of Chamber of Peers. The peerage, it was true, was not conferred by the Sovereign, but by the election of the peers, from amongst themselves. Freeholders, whose freeholds were worth £100, elected the Senate from out of their own body, and there was no exclusion of men of colour. By the constitution, at present, citizenship of ten days was sufficient. Every citizen of ten days' standing, having been an inhabitant of the particular State for twelve months, and of the particular district for four months, was qualified to vote as an elector and to be a senator, but to the exclusion of men of colour both as electors and senators. The electoral franchise for the House of Assembly was, in 1777, what the Bill before the House amounted to, substantially household. A rent of 40s., or ownership and occupation of a freehold of £20 value, rated, and actually paying taxes to the State—this was the franchise in 1777; it got more democratic in 1821; it finally became, in 1846, universal suffrage. Household suffrage was not sufficient. It was said that household suffrage was a broad and distinct line at which we might be able to stop if we should hereafter think we could not safely go beyond. Let America be the test. The attempt had been made there and had failed, Then look at the downward course of their legislation in the appointment of judicial officers. In 1777, a Committee appointed by the Assembly out of the Senate had the power of appointing the Judges. In the regular course of the working of democracy, the people demanded the right to choose their own Judges, and the Judges were now elected by universal suffrage in State districts and in judicial districts, new courts being constituted—a Court of Appeal and a Supreme Court. In 1777 the payment of Members of the Legislatures does not appear to have been suggested; but in 1821 it was thought that a sum, not exceeding three dollars a day, should be allowed to members; and in 1846 the three dollars were made certain, and a dollar allowed for every ten miles as travelling expenses. In the constitution enacted by convention of 1846 would be found the traces of an agrarian law; by the 14th and 15th clauses of the first article of the Constitution, it was provided that no lease or grant of agricultural land, for a longer period than twelve years, in which any rent or service is reserved, should be valid, and that all charges or fines reserved on alienation should be void. It might be said that this was not an agragrian measure, but rather a law to regulate the relation of landlord and tenant, as the landowner could lot the hind for twelve years. But observe, this is not one of the ordinary acts of the Legislature. It is made by this special convention a part of the constitution; and let them turn to the debates which brought about the carrying of those clauses, and they would find their real purport and object. The debates in both the Conventions of 1821 and 1846 were most instructive volumes for English statesmen and politicians. "Mr. Brown voted against the first section, not because he was not friendly to the principle, but because he regarded it as humbug to incorporate in the constitution provisions which were not necessary." With respect to the style of the speeches, they would find that the high tone of debate of the earlier periods was not afterwards maintained. He had not selected the passage on account of its style. Mr. Brown went on to say, "It was in direct opposition to the great principle which had animated all the people of this country, that of the free right of alienation of property. It was a wild project, which no man in his senses out of an anti-rent district would advocate." Mr. Warden followed:—"It had almost become a recognized principle in Western New York that agricultural land should not be leased for more than five years." Mr. Kirkland said, "He believed that these tenures were disastrous to agriculture and the best interests of the State. They also tended to degrade the character of the tenants. This was an opinion which he had formed long before anti-rentism was thought of. He would not for any human inducement violate the right of a single individual, but he believed that the interests of the State would be advanced and the character of humanity elevated in the instance of hundreds without the slightest injury to any one by the adoption of some principle which should induce the landlords to part with their lands to those who occupied and tilled them." The whole course of the discussion showed that there was a project afloat that nobody should own land who did not till it, and it was now part of the constitution of New York that there should be no sale of land which reserved a rent, and no lease reserving rent for more than twelve years. It might be said that it was a vain alarm to suppose such a principle could ever take root in England, but these were men as like ourselves as men could be, who started in 1777 with ideas of a constitution not far different from ours, and who had thus reached the advanced posts of democracy which he had described. Now he would ask, has the result of these democratic changes been satisfactory. Look first to the working of political affairs. The people of New York had political parties; but they cared little or nothing for whom or for what they voted, and were led by a small number who, for their own purposes, traded with them and sold them for place and power. Every thing was managed by the Caucus. Of this he would quote a proof from the second volume of a recent work of Theodore Parker, of Boston, a fearless thinker, and a fearless speaker of his thoughts, a man in whose opinions he (Mr. Rolt) felt no special sympathy, but a man of honour, of learning, and of character. This most acute observer said:— You may take 100 men out of Boston and fifty men from the other large towns in the State, and, if you could get them to be silent till next December and give no counsel on political affairs, the people would not know what to do. The Democrats would not know what to do, nor the Whigs. We are a very democratic people, and suffrage is almost universal; but it is a very few men who tell us how to vote, who make all the most important laws. Do I err in estimating the number at 150? I do not like to exaggerate. Suppose there are 600 men, 300 in each party; those 600 manage the political action of the State in ordinary times. And what was said of Boston was true of New York. Was that a desirable state of things to arrive at? Humiliation enough we had sustained already when political parties were seen bidding against each other for the support of the extreme democratical section. But should we descend to the lower depths of American and democratic politics, and, on a change of Administration, for example, see a general dismissal of officials from the highest to the lowest? Observe next the influence of universal suffrage—for we shall not stop at household suffrage—on the conduct of the Executive of the United States? In reference to their foreign affairs, if the daily journals were to be credited, the conduct of American Administrations towards foreign Powers received its colour on many occasions, not from the genuine opinions of the Government, but from the prejudices and passions of the masses. Of course, there was frequently a struggle on the part of the Government to keep right, but the result often was that their action was dictated by the people. Then as to the home administration, every officer, as he had said, even down to the schoolmaster and the porter, was dismissed at every change of Government, and a new set of officers was introduced. What trading in politics must there be for such a state of things to exist! It could only arise from a few men driving the electors to the poll and then selling them Reappointments in the incoming administration. Then as to the bearing of pure democracy on the administration of justice. He was far from saying that in America the Judges did not duly discharge their duties. He had no recent evidence on the subject; but human nature was human nature; and when Judges were elected by the people for short terms, it was not, at all events, a satisfactory state of things. In England we had determined that our Judges, when once selected, should be above the reach of the Sovereign, above the reach of removal for anything but proved misconduct. Let Judges be liable to be displaced and they became subservient. This was human nature. Then as to its effect on the conduct and character of the members of the Legislature—the dollar for ten miles of travelling—what was the effect of that? The electors chose men of their own class, who were to have not only so many dollars a day, but so many dollars for travelling expenses. Let the House conceive the effect of Members coming to the bar or to the offices of the House to state their mileage, and to give in estimates of their actual or constructive distances of travelling. It was very well to say that we in England should spurn such things; but there in America was a kindred race working out the political system we are invited to follow to its proper results, and the Legislature there has voted itself so many dollars a day for remuneration and so many for travelling expenses. He might here again quote Theodore Parker:— In political office, if you are a senator from California or Oregon, you may draw 'constructive mileage,' and pay yourself two or three thousand dollars for a journey never made from home, and two or three thousand more back to your home. So you filch thousands of dollars out of the public purse, and you are the 'hon. senator' just as before. You have got the money, no matter how. You may be a senator from Massachusetts, and you may take the 'trust fund' offered you by the manufacturers of cotton, and be bound as their 'retained attorney' by your 'retaining fee,' and you are still 'the hon. senator from Massachusetts,' not hurt one jot in the eyes of the controlling classes. If you are Secretary of State, you may take 40,000 or 50,000 dollars from State Street and Wall Street, and suffer no discredit at all. At one end of the Union they will deny the fact as 'too atrocious to be believed;' at this end they admit it, and say it was 'honourable in the people to give it,' and 'honourable in the Secretary to take it.' He did not accept this as conclusive evidence of the corruption existing in the political system of America; but, at all events, either the Legislature or society was so demoralized that one of the foremost writers of that country ventured to make this serious charge. Then, what was the effect of the American constitution upon legislation? What was the course of taxation? The State-tax of New York and the city-tax, were, he believed, collected under one head—quite apart, of course, from the federal taxes—and these local imposts amounted not to 8s. not to 10s. per cent, but to 2 per cent per annum on property. The New York correspondent of The Times, in a letter published in that journal on December 20, 1859, said:— But these shortcomings are confined to one side of the account. On the other side the show of municipal taxation does great credit to the wealth of he city. The taxes and assessments amount to about 2 per cent of the gross valuation. Fancy such a measure of taxation upon an estate yielding 5 per cent per annum. And that this was so was clear from an extract from The New York Herald, which he (Mr. Rolt) held in his hand, as to the amount of taxable property, and the rate of taxation from the year 1841 to 1859. In the city of New York it was shown that the amount of taxable property, which in 1841 was 251,000,000 dollars, had increased in 1859 to 551,000,000 dollars; but the rate of taxation, which, in 1841, was one half-dollar per 100 dollars, was in 1859 upwards of one and three-quarters, so that while the increase in the property was twofold, the increase of taxation was more than threefold. He also thought it important to quote an extract from a private letter from a gentleman now a merchant at Birmingham, who had resided for some years at New York. After describing the nature of the New York Property-tax, he adds— The valuation of personal property is hard enough to get at, but is ridiculously unfair in New York. Real property is of course more fairly valued. This was the result which followed when those who had not the property taxed those who had; and were we not advancing in the same direction? We were giving the power to those who had not the property, and at the same time Government was teaching the new constituencies not only how deficits might be supplied out of income-tax, but how deficits might be created in order to be supplied out of income tax. Was it possible that this lesson would be lost on those to whom it was given? Soon there would be a clamour to exempt incomes derived from trades from the payment of income tax. "Mine is but a life income," it would be said, "and dependent on my own exertions; yours is a fee. How hard to subject these to the same duty!" The argument was so plausible that, with the power to back it, he should wonder if it did not succeed, and in that case he must be allowed to put in a plea for the exemption of professional incomes. It would next follow as inevitable that a majority with small incomes from property, seeing that trade interests must not be mulcted, should claim exemption for small incomes, and so lead to an exclusive charge upon property. With small incomes relieved, with trade incomes exempted, with indirect taxation gradually diminishing, what difference would there be between the income tax and the 2 per cent tax upon property in