HC Deb 22 March 1860 vol 157 cc1030-109

Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [19th March], "That the Bill be now read a second time."

Question again proposed.

Debate resumed.


said, it had been asserted that there was a want of interest upon the part of the country on this question of Reform; but, whatever truth there might or might not be in that assumption, he thought it would be conceded by hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House, that the supposed apathy of the country had been sympathetically responded to by a lukewarm and half-hearted opposition, such as probably never was offered to a measure of so much importance by those who professed to disapprove of the principles upon which it was founded. The right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire said that the effect of the measure would in all probability be to hand over a considerable portion of the boroughs to the dominant and exclusive influence of the working classes; he warned the House against the powers of combination and the very intelligence of those classes; and he endeavoured to alarm the House by the parallel which he drew between the probable consequences of the measure, if passed, and the state of things in a neighbouring country, where they witnessed the most immoral of all despotisms erected upon the basis of universal suffrage and vote by ballot; and having pointed out these evil consequences, find drawn that parallel, the right hon. Gentleman was satisfied to wash his hands of responsibility, and to throw it all upon the shoulders of the noble Lord who introduced the Bill. As far as he (Mr. Stansfeld) was concerned, he was one of those who had faith in a large extension of the franchise, and desired to aid in its accomplishment. His constituents entertained the same strong and ardent convictions on the subject; and, as he was mainly returned to the House on the strength of those opinions, he trusted he would be excused stating the grounds upon which he approved the Government measure. Practically speaking, the Bill of the noble Lord, as far as the borough franchise—the extension of the franchise—was concerned, fulfilled the pledges of the Government, and answered the expectations, if it did not fulfil all the desires, of the country; while, with regard to the disfranchisement and enfranchisement of constituencies, it might fairly be admitted that it went as far as the House of Commons was disposed to go at the present time. Upon those practical grounds, solely and simply, he found reason enough to justify his cordial support of the Bill. He put altogether on one side the portion of the Bill relating to disfranchisement and enfranchisement with the observation that he looked upon it as so small and petty in its proportions as to be justifiable on no possible ground of principle, and excusable solely on the score of temporary political necessity. He confined his remarks entirely to one clause, which contained the whole gist of the measure—that extending the borough franchise from £10 to £6. The first question was one of fact, namely, what would be the practical results of that extension of the franchise? The right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Buckinghamshire, told them that it would put political power, as far as the boroughs were concerned, very much in the hands of the working classes. That was a matter of figures; and having looked carefully at the Poor-law Returns laid before the House, he was disposed to agree with the conclusions of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) rather than with those of the right hon. Gentleman. He did not believe that the addition to the borough constituencies would exceed 200,000; and he certainly disbelieved the notion that more than half that number would belong to the working-class of the population. It was to be observed that while the proportion of the addition of that new and untried element—the working classes—would be very considerable in the largest and most thriving manufacturing towns, such as Sheffield and Birmingham, it was precisely in such constituencies that there was the least ground to expect any practical change in the representation. No doubt, any Reform Act whatever would be the signal for many constituencies to reconsider the mode in which they were represented, and would induce many new candidates to come forward; but he did not anticipate any change worth talking about in the personnel of that House; and he entirely disbelieved that the consequences would be either a revolution in the state of parties, or in the general policy of the country. It might be asked, how came it that, entertaining such moderate expectations as to the probable consequences of the measure, and holding such advanced views on the question of the suffrage, he gave his cordial support to the measure. After an interval of about thirty years they were about to take another step in Reform. The effect of the Act of 1832, so far as borough constituencies were concerned, was to place political power in the hands of the middle classes; and if they intended not merely to amend the details of that measure, but to propose a measure deserving the name of another Reform Bill, they had no choice, logically and consistently, but to go a step further, and begin to admit the working classes within the pale of the franchise. And because he believed that the Government measure, however cautious and hesitating, went in that direction, he would give it his cordial approval and support. The Bill of the late Government was confined to the completion of the idea of the first Reform Bill; it was an appeal to the middle classes to close their ranks against what was called the rush of an oncoming democracy. The policy of the Bill of the present Government was precisely the reverse; it was an opening of those ranks, and an admission, however moderate in proportion, of the working classes to the franchise. The measure of the late Government was the adoption of that principle of finality which the noble Lord the Member for the City of London had long ago discarded; while the policy of the present measure was the admission of the principle that all classes should share in the representation, and that there should be the absolute exclusion of none. He believed that the House was about to take the step to which the Government had invited them, because the majority of Members were either directly or indirectly pledged to it; because the country expected it; and because they could not hope to settle the question for a single Session upon any basis less broad or less favourable. Hon. Gentlemen opposite objected to a change of this nature unless it were required by some inevitable necessity—by some pressure from without; while the noble Lord the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs told them that true statesmanship consisted in timely concession to what might otherwise become an overwhelming popular demand. He (Mr. Stansfeld) confessed that he differed from both of these doctrines, and he would proceed to state what in his opinion was the true theory of the matter. There were two classes to be considered in reference to this question—those who had, and those who had not, the franchise; and it was the very basis of his political faith, that it was a merit on the part of the latter to desire the possession of the franchise. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire accused the noble Lord of not considering the question of fitness in extending the franchise; but he (Mr. Stansfeld) believed that if they got at the real desire of parties, they obtained the best possible test of fitness. He considered that such a desire was an essential element in the safety and in the healthy vitality of a State; he did not fear the representation of any class of opinion; but he should fear that apathy which begat corruption, which endangered liberty, and which sapped the foundations of all political virtue and independence. They ought, therefore, as he believed, to cease talking of concession, either timely or inevitable, in that matter; they ought to foster and encourage a desire for the franchise, and to hold out to that desire a fitting reward. Returning for a moment to the want of interest which it was said was observable throughout the country in reference to that question, he believed that some reasons could be assigned for that state of the public feeling. At the present day we had a far more prosperous and contented population than that of the period of the last Reform Bill. The people had obtained increased facilities for expressing their opinions through the multiplication of cheap newspapers. He thought that at the present day statesmen would find that the position of the people was rather that of sitting in judgment upon the schemes of rival statesmen than in initiating themselves an organized agitation intended to bear down the united opposition of the ruling classes. But those who looked with fear and hesitation on this change might derive also consolation and encouragement from the fact that a change had taken place in the very modes and habits of thought of the whole of the community. This was pointed out in a pamphlet recently published by Mr. Stuart Mill. He said, speaking of the state of things he (Mr. Stansfeld) had referred to, "that this state of things, apparently so anomalous, is a most satisfactory sign of the times, and an exemplification of the new character permanently impressed upon the politics of the Empire by the great popular change which was effected twenty-five years ago;" and he proceeded to add, that it marked a great improvement in public affairs, the love of improvement, for its own sake, being more impressed on the minds of the people than formerly; and feeling convinced that what they recognized as an improvement would be certain in time to be attained, they seldom thought it worth their while I to demand it with any great clamour. That was the reason why (said Mr. Mill) there was so much of quiet on the subject of this question of Parliamentary Reform at the present moment. He (Mr. Stansfeld) thought it was those who hesitated the most as to this change, who ought to consider it their good fortune that the question came forward for settlement when the tide of public opinion was at so; low an ebb, that so moderate a measure was likely to be accepted. He might object to it on that ground, and wish to defer the settlement in order that a more sweeping change (which delay would render inevitable) might be introduced—but he did not, because he thought it better that the question should be settled while the public mind was in a state that might be easily satisfied. He desired not defeated enemies, but converted opponents; and he supported the Bill, because it would make converts, disarm prejudice, and dispel alarms. And as the repeal of the corn laws in half a generation had made free traders of almost all parties, so he was convinced, if this measure passed, in the course of a few years they would be all more or less Reformers. He was more and more convinced that that which was called public opinion, and which was higher than any political machinery, and was based on; the active and enlightened intelligence of the country, would continue, under the widest possible extension of the franchise, to overrule and control our legislative and administrative career.


Sir, the progress of the debate up to this time has been both curious and instructive. We are considering a measure upon one of the most important subjects that can be submitted to the consideration of Parliament; a measure which has been submitted to us by the Government; we are now in the second night of the debate, and up to this moment I have waited in vain for any hon. Member to rise and speak really in favour of this Bill, or for any Member of the Government to rise in his place to defend it. The first Gentleman who addressed us from that side of the House was the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Leatham). That hon. Gentleman is no doubt a great advocate of purity of election, and therefore he complained of the want of the Ballot, and said that in his view this Bill could only be regarded as a step in the right direction. He was followed by other hon. Members on that side of the House, all of whom held language to the same effect—most of them complaining of the absence of the Ballot, most of them declaring that it would be idle to look upon this measure as a permanent settlement of the question, all of them especially complaining of the absence of a more extensive redistribution of seats, and expressing an opinion that sooner or later that question must be taken into the consideration of Parliament. Later in the evening of the last debate, the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) addressed us, and he held almost the same language. The hon. Gentleman—whose position is at this moment that of a sort of English O'Connell—said, very indulgently, that he made allowances for the position of the Government, and was disposed to tolerate the Bill, having regard to the difficulties of the Government; but, with his usual candour, he went on to say that he was content to gain his objects by successive steps, and he could only regard this measure as one of those steps towards ulterior results. I may also for a moment advert to what fell from the hon. Gentleman when he spoke of the handsome building of Messrs. Watts at Manchester, and, referring to the large number of persons employed there, was guilty of something like a "clap-trap" when he appealed to the House upon the necessity of giving the franchise to that large body of persons. I was at the moment told by my right hon. Friend near me (Mr. Disraeli) that he had recently visited that magnificent building, and had held communication with the large body of workmen there, from whose language he found there was a feeling of deep regret among them that the lodger franchise proposed by the late Government had not been granted. The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has formed no exception to the rule of previous speakers. He has made a speech of considerable ability, but, with great frankness, he told us, as every other hon. Gentleman has told us, that he could only regard the Bill as a step in the right direction, and that he accepted it because he could not hope at present to get anything better. I was surprised to hear that, for my opinion of this Bill is, that it is a most miserable Bill. I can only account for the Government bringing forward such a scheme by supposing it either to be a compromise of a divided Cabinet or the consequence of a divided attention between foreign and domestic affairs. I can account in no other way for the introduction of a Bill so meagre. I think it is only not contemptible because, while it is powerless for good, it will be, if it should be passed, potent for harm. I am sorry that the noble Lord whose name has been so long connected with the subject has thrown away what would have been to him a great opportunity. He has had the rare fortune of being able to watch during the last thirty years the working of the great measure of Reform which he introduced, though, perhaps, he did not frame it. During these thirty years the noble Lord, like us all, has had the opportunity of finding out what have been the faults, the defects, or the merits of the measure; and I did hope, now that it has fallen again to his lot again to deal with this great and difficult subject, he would have done so in a large and statesmanlike spirit, and that he would have produced a measure which all parties might have supported—for we all desire that this question should be settled—a large and statesmanlike measure, correcting the defects and healing the evils—a measure worthy of his name and worthy of the Government from which it emanates. But what is it we have got? I agree with the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken in his description of the Bill. I think it consists practically of one proposal. I agree with the hon. Member that the disfranchisement proposed by this Bill differs so little, and that only in extent, from that proposed by the Bill of the late Government, that it is not worth while to divide on that part of the Bill, or to make it subject of argument. In fact, the only material difference upon the point between the Bill of the late Government and the present measure was that the first was founded upon a principle, and this appears to be based upon none at all. I, therefore, agree that we must regard this measure as making but one proposal, which is simply hereafter to overwhelm the property and intelligence of the country by the force of numbers. That, I believe, will be the effect of passing this Bill as it stands. A more grave and serious consequence it is impossible to contemplate. And here I must call the attention of Her Majesty's Government to one matter, I may be wrong, and if so, I can be corrected; but my opinion at present is that the returns from the boroughs, which we ought to be able to trust, and which we are called upon to believe, are really altogether delusive. I believe the whole House is under the impression that bonâ fide information is to be derived from the columns of these returns as to the addition to the number of the constituencies in towns which, under the operation of the present Bill, will take place. The noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs evidently based reliance upon them, and made them the basis of his calculations in his opening statement. The hon. Member for Birmingham took a similar course, and my right hon. Friend near me, as well as the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken, and who has fixed the additional voters which will be created by the Bill at 200,000, acted upon the same information. Now, there is a number of the larger boroughs, particularly those connected with trade and manufactures, in which the number of voters registered is materially smaller than the number of £10 houses. That circumstance is attributable to many causes, but, I believe, mainly to the non-payment of rates and taxes; but no notice has been taken in the papers to which I am referring, or, indeed, in the present debate, of the fact that there are forty-four boroughs in which the number of £10 voters on the register is greater than the number of £10 houses. I could not at first understand this anomaly; but it arises in a very simple way. I find, for instance, that in Pontefract there are upon the register 689 £10 voters, while there are only 411 £10 houses set down in the return for that borough. I find, also, that in the borough of Newark the number of £10 voters is stated to be 663; the number of £10 householders only 551; while at Midhurst the number of the former is set down at 429, that of the latter at 284. The reason why we have the matter thus presented is, that this return does not contain a statement of the number of houses according to their letting value of £10 in the towns which I have mentioned, but only of those houses estimated at that value for the purposes of rating. That is, I believe, the solution of the point. If that be the error, it should be corrected. I cannot say what the difference may be, but there is a discrepancy, and it will, therefore, be at once seen that this return is highly delusive as a guide to the formation of an opinion with respect to the number of voters who will be placed on the register under the operation of this Bill. The difference will, I think, be found to be not less than 25 per cent on the gross amount; and it is quite idle, therefore, to contend that, by lowering the franchise, as is proposed, you do not add considerably more than 200,000 voters to the number in the borough constituencies. Now, my main objection to this proposal of the Bill is, that it will be found to have an inevitable tendency to overwhelm by mere force of numbers intelligence and property; but I ask the House to bear in mind that the preponderance of voters of that particular class will be very much larger that has been stated. I have spoken only of forty-four boroughs; but what I have just named applies to almost every borough, for there is hardly a town in England where the actual value of the property and number of the houses of £10 value is not much greater than the number at which it is estimated for the purpose of rating. Having made this explanation, I would ask, is it wise or prudent to give cause for that discontent which must pervade the more respectable classes—the middle and higher classes—by a measure which will give to those, who, without any disrespect to them, I may say are the least fit to be entrusted with the predominance in our representative system? Is it possible for any man to say, if you pass this Bill in the shape it now stands, that it can have any other effect than to throw the representation of England into the hands of one class, and that class the least entitled to monopolize that power? And while expressing my opinion upon this part of the question, the House will perhaps permit me to call its attention for a moment to that which has been said by Lord Grey in the able essay on Reform which he recently published, and which bears very strongly on the proposal which we are now considering. Lord Grey writes as follows; Assuming that the existing constitution of the House of Commons cannot remain unaltered, I am persuaded that the best and safest course will be to attempt a complete revision of our representative system, rather than the introduction of minor changes founded upon no fixed principle and arbitrary in their character and extent. I think the noble Lord opposite can hardly deny that these words are extremely applicable to the present measure. I would ask him, with my right hon. Friend near me, "Will you never be warned?" I would call upon him to bear in mind what M. de Tocqueville has written with respect to the United States, where, he tells us, under the operation of the existing system, men of talent, and virtue, and eminence are compelled to withdraw themselves from public life. There is another passage in the works of the same distinguished author to which I would also call the noble Lord's attention. M. de Tocqueville says:— That which I most dislike in Democratic Government, such as has been established in the United States, is not, as many persons in Europe suppose, its weakness, but, on the contrary, its irresistible power; and that which I most disapprove in America is not the extreme liberty which there prevails—it is the slender protection which is to be found there against tyranny. Again he says:— I know no country in which there is, generally speaking, less of independence of mind and of real liberty of discussion than in America. I object, then, to this Bill, as being a rash scheme, the tendency of which is to cause this country to follow the example of the United States. There may be some in this House who are willing to follow that example; the majority, I trust, are not. I beg the House to recollect that, under the operation of the great Reform Act, there are in England not a few places in which, owing to the large population and the high rent of property, the representation is now practically thrown into the hands of one class. Is it desirable that that evil should be so greatly extended as the present Bill proposes? There is another point to which I beg to call your attention. I will read to you what is stated by my hon. Friend the Member for Radnorshire (Sir J. Walsh), in the very able contribution to the Parliamentary history of England, which lately emanated from his pen with respect to the mode in which even the present system operates in large towns. My hon. Friend says:— In all these communities there exists a large mass of Conservatism, a great numerical amount of Conservatives. They are generally to be found among the most respectable, opulent, and educated portion of the population. They everywhere form considerable minorities. They can scarcely anywhere command a majority. They are shut out from all share in the representation—all influence on the march of public events. I remember two instances which came recently under my notice. I happened to be in a large seaport town during an election. It was a sharp one, but the Conservative was defeated. I happened to enter upon the subject with a most respectable optician, a man of good education and considerable scientific acquirements. 'It is hard, Sir;' he observed, 'the large majority in this town of the respectable tradesmen and professional men are Conservatives, yet we have never, since the Reform Bill, been able to return a single Member.' The other instance was that of a tradesman at the head of a large firm in the parish of Marylobone. I asked him if he had attended a recent election. 'Sir,' replied he, 'I have not attended an election nor taken the slightest interest in one for the last ten years. Neither Colonel Romilly nor Mr. Edwin James represents in the smallest degree my political sentiments or feelings. I know perfectly well that the squares and great thoroughfares and principal streets in this borough are filled with Conservatives, but I know also that they are completely swamped by the lower description of voters. Any attempt to obtain a representation of my opinions would be vain, and I withdraw myself from all concern in election matters in disgust.' Now, I think even the hon. Member for Birmingham will admit that it is not desirable to push to too great an extent the evil which this statement depicts. This is not a question as to whether the majority in a particular borough ought to be Liberal or Conservative, but whether a respectable body of its inhabitants should be completely overwhelmed. But Lord Grey and Sir John Walsh, in their respective publications, have touched on another branch of the subject, which also is, in my opinion, of the utmost consequence; for it appears to me that it is, in dealing with so important a question as the present, desirable to ascertain what has been the result of the Reform Act on our Parliamentary system, as well as in the conduct of the public business of the country, and the character of its public men. With reference to the character of public men, Sir John Walsh expresses this opinion:— The exigencies of their position, and the extreme difficulty of administering affairs through the agency of the House of Commons, so split up into sections and so acted upon by external pressure, appear to force them into constant inconsistencies and self-contradictions. What does Lord Grey say? Lord Grey says:— It is an alarming symptom of deterioration in the character of public men and of the House of Commons that it has more than once happened of late years that Motions have been carried so decidedly against the opinion of a large proportion of those who have voted for them that they have not scrupled in private to express their regret at finding themselves in a majority. Now, Sir, if rumour tells true—if we can believe what we hear at this hour in every society in London—the confirmation of this passage of Lord Grey may be found in the circumstances of the present moment. And when my hon. Friend the Member for Radnorshire, in his hook, speaks of the inconsistencies and self-contradictious into which public men are being forced by the pressure of events, I ask whether, seeing the conduct of noble Lords opposite with regard to the commercial Treaty, and the conduct of the Chancellor of the Exchequer with regard to the income tax, we have not before us with reference to events passing at the present moment instances of the inconsistencies and self-contradiction's into which public men may be forced by the consequences of even the last Reform Act, I do not wish to dwell on personal subjects of this sort, but I beg the House to observe, with respect to the language held by these two distinguished men in their respective publications, that the works to which I have referred come from opposite sides in respect to politics; they come from two most competent and able men; they do not express opinions given in the heat of debate, but are the deliberate result of reflection and great abilities applied to the consideration of the history of this country for the last thirty years. And I would appeal to the noble Lord, having to deal with this great question, having to bring in a Bill to remedy the defects which have arisen, whether it is worthy of his great name—whether it is worthy of his connection with this great subject, to place before us this meagre measure, containing nothing, in fact, but this one proposal, to which I do trust the House will not consent—to overwhelm intelligence and property merely by the force of numbers? Let me say distinctly I would not object to a large addition to the number of the constituency. Having been a party, as I was last year, being a member of the late Government, to the Bill then introduced, I have a right to say I have proved that I have no objection to a large numerical increase in the constituency. On the other hand, let me say, with equal emphasis, that I have no objection to extend the franchise to the working classes. I have myself seen and known among the working classes men to whom I would give the franchise as readily as to any Gentleman now hearing me. I do not stand here to flatter any class; but I say that from various causes, and in a large degree from our neglect during a long course of years to give the working classes the education they ought to have received, the working classes are not entitled to have the monopoly of the representation of this country. Sir, I condemn the idea of giving the exclusive representation of the country to any class. I would not give it to the wealthy class, I would not give it to the middle class, and therefore I would not give it to the working class. I think the noble Lord the Secretary of State would have done more wisely, he would have taken a course more worthy of himself, if, instead of simply transferring political power from the middle to the working classes, he had endeavoured to devise some measure which would give it to all classes alike. And on this point I have to call to my aid two witnesses, who, it might be thought, would be the last I was likely to refer to on a question of this kind. I find a speech of the hon. Member for Birmingham and a speech of the hon. Member for Rochdale which give the a right to claim them in support of the view I have endeavoured to urge on the House, that to no class should the monopoly of the representation of the country be committed. I find that on the 1st of December last, in a speech delivered at Liverpool, the hon. Member for Birmingham used this language:— He had not fathomed, and there is no plummet line that ever will fathom, the depth of selfishness of any particular class, I do not care what it is, enthroned in the seat of irresponsible power. I am not inclined to take exception to the wisdom of that dictum. I think there is a great deal of truth in it. I ask, then, why is the hon. Member a party to transferring the representation of England to one class, which, so far as the representation is concerned, would be "enthroned in the seat of irresponsible power?" I would quote another passage from the speech of the same hon. Gentleman, delivered on the 6th of January last at Birmingham. He says thus:— All I want is, that the population, the intelligence, the industry, and the property of the country should be fairly represented in the House of Commons. Well, there again I heartily agree with the hon. Member; but, concurring as I do in the sentiment conveyed in this passage, I ask him, how can he stand up and contend that by transferring the representation of England to one class, overwhelming in numbers, and that class the lowest, he will achieve his object of giving a fair representation to the intelligence and property of the country? Sir, I will now call to my aid the hon. Member for Rochdale. I find the hon. Member for Rochdale not only expressing opinions completely in accordance with those I am urging on the House, but actually propos- ing a plan by which to arrive at the object I have in view. Will the House allow me to read an extract from that speech we all recollect was delivered by the hon. Member for Rochdale on his landing from America at Liverpool on the 18th of August last, and when he was informed that a seat in the present Cabinet was awaiting his decision?— And this brings me to the redistribution of the franchise; and I would say, gentlemen, I have a very strong opinion that when you have to give, as you would have to give in any new Reform Bill, a considerable number of Members to your large cities—as, for instance, Manchester, Liverpool, and the like (and Rochdale, of course, will be included in the number)—I think it would be the most convenient and the fairest plan if you apportioned your large towns into wards, and gave one representative for each ward. I mean that instead of lumping two or four Members together, and letting them be the representatives of a whole town or city, I would divide that city into four wards, and let each ward send one Member. I think there is a fairness and a convenience about that which ought to recommend itself to Lord John Russell, and to every one who has to handle a new Reform Bill. For instance, you will find in a town generally that what is called the aristocracy live in one part, the working classes in another. If, in dividing a town into three or four wards, it should happen that one of the districts where the working classes predominated should have the opportunity of sending a Member whom they considered most fairly to represent their views; and if another part of the town, where people of another class lived, choose to choose a Member that more completely represented theirs, I don't see why the different classes or parties in the community should envy them that Opportunity of so giving expression to their opinions. I think it would be much better than having two or four Members for one borough. Well, Sir, here is a plan, a practical plan, suggested by the hon. Member for Rochdale to correct the evil of which we complain in the Bill now before the House. Let me ask the noble Lord himself with what view or object was it that he in 1854 produced that plan of his for giving the franchise to minorities? That plan I admit was not popular; it did not find favour; but I always gave the noble Lord very great credit for its introduction, because I always thought it showed on the part of the noble Lord a very strong sense of one of the evils that has arisen under the existing law, and that would prevail in a tenfold greater ratio under the proposed scheme. I cannot conceive any other motive or reason that could have actuated the noble Lord in introducing that proposal than his sense of the great evil of giving the representation to one class, and thereby inspiring other classes with discontent. Sir, I have heard within the last few days repeated suggestions that the Reform Bill ought to prevent any constituent from voting for more than one person. With the same object in view, a plan was lately brought under my notice to which I by no means intend to pledge myself as entirely eligible; but it is one which I think is well worthy the consideration of the Government and the House. The plan, conveyed to me in an anonymous form, but dated Manchester, is, I understand, in full operation in the town of Frankfort. With the view of preventing any class from having a monopoly of political power, the proposal is that every constituency be divided into classes, and that each of those classes should have a representative. I will illustrate this by taking the case of Manchester. Suppose that borough had the right of returning three Members to Parliament, the plan would be that one of them would be elected by all householders paying a rent of £10 and downwards, another would be elected by all householders paying rent between £10 and £25, and the third Member by all above £25. If only two Members were to be elected a line would be drawn, all below it voting for one man, and all above it for another. I am quite aware that to adapt such a proposal to our system would be a matter of many details and some difficulty. It is perfectly clear that any such plan would combine two immense advantages—first, that every class would be fairly represented; and next, that you might extend the franchise as low as you will without either inconvenience or danger. You need not, then, stop at £6, but might go down to household suffrage, or even further, if you please. I have mentioned these four schemes to show how extensively and in what different quarters a strong feeling exists that in revising your representative system you ought to adopt some plan that would produce general content, and which, while giving a fair share of representation to all, should give a monopoly of it to none. That is the evil against which we have to guard in the Bill before us; and I cannot help reminding the House of the suggestion thrown out by Lord Grey in the work to which I have adverted, that it is so desirable that whatever is done on this subject should be done maturely and advisedly, that rather than legislate hastily and in a manner open to objection by large classes of our countrymen, it would be well to appoint a Committee of the Privy Council, consisting of men of all parties, deliberately to examine the whole question, to see what might be safely conceded on the one hand, what withheld on the other, so that the Ministers of the Crown might be able to bring in a Bill that would be passed at once by Members on all sides of the House. I know not how far the noble Lord may have considered this suggestion of Lord Grey; but Lord Grey points out in his book that, although not acted upon to the extent of bringing together men of opposite parties in the same Committee, it was followed in 1850, when the constitution for the Australian Colonies was deliberated upon by the Privy Council, on whose recommendation the Government of the day framed their Bill, which afterwards became law. I state that on the authority of Lord Grey's work as a precedent worthy of the noble Lord's attention, and I hope he will consider whether, before we proceed to legislate, we ought not in this instance to have a preliminary inquiry. We all wish to see a settlement of this question—a settlement upon fair and equitable grounds; and I cannot refrain from expressing a wish which may, perhaps, be deemed visionary and absurd, namely, that it were possible for us on the great subject of Parliamentery Reform to forget for a moment that there are two sides in this House, and that the words Whig, Tory, and Radical were never heard. I wish we could regard ourselves as a body of English Gentlemen having a common object, to consult simply on what is practically best for the good of the country, without reference to party motives or interests. If we could by any possibility approach the question in that spirit, let me ask, the noble Lord how many Members in this House would advocate this Bill; and whether the great majority would not view it, as so many of us now do, with serious alarm, founded on the belief that it will throw a monopoly of the representation into the hands of one particular class? Let me revert to that absurd expression, which I hope we shall hear no more—"the fancy franchises." I confess I was amused to hear more than one hon. Gentleman the other night anxiously praying us to recollect that the lodger franchise is not one of these fancy franchises. Now, we all remember the origin of that expression. It was first employed last year, when hon. Gentlemen opposite were praising our Bill in private and speaking against it in public—when they could find no valid argument against its principle, and were therefore driven to the resource of designating our proposed new franchises by this ridiculous epithet. One of these was the lodger franchise, and I still retain the opinion that the best and broadest proposal ever submitted to this House on Parliamentary Reform was to extend the franchise to respectable lodgers. There you would at least have had an addition to the existing constituency—an addition, not of men belonging to one class, but to all, the great majority of whom are eminently fitted by education and position to exercise the suffrage with safety to the country. Another part of the subject to which I beg to call attention is the adoption of rating as the basis for the franchise. I retain my opinion that rating is the best basis for the franchise here. The Government have adopted a rating in the case of their Irish Reform Bill, and also in that of the Scotch. I do not know why they do not adopt it in the English Bill; because I deny that the inequality of the assessment is an argument against the principle. This inequality is a defect of the existing law, and we are now told that the Home Secretary has in his office a Bill to correct that defect. I cannot, therefore, believe that this inequality will be allowed to remain much longer. But I wish to warn Gentlemen on both sides against an error into which I strongly suspect they are apt to fall—namely, that if we adopted a £6 rating franchise, that would be a protection against numbers, and would practically be equivalent to an £8 rental. I believe it would be no such thing, and I found my opinion partly from a knowledge of the working of the law, partly on the proofs we have in the papers before us which detail these inequalities. It is there shown that the difference between the rating and the rental ranges from a minimum of four per cent in such towns as Tamworth and Shrewsbury up to a maximum of 34 per cent in other places. What, then, would be the result if you adopted a rating franchise? Undoubtedly this inequality would be corrected. There would be a pressure between rival parties to place the greatest number of voters they could on the rate-book, and in the end the inequality would be speedily redressed. Well, having these objections, or rather the one strong objection I have expressed to this Bill, it may be asked, "Why are you not to oppose the second reading?" I do not think I am open to that taunt. I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend (Mr. Disraeli), especially after the measure we ourselves introduced last year, that we could not reasonably oppose the second reading of this Bill. As far as the Bill has any principle, it is an extension of the franchise. We do not object to an extension of the franchise, and we could not by fair Parliamentary practice take exception to the second reading. Certainly, we might have moved an abstract Resolution. But, Sir we are unwilling to follow a bad example. We do not wish in that respect to do as we were done by. We intend to take a different course—the course which we think most strictly fair and Parliamentary;—wo shall await the discussion of the Bill in Committee. When that time arrives I earnestly hope, I confidently anticipate, that the common sense of this House will come to the rescue. I cannot and will not believe that in Committee the House will consent to adopt the clauses as they stand. Sir, I have said—and I trust I have spoken in a moderate" spirit—I am sincerely anxious for the settlement of this question—for its settlement on broad, sound, and liberal principles. I am willing to see the franchise extended, but let it be extended with prudence and safety. I implore the House to reflect on these subjects before they go into Committee. I hope the Government and the noble Lord will do the same, and perhaps in the interim they will not refuse to consider whether it may not be well to have some inquiry into the general merits of this question, and to see whether there is no room to hope that from a careful and dispassionate investigation some measure may proceed in which both sides of this House may concur. If the noble Lord is unwilling to take that course—if he is unwilling to delay the Bill by considering the fairness or the necessity of such an inquiry, can only express my earnest trust that when we enter into Committee we shall do so in that calm and temperate spirit which may enable us to correct the manifest defects of this scheme, without throwing any improper obstacles in the way of its ultimate success, and that the result may be the passing of a measure worthy of Parliament and beneficial to the nation.