New York? In the progress of democracy when once the movement in that direction has fairly set in, it was not possible to stop—for the invariable tendency was to advance. He had shown what had taken place among men of our own blood and race when they had once started upon this course. The great men who founded the American constitution in 1777 did not take so low a basis as household suffrage even for their House of Assembly; and there was an Upper Chamber composed of freeholders, elected by freeholders; and yet, when once our American brethren set about reforming their constitution by severing property from representation, and giving preponderance to mere numbers, they found it impossible to pull up at any point short of universal suffrage with all its consequences. Surely the risks he had pointed out were sufficient to make any one hesitate upon a measure of this kind. Upon a former occasion the right hon. Baronet the Member for Herts (Sir E. B. Lytton) had finely said that "democracy was like the grave; it never surrendered what was once given to it." But that was little more than half the truth, for not only did democracy not surrender anything once given, but it never allowed anything to be withdrawn that had once been offered. It would be wise then, before the present offer was finally made by this House, to consider whether there should not be some modification. He was surprised to hear it said that this proposition would settle the question for a quarter of a century. What was that period when they were speaking of a constitution? A century was but little in the history of a constitution. He stood by the constitution of 1832, and he never dreamt, notwithstanding the forebodings of its want of permanence, that those who were instrumental in carrying that arrangement should, in his time, after an interval of less than thirty years, come forward and propose another scheme, which they said might probably last for another thirty years. There was little probability of its duration even for that period; but even if there were, to tamper with constitutions in the hope that your amendments may last for thirty years was a terrible fallacy to act upon. It would still be heaping change upon change, and the appetite for change that grew by what it fed upon would urgently require further and greater satisfaction. Let them proceed in that direction, and universal suffrage must ultimately come despite the monarchy; and the other institutions of the country must stand or fall according to the will of a numerical majority of the people. He might be asked how practically he proposed to deal with the Bill. Personal considerations he had none; party considerations he was free from; he was not cognizant of the course intended to be taken by the party with which he acted, except from what they had to-night heard, although he did not doubt it would be a wise and dignified one; but he objected to the Bill as it now stood upon practical considerations for the country. If the principle of the Bill was calculated and intended to disturb and lower the connection between property and representation, and to give preponderance to numbers merely, then he gave an emphatic nay to the Bill. But for the result of party manœuvres he should not have thought the time had arrived when further change was necessary; but, thanks to the course that had been taken on both sides of the House—although the cry had undoubtedly first and for party purposes arisen from those who were the authors of the last settlement, and who once declared the finality of that settlement—he felt that something must be done. He thought, however, they should adhere to the principles of the Bill of 1832; not by going indefinitely onwards in the same direction, for the House must remember that though a short distance in a certain direction might lead them to pleasant places, yet a further progress in the same direction might lead them into inextricable mire and confusion. The measure of 1832 had fixed the representation of towns and counties, according to their then conditions. Have those conditions changed? Had any of those towns fallen into decay? If that could be shown, then he would be ready to transfer the representatives to other constituencies, or if it could be shown that the people were now better educated, so as to make them competent to understand the principles of government, or that the value of money had changed, and that the class who now live in £6 or £8 houses formerly lived in £10 houses, he would admit the propriety of a change in the franchise. But there was no evidence that any of these things had happened. He did not doubt that those professing extreme opinions approved this measure, and accepted it in its integrity; but how those who affected to regard the constitution as it now exists could upon these facts so support it he could not understand. He believed the effect would be in boroughs, to transfer power from householders of £10 and upwards to householders under £10. It might be said that there had been a great spread of education, and that there was growing enlightenment among the people, but he would again remind the House of the United States. In this country we could never hope, with all our efforts, to do more in the way of education than had been done in America. There they had State schools, and everything that answered the name of popular education, and we could not expect more enlightened constituencies here than in America. There was no reason why we should expect to escape from many of the dangers they had fallen into in America, if we pursued the same course; and the country at large was not prepared to admit the existence of any such misgovernment as called for experimental changes involving such risks. He would urge upon the House to take these things into its serious consideration, and he trusted that in Committee the present measure would be so modified as to remove some of those objections which he had suggested; but as it now stood, he felt it due to himself and due to the constituency which he represented, most unequivocally to protest against it, believing as he did that in its present form it was calculated if not intended to sever the connection which existed between representation and property, and ultimately to place the powers of Government in the hands of a mere majority of the people.


said, that as regards the general supporters of the Government, whose boroughs were affected by this measure, in his view their party ties and local obligations formed a balance, and that they were therefore free to criticise the Bill in that sense, which their view of the public interests dictated to them. Acknowledging the theory of party life, which the noble Lord, the Member for the City, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks, had frequently explained, and having acted on it strictly ever since the general election, he submitted that it had not any force to restrain the Gentlemen who sat for threatened towns from frank discussions of this measure. At the same time his opinion of the measure was in no way influenced by any local circumstances. Those circumstances would only add to his freedom in expressing that opinion. The first remark which naturally strikes an observer on the Bill has been anticipated to-night by the Member for Huddersfield. The Member for Huddersfield observed that although the Bill is designed to settle the representative arrangements of the country, it contains no protection of the voter against illegal influences, and can hardly therefore meet the approbation of the persons who have all along contended that protection of the voter against illegal influences is the first and most essential change in the Reform Act. If the Bill threw discussions on organic change into abeyance, it obviously retarded that protection, and flung it to a greater distance than it was before. If it did not gain that point, and create a respite of those controversies, its purpose was not answered. It was not, however, necessary to dilate upon this topic. Its force was for those alone who deemed such protection of the voter indispensable. But it might be fairly asked by all sections of the legislature how far the scheme was based upon sufficient information. The returns appear upon the whole to be such as to enable us to ascertain in what boroughs the new electors under the six pound franchise will more than double the old electors under the present law. But there are no returns by which we can calculate the position of freeholders in counties compared with that of the electors about to come in under the Chandos clause, extended to ten pounds. No returns exist to illustrate the present number of the freeholders. In 1853–4 they were computed to be 315,196 in England. The return dated 5th March, 1860, gives, exclusive of the represented boroughs, the number of persons rated at ten pounds and upwards as 567,560, making 252,364 the excess of occupying tenants over freeholders, being eighty per cent. The presumption, therefore, is that the freeholders will be in a minority. In 1851 it was distinctly laid down, and warmly argued by the noble Lord the Member for the City, that they ought to be in a majority, and if in 1859 the House of Commons thought it wiser to overthrow a Government than to reduce the number of the freehold voters, and if they took that step at the advice of the noble Lord, they would pause perhaps in 1860, before weakening the rights and overruling the ascendency of that ancient and invaluable body. The Government appear bound to point out distinctly, whether, and in what counties, the freeholders will be reduced to a subsidiary class, under the pressure of a £10 Chandos clause, as yet unsanctioned by the House and unknown to the country, before they can expect the Bill to be adopted. But passing by this question, whoever concurs in the opinion which the hon. Member for Rochdale laid down before his borough in August last, must view with hesitation, perhaps even with regret, the line of policy upon which the noble Lord has entered. The Member for Rochdale laid down in August last, and that for the instruction of the empire, that looking to the temper of the public mind, looking to the fate of former propositions, looking to the boundless difficulties which attend judicious change in the Reform Act, the true course of a statesman was to renounce extensive schemes, and Session after Session to direct his legislative care to those parts of our system in which some practical redress might be applied to some recognized anomaly. In February, 1857, the noble Lord, the Member for Tiverton, publicly announced the same opinion in his place. The great dissatisfaction which the Bills of 1852, 1854, and 1859 created, and which the present Bill creates, so far as we can at present judge of its reception, are the strongest testimony to the wisdom of that counsel. The case with which the Irish Franchise Bill of 1850 was discussed and carried through the Houses should also be regarded as a monument to the good sense of that line which the hon. Member for Rochdale and the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton had advocated. The hon. Gentleman then pointed to the prudent and effective manner in which the Member for Rochdale had impressed this view upon the large body of electors and non-electors whom he addressed in August last, so as to bring it home to their minds rather by the force of illustration than of argument. It occurred to him that the policy of the Member for Rochdale was calculated to secure Reform without a dissolution. The policy of the noble Lord had more than once tended to a dissolution without Reform. The policy of the Member for Rochdale was confirmed and sanctioned by experience; the experience of the Irish Franchise Bill of 1850. The policy of the noble Lord was exposed and reprimanded by experience, the experience of 1852, 1854, and 1859. The policy of the Member for Rochdale was likely to avert a complication in our foreign policy. The policy of the noble Lord was likely to create the moment when such a province as Savoy might be annexed by such a power as France with the greatest possible impunity and safety. If this view was just, by far the most interesting point to be discussed about the measure, was how far would it be permanent. Nothing but its permanence can justify departure from the mode of action which the Member for Rochdale and the first minister enforced. Nothing but its permanence can justify the House of Commons in incurring the public evils of a general election in the autumn. The point which agitates all men who look into the subject is not of how many voters will it add, but how many years will it maintain itself? Those who think this measure leads to permanence naturally favour it. Those who have not any faith in its stability are less inclined to do so. These are some of the grounds on which its permanence may be disputed. Mr. Campbell then contended that it took away none of the causes which had led to the disturbance of the system of 1832, such as physical distress among the lower orders, commercial panics in the middle class, and European agitation like that of 1830 and 1848, which produced a general uneasiness among the masses of our people. But these causes, although deep and undeniable, were too remote to be enlarged upon. A far more obvious and effective cause of agitation against the Act of 1832 was the power of the hon. Members below the gangway to overthrow governments, Conservative or Liberal, unless they made a serious departure from that Act. It was perfectly notorious that this power, and this power alone, brought about the Bill of 1852, the Bill of 1854, the Bill of 1859, and the present measure. If the present measure does not extend, it will not at least reduce the power of the hon. Members below the gangway. Neither does it satisfy them, if we may credit their expressions on the 1st March, or remove their wish to exercise in favour of organic change, the power I adverted to. So long as the hon. Members below the gangway had other objects to pursue, they demanded organic changes with comparative indifference. When other objects were exhausted, their activity for these ends would no longer be restrained. For twenty years from the Reform Act the Members below the gangway were united with the Whig party by a long series of legislative pur- poses which both desired to obtain; when those purposes were reached there was nothing to subdue and cover their vital and essential differences as to the mode in which that House ought to be called into existence by the people. The hon. Members below the gangway had then no choice except to be inactive—and their position shrank from such inaction—or else to agitate for organic changes which the Whig party could not, without a sacrifice of honour and principle, accede to. If this Bill revived slavery in our colonies, corruption in our town councils, abuses in our poor laws—if it re-enacted prohibitory duties upon corn, and reposed restraints upon navigation—if it shut up trade with India and with China—if it took away the self-government of our Colonies, the cheapness of our postage, the extent of our markets—it would then doubtless re-unite the hon. Members below the gangway in their ancient bonds with the Whig party. It would then put an end to the demand for organic changes during a long period. Objectionable as it was it could not be charged with all these tendencies. It left the hon. Members below the gangway under the same necessity to demand organic change as it found them since it withheld the greater part of those which they demanded, and did not give them any pleas for ceasing to demand them. But to come to practical details, was it likely that a ten pound franchise could be defended in the counties, when its instability had just been shown in the boroughs? It would no longer be possible to maintain it on the ground that the advantage of the freeholders required its preservation, as the advantage of the freeholders would already have been sacrificed and their predominance removed. A large party in the State, although not bound by the opinion, have adventured the opinion that uniformity of suffrage in the counties and the boroughs is desirable. After what has taken place they are not bound by such a dogma, but they cannot maintain a ten pound suffrage in the counties against some future Member for East Surrey, who asks you to extend it to six pounds, with as much force as otherwise they would do. As regards the six pound franchise in the boroughs it does not coincide with any natural division of society, it excludes the body of the working classes and it can never have the prestige which surrounded the arrangements of 1832. Should a cry be raised against it, that cry would have a good deal of sympathy within the limit, because the limit includes many whoso poverty inclines them to favour all kinds of social change. Should a cry be raised against it (and it is certain that there will be one), that cry will not be easily resisted. Men will not stand against the torrent of a popular demand unless they stand behind the shelter of an epoch or a principle, and it is clear that they will not stand behind either of these barriers. But although it cannot be defended as a guarantee for permanent tranquillity, does the Bill or does it not lessen the main defects of the Reform Act. I mean by the main defects of the Reform Act those defects which experience has opened, and which are equally apparent as well as equally repugnant to the party who resisted, and to the party who created it. The first of these defects (and in 1832 it was not possible to calculate it) is that the borough franchise is equal on the one hand, and uniform on the other. From its being uniform it is not easy to uphold, from its being equal it is not easy to reduce it. Being the only door of the Constitution, the excluded classes naturally agitate against it. Being equal, if you lower it to any great extent you expose the boroughs to the sway of a numerical majority. Two remedies are possible. By those auxiliary tests which former Bills contained, you may open other avenues to that elective right of which the people are desirous. Or by giving more votes to men above ten pounds than to men beneath that limit you may extend that limit without injustice to the middle classes of society. The Bill takes neither course. It does nothing to fortify the household test by barriers of a nature to reduce the pressure which encroaches on it. It does nothing to make it safer and more possible directly to extend it. It merely substitutes a six pound for a ten pound limit. And all who reflect will see that a six pound limit is more difficult to guard as it is more dangerous to reduce. The Bill, therefore, aggravates this evil. The next defect in the Reform Act which experience has opened, and which was not anticipated at the time, was the vast corruption of our boroughs. It appeared to arise mainly from the evenness of parties, the severity of contests, and the desire of seats in Parliament which the Bill would leave unaltered. But unfortunately the Bill would give a new incentive to it. Transferring power from the middle classes to the lower classes in a large number of towns (and this was proved by the statistics), it left the former but one mode of recovering the influence it took away from them. Beyond this it made it easy to indulge the desire it created and act upon the view it opened. No man would have the boldness to contend that in represented towns the electors from ten to twenty pounds were less firm and incorruptible than the same class in any part of our country No man could have the boldness so unjustly to traduce a class which has many virtues in spite of one deficiency. Still less would any one presume to argue that electors from ten to twenty pounds were less firm against pecuniary seduction than electors between ten pounds and six pounds would be found. In a word, therefore, the Bill extended the number of corruptible electors in the boroughs; it created a body of corruptible electors in the counties; it gave new motives to the use of wealth for buying votes, and it withheld protection from illegal influences. It therefore seemed to aggravate corruption, the most fatal blemish which experience has opened in the system of 1832. The only further vice in the Reform Act which he desired to refer to was that since that era much more than in previous times men of Parliamentary position had been excluded from the House of Commons, not by the public voice, but against the public wishes. It might be described in other words, that a concurrence of opinion in the House and in the country on the right of any man to sit in Parliament is no security that such a man will be returned to it. The facts which placed this proposition beyond the scope of doubt were very easy to be stated. Between 1688 and 1833 there were only four great cases of political exclusion. Since 1832, less than thirty years, each section of the House has had almost as many losses of this nature as the whole State incurred during the hundred and forty years preceding The Gentlemen below the gangway have been deprived of the services of Sir William Molesworth for four Sessions, of the Member for Rochdale for two Sessions, of the Member for Birmingham one Session. The supporters of the late Sir Robert Peel had to lament the absence of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1846 and 1847, besides others in other times who had held important posts under their leader. The present Opposition had been for ten years without the lustre and advantage which the right hon. Baronet the Member for Hertfordshire was able to confer upon them. As regards the Whig party, their losses had been yet more extensive. The present Lord Carlisle, long after he had filled the higher offices of State, was for many years, from 1841, excluded as Lord Morpeth. Far more impressive was the notorious and melancholy fact that Lord Macaulay, thrown out of Parliament in 1847, was forced to retire from the Cabinet by his unmerited exclusion, and that the State for ever lost his talents as a Minister. To crown all, the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department was excluded from the House of Commons in 1853 and in 1854, although very soon after a state of affairs arose, in which some distinguished persons having left the Government, a costly war, involving the fate of Europe and the honour of the country, could only he sustained by his financial exertions. No man would be found to say that the greater part of the exclusions he had pointed to were sanctioned by the opinion of the people or of Parliament. No man would be found to say that Parliamentary and national opinion would not have hastened to correct them if they had had the power so to do. The proposition therefore was correct that, under the Reform Act, general elections, although an efficient engine for representing the opinions which prevailed, were an ineffective engine for bringing into the House of Commons all the men who ought to be there. He did not wish to go into the consequences of that remarkable anomaly. He wished to go into the question of how this Bill would influence it. More than one course was open to the noble Lord. The noble Lord might in the first place have profited by the vacant seats of Sudbury and St. Alban's, so far as to construct a plan for giving Parliamentary and national opinion the means of placing in the House, after a general election, those whose exclusion it was not willing to submit to. Or, if he felt unequal to this political achievement, the noble Lord, by leaving the four seats in abeyance, might have left the possibility of afterwards contending with the evil. Or he might remove the chance of future remedy, but yet refuse in any manner to extend a disorder by which public life was weakened and degraded. The Bill does not in any way propose to remedy the evil. As it disposes of the four vacant seats, it does not leave the future possibility of doing so. It does not leave the evil as it is, but, on the contrary, extends it. It removes five-and-twenty seats which are open to political capacity, whatever quarter it may come from. Only five of which will be replaced by seats of such a character. It is not pretended that the counties to which new Members will be added, or the large towns to which new Members will be added, are likely to be open to the generality of candidates. The counties will no doubt be open to those who have property within them, and the large towns to those who are locally connected with them, or who are ready to become their organs in the House. These points will not admit of proof; but they admit an easy illustration. When the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department was without a seat in 1853 and 1854—to the scandal of reflecting men and to the loss of the community—would he have ever dreamt of proposing to stand at a vacancy in any of the counties to which the Bill transfers what it takes away from these five-and-twenty boroughs? Would he have felt the slightest interest, or would his friends have felt it, upon hearing that at Birmingham, or Manchester, or Leeds a contest was about to happen. But at which of the five-and-twenty boroughs to be deprived of seats might be not have come forward with at least a reasonable chance of being elected? The noble Lord destroys in the sum total twenty avenues by which Parliamentary ability may reach the House of Commons, as he removes five-and-twenty open seats, and only forms five which come into that class. He adds, therefore, to the evil which of all others he was bound to put an end to, or to mitigate. Mr. Campbell was well aware that to form an adequate opinion of the Bill, other topics should be mentioned. It ought to be compared with the Bills of 1852, 1854, and 1859. It ought to be considered how far it tallies with the recorded judgment of any section in the Cabinet. Its origin in the events of 1851 ought to be scrutinized. The consummation in our history to which it points ought to be weighed. He would not enter into topics so full of moment and of delicacy; not only from a sense of inability to treat them, not only from a wish to spare the House, but because no man would be warranted in touching them unless he intended to oppose the second reading of the Bill. He had not risen to oppose the second reading of the Bill. He rose only to prevent its being read a second time until he had imperfectly submitted to them that in- tended to deny protection to the voter, and to overwhelm the forty-shilling freeholders, that it departed from the wise policy which the First Minister and the Member for Rochdale had traced out for our adoption, that it afforded no kind of guarantee for the permanence so anxiously desired, while it palpably enhanced the three well-known defects of the Reform Act. The noble Lord, in spite of all his Parliamentary abilities, was not able on the 1st of March to recommend the scheme as having any tendency to bring about the further elevation of the House, And in the course of the debate, as yet none of those who reflected the opinion of large numbers out of doors had ventured to support it as calculated to ensure the satisfaction of the people.