Sir, I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the course of this debate has been not a little extraordinary. He has complained that upon the first night of the debate no Member of the Government answered the speeches which were made against this Bill by hon. Gentlemen opposite. Let me remind the House what has occurred in this debate. My noble Friend, in moving for leave to introduce the Bill, fully explained its principles and provisions; and no sooner had the question that it should be read a second time been put, from the Chair, than the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks, speaking in the name of the large party of which he is the leader, rose and announced that it was not his intention to offer any opposition to the second reading of the Bill, and that he even doubted whether it would be his duty to propose a single Amendment in Committee. It is true that he used hard language with regard to the Bill. He said that it was a bad Bill, an uncalled-for Bill, and an unnecessary Bill; and the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, varying the expressions, has said that it is a contemptible Bill, a miserable Bill, a meagre Bill, and a Bill that will be operative for mischief and for danger. Yet neither of these right hon. Gentlemen think it inconsistent with the opinions which they have expressed to abstain from opposition to the second reading of the Bill, and to announce that it contains principles which they are prepared to accept. Under these circumstances it is no easy matter for any Member of the Government to answer objections of so general and vague a character, coupled as they are with the announcement that the right hon. Gentlemen do not intend to test the opinion of the House as to the convictions which they entertain. I must say that I think the course taken by these right hon. Gentlemen is wise and expedient on their part, because I have no doubt that if they had proposed an Amendment and brought their opinions to the test of a division the opinion of the House would have been expressed against them by a very large majority. I believe that the real reason why they have abstained from taking a division—from openly opposing the Bill—why they have shown themselves. Willing to wound but yet afraid to strike, has been that they are convinced that no Government holding office under present circumstances could submit to Parliament a Bill for amending the representation of the people containing much less change than is proposed by this measure, without sacrificing the confidence of the House and having it at once rejected; and that, on the other hand, if, as was recommended even by some hon. Gentlemen opposite, we had gone much further in the way of disfranchisement and redistribution of seats, we should have endangered the passing of the Bill; and, though we might have obtained a little temporary popularity by the proposition, we should not have gained the end which we, like the right lion. Gentlemen, sincerely desire to attain, namely, a safe and satisfactory settlement of this long-debated question. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks suggested to the Government that the Bill should be withdrawn. But, Sir, the hon. Member for Inverness-shire (Mr. Baillie) rose immediately after the right hon. Gentleman and emphatically protested against the language of his leader. The hon. Member for Inverness-shire, using more patriotic language and acting with more public spirit, said that so far was he from sharing that hope, that he was anxious that this question should at last be withdrawn from the arena of party conflicts and political rivalries, and that during the present Session the House should pass a measure which would place it upon a safe and satisfactory footing. The next hon. Gentleman on the Opposition side of the House who spoke was the hon. and learned Member for Gloucestershire. It would seem from the line of argument he adopted that he stands aloof from his party, for every word which he uttered against the Bill was as applicable to the Bill introduced last year by the right hon. Gentleman opposite as to that now before the House. The hon. and learned Gentleman lamented the passing of the Reform Act of 1832; he would stand by that Act because it was now the law of the land, but he described it as a measure which separated representation from property, which he thought was dangerous in principle and injurious in its results; and as this measure proposed to proceed further in the same direction, he opposed it as fatal to the best interests of the country, and, in fact, deprecated any alteration of the representation of the people in the only sense and direction in which this House would sanction it. In conclusion, he drew a terrible picture of our falling by a rapid descent from the monarchical institutions of a limited monarchy into the democracy of America. We did not answer the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech, because we did not believe that the sentiments expressed in it were shared by any considerable number of Gentlemen in this House. On the contrary, I believe that there are very few hon. Members who do not think it is absolutely necessary that this question should be disposed of, not by attempting to set it aside or shelve it, not by endeavouring to shut the doors against all those of the working classes who are now excluded from the franchise, but by the admission of a portion at least of them to the exercise of the suffrage upon the principles embodied in the Bill now before the House. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich, has said that there is only one principle in the Bill, that of overwhelming property and intelligence by mere force of numbers; but he did not attempt to prove his position from the returns which are before the House, or from facts which are within his own knowledge. He assumed the truth of his assertion, and then quoted a speech delivered by the hon. Member for Birmingham, not in this House, as a proof that he ought to oppose the Bill, because in it he had said—and I have no doubt said truly—that this was a result which he did not wish to see brought about by any Reform Bill. The right hon. Baronet did not adopt the suggestion of his leader, that the Bill should be absolutely withdrawn, nor that of the hon. and learned Member for Gloucestershire, that it should be at once rejected, but he said, "Refer the Bill to a Select Committee of the Privy Council," according to a plan recommended by a noble Friend and relative of mine, whose authority on political matters I greatly respect, and who thinks more deeply than most men upon these subjects, but whose suggestion to attempt to remove this question of Parliamentary reform out of the arena of politics, and refer it to a Committee of the Privy Council, like the plan of a constitution for one of our colonies which would afterwards come before Parliament, has always seemed to me a most Utopian scheme. The right hon. Baronet has, however, adopted it to its full extent, and he says now that if the Government will between this and the Committee upon the Bill adopt that plan, if they will appoint a Select Committee of Privy Councillors, Members of this House, Gentlemen of different opinions, he has no doubt that a Bill will be produced round which all the other Members of the House will rally, and which they will at once adopt as a paragon of perfection. I could not help thinking, while the right hon. Baronet uttered these opinions, what sentiments of disappointment must be rankling in his breast that this idea had not struck him before the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks introduced his Bill last Session. Surely the discomfiture of that Bill might have been avoided if this plan had been adopted by the Government of Lord Derby. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks fairly admitted, what the right hon. Baronet did not, that this Bill had three principles, namely, the extension of the franchise in boroughs, its extension in counties, and the redistribution of seats to a limited extent; but then the right hon. Gentleman objected to the measure on the ground of its simplicity. Now, I think that its simplicity is one of its recommendations. A great deal has been said about "the fancy franchises," and the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich seemed rather sensitive with regard to that term. He need not have been so, because it was not first applied to the measure of the late Government, but to some of the franchises which were proposed to be created by a Bill which was introduced into this House by my noble Friend (Lord John Russell) during the Administration of Lord Aberdeen. It was not intended as a term of reproach, but was only used to designate franchises hitherto unknown to the Constitution. With regard to those franchises I will only say that after full consideration we thought it best to adhere to the principle of representation and to the franchise which we found existing in the law of the land, but to extend that principle so as to admit within the pale of the Constitution a far larger number of our fellow-countrymen than now enjoy the right of suffrage. When you look at these fancy franchises, one cannot but apprehend that they would open a door to a great deal of collusion and fraud, and as we could accomplish our object better by the direct and simple means proposed by this Bill, we did not think it our duty to recommend to the House the adoption of such franchises. I will not enter into the discussion of the lodger franchise, which, like many other points which have been started in the course of this debate, is a matter for discussion in Committee, and not upon the second reading of the Bill. An hon. Member has given notice of his intention to move an Amendment upon that subject in Committee, and when it comes before the Committee will be the proper time to discuss that question, and to take the opinion of the House with regard to it. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks said that this Bill was censurable on account of its omissions. He alluded to a provision in the Bill which he laid before the House last year with regard to polling-places, coupled with a declaration that the payment of travelling expenses should not be allowed, and he made a complaint against the Government that they had not introduced similar enactments into this Bill. Provision is by the existing law made for the increase of polling-places where necessary, both in boroughs and counties, but I am not prepared to say that it may not be shown in Committee that further legislation is necessary, and that clauses may not be introduced into this Bill upon the subject. The right hon. Gentleman, however, in taking credit to himself and the Government of which he was a Member for rendering it illegal to pay travelling expenses, and charging it as a fault against the present Government that they had not done so, omitted to remind the House that that provision was essentially bound up with another proposal—namely, that votes should be taken by means of voting-papers—a plan the adoption of which the present Government did not think it their duty to propose to the House. The first and most important principle of the Bill is the reduction of the borough franchise. It is to the proposed extension of the borough franchise that the right hon. Gentleman has addressed the greater part of his observations. I must remind him that he has himself, as one of the late Government, adopted and sanctioned the very principle which is contained in our Bill, and which he now so emphatically condemns. It is true that it was an essential part of the measure brought forward by the late Government that no reduction should be made in the borough franchise—they stood upon the £10 householder qualification. The grounds upon which they retained the existing qualification were ably stated by several Members of the Government, But the Resolution moved by noble Friend as an Amendment on the second reading of the Bill took issue upon that very question, and the House decided that in any measure for amending the representation of the people the borough franchise ought to be lowered. What happened after the general election, and when, in the new Parliament, a Resolution was moved expressing want of confidence in the Administration? The question of the borough franchise was discussed in the course of that debate, and the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who was then bidding for the support of the House, made a clean breast of it, confessed his error, and promised amendment. He said:— By our measure we proposed to introduce the middle classes to their share of the county constituency, and the working classes to their share of the borough constituency, by means of a variety of franchises. I am perfectly ready to admit, on the part of the Government, that that proposition was not favoured by this House, nor was it sufficiently favoured by the country to be one upon which we can insist. The question of the borough franchise, however, must be dealt with, and it must be dealt with, too, with reference to the introduction of the working classes. We admit that that has been the opinion of Parliament, and that it has been the opinion of the country, as shown by the hon. Gentlemen who have been returned to this House. We cannot be blind to that result. We do not wish to be blind to it. We have no prejudice against the proposition. All that we want is to assure ourselves that any measure we bring forward is one required by the public necessities, and will be sanctioned by public approbation and support; and therefore we are perfectly prepared to deal with that question of the borough franchise and the introduction of the working classes by lowering the franchise in boroughs, and by acting in that direction with sincerity." [3 Hansard cliv. 139.] I understood that to be a frank and honest declaration on the part of a united Cabinet that they had abandoned all intention of opposing a reduction of the borough franchise, and that, if they continued in office, they would submit a Bill to Parliament iii the present Session in which their "fancy franchises" would have no place, but in which the introduction of the working classes would be effected by a lowering of the franchise in boroughs. The late Government were not permitted to remain in office; but we have acted upon the principle laid down by the right hon. Baronet, and the consequence is that we are told by right hon. Gentlemen opposite that we have adopted a principle dangerous to the country, uncalled for, and unnecessary—a principle which must tend to overwhelm property and intelligence. I must leave it to the right hon. Baronet's late colleagues to explain the apparent inconsistency. Nevertheless, we have not shrunk from proposing a considerable extension of the borough franchise, because we feel that no Bill can be satisfactory or prove a permanent settlement of the Reform question which does not admit, by means of a reduction of the franchise in boroughs, a large portion of those who are now excluded. Is no account to be taken of the increased intelligence and the progressive improvement of the working classes? The right hon. Baronet said the time might come when the education of the working classes would be sufficient to justify a proposal such as that we now make. He has taken a warm and active part in promoting education. Is he so desponding as to say that no great advancement has been made in the intelligence and education of those classes who will be included in the operation of this Bill? I was much struck by an observation made by the late Mr. Robert Stephenson at a public dinner given to Sir William Armstrong by the inhabitants of Newcastle, at which I took a part, as connected with that neighbourhood. He was speaking of the early struggles of his father in connection with the locomotive engine, and he said:— The difficulties which my father had to contend with were not so much material as mental. He overcame matter long before he overcame mind, and his most laborious and difficult task was the formation and instruction of a body of workmen capable of assisting him in the execution of his designs. And he proceeded to say that such, since that period, had been the growth of intelligence among the working classes that a great portion of the credit attached to the construction of the Armstrong gun was due to the workmen who had been employed on it. Are these to be considered men who would be dangerous to the constitution, and who would overbear by their numbers intelligence and property? I do not believe that any such result would follow the adoption of this Bill. No doubt, in five or six boroughs a large increase will be made to the existing constituent body; but, taking the whole of the boroughs together, the increase in each will not be such as to change essentially the character of the constituencies. The right hon. Baronet has impugned the accuracy of our returns. Those returns have been prepared with great care, and I believe they are substantially correct; at any rate they enable us to make a good approximate estimate of what will be the probable increase in the register by the operation of the Bill. But the right hon. Gentleman finds that in three boroughs— Pontefract, Newark, and Midhurst, the number of registered electors considerably exceeds the number of £10 householders. That is quite true, but I believe may be explained by what no doubt is a defect in the returns that, while they give the number of freemen in boroughs which contain freemen, they omit to mention the scot-and-lot voters. In Pontefract, for example, there are upwards of 300 scot-and-lot voters, which fully accounts for the discrepancy referred to by the right lion. Baronet; and in Newark there are 282 of the same class of electors. But to return. The principle of the admission of the working classes by the reduction of the borough franchise was practically adopted by the House last year in the vote which it gave upon the second reading of the Bill introduced by the late Government. No Bill, I believe, which did not contain a provision for the lowering of the borough franchise would meet with general acceptance in this House. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) then criticised the £10 franchise in the counties, though this formed part of his own scheme; and he endeavoured to persuade the House that the condition which we had attached to this franchise, making it obligatory that the House attached to the land, if not a dwelling-house, shall be at least of the annual value of £5, would in fact, disfranchise many who would otherwise have votes. I cannot exactly see how people who have not now got votes, and who would not have them if the provision of a £10 county franchise does not pass, can be said to be disfranchised in any sense. I suppose the right hon. Gentleman is under the misapprehension that this condition applies to the voters under the Chandos clause; but if he looks to the Bill he will see that they are entirely untouched by it. The right hon. Gentleman objects, too, that large boroughs not possessing Members of their own are still continued in the Bill as part of county constituencies with which they have really no sympathy, and that a great number of persons who reside in the suburbs of towns that do return Members of their own, and to whom they properly belong, will also form part of the county constituencies. But any attempt to readjust the boundaries of boroughs, so as to include the class whom the right hon. Gentleman does not wish to see as county voters would have involved us in great difficulty and confusion. How would the right hon. Gentleman apply his principle, I should like to know, to such large county constituencies I as the West Riding, South Lancashire, or South Staffordshire? Does he mean to say that those large manufacturing towns, the population of which is not included I within any Parliamentary boroughs, could by any arrangement of borough boundaries be taken out of county constituencies? It would be quite impossible to give practical effect to such an arrangement, and we have not thought it our duty to submit any proposal to the House on the subject. Another objection is made, from another quarter, to the condition that the person who exercises the franchise should be an occupier rated to the relief of the poor, and should have paid his rates up to a certain day. But, with the exception of the voters under the Chandos clause, rating has always been of the essence of every occupation franchise at all times. Eating is an essential requisite in the old scot-and-lot franchise, and since the Reform Bill it has been au essential requisite of the occupation franchise. If you give a man the franchise it is not unreasonable to couple with it a liability to contribute to the local burdens; and, if you lay down the principle that he is liable so to contribute, what reason is there why you should not fix a certain day—so distant as to do away with the chance of the non-payment being an accident—up to which he shall be required to have paid them? The only other point to which the right hon. Gentleman took exception was the redistribution of seats. It is said that the distribution is not a fair one. I can only reply that Her Majesty's Government have endeavoured to apportion the seats as fairly as possible among the populations connected with the great seats of industry—agricultural and manufacturing, and I am not aware that anything has been said in this debate against the fairness of the distribution. But the right hon. Gentleman says he objects to what he calls cumulative representation. If so, he must object to two Members being given to one place just as much as to three Members. He used, too, the old argument of "virtual representation." "For instance, Manchester," he said, "has many representatives beyond those whom it actually elects and sends to this House; if any measure were brought forward threatening the interest of Manchester, there would be a largo number of Members in this House ready to defend them." That is just the argument we used to hear years ago, when it was proposed to give seats to Manchester, Birmingham, and Leeds, when it was said that there were already in the House a sufficient number of Members who virtually represented those places. It is a recognized principle that there must be some proportion of representation to population; the right hon. Gentleman is himself one of three Members for the county of Bucks, and no doubt the electors of that county appreciate his value; but how would they like to be told by him that they had better give up their other two Members, since one was quite enough for them, and that there were plenty of Members in the House, who, if their interests were in danger would rise in their defence? I think they would much prefer keeping the election of their own representatives in their own hands. He objects to our plan of redistributing the seats, too, because he says we propose by it to carry out the principle of representing minorities, which he says is unconstitutional; and he referred to the proposition made by my noble Friend some years ago for this purpose. No doubt that proposition was not very favourably received in this House, but what my noble Friend said the other night was not a renewal of that plan, but simply that in places where there was a large and powerful minority; and where there were three seats the majority would be much more ready to give one of them to the minority. But that is a very different thing from giving a right of representation to the minority, and for the very obvious reason that it is done with the full consent of the majority, who prefer, instead of standing upon their full right, to concede to their neighbours that share in the representation which they consider reasonable and fair. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Droitwich objects strongly to our basing the franchise on rental, and not on rating. No doubt, if there were an equality of rating all through the country, or if the rating approached the value of the property, it would be very desirable to have rating for a basis, and not rental; but, under present circumstances, it is not possible. On this subject I will refer the right hon. Baronet to the language of his right hon. Friend the Member for Bucks in proposing his Reform Bill, when he stated, in the most forcible and conclusive manner, the difficulty and impossibility of adopting a rating, and not a value qualification. The right hon. Gentleman said— There is a wish—I would once have said a very general wish—that instead of the household suffrage being founded on value, it should be founded by preference on rating. I am not at all surprised that more than one hon. Gentleman has received this observation with marks of assent and sympathy. I confess myself that I was always much biassed in favour of that idea. It appears to me that if you could make—to use a common phrase—the rate-book the register, you would very much simplify the business of election; but, when you come to examine this matter in detail, in order to see how it will act, you will find that it is involved in difficulties—great, all acknowledge, and I am sorry to be obliged to confess, to my mind insurmountable. For the purpose of securing the advantage of having the rate-book the register, you must, of course, leave perfect discretion to the overseer. The overseer has an interest in raising rates, people may say; or he may be a very hot political partisan. Are you prepared to leave to the overseer the absolute discretion of appointing those who are to exercise the suffrage? Some will say, We must have some check. But what is a check but an appeal? And if you appeal, you cannot do better than appeal to the revising barrister. If you have an appeal to some other parochial officer, you appeal to an inferior tribunal to that which you now enjoy; and, indeed, unless you permitted the overseer to be unchallenged, you could not make the rate-book the register. But even beyond this, there are other difficulties which you will find most perplexing. Notwithstanding the Parochial Assessment Act, the rating of this country is most unequal; and it is only those whose business it has been to examine into this subject in its minute details, who can be aware of the preposterous consequences which would arise from adopting a rating instead of a value qualification."—[3 Hansard, clii. 982.] I think he overstated the objection as to the discretion to be left to the overseer, against which, perhaps, precautions might be taken, but I entirely agree with him as to the inequality of rating. The right hon. Baronet seems to think that we ought to have waited until the inequalities of rating were corrected by the Bill which has been prepared by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. But a Bill of that sort cannot be carried without considerable opposition, and even when carried it will be some time before it can be brought into operation throughout the country; so that, in fact, waiting for that Bill means putting off the Reform Bill till another Session, if not longer. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli), having criticised the three main principles of the Bill, went on to express a hope that the measure would be withdrawn, and contrasted the present condition of the political world with its state when the Reform Bill of the late Government was proposed. He treated this as a time of very great political anxiety and danger. I am not going to touch on the present state of Europe, but I ask the House to remember that when the Bill of the late Government was proposed war was at the moment imminent. No doubt it is true that the Ministers were endeavouring to avert that war, but they were not at all sure that their endeavours would be successful, and, in point of fact, a few weeks after the introduction of the Bill, just at the very moment of the dissolution, the war broke out, and who could then say how long it would last, or how far spread? Most serious apprehensions were entertained that Europe would be involved in war. Undoubtedly the war terminated after a short and bloody campaign, but its sudden termination was an event which the Government could not have foreseen, and if any argument against proceeding with this Bill could now be drawn from the state of Europe, that argument would have been much stronger last year. Turning, however, from foreign to domestic affairs, I will ask, are the circumstances of the country now such as to render it inexpedient that this question should be discussed? Never was there a period when the subject was more likely to obtain a calm and dispassionate consideration. The country is tranquil and prosperous, and under these circumstances no time could be more opportune than the present for the discussion of the present subject. I trust, from the absence of all opposition to the second reading of the Bill, that the measure will receive in Committee that consideration which its object eminently merits. I trust, too, that if it receives the sanction of Parliament, it will in its operation disappoint the fears of those who augur nothing but ill from advancing in the path of reform, beyond the point reached in 1832; and I hope, too, that it will give contentment and satisfaction to a large portion of our countrymen entitled by their intelligence to share in the electoral suffrage, and by so doing increase the stability and security of our institutions.