said, some remarkable features were presented by the debate as far as it had that evening proceeded. Three speeches had been delivered upon the Ministerial side of the House each one of which differed in many essential particulars. The hon. Gentleman, Mr. Campbell, who had just spoken, was evidently disposed to regard the Bill under discussion with a suspicion and dislike which seemed to be not a little prevalent on that side of the House to which the hon. Gentleman belonged, while the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) looked upon the Bill as calculated to settle the question of reform for the next, twenty-five years. It was to be hoped that he was right. A different view of the matter had, however, been taken by the hon. Gentleman who opened the debate on the Ministerial benches, for he was of opinion that the work which engaged the House of Commons to-day might to-morrow occupy its attention. Now, the opinion thus expressed he (Mr. Liddell) regarded as presenting a true description of the measure, and, that being so, he deemed it a point well worthy of consideration who the workmen were to be whom we were about to employ. The noble Lord by whom the Bill had been introduced had last year laid it down as a principle that, in attempting the work of Parliamentary reform, endeavour should be made to discover those persons most competent to exercise political power, and, the discovery being made, that on those persons political power ought to be conferred. That he (Mr. Liddell) looked upon as a sound principle; and, with the kind indulgence of the House, he would examine the Bill of the noble Lord with a view of ascertaining how far that principle had been carried into effect. The Bill proposed to extend the borough franchise to occupiers of houses whose rental was £6, and it coupled with that occupancy the payment of rates. Now, that was a basis which he regarded as being at once unsubstantial, unsound, and ill-defined. The occupier of a £6 house ought, no doubt, legally speaking, to pay his own rates; but by custom and convenience the law was in that respect practically set at defiance; for not only in the case of £6, but of £8, £10, and even £15 houses, the rates were frequently and generally, as regards the first class of tenements, compounded for by the landlord. But he might be told that that objection would be obviated, and that after the passing of the Bill the condition of the payment of rates would be complied with in order to secure the advantages which the possession of the franchise was calculated to confer. It was well known that landlords were allowed to compound for the description of property to which he alluded: because in most instances the tenants were so poor that their effects would not cover the expense of a distraint upon them for the amount due in the event of the law being put in force. Were those persons competent to exercise the franchise in the manner the noble Lord desired? He did not deny that there were intelligent artizans among the £6 occupiers who might well be admitted to the franchise, but there was also a vast number of poor dependent persons, such as he had mentioned, who were not qualified to exercise the franchise. Again, when a landlord compounded for the rates, he was allowed to compound at one-half the value of the property; but in the case of a tenant claiming to pay his own rates, he would be assessed upon two-thirds. Therefore there were strong reasons to suppose that many of the classes whose rates were now compounded for and paid by the landlord might not be anxious to exercise the franchise, if coupled with the condition contained in the Bill. The basis of this Bill was unsubstantial; and its probable results had been ably pointed out by an hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Rolt), who drew an effective contrast between English and American institutions. He (Mr. Liddell) objected to the Bill, because it was a common mode of dealing with a difficult question. It was easy enough to calculate that there would be so many voters at £6, and so many at £7, but from what point could they start which would not land them by that process in the great numerical difficulty—how, with the adoption of the numerical principle, could they prevent the towns from obtaining an unfair share of the representation? There was another reason why he objected to the Bill, and that was that its tendency would be, by lowering the franchise, virtually to throw the representation of many large and important towns into the hands of the mob. He did not use that term in an invidious or offensive sense; he merely meant the least wealthy, least educated, and least independent portion of the community. Before taking a step of that kind they ought to pause. If it was necessary to reduce the borough franchise to £6 why not base it on direct taxation? This might be clone by extending the operation of the present house tax from £20 to £6. A scheme of this kind would have peculiar advantages. It would, in the first place, couple the possession of political power with the payment of Imperial taxation. It would enable them to get rid at once of the whole expense of the registration courts, the receipt given by the tax-gatherer serving as the voter's claim to be registered. The moral effects of the system would also be beneficial. There was reason to believe that very extensive fraud was now perpetrated in order to conceal the real value of a £20 house, and enable the occupier to escape the payment of the tax; but that temptation would in a great measure be removed by the plan he now suggested, namely, by materially lowering the escaping value. This scheme had been received with considerable favour by persons of all shades of political opinion in the part of the country to which he belonged, and it had this additional recommendation,—that by bringing the great mass of inhabited houses within the scope of the house-tax, though at a reduced rate, (for it might be reduced to £6 and £4, instead of £9 and £6, as now), when applied below the present minimum, it would become no inconsiderable source of revenue. With reference to the county franchise, he contended that by placing it so low as was contemplated by this Bill they would materially change the whole character of the constituency. He complained that they had not been furnished with any sort of returns from which they could acquire any adequate notion of the extent to which this Bill would lead them. It would be almost madness to adopt the changes introduced I by this Bill without more specific informa- tion than had yet been laid on the table. The country was apathetic, because contented with the existing Parliamentary system; hut, because the country was apathetic, don't let the representatives of the country be so, or legislate in regard to this measure with blinded eyes. The further they proceeded from the landmarks which the sagacity of their forefathers had set up the more uncertain and dangerous became the ground, and in admitting the working classes to the exercise of the suffrage, they ought to take care that the rights at least of our most important interests, those namely, of property and intelligence, should be preserved. They were about, in order to obtain an object, which was a good object in itself, to open a new spring, and they could not tell whether the waters of that spring might turn out sweet or bitter waters. He should not oppose the second reading of the Bill, reserving the full right to adopt in Committee such modifications or alterations as might appear necessary.