said, the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had misapprehended the arguments used against the Bill. He complained that the right hon. Member for Bucks and the right hon. Member for Droitwich, though they called the Bill a contemptible and a mischievous Bill, yet refused to vote against the second reading. The right hon. Gentleman did not seem to understand how it could be possible that a Bill might be right in principle and yet mischievous by the application of that principle, He argued that this Bill was in many respects similar to that of the right hon. Member for Bucks, but he forgot that the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman was so guarded by its details as to make it a safe and Conservative measure, though it gave a still more extended suffrage than the Bill of the present Government; he did not appear to see that the presence of those details rendered safe what the absence of those details would render a mischievous and dangerous measure. He must say be felt commiseration for the Government in having to introduce this Bill. "Its principal object," said the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, "was to dispose of the question of Reform." But was he sure the question would be so disposed of? He did not look upon the Government, however, as responsible for this measure except as to the details—for its inspiring genius he looked elsewhere. He knew who had now taken out of the hands of the Whigs a measure which they had challenged as their own peculiar province. He was sorry that the hon. Gentleman to whom he alluded—he meant the hon. Member for Birmingham—was not in his place, where, indeed, he rarely was, as he wanted to appeal to him on the principle of this measure. Him he considered responsible for this measure; to him he looked as its author, and as the man who was more peculiarly called on to defend it, as he had defended it, not so much by what he said in the House, as by what he said elsewhere, where he spoke his mind more freely. He would willingly have postponed his observations till the hon. Member was present, but he confessed that the hon. Member's presence in that House was rather intermittent, and he might lose his opportunity altogether if he waited till he had the good fortune of seeing him in his place. The hon. Gentleman, when on his own provincial platform, was very plain and easy to be understood; for he was simple in his principles and direct in his measures. He carried about with him a species of "Ready Reckoner," by which he estimated every political proposition that came before him. If it were a question of constitutional reform he immediately applied to it his model constitution from the United States—that land of promise to the revolutionist, that scarecrow to every lover of true liberty. Every measure was tested by that model, and in proportion as it came up to that standard did he approve of it. With regard to the representation of the people of England, again, he had another Ready Reckoner. There were seven millions of adult males in the country, every one of whom had a right to the franchise. At present there was only one million entitled to vote, while the proposed measure would confer the right on a million and a half. Therefore, by a simple sum in rule of three, as 1,500,000 was a better proportion to 7,000,000 than 1,000,000, by that proportion was the proposed measure preferable to the existing law. But then the hon. Gentleman only approved of it as an instalment towards universal suffrage. Now, in that point of view he would say, with the hon. Gentleman, that this measure was meagre and unsatisfactory. If they preferred universal suffrage, let them adopt it at once—do not let them recommend this measure on the ground that it would lead gradually to that result. If they wanted a constituency of seven millions take them at once, not by instalments of half a million at a time. Was it their object that change should be made, not the medicine of the State, but its daily food? Was there any merit in prolonging the process by intermittent stages?

[The hon. Member was proceeding when notice taken that forty Members were not present. House counted; and forty Members being found present],


proceeded to say, that this significant attempt to count-out the House, which he only regretted had not been made in equally favourable circumstances during the previous speech, the sole defence of the Bill from the Treasury Bench afforded an indication of the real feeling of the country upon the proposition now before the House, and if anything could show that the House truly represented the opinion of the country on this subject, it was the empty benches which were visible now and on the former night when the measure was under discussion. He had hoped that the summons would at least have brought into the House the hon. Member for Birmingham, but that hope had not been gratified. The speeches made by the hon. Gentleman on this subject out of doors were not those which he delivered in this House. There were places were his tongue was loosed, and he spoke plainly; but the Members of the House of Commons had no opportunity of confronting him when he delivered those addresses. The hon. Gentleman had the good sense to see that, if he recommended the present measure as an in- stalment of universal suffrage, that would not be accepted as a good argument by a practical legislative assembly, because, if it were worth anything, it would be good for arriving at universal suffrage at once, instead of advancing towards it step by step. He, therefore, raised the issue on a more legitimate ground, and, seeing it to be necessary to declare that the institution to be reformed did not at present work well, he boldly stated to a large assembly at Huddersfield that Parliament did not represent the people of England. To show his hearers how Parliament needed reform, he said, "We do nothing else there but sit in listless apathy, voting away the millions which you toil for." Now, the hon. Gentleman might speak for himself when he talked of listless apathy; certain it was that on Supply nights, when these millions were voted away, he was not very frequently in his place. Only the other night, when the hour for declamation being over, and the general debate in which he had taken part at an end—the Military Estimates, which the hon. Gentleman so frequently assailed, came up for consideration, he left the House. The statement which he made to the people of Huddersfield, that one class voted away millions of money supplied by another class, was not a fair representation of the existing Parliament; but it exactly described the sort of Parliament which the hon. Member wished to substitute. To the people of Liverpool the hon. Member described Parliament as a Parliament of the rich, taxing the poor to spare themselves. Now, was this anything like the truth? In the first place it was calculated by Mr. M'Culloch that even the existing constituency was double the number of the payers of income tax, there being 500,000 persons paying on incomes down to £150 per annum, while the present constituency comprised 1,000,000 persons; so that, to carry out his own proposition, that direct taxation should be the basis of representation, the hon. Member must disfranchise one-half of the existing constituency. But was it true that this was a Parliament of the web, taxing the poor to spare themselves? The hon. Member must have known that the reverse was the fact; and not only in direct, but indirect taxation, the richer classes paid in mass, and per head, and according to their income, far more than the proportion contributed by what were called the working classes. To arrive at such a conclusion the hon. Gentleman must hare omitted some of the principal elements which were necessary in the calculation, such as the proportionate numbers of the rich and of the working classes, the former being one-fourth and the latter three-fourths of the population. He must have omitted the difference in the average incomes of the two classes, and shut his eyes to the fact that in recent legislation the taxes had been made to rest chiefly on the shoulders of the richer classes, the calculation being that, taking all these points into consideration, the direct and indirect taxes were, upon the average of a working man's income, something like 11 per cent, while on the average income of other classes they were at least 16 per cent. Such facts as these rendered his argument wholly fallacious, and, if his argument was fallacious, what became of his conclusion, based upon them expressly, as to the necessity for reform? The hon. Member vainly tried to establish for himself a position as the champion of the working classes. Now he (Mr. Adderley) had been about as long in Parliament as the hon. Member, and during that time Parliament had passed much legislation specifically for the benefit of the working classes under the name of the Factory Acts. What part did the hon. Member take in that legislation? Throughout the whole of those discussions he steadily opposed all such proposals, and even as recently as yesterday, when a proposition was before the House for extending those Acts to bleaching works, he absented himself, thinking probably that it would scarcely do for him to vote against the measure while the Reform Bill was pending, yet resolved not to vote in its favour. How, on another occasion, did the hon. Member describe the House of Commons to the people of Birmingham? He said, "I sit in my place in Parliament opposite to a stolid phalanx of 300 men called the Tory party; and if you were to add up all those men pay into the Treasury, and all that they and their families receive out of the Treasury, you will find that they receive three times as much—I might say five times as much, and I know I should be under the mark if I said ten times as much—as they pay in." Now, was there an atom of foundation in that statement? He (Mr. Adderley) believed that he was a fair average sample of that phalanx of 300, and he was—what was most horrible in the eyes of the hon. Member—he was a landowner; he paid his share of direct taxation, his share of stamps, excise, customs, not only on his own consumption, but the consumption of a great number of others, and he bore a part in their lion's share of local taxation beside. He might say with the Pharisee, "I pay tithe of all I possess;"—but neither he nor any connection of his received a farthing from the Treasury. If any connection of his were on the Treasury Bench he should consider it wise that the country should pay him for his services, because there was nothing so extravagant as an unpaid servant. He had not, however, the pleasure of having any relative or connection in office. If then he were a fair specimen of this Tory phalanx who paid hundreds into the Treasury and did not take a farthing out, how could the hon. Member for Birmingham have the audacity, addressing 4,000 of his countrymen, to state that the Tories sitting opposite to him as a body received three times, five times, nay, even ten times, what they paid in, from the Treasury. However, the hon. Member might err with regard to the representation of the country, there could be no doubt as to his mastership of its misrepresentation. He did not consider that any misrepresentation of the working of Parliament was good ground on which to proceed for a reform of Parliament. If Parliament needed reform, the grounds on which to legislate should be proved by facts, and not by highly-coloured pictures as false as those which he had exposed. Was it the part of a patriot, or he might say of an honest man, to make false statements and misrepresentations of the institutions of the country, and, having done so, to ask the country to reform those institutions upon the ground of those misrepresentations? He did not believe they could base reform on the abstract principle of any right to universal suffrage. If they must have a general principle as a guide, he would say that in a free country it was wise, safe, and just to give the franchise to every man who had sufficient stake in its property, and who had patriotism enough to value its institutions. He knew well enough that the present test excluded many to whom it would be safer to intrust the franchise. He flattered himself that he knew more of the working classes than the hon. Gentleman to whom he had so often referred. He had property connected with mining and manufacturing as well as with rural districts. The men who took part with the hon. Member knew nothing of England except Manchester, and they regarded the rest of England as a suburb of Manchester. If those persons would make themselves a little better acquainted with their fellow-countrymen they would have fewer of those narrow prejudices which at present blinded their minds. Any test which was roughly drawn must exclude many who were fit and admit many who were unfit; but he believed it scarcely possible to reduce the suffrage so low as to introduce many men who would give evidence of so low an appreciation of patriotism ns they had recently heard expressed by the Member for Birmingham within the walls of that House. He thought that the Reform Bill of last year was worthy of more attention than it received, and if they were merely called upon to seek for additional voters among the lower ranks they might be allowed to express the opinion that they had already arrived at a stratum of society where votes were possessed in order to be sold, while those very men who most loudly declaimed for the extension of the suffrage had evinced the greatest readiness to buy them. He did not object to extend the franchise, but when they had reached such rotten ground as the election inquiries disclosed, they should tread cautiously, and not rush headlong, without check or qualification, into that lower stratum of society, where they found corruption so rife. There was great truth in a quotation which the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary had made on a former occasion from a speech of Mr. Fox, who, in 1793, said— I do not think that by merely spreading the suffrage you are augmenting the deliberate body of the people. For my part I consider that a safe and a sound franchise which brings into activity the independent deliberation and voice of the people. The point was to find how far they could go to get a sound, independent use of the franchise. Those who supposed that the Conservative party were afraid of the working classes must be infatuated. There was no class on whom Conservatives could look less as adversaries and more as friends. Was there any man in the country so conservative as the working man beginning to invest his earnings? Was there any working man just beginning to lay up his hard earnings in a plot of ground, who did not value that property more than the largest landowner in the kingdom valued all his acres? The working man who had just invested the result of his economy in a savings bank valued the protection of property more than the millionaire of the Funds; and no man was more conservative than the working man when he found that the country was thriving and he was better off every day. It was among the working classes that the Conservatives wished to spread the roots of the constitution, but in doing that were they not specially to beware of such misrepresentations as they had just heard—of the arguments of those who said a Reform Bill was good for nothing except as a step towards universal suffrage—and of giving a monopoly of power to the most discontented classes, who had nothing to lose, and who were the facile tools of demagogues and dupes of misrepresentations such as he had had the satisfaction, at all events, of bringing before the attention of the House? He hoped that, while passing the second reading of this Bill, as a matter of principle they would in Committee introduce such corrections as would check its more democratic tendency, and moreover enable them to avoid several constitutional innovations which it proposed. The principal of these innovations was the accumulating seats in populous localities, instead of spreading the representation equally over every part, so as to include every interest. It had never been, since the first days of Parliament in this country, the principle of the Constitution to accumulate Members in populous localities. The principle of the Constitution, from the very earliest days of Parliament, had been to give every part of the country a voice in that House. The right hon. Gentleman (Sir George Grey) had argued that if there was no case for having three Members in a locality there could be no case for having two. But from the first institution of Parliament it had been the custom to give two Members to all shires, cities, and boroughs, the idea being that each should have a voice in Parliament, the larger localities and the smaller having the same. It was a dangerous innovation to accumulate a number of Members in certain populous places and leave other parts of the country unrepresented. He hoped that the details of the Bill would be carefully considered in Committee—that bald numerical principles would be warily tested—that the pedantry of laying down certain tenures as county qualification, and others as fit for boroughs, would be scouted as nonsense, and that amendments would be introduced in the sense of those who see the wide distinction between the liberty of universal suffrage, and the tyranny of unmitigated numbers.