said: Mr. Speaker, I am, in one respect, in the same position as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire. I do not rise for the purpose of proposing that the House should divide against the second reading of this Bill; but I differ from the right hon. Gentleman very much in another particular. I shall not, in the observations I am about to make, endeavour to convince the House that this Bill is a very dangerous, if not a fatal measure. On the contrary, I wish to discuss it in the spirit of a person who is very anxious for a sound and useful measure of Parliamentary Reform, and willing to make considerable allowances for the difficulties which the Government and the House must feel in dealing with the question. I think the second reading of the Bill, although not to be opposed, offers an occasion which it is very desirable the House should avail itself of, to discuss the question not only in its principles, but in its details, and, in fact, I think that the principle of a Bill of this nature is rather to be found in its general details than in any particular clause. From observing what has been said in the House to-night, and also what is said out of doors upon it, it is quite clear that the Bill is met by two kinds of objectors. The one consists of persons who object to it, because it goes much too far, and there is another class which objects because the Bill does not nearly go so far as they would wish it to go. Now, I shall not oppose it, and shall not even condemn it on either of those grounds, because I regard it as a measure which is in some degree offered to the House as the fulfilment of a pledge which was entered into by the Government at its formation, and which was explained to the House during the existence of Lord Derby's Administration, by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, when he was sitting on the benches opposite. The noble Lord on that occasion said, that if he should be in a position to deal with this question, he should differ from the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman who was at that time Chancellor of the Exchequer, and that he should also differ from a scheme which I had taken some trouble to explain to the country, and that he would offer to the House a Bill which should propose to extend the county franchise to, £10 occupiers, and the borough franchise to £6 occupiers. He further said, with regard to the distribution of seats, that he should not propose to deal with more than twenty-five or thirty seats. Well, they who have seen the Bill, and have heard the noble Lord's explanation of it, must, I think, agree that the pledge which the noble Lord made, and which the Government, I presume, accepted when he joined it, has been in the main fulfilled. With regard to the question of the distribution of seats: I am one of those who for many years have held the opinion that it would be much better to have this question of Reform approached by successive steps. The difficulty—a notorious difficulty—(I am making no admission I may not as well make)—the notorious difficulty is the disfranchising of fifty or sixty small boroughs which ought to be got rid of. I agree with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Inverness in what he said upon the subject to-night. The difficulty is felt to be so great that every Government has for some time past felt itself incompetent to arrange it. I took the liberty of recommending the noble Lord, I suppose one year and a half ago, and have done it since repeatedly and publicly, that the Reform Bill that should be introduced should be a Bill that should only settle the question of the suffrage, and that it should do it simply and generously. And I thought that after that had been done, both this House and the country would be better prepared to give their attention to the question of the small boroughs; and we might perhaps come to a more satisfactory arrangement. I make this explanation more for the sake of showing that I am not bound to throw blame on a Bill because it is not a Bill for a great disfranchisement of boroughs that should not return Members, and a great enfranchisement of others which should return them, I regard the Bill simply as it is—a Bill for the extension of the suffrage in boroughs and counties. It does not touch more than just the outside of the question of disfranchisement. [Ironical cheers from the Opposition.] It does not settle it. I am only telling hon. Gentlemen what they are conscious of. It does not settle the question: it rather unsettles it. It adds one more precedent to the precedent of 1832, and suggests the necessity of a further change in reference to Parliamentary Reform, and I need not disguise from the House, what I have frequently stated elsewhere, that I have considered the question of a transfer of Members, or of seats from the little boroughs to large constituencies of counties and boroughs—I consider that to be the very pith and marrow of the question of Parliamentary Reform. With regard to this Bill being too extensive, I find that the hon. Member who spoke last was a little alarmed. The right hon. Gentleman opposite has succeeded in perplexing his followers. He felt the inconvenience of discussing the question, and he then turned to us, and wished to make it appear that, after all, there was something very dreadful in this Bill, as if he really believed that this was a measure beyond that which the Government ought to have proposed, and beyond that which the Government expected Parliament to pass. I am surprised that any man should oppose this Bill on account of the number of persons to whom it gives votes. Parliamentary representation must either be a sham or a reality. What must it be in a country like this, where you have not more than a million voters? You have more on the register it is true, but if you deduct those who have double votes, I believe that you will not find more than a million voters in Great Britain and Ireland, who would on any one given day be entitled to conic to the poll and give a vote for Members of this House. If that be so, and if there are seven millions of adult men in the United Kingdom, can it be said that the population is treated with generosity or liberality by this House? Then we must recollect, further, that over a great number of the counties the representation is almost as good as dead. It is not the electors of the counties who elect, but a few large landowners. There are few contests, and there is no bribery. Corruption, as it exists in some boroughs, is hardly known, but coercion has done its work. True, those who pay nothing for their seats must feel it to be a matter of pleasure, in contradistinction to those who have to pay; but there is no doubt that a great bulk of county electors have not even the liberty to soil themselves. If one half of the constituencies of counties be in this position, we all feel that, with regard to pretty nearly half the boroughs in the kingdom, coercion and corruption do their work, and that a real bonâ fide honest representation is not obtainable from the population in these small boroughs. If that be so, then, I want to ask hon. Gentlemen who are alarmed at this Bill—I speak as I usually do with great moderation; the House knows that I should be glad of a much more extensive measure, but any advice which I shall give to the House on the subject will be dictated not by any opinion I may have with regard to what I wish if everybody agreed with me, but what I consider at this moment it is possible and wise for Parliament to grant—I say, do hon. Gentlemen opposite generally believe that a million of voters among seven millions of men is a satisfactory state of things? Is it safe or is it wise? The hon. and learned Gentleman who spoke from the Bench opposite a short time ago (Mr. Rolt) really appealed to the House as if the sky were about to fall. He asked you where you were going to. He asked when you intended to pull up—"pull up" was the phrase he used—a phrase which we all understand. I can tell the hon. and learned Gentleman that if he talks of pulling up, there are two can play at that game, and that he will find himself pulled up a great deal sooner than the great bulk of the people of England will be pulled up, when it is proposed to add 300,000 or 400,000 electors to the present limited number you have on the lists. Besides, as the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Buckinghamshire, in speaking last Session, told the House—he was then rather wild in his statements, it would appear—the Government was in extremis. it was necessary to get votes, if he could, on this side the House—he told us that he was going to add at least half a million. The then Chancellor of the Exchequer went so far as to say that his proposition would double the constituencies of the kingdom. I do not say he did not believe this himself—there is no very accurate return, and there is very little information in regard to his "fancy" franchises, and therefore nobody could tell; but I am sure that his speech was so far from the reality that the result would have entirely disappointed him, as it would the House and the country. Now this Bill of the right hon. Gentleman would have given, according to his statement, 500,000 voters. This present Bill promises rather less, but I think it is likely to do considerably more, not than he promised by his Bill, but than what he would have effected by it. Now, we are told by the hon. Member who spoke last (Mr. Liddell) of the great increase that would arise in certain places, and the right hon. Gentleman, with great fidelity, stated certain facts which had appeared in some loading articles of The Times during the last few days upon the subject. We all know there is nobody in the world so capable of discerning mares' nests as those who conduct The Times newspaper. They make it out that every one who has now a vote is to be put under an extinguisher, that you will never hear any more of them in the large boroughs, and that the new constituencies will be the only constituencies left. Now, what is the case at present with some of the largest towns in England? Take the borough of Liverpool. There you have a borough with 80,000 houses, but yon have a constituency of only 18,000 electors. Manchester has 70,000 houses and 19,000 electors. Birmingham has 50,000 houses and 9,000 electors. Do you mean to say that this restriction upon the right of voting is tolerable, or that it will be tolerated? Is it a thing you can justify by any kind of logic? Or can you say it is dangerous to enfranchise a large additional number of them without uttering a most fearful libel upon the great body of your countrymen? If you have a great people whom you have excluded from the franchise, and you open the door by this Bill, you will have a greater number of electors. But have we argued, have we clamoured for the Bill? Have we convinced all the country, and finally Parliament, unless we expect some constituencies are to be greatly enlarged? If you choose to divide the towns as I have elsewhere proposed, the constituencies would be less large; and probably some inconveniencies which arise from large numbers voting for one or two Members might be thus avoided; but that would not be objected to by those who are in favour of reform, and I hardly think it would be objected to by those who are against reform. I find the number of voters that are to be enfranchised by this Bill is really very small. The right hon. Gentleman opposite made several blunders in stating the figures. He said, for example, in speaking of one class, that they were 257,000. That is not the correct number; it is 215,000. Now, taking the whole number of £6 householders in boroughs, and deducting them from the present number of electors in the boroughs, this Bill does not add more than 162,000. The number, as compared with the whole number of the population, is ridiculous and almost contemptible. Throughout the whole of the boroughs you do not increase the franchise more than 40 per cent. If we turn to the counties, the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Liddell) says there are no figures by which he can ascertain the exact number of the electors. He does not know where he can find the exact number of electors. Now, what does it signify whether the number be 20,000 or 50,000, or 100,000 more or less? Is the voter some pestilent creature that you want to put out of existence, or one of your countrymen you ought to take by the hand and ask to be a participator in the great and noble work of administering through Parliament the government of a great empire? Now, taking the whole number of county occupiers from £10 up to £50 a year, the returns show there are about 400,000; but you have to deduct from that number a great many persons, for instance all women who are occupiers, who will make one-fifth, if not one-fourth, of the whole number. [A laugh.] The hon. Gentleman who laughs does not know the figures. There are cities in this country in which nearly one-third of the occupiers are women, and if the hon. Gentleman would go into the facts he would find that this is strictly true. Then, if you deduct all the occupiers of £50 a year, and upwards, and all those who are freeholders, and several others whom I need not stop to particularize, in all probability the number qualified in counties