said, the thinness of the House gave little encouragement to prolong the discussion on the second reading of the Bill; but though the apathy which prevailed in the House seemed to represent the apathy thoughout the country, it was, nevertheless, a measure of some importance, and one which, for good or ill, would permanently affect the character of the House and the future fortunes of the nation. The right hon. Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington) said, that every Gentleman who had expressed his opinion on the Ministerial side of the House had based his advocacy of the Bill on the supposition that it was only an instalment of reform and a vantage-ground for future agitation on the subject. He could only say, for his own part, that he approached the discussion of the measure in no such spirit. He desired that they should not lay bare the principles on which the constitution of the House—and that, of course, involved the constitution of the country—was founded, unless they were prepared to accept some definite and intelligible principle which should have the effect of settling the question for as long a time as reasonable men might expect that any question agitated under the free institutions of the country could be settled. The right hon. Baronet also said there was a discrepancy between the opinions which Gentlemen on the Liberal side expressed in public and in private in regard to this measure. He was ready to admit, that as far as he was concerned, if he had had anything to say to the re-opening of the question, he should have advised that a question of this sort, involving such serious considerations, should not be stirred unless some great practical emergency could be shown to exist. But when he entered Parliament he found it a public and agitated question; and he was therefore obliged to form some opinion on it. He believed the opinion which he formed was the one which every one in the House, whether on one side or the other, had arrived at. There might be a difference of opinion as to particular details, but there was but one opinion that some measure or other should be devised for the purpose of settling the various questions which had arisen since the passing of the Reform Act, questions that ought to be set at rest without delay. As a man who regarded theory much less than practice, he inquired what were the practical defects discovered in the great Reform Bill; and he found that the two most important were said to be that the franchise was not sufficiently extended to embrace that portion of the population who, by availing themselves of the means for the diffusion of education and intelligence now placed within the reach of the general public, had entitled themselves to exercise it, and that there was a vast disproportion in many cases between representation and population. They could not expect to have perfect symmetry or order in any political arrangement they could conceive. We had lived under this great and happy Constitution of ours under a series of anomalies, and his should not be the hand to attempt the rash task of redressing the anomalies which existed in the institutions of the country with the view of bringing them into that state of uniformity which would satisfy speculative politicians. He found that the great manufacturing and commercial classes of the country complained that they were not sufficiently represented; but had the course of legislation for the last twenty years been prejudicial to those great interests? Had it not rather consulted them? Had the people any right to complain that their particular claims to the favour of Parliament had been neglected because they had not been as extensively represented in this House as theoretical politicians desired they should be? Had not recent legislation consulted the interests of those very places? Why, the complaint most commonly heard in that House of late was that Parliament had adopted a system of fiscal legislation which pressed especially on the higher classes of society; it was the income tax which had been the great subject of discussion during the time he had been in the House, and for long before; and that was a tax which did not reach, by many degrees, to that class of the population which was now excluded from the franchise. Therefore, as far as any practical necessity for a reform of the representation of the people was concerned, he was bound, as a Liberal Member, to admit that none had been exhibited to the notice of the House. What, then, was the emergency which required them, in the midst of questions of the utmost importance, when the whole energy of the House was demanded for the consideration of reforms of the law, and for a fiscal reform which extended over the whole field of finance, what was the pressing exigency, which inexorably required of them to settle this matter during the present Session? He thought there was some ground for making that demand; but he did not say there was adequate ground. After the statements he had made, it would be impossible for him to place the question of Parliamentary reform on so high a ground. But he did say that this question had been, he would not say "agitated," but "irritated" during a great number of years. It had been the sport of a discussion to which he did not like to see the institutions of the country subjected. Some Gentlemen might wonder at it as an antiquated notion, but to his mind the whole question of the constitution of Parliament, and of the foundations on which the Constitution of the country Was based, appeared a sacred subject which ought not to be opened without the most urgent necessity, and, if opened, should be closed again as soon as possible. He was, therefore, ready notwithstanding the enormous pressure of questions of immediate urgency on the attention of the House during the present Session to pass, if possible, some measure which should close the question of Reform. They were forced to the conclusion that the necessity which demanded the intervention of the Legislature to settle that question was somewhat of a theoretical character—the adjustment of anomalies and redress of discrepancies. If they could effect that, why well and good; but, if they did engage in a work of that sort without any practical necessity, without any pressure out of doors, without any Urgency in the House as men who had a great responsibility to discharge, and had undertaken to tell the country—for recollect the country had not told them—that there was a necessity for Parliamentary reform, they were bound to present some scheme of Reform which should be creditable to the House, and worthy of the statesman from Whom it emanated. There could be no doubt that any Gentleman surveying out representative system must be struck, and, if of a sensitive disposition, perhaps shocked, by the enormous disproportion which existed in the scale of representation. They had little market towns sending two Members each to Parliament, and they had vast constituencies, great hives of industry and commerce, representing those interests which were the foundation of the prosperity and glory of the country, returning only the same number of Members, and speaking through the same number of voices. That was a very good reason for revising our representative system. They had, again, a great and intelligent class who had benefited much by the means of education that had of late years been opened to them. Thus they had numbers of men who were fully competent to take that humble share in the politics of this country which consisted in giving a vote at elections. In revising our representative system he thought the noble Lord had acted wisely in recommending to Parliament, even ten years ago, to reconsider that matter. He now approached the discussion of the particular measure brought forward by the noble Lord in order to accomplish that object. He had ventured to submit that if there was no practical necessity for any measure of this kind, but that it was recommended rather on speculative grounds, it ought to be a well-considered measure—not a measure springing from lassitude and weariness—not a measure dictated by a desire to get rid of a troublesome engagement which had been hastily contracted. With respect to one complaint that was made against our present representative system no one in that House could object to the measure—for that part of the Bill which related to enfranchisement was ample and generous in its scope. It would double the large constituencies, and in many places would triple them. He did not object to that. He was the representative of a great constituency; he never flattered the electors; he had always told them he did not come to them to learn politics, but to submit his opinions to them; and, from his acquaintance with the working classes, he did not entertain the least fear of the extension of the franchise proposed by the noble Lord. He believed there was no class in the country that meant better than the working classes; and although at first, perhaps, a few Members might be returned who would represent the effervescence of the system rather than its real spirit, he did not think there was the least ground for apprehension of the results. Neither had hon. Gentlemen opposite any reason to fear that they would not obtain a candid consideration of their claims upon the new constituencies. It had been his fortune to prefer claims of a somewhat Conservative nature, as contrasted with his opponent, and yet he had been successful with a great constituency. But he was also bound to consider whether this measure was likely to be a settlement of the question. The object of the noble Lord was to redress anomalies; and yet what was his other proposal? Side by side with his liberal measure of extension of the suffrage there was a partial, and, he might almost say a colourable, measure of disfranchisement. He could not escape from the belief that the noble Lord was creating greater anomalies than he found. Associated with an extension of the franchise that, under present circumstances, would satisfy the most ardent Reformer, there was a scheme for redistribution of seats; and what a miserable, paltry, falling off was there! The noble Lord doubled the borough constituencies, which now complained that their population, wealth, and industry were not sufficiently represented; he doubled the force of their argument, and yet he gave nothing to satisfy the demand. That was not a mode ef settling the question. He had understood from the noble Lord in the last Parliament that he would bring in, first, a measure for extending the franchise, and next a measure of disfranchisement—that was, to arrange the redistribution of seats in a separate measure. He wished the noble Lord had adhered to that intention; but, instead of that, the two subjects were coupled together in a Bill which must be taken to be the noble Lord's proposal, for a settlement of the question. The proposed extension was much greater than that of 1852, because, when the franchise was given to the occupants of £10 houses, there were many grades of voters before the £10 householders were reached; but the returns before the House showed that in the large towns the classes occupying houses under £10 were numerically superior to the classes above £10, and thus, if they chose to combine, they might swamp the other classes of electors. He merely mentioned that to show how liberal and extensive was the scheme of enfranchisement. If with that plan had been combined a proportionate measure of disfranchisement, the Bill would have been consistent with itself. He might have had an opinion upon the Bill, and perhaps not a favourable one; but still it would have been a consistent measure, and one which gentlemen who called themselves Reformers, and who all their lives had been opening their mouths wide at hustings and political meeting in favour of Reform, were bound to support, but upon which those who had not been attached to such sports were entitled to a reserve which he, for one, would have taken the liberty to exercise. This Bill must be considered as a measure for the settlement of the Reform question. The Bill dealt liberally and, as he thought, wisely with the question of extending the franchise; but in what he thought was the more important branch it was otherwise. He believed the hon. Member for Birmingham was one of those who had attached the greatest importance to the redistribution of seats; and how such a measure as this could satisfy him was unintelligible. Indeed, the hon. Gentleman had said that it did not satisfy him. The noble Lord proposed to draw the line at towns with 7,000 inhabitants, which gave him 25 seats to distribute among those new, vigorous, swarming, and hungry constituencies which he was about to call into existence. Did the noble Lord suppose that they would be satisfied with the miserable morsel which he tendered to them? The noble Lord must indeed he sanguine, and trust much to that influence upon this subject which he justly exercised, if he thought that such a proposal would lead to a settlement of the question. That was the great objection which he (Mr. Massey) took to the Bill. He was now coming to a case which was, he believed, unique in itself, the case of the borough of Salford, which he had the honour to represent. That was the largest constituency in England represented by a single Member. The borough of Salford contained 100,000 inhabitants and nearly 4,500 electors. Its claim to a double representation was recognized by the noble Lord in the Bill of 1854. But under the present measure it was still to be left with only one Member, while the number of electors would be increased to 10,500. And yet he was expected to go down to this vast and wealthy borough, swarming with population and increasing in prosperity beyond perhaps every other borough in Lancashire, with the noble Lord's Bill in his hand, and tell his constituents that this was a settlement of the Reform question. He must say that placed him in an unfair and invidious position. He was a moderate man. He had never pretended to be what was called an advanced Reformer. He liked to feel his way in legislation of this kind, rather than to plunge into an abyss from which there might be no escape. He should therefore have been glad if the noble Lord had furnished him with a measure which would have enabled him to say to his constituents that, although it was not all he might have demanded, it was yet a reasonable compromise and one they might fairly accept. But could he with any face use such language as that when he found small market towns retaining their full complement of Members, whilst the claims of his great constituency to a further representative had been utterly ignored by the Bill? Why, the very increase added to the registry of the borough of Salford during the three years he had been its representative equalled the whole constituency of the boroughs of Cockermouth, Buckingham, Tavistock, or Wycombe, whose representation had been preserved in all its integrity. If the noble Lord had adhered to his former plan, and had legislated upon the redistribution of seats in another Bill, he should have said he had taken a prudent course. But the noble Lord had not done that, and had placed upon him the necessity of becoming an agitator for further Reform. He accepted that rôle with the greatest reluctance. He felt that this was a solemn question, not to be lightly opened. We lived under a constitution not resembling that of our neighbours, which might be one day a despotism, another day a mongrel monarchy, and the next a republic; the Constitution of this country was of ancient date, and he, for one, would touch that venerable fabric with much diffidence and great reluctance. There were a few other points to which he wished to advert. In a former Bill the noble Lord had attempted to provide for the representation of minorities, but he had now wisely abandoned any attempt to effect that object in a direct form. Minorities had not hitherto been represented in this country. Englishmen understood a stand-up fight and a victory, but they did not understand the principle of the representation of a minority. Besides, as the hon. Member for Birmingham had asked, if the Member representing the minority should die what would they do then? But, although it was impossible to make a direct provision of this kind, he had always anxiously considered whether some means could not be devised for providing for an expression of opinion by the large number of electors who were excluded by the decision of the poll from having a direct voice in the representation. The Bill of the noble Lord had been praised for its simplicity. It wag simple, even to rudeness; but simplicity in a measure of this kind might be carried too far, and he did not think such rude modes of cutting Gordian knots entitled those who resorted to them to the praise of being great statesmen or of conquering great difficulties. The right hon. Member for Droitwich had adverted to a suggestion thrown out by the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cob-den) on his return from the United States, recommending a division of certain constituencies into wards, each to return its own Members. He attached great importance to this suggestion, and thought it well worthy the consideration of Parliament. When Parliament flooded these enormous areas with a vast mass of voters it created monster constituencies. Now, all those who had acquired experience of such constituencies agreed that, in proportion as the number of voters was increased beyond a certain point, the value which each individual voter attached to his vote was diminished. The voter felt himself to be a unit in a vast mob. Another objection to these huge, unwieldly constituencies was that it was impossible for. a Member to make, himself properly acquainted with them. The people who returned him knew nothing about him. The result was that the nomination of the Member fell into the hands of some self-constituted association or club, which formed itself into a sort of electoral college, which found the candidate and prescribed his political creed—they corresponded with him upon public subjects—and were, indeed, a species of middlemen between the Member and his constituency. Now, that in his (Mr. Massey's) opinion was a most pernicious state of things; and he thought that in any proposal for the re-arrangement of our representative system it was of the first and last importance that these men should be deprived of the pernicious influence they had hitherto exercised over the larger constituencies. In these vast areas one side would be Conservative and the other Liberal. The same difference would, indeed, he found between one part of the borough and the other as between one part of a county and the other. He had hoped that in a well-considered measure suggested by the matured judgment and experience of the noble Lord some means would have been provided, he would not say of mitigating, but of obviating the palpable evils that must accrue from creating these enormous constituencies. Why not adopt in boroughs the principle laid down in the great Reform Act with regard to counties? They as- signed Members to different divisions of a county; and the application of the same principle to boroughs would, in his opinion, have been a great improvement of the Bill, and he would venture to recommend that point to the further consideration of the House. If he had felt any alarm about the enfranchisement in those vast electoral areas of an immense number of unknown voters, he would have regarded it as a compensating circumstance had a line been drawn separating the enormous masses into managable bodies, with whom a candidate might have become acquainted, and with whom he might have easily come in contact. It was, in his estimation, a great evil that Members should be sent to that House without knowing their constituencies. He confessed that he had a sort of superstitious aversion to interference with sacred subjects like these; but in this case they had the principle for which he contended established in the Reform Act of 1832. He believed the adoption of this principle in boroughs would induce the voter to take some interest in his franchise, which he feared he would not otherwise do; while, at the same time, it would enable a candidate to hold communication with his constituents without the intervention of a body of middlemen, of whom he wanted to get rid. He would be glad if some Gentleman would mature this idea. It came from the hon. Member from Rochdale, and on his authority he recommended it to the House. The hon. Member for Rochdale was known, not only as an earnest Reformer, but as a thoughtful man. The opinions he expressed were not the idle suggestions of the mind, but matured thoughts, and such as he believed would prove advantageous to the country. It would be his (Mr. Massey's) duty to sit in the chair when the Bill was in Committee, and perhaps it would not be decent in him then to urge this matter upon the House; but he hoped some Gentleman would take this suggestion into consideration and put it into the proper shape. There were certain additions to the franchise which he thought might be usefully introduced into the Bill. He did not like what the hon. Member for Birmingham bad called "fancy franchises," but he did not think that the introduction of lodgers on certain conditions was open to the objection of being a sentimental or fancy franchise. If they could by any machinery, without going too low, provide for the enfranchisement of a numerous class of lodgers they would admit a very valuable class into the constituency. He was not disposed to go much beyond that, or to enter on what might be considered debatable ground; but the measure as it stood appeared to him rather bold and repulsive, and he thought it might be agreeably varied by the introduction of a lodger or possibly an educational franchise of some sort. He hoped the noble Lord would consider the suggestions which had been thrown, or which might yet been thrown out in the course of that debate, that he would revise his Reform Bill, or that if he should not think proper to revise it he would at least lend a willing ear to proposals for its Amendment, which were made with a view to ensure its improvement. He hoped the noble Lord would be induced so to improve the Bill as to make it worthy of his distinguished name, and a becoming supplement of the great measure of 1832, which regenerated the Constitution of this country, and had conferred on its people the blessings of good government and of enlightened laws.


said, he believed that the Bill as it at present stood would exercise no trifling, no unimportant, but a very subversive and, he believed, a very pernicious influence. The first question that presented itself in connection with this subject was as to whether the reform of the constitution adopted in 1832 was such as required amendment. He could not think of denying that there were at present in our representative system anomalies which were patent to all. The noble Viscount at the head of the Government had very well described the tendency of some of these defects, when he said that under the present system many men of property and intelligence were excluded from the franchise because they did not possess the technical qualification of a £10 house. He agreed with the noble Viscount; but he did not see how the evil so well described by him was to be remedied by the technical £6 franchise proposed by the Bill now before the House. Several hon. Gentlemen who had addressed the House, and amongst them the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Mossey), who had made a wise, temperate, and generally Conservative speech, had alluded in strong terms to the necessity of having an educational franchise. The House would recollect that the year before last a memorial, remarkable more for the names and intelligence than for the numbers of those who signed it, was presented to the noble Lord at the bead of the Government, stating that it was necessary to give a substantive voice in the representation to all classes of the community who possessed a liberal education. As that memorial proposed that representation should be given to persons of education as a class, he (Mr. Steuart) and others had refrained from signing it, though agreeing in the principle that those who had education were equally entitled to consideration as those who possessed the technical qualification of a house of a certain value: but one of the first names appended to it was that of the hon. and learned Gentleman now the worthy Colleague of the noble Viscount in the representation of Tiverton (Mr. Denman), from whom, therefore, when the Bill came to be discussed in Committee, he should expect some proposition for giving the franchise on the basis of education. The noble Lord (Lord John Russell) said he wished to lay before the House a simple, and at the same time satisfactory, plan of reform; but could the noble Lord think any scheme of reform satisfactory which did not admit some of those classes which were included in what were called "the fancy franchises" of his Bill of 1854—such, for instance, as that of persons in the receipt of salaries of not less than £100 a year, and several others. There were many intelligent men who would come in under that class, but who did not come in under any provision in the Bill now before the House. Another excellent franchise proposed by the noble Lord's Bill of 1854 was that which the hon. Member for Birmingham and his school sneered at so much—he alluded to the savings-bank franchise, than which a more useful one could not, in his opinion, be devised. It was a qualification which would have admitted the most worthy portion of the working classes, and he believed none would have been more popular among them. He did not wish to be uncharitable towards the noble Lord; but when he reflected on this and some other omissions in the present Reform Bill, he could not but regard the measure as a compromise between the noble Lord and the hon. Member for Birmingham. He was wellnigh confounded to hear the hon. Member for Birmingham say that the franchise proposed to be given to persons having £50 in a savings bank would not add 1,200 to the number of voters in Scotland. That was a mistake. He (Mr. Steuart) found that the number of persons in that country who had from £50 to £200 in savings banks was between 9,000 and 10,000, and below £50 almost double the number. From his own knowledge of the class of savings-bank depositors in Scotland, he believed scarcely one in three of them would be admitted to the franchise under a £6 house qualification; while in Cambridge, which he represented, about one-sixth would be added to the constituency by a savings-bank qualification alone. That being so, he asked the noble Lord why he had omitted such a qualification from his present Bill. Concurring as he did in the second reading of the Bill, nevertheless he could have wished that some Resolution had been proposed, not necessarily antagonistic to the Bill, in which it should be laid down as the opinion of the House, that unless the omissions to which he referred were supplied, the measure would not be satisfactory to the country. With respect to the lodger franchise, he presumed that after what had been said, even on his own side of the House, the noble Lord would feel it necessary to insert a franchise of that character. He, however, took the opportunity of giving notice that on going into Committee on this Bill he would move a Resolution to the effect, that in any Bill for the extension of the franchise, it being desirable to admit to its exercise classes whose wealth, prudence, and intelligence eminently entitled them to the privilege, it be an instruction to the Committee to consider how many persons belonging to several classes, which he would not at present trouble the House by enumerating, should be admitted. They consisted of classes proposed by the noble Lord, with the addition of others who would not come in on other franchises, such as the lodger franchise. The result of the extension of the franchise proposed by the Bill would, he believed, be to treble the existing number of electors in the case of some boroughs, and to double it in others; its general effect being likely to be to overwhelm intelligence and property in our representative system. We should, in fact, under the operation of the Bill have constituencies in many boroughs in which electors, who represented only one-fourth or one-fifth of its rateable property, would have the power of entirely swamping the remaining members of the constituency. But there was another objection to the £6 franchise, and that was, that it was calculated to prove unequal in its operation, inasmuch as it would, in some boroughs, admit to the exercise of the franchise num- bers of the working classes, while in others it would altogether exclude them from that privilege. To illustrate how the proposal of the noble Lord would work in boroughs, he should mention the case of Cambridge, the borough which he (Mr. Steuart) had the honour to represent. The valuation was at present £127,000; the constituency nominally 1,797, though the real number of electors was 1,600. In the return made use of by the noble Lord, the names of some persons were given as many as two, three, and even five times. According to the plan of the noble Lord the gross number which would be added to the constituency was 1,400; but his principle was to deduct about twenty-seven per cent from the gross number. This deduction was, in his (Mr. Steuart's) opinion, much too large. Supposing that 1,200 were added to the constituency of Cambridge that number would represent an amount of rating equal to about £9,000. Now, the valuation of the property of the present constituency was mote than four or five times that amount. Other boroughs were similarly situated to Cambridge in this respect; he might mention particularly that represented by the hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Committees (Mr. Massey). It was evident from those figures that the new constituencies in many boroughs would not represent in rateable property more than a fourth or a fifth of the amount held by those whom they would have it in their power to displace. Would it not be just that the elective power should bear some proportion to the rating and taxation? Again, he would ask whether it was possible to stop at £6? In Cambridge a man must perhaps pay £6 for a house which he could have in Huntingdon for £4. Suppose the occupier of a £6 house in the former to remove to the latter and there take an equally good house for £4; had he, by the change, become a worse citizen? They could not stop short at £6 if they once adopted that amount. They would have demands for a £5 frauchise next year. So matters would go on till they came to a household suffrage; and if they came to that, could they stop till they arrived at universal suffrage? Again, was justice done by the Bill as between the counties and the boroughs? Was the number of Members given to the former at all n proportion to the number given to the atter, the relative population being considered? As matters at present stood a population of 9,500,000 in counties returned only 159 Members, while a population of 7,500,000 in boroughs returned 330. The hon. Member for Salford had candidly stated to the House that the effect of this measure would be to compel him and other hon. Members to agitate for a further measure of reform. In his (Mr. Steuart's) opinion the Bill would tend to aggravate the evils by which the existing system was attended, and therefore he hoped that if the Bill were not greatly modified in Committee hon. Members would be afforded an opportunity of making a strong protest against it on the Motion for the third reading. He thought that even the Government had reason to apprehend the effects of this Bill, for it did not seem improbable that one of those effects might be to drive the noble Viscount at the head of the administration, and the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary, from power, and hand over the destinies of the empire to politicians of a more revolutionary character. The effect of the Bill, if passed, would be to place the Chancellor of the Exchequer, backed up by the hon. Member for Birmingham and the hon. Member for Rochdale, in the position of leader of the revolutionary party, for no one who had witnessed his philosophical versatility in changing his opinions, and the remarkable energy with which the right hon. Gentleman had set himself to force the Treaty through the House, and in other respects had thrown himself into the arms of the democratic party, could doubt that he was looking forward to become one of its leaders. Believing this Bill to be a most dangerous measure, he expressed the most earnest hope that its most objectionable provisions would be modified in Committee.


said, the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich had called the present measure of the Government "a miserable Bill." If he remembered rightly, the same party termed the Budget a "miserable Budget." All he (Mr. Crossley) would remark was, that if the Government of which he was so distinguished a Member had introduced such a Budget and such a Reform Bill, they would not at present have been sitting on the miserable Opposition benches opposite. Let the House reflect on what had been done during the thirty years which had passed since the last Reform Bill was passed. At sea and on land steam was now in almost universal application, and now railroads, which were then only just being introduced, were extended to almost every village and hamlet of the Empire. In agriculture, too, by the help of machinery, great things had been effected, and the land now produced more corn per acre than it did thirty years ago. Turning to commerce generally, more business by far was done now than then; and looking to the condition of the country generally, they might say safely, there was more social progress than had been made in any century previously. It was, therefore, preeminently a time in which they ought to make a change with regard to the representation of the people. The men who now were £6 householders were now far more capable of using the franchise than those who formerly paid £10. He maintained that to reduce the franchise in the boroughs and counties was a fair step in advance, and one which would settle this question for some time to come. He did not mean to say that it would settle it for ever; but still, as a decided extension, he did consider the Liberals should accept it, and not go for another change until this one had been fairly tried. Doubtless many alterations would be made in this measure. For instance, there was his own notice of Motion to include every man who paid 40s. a year in direct taxation in the exercise of the franchise for the county or the borough, according to his residence. Again, with regard to copyholders. He did not see with what justice a copyholder should be obliged to have £10 income, whilst a freeholder's qualification was only £2, and yet the difference between the two properties was in name only, and not in reality. Then there was the matter of lodgers, with reference to which the hon. and learned Member for Marylebone had given notice. He saw no reason why a lodger paying a fair amount for his lodgings, with a permanent residence, should not have the vote. The rating clauses he (Mr. Crossley) never could see the justice of. To make the payment of rates on a certain day the condition of the vote seemed to him to be both unnecessary and unjust, because the law was not only open, but very severe in being able to compel the payment of rates, and they all knew that those parties who had the care of collecting rates were parties on one side or the other, and that they took care that their friends should have their rate papers in time, and that their political opponents had them just too late to secure the vote. There was also another evil connected with requiring rates to be paid before a certain day, which was, that in boroughs where parties were nearly balanced there were always a number of unprincipled electors pretending to be short of money, but that if their partisans would pay their rates their votes would be all right; and thus bribery of the worst description was committed, and the evil influence on neighbouring electors was very great, for they were frequently taunted with being foolish enough to pay their own rates, whilst, if they had held back, they might have had their rates paid for them. With regard to the redistribution of seats, he agreed with the hon. Member for Salford, that it would have been better to have left it alone, and to have introduced it in another Bill. He begged hon. Members not to misunderstand him; he was very far removed from wishing equal electoral districts; he had sooner than that remain as they were. But there was a medium. The noble Lord the Member for London had admitted that it was not such a change as ought to be made; but the question which arose was whether they should make an alteration which could be carried or one which could not? The hon. Member for West Gloucestershire had pointed with horror to the time when they might in this country resemble New York. Now, New York might be in the very depths of poverty from the description of the hon. and learned Gentleman; but when he (Mr. Crossley) visited the country, he must say that with all its bad laws (and there was much both in the American franchise and in the payment of Members with which he did not agree), he could not shut his eyes to the fact that one might walk about for weeks and months wthout meeting with a beggar or a person in want. On the contrary, New York had increased in trade with a rapidity which we could scarcely conceive, and had become proportionately enlarged in size. He did not think, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman had been successful in pointing with alarm to the United States; It astonished him to find that hon. Gentlemen connected with the agricultural interest were so much more afraid of the working classes than manufacturers were. Should any riots occur, whether was it easier for the rioters to injure the factories, by breaking the windows and the machinery, or to throw stones upon and injure the land? He thought the land would not runaway; but that if any risk were run, it would be by those whose goods and chattels were of a more brittle description. He believed there was as much good feeling and sympathy on the part of landowners as manufacturers, the only difference being that the latter, from their position, had much better opportunities of judging of the character of working men by constantly coming into contact with them. He thought it was Lord Eldon who said "Dine together." Now they need not act upon that motto literally in their intercourse with the working classes, and yet manufacturers must come repeatedly into contact with them. He (Mr. Crossley) had had opportunities of becoming acquainted with working men; he had had dealings with them, and had seen them both in bad and good times, and he was bound to say that he had witnessed as much fair dealing, uprightness, and honourable conduct amongst that class of society as he had found in any other with which he had to do. He had Been their bearing in times of great distress—their kindness and liberality towards their fellows in sickness—their abundance of kindly deeds by the bedside of suffering and sickness, by day and by night, seeking no reward in this world, save that which was of more value to them than money—the satisfaction of doing that which they felt to be right and just. Therefore, he had no hesitation, after his experience among working men, in voting for the second reading of the Bill, which would certainly take away the stigma of class legislation. They were told there was no agitation upon the subject, but if hon. Gentlemen would visit places where working men obtained cheap newspapers, and were well informed, they would find there was a very strong feeling on the question. They were much astonished at what bad been done in the House of Commons during the last few years. They bad scarcely believed that landowners would take off the duty on foreign corn, remove many duties which pressed heavily upon the working man, and impose an income tax upon themselves. Generally speaking, they felt satisfied with what the House of Commons had done for them, but they were unable to see how or why they were not permitted to have anything to do with the representation. They only wanted their fair share. They wished to have no monopoly in their favour. They wanted to be treated as fellow-citizens, having their all in this country, and therefore entitled to have some voice in its government. This was the feeling he met with in his intercourse with the working classes, and he had therefore great pleasure in supporting the second reading of the Bill.


had felt it quite a treat to hear the speech from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey) in favour of this Bill. It was well to make the most of that treat, as it was not likely to be repeated. The right hon. Gentleman said that no Minister had spoken before in the debate, because nothing but vague objections had been taken to the measure, to which it was impracticable to make any reply. He (Mr. Seymer) thought that the next Member of the Government who rose could not do better than answer the speeches made on his own side of the House, and more especially the speech delivered by the hon. and learned Gentleman who presided over their Committees (Mr. Massey). Many hon. Members below the gangway did not accept the Bill, but availed themselves of the £6 franchise as supplying the lever by which they might work out future changes. And as to the distribution of seats, they all agreed in objecting to it. They said the proposal of the Bill was petty, and anything but a settlement of the question; that, in fact, it merely unsettled it, and that further alterations must follow. The hon. Member who had just sat down had, indeed, spoken rather more favourably of the measure than those on the same side who preceded him; but his friendly tone might, perhaps, be accounted for by the fact that his own constituents were somewhat handsomely treated by its provisions; for, whereas other places were banished to the schedule at the end of the Bill, the West Riding of Yorkshire was honoured with a clause all to itself, and was hereafter to return four knights of the shire to Parliament. So far as he could understand the hon. Gentleman's principal argument amounted to this:—"We travel fast now-a-days by land and sea, and therefore we must have a strong Reform Bill." There was nothing so remarkable in the whole political history of this country than the complete and general apathy about this measure. Thoughtful men on both sides of that House, however, viewed its provisions with very considerable alarm, and their feeling was shared out of doors by thoughtful men of no particular party and not given to agitation, but who contented themselves with expressing their opinions in private, and made no demon- stration. Moreover, there was a great fallaey in regard to that matter. Many persons remembered the great apprehensions entertained with regard to the Bill of 1832, and that it had failed to produce the evils that were anticipated from it. But, in the first place, that Bill was carried under very alarming circumstances; the peace of the country was in great peril; and, in the next place, the measure had effected no great changes in the constitution of the House and in the position and property of the country. It was now argued that, because that first Reform Bill had not done the great harm that was expected from it, therefore the present Bill would not inflict much harm upon the country. That he held to be a very illogical and fallacious argument. Another argument was, that however objectionable were the provisions of the present Bill, the common sense of the people would operate against its destructive influences, and all would go well in the end. It would, however, have been more satisfactory if the classes now to be entrusted with the control of our public affairs had shown a more careful and intelligent appreciation of their own interests than they had often exhibited. It was impossible to forget what had recently happened in the building trade, or the various strikes, which had always ended, after much suffering, in the operatives returning to their work on the terms against which they had stood out. What must be Mr. Potter's estimate of the intellect of the masons of London when, notwithstanding the defeat his misguided hearers, had sustained, he could venture, as he lately did, to assure them they had achieved a great victory? That gentleman actually addressed those poor dupes in the language of triumph, when it was notorious that they had lost everything by their strike. He was now going to tread upon very delicate ground; but it was as well to speak out on this question, without any concealment. He had heard this whispered out of doors, "You are going to enfranchise a low class of voters. We have had some experience of that class at the municipal elections. You will make Parliamentary elections more expensive; but we think we can work them by bribery, treating, and intimidation." He could be no party to any such transaction. He never could with one hand give the working man a vote, and with the other endeavour to deprive him of the conscientious exercise of it by those arts of corruption which good men did all in their power to put down. That was not an honest course of proceeding. In the progress of that Bill through Committee they ought to take means to prevent the undue preponderance of one class in the representative system. Allusions had been made to the Bill settling this question. What was the real opinion of the noble Lord on that point? No doubt he was sincerely desirous of getting Parliamentary Reform out of the way, that the House might proceed to the practical legislation required by the country. But had not the hon. Member for Birmingham the other evening in his place in that House plainly told them that the Bill, instead of settling, would unsettle the whole question?