would be found to be considerably under 200,000. The right hon. Gentleman opposite estimated them last year at 200,000. My opinion was then, and it is now, that if this Bill passes it will not add to the county franchise in England and Wales more than 150,000 electors. Bear in mind that the Bill of 1832 was—and this was its blot—an absolute exclusion of the working classes. I speak of those persons who live by their daily work, and who receive their wages weekly, fortnightly, or at short periods. If you wish to maintain that system, do so boldly. You say there is no clamour for Reform. But let Lord Derby in the House of Lords, and the right hon. Gentleman in this House, on behalf of their party, declare, like those who were the leaders of that party thirty years ago, that there shall be no Parliamentary Reform, and that the working classes shall not be admitted to the franchise, and I will undertake to say there would be whirlwind enough in a short time, and that they would be glad to have rather less clamour. But if you wish not to exclude them, let us admit them. If you admit them, how many will you admit? Would you admit less than are likely to be admitted by this Bill? I think the whole number of persons admitted to the borough franchise by this Bill, according to my calculations, really does not appear to be more than from 160,000 to 170,000 voters? How many of those are working men? Of those who live in houses of the annual rent of from £6 to £10, my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield has shown that one-fourth of the whole number in boroughs pay between £8 and £10. Therefore you should deduct one-fourth from that number, in order to find the number rightly to be classified as working men. Altogether out of the whole number now excluded in the boroughs of England and Wales from the franchise, not more than 100,000 are men who may strictly be considered as working classes according to the definition I have given who will be admitted by this Bill. If that be so, to reject this Bill would be to invite them to the door of this House and to the door of the polling booth, and then to slam it in their faces. That would be a rash and perilous proceeding, and you ought very much rather go with the noble Lord, or even for any more extensive measure than take such a step as that, and so set yourselves, in the face of public opinion, and in the face of the claims and the rights of the great body of the people. The right hon. Gentleman and some others have dwelt largely upon the question of swamping the counties. It might be a sufficient answer to that statement to say this, that all those boroughs where you say the present constituencies are going to be swamped are in favour of this Bill. Therefore they do not believe in the peril you describe. If you turn back, and I dare say the right hon. Gentleman has turned back, to the discussions of 1832, you will find that every conceivable argument against reform was then brought forward by Sir Charles Wetherell and Mr. Wilson Croker. It will be found that calculations were then made that the voters between £10 and £25, being more numerous than those above them, would swamp the rest of the constituencies; and that the merchants, bankers, clergy, manufacturers, the principal traders and professional men, being inferior in number to a class much inferior to them in other respects, power would thus be handed over to the humblest and most dependent classes in the constituencies about to be made. But we have never heard of any of those classes being swamped, I have been in a good many boroughs—I have represented three boroughs, and I have never found any complaint on the part of the richest classes there of having been swamped. For example, there is the case of Coventry, the borough represented by my right hon. Friend. There are there 4,300 freemen, and 1,200 electors of £10. I never heard it alleged that the freemen of Coventry swamped the £10 householders, or that my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend his colleague did not represent as fairly the householders as the freemen of that ancient city. The fact is, the whole of this is a childish fear. There is no foundation for it. It is the offspring of privilege and monopoly. But if you come to the class you are about to admit, you will find opinions differ just as much among them as among the people above them. They differ in their prejudices, in their interests. They are divided into sides upon questions of religion, politics, and municipal affairs, just as the classes above them are divided; and they are subjected, as we know, to the influence of association, to the influence of character to the influence of wealth and opinion, and to all those powers that direct and influence the course of society and every individual in society. As to swamping, hon. Gentle-men opposite ought not to be much afraid of swamping. Well all know that half-a-dozen landowners will swamp a whole county. That is a notorious and an admitted fact; but we never yet heard that in a large and free constituency there has over been an instance of a party in it being able to swamp the fair and legitimate influence of the other classes as- sociated with them in the franchise. The other class of arguments against the Bill is that it is not extensive enough. Here I find it much more difficult to argue with them. I think that is a very rational objection after the figures I have stated. In the boroughs of England and Wales the adult men, according to the Parliamentary returns, are about one million and three-quarters. You have now 440,000 electors. You are about to add 160,000, making the number 600,000. You will have therefore in the boroughs of England and Wales about one man in three who has a vote. But looking to the United Kingdom, there are 6,000,000 of families, and only 1,000,000 voters. After this Bill, allowing it will raise the number to a million and a half, and it is much more than the truth, you will still have left four millions and a half of adult men out of the twenty-two and a half millions of population, without any votes whatever. Yet you call yourselves; constitutional Government, governing by means of Parliament; you blame the noble Lord for the course he is taking, when he asks you to come up to a point which will still leave twenty-two and a half millions of men, women, and children, who have no vote in the election of Members of Parliament. Surely that will bring comfort to the hon. Gentleman who spoke from the Opposition side of the House. That parsimony in giving votes is a mistake on the part of the Government; this distrust is unfounded; the character of the population would justify the House in taking a more liberal view, and proceeding further than the noble Lord has proposed that we should proceed. But if this be only a partial act of justice, I think I may say there is a large amount of acquiescence in favour of the measure. I am not able to refuse it, when from 300,000 to 400,000 in boroughs and counties will be admitted by it to the franchise, because the number admitted is not double. With regard to the measure of free trade, we took a considerable step in 1842; again in 1846 we took another step; again in 1853 we took another, and now at length the great work is accomplished. This admission to the franchise will give a large amount of satisfaction, but the time win come when for these twenty-two and a half millions of people you will again have to open your door and admit some further number to a participation in the rights that the constitution would seem to offer far more generously than the House seems to wish to do. With regard to these boroughs, I will tell the House a few facts for the consolation of the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, who is sorely afflicted at what is about to take place. They have reference to the influence of those large boroughs and of the large class of voters within them. Hon. Gentlemen seem to think with regard to those boroughs that some great democratic step is about to be taken that would affect the next Parliament. Look to the other side—look at the small boroughs. By the Bill I prepared last year, and which I would have presented to the House, were it not that the right hon. Gentleman opposite and the noble Lord anticipated me, in their anxiety to be first to legislate on this question, I proposed that boroughs with a population under 16,000 should have one Member each, and that boroughs with a population under 8,000 should be disfranchised. The boroughs with a population under 16,000, beginning with Berwick-on-Tweed, are 101, returning 166 Members. At present the whole number of electors in these 101 boroughs amount to 81,000, and the number to be added amounts to 17,000. The present average constituency of all those boroughs is 610; and the average new electors to be added will be 176. Therefore, in these 101 boroughs, the Bill of the noble Lord will not add quite 30 per cent. I now come to a lower class still; the boroughs beginning with Woodstock, of which there are 54. Those 54 boroughs return 85 Members, and the electors are 22,000. The number to be added would be 5,000. The average of the electors in those 54 boroughs is now 420, and the new voters in each will average 102. In those 54 boroughs the Bill will add less than 25 per cent to the electors. Well, I am sorry it is so; but this shows that those boroughs are in such a condition that no extension of the franchise by a Reform Bill of any kind can help them out of that condition which calls for the interposition of the House to disfranchise them and transfer their Members to some larger places. The right hon. Gentleman will see how ill-treated the great boroughs are from this fact, that if you take 101 boroughs, including Berwick-on-Tweed, and those below it, they will return, under this Bill, 141 Members to Parliament—that is within nine Members of one-half of all the Members of the boroughs of England and Wales. If you look to the number of electors they have, and to the number of electors in the other boroughs, you will see how impossible it is that this question should remain permanently in the position you are about to place it by this Bill. From the return of the Poor-law Board it appears that the constituencies of fourteen of the largest boroughs in England and Wales under this Bill would amount to 262,000. Those 101 boroughs of which I have spoken, have a constituency of 79,000. But the fourteen boroughs, with a constituency of 262,000, have only 32 Members, while the 79,000 electors in the 101 boroughs have 141 Members. The 54 boroughs, including Woodstock and those lower than it, have 27,000 constituency, and return 60 Members to the House. So that 101 boroughs, with less than one-third of the electors, have four times the number of Members, and fifty-four boroughs with less than one-ninth of the electors, have double the number of Members. If you want a more minute description than that, you will find that the Tower Hamlets and Liverpool together have more than double the number of electors of those fifty-four small boroughs, and yet they are only to have five Members, while the fifty-four boroughs have sixty Members. We may perhaps know nothing about representation—we may be under a delusion respecting what is meant by the representative system. It may be that property has nothing to do with it, and that men have nothing to do with it; it may be that something which gentlemen call "interests" have to do with it. "Interests" are to be found in abundance in small boroughs where there are no men; but "interests" are not be found in those fourteen large boroughs, the particulars of which I have stated to the House. Having stated this much about the boroughs, the noble Lord will permit me to show that the Bill fails in one of the objects which he and the Government ought to consider themselves pledged to accomplish, I say we may settle any amount of franchise we like, but when we have settled it it should be the rule without question, and should be made so plain and simple that all those should be able to avail themselves of it to whom the Act of Parliament professes to offer it. Now, in respect to the counties, the noble Lord has introduced a provise that is most objectionable on several grounds. The noble Lord proposes to introduce in regard to that portion of the county electors that are enfranchised by this Bill the rate-paying clause that has given so much trouble in the boroughs throughout the kingdom. If the premises occupied are above the value of £50, the rate-paying clause does not apply at all; but with respect to those premises that are between £50 and £10 in yearly value, the condition is to be introduced. I object altogether, when you are establishing an occupying clause that will range from £10 to the highest amount of rental, that you should draw a line at some point and say, with regard to a portion of the electors, that you will establish a needless, irritating, and embarrassing condition, and that you will not apply the same condition to all the occupiers under the county franchise. Therefore, I hope when we come into Committee that the noble Lord will allow that portion of the Bill to be excluded. I do not think that hon. Gentlemen opposite would wish that the new electors in the counties should be clogged with conditions that Parliament has not thought fit to apply in the cases of occupiers of premises of the value of £50 and upwards. I have now to call attention to another provision with respect to the occupancy in counties. The noble Lord stated in his speech, and has provided in the Bill, that no person shall be entitled to vote at an election for a county in respect of his occupation, jointly with any land, of any building other than a dwelling-house in which he resides, unless such building separately be of the clear yearly value of not less than £5, the object being that a man should not let off to some one else a field nominally, and put up a shed for a donkey or cow, and say that he was an occupier under the Act, and entitled to a vote. What I think the noble Lord should do is this—with respect to those county voters, he should say that no person should have a vote unless the building or the dwelling-house should be of the value of £6 annually. You do not propose in the boroughs to go below £6 rental, and why should you go below it in the counties? If you allow a man to have a vote in a county who lives in a house of £3, or £4, or £5 rental, and to make up a £10 occupation by having two or three fields, you will introduce into the county constituencies a lower class of persons than the persons who live in boroughs in houses of the value of £6 a year. I am not anxious to introduce a lower class of electors than Parliament thinks proper; but I am considering the spirit and objects of the Bill, and I say that a person living in a £6 house in a borough, and having no occupation in land, has necessarily a larger income to maintain his family than a man occupying a house of the value of £2, or £3, or £4, and working as a labourer on a few acres of land. I contend that the £6 householder in a borough is a much more independent man. I do not know whether it is a provision in the Scotch Bill; but, if so, it would admit a class of voters the most dependent in the kingdom, and totally different from the class which the Bill would introduce into the boroughs in Scotland. There is another question—the payment of rates, I ask the House and the noble Lord, when they are giving the franchise to a £6 and £10 occupier, respectively in boroughs and in counties, why not allow it to be sufficient that the man should be on the rate-book, and rated, so that his name should be transferred from the rate-book to the electoral list, without making it necessary to prove that on the 20th of July he paid the rates due on the 5th of January preceding. In the borough in which I live this particular restriction has very little result; the embarrassment is inconsiderable, and therefore I do not speak of it because I have seen in that borough great perplexity or great disfranchisement from it, but from what has taken place in the metropolitan boroughs especially, and others which I could name, there is no doubt whatever that that condition, which, after all, is of little or no avail in making your constituencies more select, is a condition of great embarrassment. It very often puts men off the list, not of the poorest, but others, who from some accident have not their rates paid. It is just one of those irritations which every elector seems to feel rather as a shabby contrivance for depriving him of that which Parliament has professed to give him. There is only one other point to which the noble Lord's attention has been called, and which, I believe, the Bill was not intended really to be defective in, and that is with regard to what is called the compound householders. Now, some years ago—I think in 1851—Sir William Clay, when a Member of this House, passed a Bill to facilitate the claims of persons whose rates were compounded for by their landlords. I proposed to the House a clause at the end of that Bill, which I think was put in on the third reading, to meet a case in the revising barrister's court which had disfranchised very many. It was held that if the landlord paid the compound rate, say 75 per cent, or whatever sum it was the parish authorities had agreed to receive, that was not a payment of the full rate due according to the meaning of the Reform Act; and, therefore, all those tenants were disfranchised. The result of that clause was, that in the borough of Manchester, I believe, 4,000 persons were placed upon the register in the succeeding year; but it has not been acted upon in many boroughs. First of all, many were ignorant of it, and the overseers, like nearly all officials, not wishing to give themselves any unnecessary trouble—disobeyed what I believe to be the law, but I suspect there is no penalty for its neglect—the overseers refused in the majority of cases to put anybody's name upon the register who does not pay his own rates. They put the landlord on who pays the rates of a street, but the tenant's name is not entered; therefore, when they come to make out the list of voters from their rate-books, they find the name of the landlord of course, but do not find the names of the tenants, and the tenants, under those circumstances, are left off the list and actually disfranchised. What I propose is, that the noble Lord should, by some clause to be introduced into this Bill, insist upon it that the names of all tenants shall be upon the rate books. And then, if their rates are paid, or whether paid or not, supposing the rate-paying clause omitted, the rate-payers will find their names transferred from the rate-books to the register, and thus a great number of persons will not be, as hitherto, altogether disfranchised. If that is not done, this extension of the franchise will be in a great number of boroughs, nothing more than a delusion, and when you come to make up your electoral roll, you will find it to be very much what it has been in the past. I will say nothing about a question which I understand will be discussed very soon on the Motion of the hon. Member for Bristol (Mr. Berkeley), except this, let hon. Gentlemen not for a moment deceive themselves with the idea that, because the noble Lord, with that consistency which in some instances is to be admired, but in this case is much to be deplored, has abstained from giving the Ballot in this Bill, yet that that is not a question which is already at the door, and which they will not have to consider seriously in a very short time. I speak now of those boroughs in which these great constituencies are to be made greater, some of which are very much in the same position as your counties, except the rich men have factories, and your rich men have large estates. I can conceive in these boroughs in the north of England, and also many in the south, that political feeling will run very high; there will be the greatest possible endeavour to win on the one side and on the other, and that a great number of the men whom you are now about to enfranchise, as has been the case with great numbers of those already enfranchised, will find their liberty to vote fettered continually by the force of the political contentions of rich and powerful men in those towns and constituencies. I believe you will find yourselves driven, as indeed you are now almost driven, for you are at your wits' end how to put an end to coercion and corruption in constituencies;—I believe when this Bill passes you will be driven to that measure, and you will have, as I hope and believe, a still greater and less resistible power to demand it from the House of Commons, and from Parliament. If we support this Bill as a redemption of the pledge which the noble Lord gave, and a redemption of the pledge which the noble Viscount at the head of the Government, doubtless willingly accepted, when he took office—if we accept this Bill, we have a right to call upon the Government to keep faith with us. When I say us, I mean those men in this House who really want some some honest and extensive measure of reform, and those thousands and millions not in this House who are anxious for the result which this House may come to upon it. If the House be for Reform, and if anything is to be done, do this at least. If this Bill be rejected, I ask the hon, and learned Gentleman (Mr. Rolt) does he think it will come to the House again in a milder form. That is a question worth considering. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, as the leader of your party in this House, and Lord Derby in the other House, have had one trial, and do you wish they should have another? Is it not better, in order to have an adjustment of this question, that you should leave it in the hands of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, who has no very strong democratic feeling—who looks with veneration to the Throne, and no doubt with affection to the order of which he is so distinguished a member. Do you not think you can leave this matter in his hands? He has given to it far more consideration and examination than the great bulk of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I say if I was one of you, rather fearful of these changes and wishful to go with very gentle footsteps, and not to go too far, I should say the noble Lord in this measure, has brought forward a Bill, which considering the circumstances of the country and the wishes of the people, it is not only your duty, but your obvious and pressing interest honestly to accept. And I would give it without any reservation. Make the changes which I have suggested, which are not changes in principle, but merely changes which will make it more acceptable to the people, and I believe more beneficial to the country. Are not the people more qualified? The right hon. Gentleman says that in America you have a population so educated that you can never hope the people of this country can reach their point, or at least can exceed it; but I say it is impossible for any man to have lived amongst the people for the last twenty or thirty years. [MR. DISRAELI here made a remark which was inaudible.] The right hon. Gentleman cannot know much about the people in that delightful manor in Buckinghamshire, where he spends so much of the recess, and he can see very little of the class for whom you are now legislating, between Grosvenor Gate and the House of Commons. But I do live amongst them when I am down in Lancashire, for six months of the year, and I know something of what they are. The other day, when in Manchester, I visited the warehouse of Messrs. Samuel and James Watts and Company, a warehouse perhaps the most magnificent in the kingdom. I went through the rooms, and was shown the various articles of manufacture which they had there collected from the looms of the whole kingdom to supply the wants of all who will come in and buy. There was an amazing stock of great variety and beauty. When I came to the end of it I said to the gentleman who had gone round with me, "Is it not an astonishing thing that if we could bring together every man whose hands and skill have produced all this wonderful assortment of goods, in all probability there would not be one man m fifty of the whole of them who, by the law of this country, is permitted to vote for a Member of Parliament." [Laughter from the Opposition.] Hon. Gentlemen, of course, may laugh. [Laughter and cheers from the Ministerial side.] Surely these men are fitted for something else than being governed and taxed—and if the spirit which the hon. Gentleman exhibits when he laughs at a statement like this be prevalent on his side of the House, I dare to tell him he is taking an infinitely more dangerous course than I am taking in any proposition on this subject I can make. The hon. Gentleman, if he were to speak, would tell us, no doubt, that the people do not want this measure. There is no turbulence. I admit there is no turbulence: but there is something better than that. I have seen and have been in; a stormy sea. It is a very grand spectacle, and sometimes very appalling, but there something not less striking to the man who can contemplate the sea, and watch the calm and majestic advance of the tide. The turbulence and passion of 1832 are now passed. Nobody rejoices more than I do that we can discuss this I question under circumstances very different from those under which the Bill of 1832 was discussed. There is no howling wind, no imminent convulsion; but there is the steady, the ever growing, the irresistible tide of public opinion; there is the consciousness among millions of your countrymen that Parliament does not adequately represent them, and is not just to them; and silently, but surely and inevitably, this opinion is marching on to its triumph. The very footprints in which these Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench trod not long ago are now swept away, and the point which you occupied not long since on this question is submerged and gone. I ask you not to resist this growing and gathering opinion. By a concession even so small as that which it is the object of this Bill to make, you will show that you have a generous confidence in your countrymen—you will show that you believe in the constitution of your country, that it really means a representation of the people, and you will show further what I hope you will prove by your Votes upon this Bill, that you are willing the institutions you boast of so much, and pretend to love so much, shall repose upon the goodwill, the intelligence, and the virtue of your countrymen.