Allow me to explain. I said nothing of the kind. I confined my remark to the subject of the disfranchisement of boroughs, and said that on that point the Bill would not settle the question. I did not mean, and did not say, that it would effect an unsettlement in regard to the suffrage.


said, he had quite understood the statement of the hon. Member at the time, and still he maintained that, if the hon. Gentleman were immediately to commence an agitation for the disfranchisement of boroughs, this would be no settlement of the Reform question. Why, the hon. Member had himself distinctly avowed that they would unsettle everything, for had he not declared that, in his opinion, the distribution of the seats was the very "pith and marrow of Parliamentary Reform?" In the face of that opinion of the hon. Gentleman, how could they expect that this Bill would be a final settlement of the question? But he did not think that even the question of the franchise was quite settled as far as the hon. Gentleman was concerned. He saw this one idea running through the whole of his speech—number—number was everything. He (Mr. Seymer) said, fitness was everything. The hon. Gentleman said there was only 1,000,000 of persons out of 7,000,000 that possessed the franchise, which fact, in his opinion, proved his case. He (Mr. K. Seymer) said it did not. He did not care how many were excluded if they were not fit to possess the franchise, nor how many were admitted if they were fit for it. In the small towns and rural districts there would be many millions of adult males un-enfranchised by this Bill. It was quite evident that if they followed the principles of the hon. Member for Birmingham they Would shortly come to manhood suffrage and electoral districts. But then the hon. Gentleman seemed to have some idea of an indefeasible right to the franchise. That right had never been admitted in this country, and he hoped it never would. He thought that they had gone low enough in establishing virtually household suffrage. The facts that had been lately proved in the case of the Wakefield election showed that they had lowered the franchise to a class of persons who looked upon it as conferring upon them a right to use it for pecuniary emolument. The hon. Member for Birmingham, painfully aware of the contrast between the corrupt boroughs and the county constituencies, very adroitly turned on the last and said, "Oh," you cannot be bribed, because you are not free to sell your votes." Now, he replied to that assertion of the hon. Gentleman by saying that the county electors were perfectly free to sell their votes if they had the inclination to do so; but such a thing as corruption was unknown in the counties. He did not mean to take too much credit for their freedom from corruption. The rural constituencies were spread over a wide area, and there were no corner public-houses in which bodies of the electors could meet and be bribed. As to the county electors being anything like slaves to do alone the will of their landlords, he utterly denied the assertion. If the landlords' influence were paramount in the county which he represented he would not hold a seat at that time in the House, because it so happened that the principal landed proprietors there were supporters of the policy of Her Majesty's Government; but amongst the people generally of the counties there was a strong Conservative feeling existing, and that was the reason why the hon. Member for Birmingham did not like the county constituencies. The people of his county sent him into that House to tell the hon. Gentleman that they were utterly opposed to his views of policy, both foreign and domestic. They sent him there to tell him that with all his ability and honesty of purpose, they considered him to be a most dangerous politician. The hon. Member for Birmingham was kind enough, in the course of his speech, to advise them to trust their fellow countrymen. He said, "Why not trust the people?" The hon. Gentleman in one sense certainly did trust the people; he trusted largely in their ignorance, when he addressed them in terms he could not repeat in any assembly of men well informed on political questions. He trusted in the ignorance of the people when he told them, over and over again, that the landed gentry of England kept up great and unnecessary military and naval establishments, because they received emoluments from them; that they ground down the people with heavy taxation, that their sons and brothers might derive pay from the military and naval services. Would the hon. Gentleman repeat that in any assembly of well-educated men? It was obvious that the classes so accused paid much more to the income tax alone than any amount they could receive from the scanty pay doled out to those who bled for their country. In this sense the hon. Gentleman showed a great confidence in his countrymen, but not in the sense in which he wished others to show it. It was the way in which these statements were received that created alarm at the extension of the suffrage. Those to whom such language could be addressed, and who took it all for gospel, must naturally be much excited against the class which they were told oppressed and robbed them, and, when they obtained political power, would they not attempt to make an adjustment, which would probably be a very unjust one? The Chancellor of the Exchequer had kindly arranged that the reformed Parliament should deal with the deficit to be met in the next year; and the holders of property saw with alarm, a graduated property tax "looming in the future." They did not like the prospect. The noble Lord boasted that this Bill was a very simple, a very short one; it was so. But he did not think that any merit. The noble Lord regretted that the Reform Bill of 1832 destroyed many franchises, and left the suffrage almost a dead level. Well, that was precisely the case with the present Bill. This measure created no new franchise; it merely made a few downward steps in the counties and boroughs, and that was the Reform Bill. It was not his idea of a reform. Sensible men for years past had held that in every constituency there were many persons more competent to exercise the franchise than the £10 householders. Those persons remained disfranchised; the Bill contained no remedy for this evil. Great complaints were made of the enormous expense of county elections; nothing was done to remedy it. No attempt was made to remedy the abuse of paying the travelling expenses of voters. All these points were dealt with by the Reform Bill proposed by Lord Derby's Government. There were, he admitted, defects in it; but he contended that that measure contained the elements of a better Bill than the measure of the noble Lord. But Lord Derby's Bill had one incurable defect—there was not a party majority to vote its second reading. Hon. Gentlemen opposite had just made up their quarrel; they had an opportunity of displacing the Government of Lord Derby, and they would not let his Reform Bill go into Committee. What his side of the House opposed in this measure was, the creation of too many constituencies resembling the great metropolitan boroughs. Hon. Gentlemen were in the habit of saying very uncivil things of the metropolitan Members. Quite as many uncivil things were said of those Gentlemen at Brookes's as at the Carlton. There was nothing personal in these objections. But it was with a feeling of relief the whole country heard that the Bill would only give two new Members to the metropolis; it was caused by the belief that the metropolitan Members do not represent the intelligence and wealth of their constituencies. In the Borough of Maryleboue, in spite of sixty committee-rooms, and he was afraid to say how many paid canvassers and cabs to carry the voters to the poll—for they would not take the trouble to walk—not half the constituency voted. Why did they stay away from the poll? The upper classes of the electors abstained from voting, because they felt it would be perfectly useless to appear. Who possessed all the influence in the metropolitan districts? The licensed victuallers. What was the first question asked of a metropolitan candidate? Why, this—Was he sound on the licensing system? The House would soon have an opportunity of testing that influence; and he feared the Chancellor of the Exchequer would find the majority of the metropolitan Members thoroughly sound on the licensing question. What gave force and strength to a constituency was not its number, but the character of its representative. What, then, was the use of giving more Members to the great commercial cities, if their upper classes were practically unrepresented? It was a mere mockery to extend the franchise in great towns, when they were only enfranchising certain classes in them; the others being kept from the poll by the feeling that they had no influence on the result. The Government had a party majority in that House, because last Session they had taken a vote of want of confidence on which they had thrown out the party of Lord Derby; but he had that confidence in the sense of the House of Commons that assured him that in the future stages of the Bill they would have the power of introducing such modifications as would make it, what it was not in its present form, a Bill for the real improvement of the Representation of the People.


said, he should support the measure of the Government, and in so doing trusted he should not be exposed to the taunt that had been directed by the hon. Member for Dorsetshire against the hon. Member for the West Riding, who, it was alleged, gave his support to the Bill because it conferred two additional Members on his Shire. It was true that an additional Member was to be given to the borough of Leeds, but he could say with strict truth that he had for years entertained exactly the same opinions he should express that evening. He had for years entertained the belief that it was wise and right to extend the borough franchise to £6, and that was a great and distinguishing feature of the measure brought in by the noble Lord. He hoped to adduce some facts that would diminish the honest alarm that was felt in some quarters, by showing how the measure would work in the borough of Leeds with a population of 200,000, which might be taken as a fair average of the large boroughs of England and Wales. He would refer, however, in the first place, to an objection made to the Bill by the right hon. Gentleman the leader of the Opposition, who said there was no principle in the Bill, and that there was nothing in it to indicate the fitness of the voter. The fitness of the voter to exercise the franchise would govern his (Mr. Baines's) opinion of the fitness of the measure brought forward; but when the right hon. Gentleman said there was no principle in the £6 franchise, he would remind him that there was the same principle in a £6 franchise as in a £10 franchise, or in a 40s. freehold, or in a £50 tenancy at will, or in a scot-and-lot right, or in the freemen suffrage, or in burgage tenure; and therefore that objection of the right hon. Gentleman applied equally to the existing and former systems of representation that prevailed in this country. His (Mr. Baines's) belief was that £6 was a practical means of working out the principle which the right hon. Gentleman called fitness, and that £6 was a much higher rental than was paid for the houses occupied by the majority of the working classes. It implied the possession of those moral and social qualifications which the right hon. Gentleman summed up in the one word "fitness," inasmuch as it indicated on the part of the occupier the sobriety, industry, providence, good taste, good morals, and good habits, which qualified a man for the exercise of the franchise. In that sum of £6 lay the great distinction of this Bill as compared with that of the late Government. The "fancy franchises" were not objected to on their own account, but because they were offered as a substitute for the extension of the franchise to the working classes. He thought that some of those fancy franchises were perfectly right, but they had merely the effect of filling up the interstices existing in the electoral system, and did not extend the franchise to the working classes who had shown themselves entitled to it. The law—the Church—education—the army and navy—all persons in public employments—belonged to the classes that were represented when they came down to a £10 franchise; but the right hon. Gentleman opposite did not go below that, or take in the working classes of the country. Indeed the right hon. Baronet the Member for Herts (Sir E. B. Lytton), advocated the Bill of the late Government on the express ground that it kept the representation in the hands of the middle classes. It was objected that the present Bill enfranchised a great number of persons, who would form a vast homogeneous class, exercising a preponderance in the boroughs; but that was a mistake, they would neither be a homogeneous class, nor would those electors, who were newly admitted, be a preponderant class. The present borough constituencies exceed 400,000, and those to be newly admitted would be only 200,000; so that, at the outside, without making any deduction on account of nonpayment of rates, change of residence, and a great number of causes, he was satisfied they would not add 50 per cent to the borough constituencies by this measure. How was it possible that 200,000 could exercise a preponderating influence over 400,000, even if they all belonged to the same class? But they did not belong to the same class. It would be a mistake to suppose that the 200,000 who would be newly admitted would all belong to the working classes. He had taken the trouble to ascertain the state of things in this respect in the borough of Leeds. The present constituency was 6,000, and it was calculated that 4,000 would be added by the Bill, bringing the constituency up to 10,000. He had consulted the treasurer of the township, a gentleman engaged in superintending the collection of rates and the management of that kind of business, a gentleman of high character, whose opinion was of great value, and he would read what that gentleman said on the subject of the new electors that would be added to the constituency by this Bill. He said:— We (himself and an experienced rate collector) have very carefully considered the matter, and believe, looking generally at the question, that we have estimated the matter correctly. The 4,000 new voters are included (with few exceptions) in the trades, &c, enumerated in the Schedules inclosed and numbered 1,2, and 3. Those of the strictly operative class are in Schedules No. 1 and 2. We estimate the number at about 2,500. The portion of the operatives included in this return, you will please to observe, are the most intelligent and best skilled workmen of their class. The Schedule No. 1 contained a class of trades, &c, and of persons paying from £6 to £7 annual rent in Leeds. The House would remark that the different trades to which they belonged indicated the difficulty of organization and combination on their part. These were—cloth-dressers, dyers, mechanics, masons, bricklayers, joiners, plasterers and painters, plumbers, tinners, and braziers. The Schedule No. 2 contained a class of trades, &c, and of persons paying from £7 to £8 annual rent in Leeds. These were—overlookers, enginemen, slubbers and spinners, cloth pressers, warehousemen, iron and brass moulders, whitesmiths and machine makers, brushmakers, wood turners, curriers and leather dressers, wheelwrights, and tobacco cutters. The Schedule No. 3 contained a class of trades, &c, and of persons paying from £8 to £10 annual rent in Leeds. These were—Retail shopkeepers, bookkeepers, and assistant clerks, persons who have saved from their earnings say from £50 to £80 a year, managers of manufactories, warehouses, &c. Printers, cloth drawers, tradesmen's assistants, shopmen, &c. These returns must tend to give satisfaction to those who thought that the persons who would be added to the constituencies by this Bill would form One great homogeneous class which would easily combine for the accomplishment of any social or political purpose they had in view. He wished to draw the attention of the House to the fact that the borough electors of England and Wales under the new Bill were estimated at 607,000. The population of boroughs in the year 1851 amounted to 7,432,000, and at the present day must amount to about 9,000,000. Out of a population of 9,000,000 in the boroughs of England and Wales, the adult males would be about one-fourth, or 2,250,000. Then, out of that 2,250,000 there were only 607,000 electors altogether. Now, what proportion did the upper and middle classes bear to the working classes throughout the country? He had been accustomed to consider that the average proportions were about one-fourth for the upper and middle classes, and three-fourths for the working classes. If that be true, inasmuch as the whole number of electors was little more than one fourth of the whole male adult population, they would still have the electors representing little more than the upper and middle classes. Only one-fourth of the whole number of electors would belong to the working classes, and what was there to alarm the House so greatly in the fact that the working classes, who were three-fourths of the population, should have one-fourth of the electoral rights? He believed his hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham was not far wrong when he said that not more than about 100,000 of the working classes would be admitted to the franchise. The number might be 120,000, or even 150,000. He asked the House to consider what proportion they thought it was just, reasonable, and safe to give to the working classes, for though 150,000 of their number might be admitted to the exercise of the franchise, yet the House must consider the enormous number which were excluded from the enjoyment of the franchise. If they brought about one-tenth, and in some boroughs perhaps one-fifth into the possession of the franchise, and excluded nine-tenths of the whole adult population of the country from the exercise of the franchise, surely that was an exclusion rather tending to satisfy any hon. Gentleman who was afraid for the purity or the intelligence under which the franchise might henceforth be exercised. He had taken some pains to make inquiries as to that class of persons occupying houses between £6 and £10, which were now admitted for the first time to the enjoyment of the franchise, and he had arrived at the confident conviction that there was an amount of moral and intellectual qualification, so great and so de- cisive, that they could not with any safety think of excluding any longer from the enjoyment of the franchise that class of persons. He might mention that in 1820, when the noble Lord (John Russell) began his career as a Reformer by proposing to transfer the forfeited franchise of Gram-pound to Leeds with a £10 franchise, it was stated in that House that the leading banker in Leeds had written up to say, that if persons inhabiting £10 houses were to receive the franchise he would be obliged to shut up his bank. Such was the view at that time taken of the social condition of Leeds. Upon a recent occasion they had had an opportunity of contrasting the social position of that borough in the present day with what it was in the year 1820. On the occasion he referred to, Her Majesty came down and honoured Leeds by opening its new Town Hall. On that occasion Her Majesty passed in an open carriage through several miles of the streets of Leeds, thronged with half a million of people, without hearing one word of rudeness or discourtesy, and amid the heartiest expressions of loyalty. Her Majesty and the young Princesses rejoiced to witness their unfeigned and hearty loyalty. [Cheers.] He was glad to observe that hon. Gentlemen opposite believed in the loyalty of the working classes. He believed in it too. He believed that there was a conservative feeling of the best kind in the working class; and if the House had any sincere desire to render them more loyal and conservative they would extend to them the privileges of the Constitution of England. Then, being admitted within the citadel of the Constitution, in times of distress they would be found the defenders of that citadel instead of its assailants, which they would be if found outside of it. By way of explaining the great social improvement which had taken place in that borough, he would mention to the House a few facts, which would possess great interest for all who cared for the social improvement of the people. First, as to savings banks, and he would beg hon. Gentlemen to bear in mind that those institutions were almost exclusively for the benefit of the working classes, a great number of whom must be qualified for the exercise of the franchise. In the Leeds, Skyrac, and Morley Savings Bank there were open accounts—number of persons, 12,878; the amount, £339,890. In the West Riding Penny Savings Bank, of which there were eleven branches in the borough, £80 per week receipts. There were numerous savings banks connected with Sunday schools, mechanics' institutions, &c. The provident institutions and friendly societies contained 22,543 members; benefit building societies, 7,581 members—with £900,000 invested. Mechanics' institutions and similar institutions, 26 societies, with 5,556 members. They had 133 Sunday schools—teachers, 5,274; scholars, 35,003. They had 371 day schools in 1851, 76 public, 295 private; scholars, 21,834. The industrial, ragged, and sewing schools, contained 700 pupils. The town mission had 16 agents. The temperance societies contained 3,000 members. Juvenile societies (Bands of Hope) several thousands. Two co-operative flour mills, one of which has 3,200 shareholders, with £11,795 capital. He would remind the House that these facts illustrated an amount of progress which was not confined to Leeds, but which extended to other places. There was one point more, showing the amount of intelligence which existed in the town, and here he would institute a comparison as well as he could between the year 1820 and the year 1860. He had endeavoured to ascertain what was the number of newspapers circulated in Leeds daily and weekly in those two periods. He believed that in 1820 the number of daily papers circulated in Leeds did not exceed 100, the number now was 3,800. In 1820 the number of weekly papers was not more than 3,000, the number now was 17,300. The number of literary, scientific, and religious weekly periodicals sold in Leeds at the former period, he was certain, at a liberal estimate, did not exceed 500. The number now was 21,742 per week. Then, of monthly publications, he would assume that at the former period there were 500 circulated, which was a liberal estimate, whereas the number now sold in Leeds was 12,603. These facts, which indicated so great an amount of social progress in Leeds, were only a sample of what had taken place in other boroughs. The general educational statistics he would not allude to further than to say that between 1818 and 1851 the day schools increased 218 per cent, while the population increased only 54 per cent. That was surely an indication of that great social progress which was the greatest justification of, nay, had rendered necessary, the Bill of the noble Lord. He affirmed that it would be unsafe for this House or for Parliament to shut out men who were so intelligent and so loyal from the enjoyment of the elective franchise. His full and confident belief was, that Parliament might admit them with perfect safety, and that by so doing they would strengthen their institutions. He believed that their was great truth in the assertion that the élite of the working-classes were more independent than many among those classes who now possessed the franchise—they were men possessed of rare and valuable skill, whom their masters did not dare offend; they were supported by the sympathy of numbers; and they sustained their position with an amount of judgment and political knowledge not inferior to that of the middle classes of society in general. He trusted he should not be understood by the favourable picture which he had drawn, by the facts which he had alleged, to say, that they had not much to regret, much to be ashamed of; but he had shown that out of 50,000 adult males in his borough, they were giving the franchise only to 10,000, and that 40,000 were still left out of the pale of the Constitution. It was said that they were extending the borough franchise dangerously far; on the contrary, if they were to adopt any rate higher than a £6 franchise, his belief was that they would not meet the great exigencies which they were called upon, to legislate for, and that it would be better not to attempt to legislate at all. His firm belief was, that if they did admit these men to the enjoyment of the franchise they would constitute but a very small portion of the constituencies; they would have nothing to apprehend from admitting them, and no measure short of that proposed by the noble Lord would at all meet the exigencies of the case.