said, he objected to this Bill on the ground that it went too far in one direction, and not far enough in another. The hon. Member for Birmingham had just said that disfranchising small boroughs was the marrow of reform. For his own part, he wondered that he did not say to the Bill, "Go! get thee gone: thy bones are marrowless!" The great evil in our present representative system was that as many Members were returned in numer- ous instances by constituencies numbering only a few hundreds as by the great manufacturing cities, or by the wide extent of county populations. As many Members, for instance, were returned for the small borough of Tavistock, with 400 electors, as by the entire district of North Devonshire, with a constituency of 8,800. Again, the West Riding of York, with a constituency of 36,000, had only two Members, and there were other examples that might be adduced. Did the present Bill seek to remedy these inequalities? On the contrary, it proposed very nearly to double the county constituencies, already overwhelmingly disproportionate in extent, and to leave the little pettifogging boroughs, which were, to a great extent, the centres of corruption, very nearly as they were at present. To the Bill introduced by the Earl of Derby's Government he entertained many of the objections which be felt to the measure now before the House, and, as he had freely given expression to them at the time, he was not guilty of any inconsistency in the course which he was now taking. As compared with former measures, the present Bill exhibited, he believed, a retrograde tendency. The Bill of 1852 proposed, to extend the area of the small boroughs by incorporating other places with them; the Bill of 1854 disfranchised many of them, and the Bill of the Earl of Derby's Government, while it did not disfranchise, yet introduced a considerable modification, [by allowing the 40s. freeholders to vote for the places in which their property was situated.] But this present Bill did not enlarge the area, it did not enfranchise, and it did not disfranchise. If they kept continually altering their policy in this matter they might eventually find themselves in the position described in the old epitaph, "I was well; I wanted to be better, I took physic, and I died." What he did not understand was that the distinguished statesmen who framed the first Reform Bill, for the purpose of doing away with rotten boroughs, should in the year 1860 come down to the House of Commons and defend that very system of nomination boroughs, and introduce a measure framed for the express purpose, not only of maintaining, but of considerably increasing and aggravating the disproportion between representatives and population. The arguments that the noble Lord used on that occasion were very extraordinary. In a very cynical speech the noble Lord said there were certain men who ought always to be in office, but who, from their great personal unpopularity, or from some other cause, were unable to induce any independent constituency to return them, and these small boroughs were to be retained for the express purpose of having those unpalatable candidates forced down their reluctant throats; and as the noble Lord spoke he could not help fancying that he had cast his eyes involuntarily at the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne. If he were disposed to discuss the question of large and small constituencies as a mere party man he should hold precisely the same language as he did now. A very great change had taken place in opinion during the last thirty years, and he believed that it was now the interest of the Conservatives, speaking of them as a political party aspiring to power, that all classes should be fully, fairly, and freely represented in that House. He held in his hand a return of all the large constituencies of above 4000 electors each: they returned 224 Members. He had carefully compared those Members' names with the division list which unseated the Earl of Derby's Government, and it appeared that on the Motion of want of confidence which unseated the Earl of Derby's Government—119 of the 224 representatives sent to Parliament by the large constituencies of the kingdom—more than half the number—voted with the Government; so that, while the Earl of Derby would at this moment be Prime Minister if the wishes of the people had been consulted, the right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury benches were indebted for their position to the support of the delegates from those boroughs which the provident forethought of the dear old Whig party had retained under the first Reform Bill. He should be told, no doubt, that this was owing to the large number of county Members who sat on the Conservative side of the House. But did not these very county constituencies afford the fairest test of public opinion? They were the most numerous and extended over the largest area; they comprised interests of the most important and diversified character, and he believed they were likewise the most independent in their opinions and the least corrupt in practice. The hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) had just attacked their independence; and at a dinner which took place last autumn both the Members for Rochdale, having no one to contradict them, employed the stereotyped phraseology about county Members being returned by tenant farmers driven to the poll by bailiffs. That was pretty platform clap-trap, but it would not bear to be investigated; for the fact was that out of a rural constituency amounting in the aggregate to half a million, fully 420,000 voters exercised their franchise on account of freehold property, and less than one-fifth of the entire number became entitled to it on the ground of occupation. The hon. Member for Birmingham was fond of large constituencies; let him appeal to the verdict of South Lancashire and North Warwickshire. They were told that the Ballot was the universal panacea for all evils, but who was it that required the Ballot? The farmers did not ask for it. They said, Let the galled jade wince, Our withers are unwrung. It was in large towns that, writhing under the influence brought to bear, they called for the Ballot. There was one other observation as to small nomination boroughs. It Lad been always said, and if he shared in the apprehension, the objection would have great weight with him, that if they abolished all those small constituencies there would be only two interests represented in Parliament—the manufacturing and the landed interests. That would be, no doubt, a very great evil. County Members, he admitted, generally possessed large interest in land; but the constituencies were large and scattered, and nobody but persons of fortune would go to the expense of a contested county election. But how did they account for this, that with the exception of North Leicestershire, where the attempt failed, there had been no petition against an English county Member for several years, although in some instances the contests had been close? This was the state of things; whilst in boroughs, large and small, bribery, most gross and foul, had been systematically practised. It could not be on account of the size of the constituency, for Norwich and Hull were larger than many counties, nor on account of the poverty of the borough voters, because some of the foulest and most flagrant cases exposed by the Committees had taken place in boroughs like Wakefield and Huddersfield—constituencies created by the Reform Bill, and which had no poor freeman voters. But if the counties were divided they would return more Members of the class which now represented small boroughs. He also advocated the use of voting papers. They were calculated to diminish the expense of county elections, and to stop bribery in boroughs, as the of them would prevent the state of the poll being known until all the polling was over. The present Bill, however, did not attempt to deal with that subject. He also wished to touch upon a point of very considerable importance—the extension of the suffrage. He was not now going to say whether £6 were too high or too low; but what he wanted to know was, why they were to declare that which was very good sauce for the borough goose to be not fit for the county gander. Why was this difference between £10 and £6? He admired the self-sacrificing consistency with which the right hon. Members for Oxfordshire and the University of Cambridge (Mr. Henley) adhered to their opinions upon this point; but what could be said for the consistency of hon. Gentlemen opposite, mostly sitting below the gangway, and who assume to themselves the modest title of liberal and enlightened statesmen? Identity of suffrage was their cry for Session after Session; but the moment it was shown that identity of suffrage must lead to a very large increase in the rural representation, and about 130 Members should be taken from the boroughs and given to the counties, "a change came over the spirit of their dream," and they ate up their former words with a voracity that was quite appalling; and when the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, speaking last year as the organ of the Government of the Earl of Derby, proposed to place the inhabitants of towns and of the county on perfect equality in every respect, that just and equitable proposition was made the subject of an attack by the noble Lord the Member for London, and who being followed by almost every Member of the Liberal party defeated the Government of the noble Earl and destroyed their Bill. And how did the present measure propose to deal with the question? Supposing three houses were situate in one street just at the edge of the borough—one at £6, one at £8, and one at £10 per annum, the one at £6 being within the precincts of the borough and the other two beyond it. The occupier of the £8 house would find his neighbour occupying the £10 house had got a vote, but he would find his neighbour occupying the £6 house —an inferior house to his own—had a vote also, while he himself had none. He asked the Government, in the name of common sense, on what possible principle it was just that the £8 occupier so situ- ated should be treated as a political Helot and debarred from all share in the election of a representative. It might be said that he was only placed in the same position as an occupier of land between the value of £10 and £50 a year. That was very true, but why should existing institutions be interfered with, if the only result be to alter, but not to amend, and to substitute for one admitted anomaly, another yet more flagrant and more foolish? The Bill, in fact, offered the show and semblance of Reform but denied the substance. Like those juggling old women in Macbeth, the noble Lord and his colleagues had "kept the word of promise to the ear, and broke it to the hope."


proposed the adjournment of the debate.


If the debate is now adjourned I trust it will be resumed at an early hour to-morrow.

Debate adjourned till to-morrow.


said, that as the hon. Member for Bristol had a Motion on the paper with regard to the question of the Ballot, and as that was in some measure connected with the question of Parliamentary Reform, it would be convenient to both sides of the house to know whether a discussion upon that question would be introduced in the debate, or whether the hon. Member would postpone his Motion.


said, as he considered his Bill to be the better of the two he certainly intended to proceed with it.