Sir, when in 1783 Mr. Pitt proposed a Reform Bill, he said that he could scarcely venture to touch what be called the sacred ark of the Constitution with unhallowed hands. His great rival, Mr. Fox, speaking on the same occasion, declared that if by an interposition of Divine Providence all the wise men in the world were assembled in a single chamber they could not by their united wisdom make a constitution that would certainly work well in practice. I must say that the followers of Mr. Fox do not share his alarm, because whenever they have a little spare time they propound a Reform Bill. Mr. Pitt and Mr. Fox thought that a Reform Bill should be proposed only when there was a case of paramount and overwhelming necessity for it. Well, I have been endeavouring to gather from the lips of the eminent persons who have addressed us what is the case of paramount and overwhelming necessity for the present Bill, but I confess I have obtained no information upon that interesting point. The hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld), in a speech of great ability, frankly and honestly admitted that there is a profound apathy on the subject of Parliamentary Reform, and he endeavoured to account for it upon metaphysical principles. He quoted from Mr. Mill to show that the English people were becoming frigid philosophers. I doubt the application of that quotation to this country, because whenever the people of England feel deeply they express their opinion strongly and warmly; when they disapproved a Conspiracy Bill they expressed their disapproval strongly, and if they wanted a Reform Bill they would speak out unmistakeably on the subject. There is a profound apathy in the country in reference to the question, and I do not think the hon. Member for Halifax helped his case when he confessed that even his inspiring eloquence had failed to excite the people of England—a strong proof of the invincible good sense of his countrymen. Nor did I hear a satisfactory reason for a Reform Bill from the lips of the hon. Member for Birmingham. He gave us a reason, indeed, perhaps the best which has been offered yet, for he said that the present Bill had been introduced by the noble Lord because when he was in Opposition he promised to bring forward some such measure.


I did not say that the noble Lord introduced the Bill on that account; but that the Bill took the form it has assumed in consistency with a promise he gave the House last year. That is a very different reason from the words the right hon. Gentleman has put into my mouth.


The precise words used by the hon. Member were that the Bill was a redemption of the pledge given by the noble Lord when he sat on the Opposition side of the House. I submit to his better judgment that a worse argument he could not have advanced. It is but the statement of a fact. It is true, I admit, that when the noble Lord was in Opposition he did, in a rash moment, when engaged in carrying an abstract Resolution, throw out some hints as to what a Reform Bill ought to contain—an unanswerable instance of the danger of giving pledges in Opposition, which are sure to recoil upon a statesman when he gets into office. As a matter of fact, therefore, the statement of the hon. Member for Birmingham is correct, but it is no argument to prove the necessity of a Bill. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey) also endeavoured to explain why the present measure was introduced, but I cannot say he was quite successful in giving us a satisfactory reason. He said that the Government had proposed the Bill in its present shape in order to retain the confidence of their supporters.


I did not say so.


The confidence of the House, not of their supporters.


I thank the hon. Member for his correction, but I apprehend the confidence of the House means the confidence of a majority. That is a very politic reason for the introduction of the Bill, but it does not prove it to be a good Bill; on the contrary, it may be a bad Bill, although it receives the support of a majority. I submit that the duty of enlightened statesmen, such as I see on the Treasury bench, is not to pander to the prejudices of a majority, but to consult their own reason, and introduce measures conducive to the permanent welfare of the country. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last gave us a specimen of statistical rhetoric. He seemed to be of opinion that England, Ireland, and Scotland, were centred in Leeds. I may say, indeed, that his speech was a convincing argument against the proposal to give another Member to Leeds, for, if twenty gentlemen were to spend their lives in studying the blue or red-book which contains the history of the institutions of Leeds, they could not do so to better purpose or with greater effect than the hon. Member. But he mistook the philosophic speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bucks, where he spoke of the addition of a homogeneous mass to the existing constituent body. The hon. Gentleman seems to have thought that my right hon. Friend meant them all to be plasterers. I assure the hon. Member that was not the argument, and I think it was scarcely necessary for him to give us, with such painful particularity, the number of the useful, industrious men belonging to the various trades of Leeds, in order to disprove the statement of my right hon. Friend. That statement stands untouched by the interesting facts which the hon. Gentleman has communicated to the House. When a great measure like the present is proposed it is a fair question to ask—Will it satisfy anybody? The hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Lawson), who is, I believe, a "chip of the old block," has told us something about that, and I was much struck with his observations. He said that the Ballot was not so applicable to small as to large boroughs, but he hoped that by the supplementary Reform Bill—(my spirit died within me when I heard that phrase)—in the supplementary Bill which must soon be introduced, all the small boroughs would be extinguished. The hon. Member spoke with all the ardour of youth, and I believe with sincerity, and he announced to us that this final measure which the noble Lord has introduced will forthwith be followed by a supplementary Bill that will extinguish—he does not give us any option—he says which will extinguish the right to send Members to Parliament in all the small towns in the kingdom. The hon. Member for Birmingham a higher authority, has also given us his opinion of the present Bill, and I recommend it to the careful notice of the noble Lord the Member for London. "The transference of seats," said the hon. Member, "is the pith and marrow of Reform. This Bill does not settle, but rather unsettles, the question of the distribution of seats." Therefore, according to the hon. Member—the highest authority in the country on the point—we are proceeding with infinite pains and labour, while the finances of the country are in a state of expectancy—not to settle anything but to unsettle everything; which is a piece of statesmanship that does credit to the Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench. But the hon. Gentle man went on to say, very fairly and openly, that the further demands of the country must be satisfied; and he added this remarkable sentence, "It is impossible for this question to remain permanently where you are about to place it by this Bill." Therefore, we are not to consider the merits of the Bill itself—"the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill"—but we are fairly warned that the doctrine of finality, relied upon by the noble Lord twenty-five years ago, is utterly exploded and that one Reform Bill is only valuable because it leads to another. No constitution that ever existed in the civilized world, ancient or modern, could stand such handling as that. To that I think I shall have the assent of the noble Lord on the true prin- ciples of ancient Whiggery. May I take the liberty of asking the noble Lord whether any politician can safely speculate on the consequences of a political measure? He himself once prophesied—sincerely, no doubt—as to the effect of a certain measure in a certain part of the empire—namely, Ireland—and immediately after his prophecy there was the grandest agitation there the world ever saw. You cannot speculate as to the consequences of any political change, but if one were at liberty to speculate on the consequences of this measure from the speeches which enforce it, I should say it would be followed by an agitation conducted by men of ability and sincerity—like the hon. Member for Birmingham—who would use the power this Bill gives them, not for the purpose of quieting the minds of their fellow countrymen, but to excite them by maddening eloquence to demand further and more extensive changes. The hon. Member for Birmingham will permit me to ask him and those who think with him, whether their principle is to reform the Constitution of their country or to reconstruct it? I am willing to argue either with him or any other Member of this House, provided he first admits that his intention is to amend—if it be to reconstruct, then, I say, the task is not one of reform but of revolution, and I decline to argue with him at all. When the hon. Gentleman tells us that there are 7,000,000 adult males in this country, and that only 1,000,000 have votes, and the rest are excluded, I want to know what he means by that argument? Is it that all the rest ought to be admitted to the franchise? Does he mean to argue that it has over been the Constitution of this country since England was a nation, to recognize the sovereignty of the people, or the sovereignty of the majority? Never, I say—at no time. The argument that the masses are to be admitted, because they are the masses, is against our history, our law, and our Constitution. If the hon. Gentleman asks me on what principle the people were admitted formerly, let us look back a little to our history. It is good to look back when we are pressing forward too fast; for, however much this age may have improved in railroads, steamers, electric telegraphs, and the like, I doubt whether in matters of statesmanship and policy we have at all improved on the abnormis sapientia of our ancestors. The freeholders in ancient times elected in common with the knights in the counties—and why? Not merely because they had the property, but because the exercise of the franchise was but the development of other liberties which they possessed, of other privileges of which they were in the daily exercise and enjoyment, which were connected with the franchise, and of which the franchise was the guardian. The hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Caird), I see, has given notice of his intention to move the introduction of the 40s. freehold franchise to Scotland. What was the 40s. franchise in its origin? We have it thus explained to us in our books. No man was allowed to vote by the ancient law of this country unless he had an independent will, unless the property he possessed was enough, together with reasonable industry, to give him a competency. A 40s. freehold, when that franchise was first established, would be worth about £12, in the reign of Queen Anne; when Blackstone wrote it would be worth £20; now, I suppose it is worth about £40. But there is yet another reason why the 40s. freeholder was admitted to vote, to which I beg the attention of the hon. Gentlemen opposite, who are all for numbers. The freeholder, according to ancient usage, was a member of the County Court; he was a judge, or what you would now call a juryman; he had duties to perform which daily and hourly qualified him to exercise the franchise. In this way security was taken that those who voted should have independence, industry, and intelligence, and those were excluded who had not the qualities which entitled them to the exercise of the franchise. The clergy were admitted for the same reason. But I quite admit that "the masses" were excluded, for that is my argument. They were excluded according to the principle that they had not qualities which would entitle them to exercise the franchise. In boroughs men voted because by charter they were made into corporations; because they had obtained privileges by their charters, they elected magistrates, they served on juries, they taxed themselves; and when they met in this chamber those who were elected for towns voted on an equality with those who were elected for counties. But is your enlightened voter of the present day, your £6 man, the man to discharge such duties? Take the artisan, the carpenter, the plasterer, of whom the hon. Member for Leeds talked—could they discharge the duties which were discharged by the electors in those times? Could you place them on juries? Certainly not. There is nothing more dangerous or more unprincipled than to take a man suddenly out of the mass of the population and to make him a voter, when that same man has performed none of the functions of which the exercise of that vote is but the development. In what did the ancient system eventuate? The constitution sought for men who had the political capacity requisite to exercise the franchise and the functions connected with it; it did not matter how few or how many they were. If they were few, the few were entrusted with the franchise for the purpose of protecting the many—it might be against their own ignorance, their own prejudices, or their own poverty; but, whether few or many, it was they who had the political capacity who possessed the power, and there is no time in the history of our constitution, when mere numbers were represented because of the fact of their numbers. In process of time the copyholder came to resemble the freeholder, he got a permanent title and a tenure almost equal to a freehold, and was necessarily included within the pale of the Constitution—the long-leaseholders, too, according as they fell within the category of possessors of political capacity. The rest were not excluded, but were held to be not entitled to the franchise, because they did not possess the political capacity, the independent property and the free will which the constitution required in him who was to be entrusted with the power of the franchise. The hon. Member for Birmingham, the hon. Member who spoke last, and the Members of the Government who have spoken call upon us to admit the working classes; but what does that mean? Are the working classes to be admitted because they are the working classes? Where is a precedent for that to be found in our books—in our history? They are to be admitted if they have the political capacity. If you discover in them the independence, knowledge, and understanding which the Constitution requires they are to be admitted. It matters not how many; the more the better. When once you have discovered a class of persons who possess the political capacity to be intrusted with the making of laws for the Government of this splendid empire, they are entitled to the franchise, no matter how numerous they may be. But I want to ask Her Majesty's Ministers, how have they proved that this body to which they refer so triumphantly possesses that political capa- city? Has the hon. Member for Birmingham proved it? He told us the other night that not long ago he visited a great warehouse in Manchester, and as he saw the piles of textile fabrics heaped up the thought came into his mind that if the men concerned in the production of these articles were all called up together not one, probably, would be found to have a vote. Well, what argument is that? We are not now in search of a good stonemason, a good plasterer, or a good carpenter, or a good weaver; what we are in search of is a man who has the political capacity to do a political act. Tell me not of their industry, their manual dexterity—you must show to me what are their opinions, what their combinations, what their political capacity. You must prove to me that they have the intelligence and the understanding required for the doing of a certain political act. Not one single word has been said to prove this; you have no facts, you have no returns, you have no elements enabling you to judge whether they have this capacity. But under these circumstances what was I bound to do? I looked about to see as well as I could what were the opinions of these men, what their tastes for organization, what their views with regard to the great questions, I will not say of political economy, but of common sense. I find in reference to a publication of great interest, that the organization bearing on the late strikes, extended over 60,000 men. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bucks says that these men have great power of organization, and that if these persons possessed of such organization were entrusted with political power, it would give them supremacy. I have looked over a pamphlet which I recently received, by Mr. Potter, the secretary of the organized trades, on strikes and lock-outs, and I find there from themselves what are the opinions of the working classes; for it is no use for us to think for them—we must learn their opinions from themselves. The paper is interesting, the author proposed to explain what is the condition of the working classes and what their feelings towards their employers. I think that the capitalists are right in saying that they do not rank very high with them; and, far from believing that the capitalists would gain their votes, it seems likely that the workmen would avenge themselves on their employers at the very first opportunity. In reference to the late strike and the conduct of their employers, the paper states that the men made certain appeals to the masters, and were not received with courtesy. ["Hear!"] I am not defending the masters—let the Member for the Tower Hamlets understand that, for I see he is eulogised in the pamphlet. Sometimes, it is stated, their addresses were harshly and rudely answered, or received with silent contempt, and on several occasions the men composing the deputations were discharged from employment and deprived of the means of subsistence, the masters thus acting, according to the publication, not only with gross injustice and tyranny towards the particular workmen victimized, but highly insultingly to the whole working classes. Therefore, we have the secretary of this enormous association stating that the workmen were harshly and cruelly treated, and their conduct towards the masters will be influenced by the feelings thus expressed. The paper went on to state that the masons, a high-spirited and well-organized body of operatives, on learning the injustice inflicted on a brother mason for presuming to present a petition to his employer, were indignant and determined to punish the Messrs. Trollope; the joiners, the bricklayers, and the hon. Member's friends, the plasterers, united with the masons against the Messrs. Trollope. These gentlemen were asked to receive the injured discharged mason again into employment, and to reduce the hours of labour from ten to nine a day without reducing the wages. This they refused to do, and the strike went on until it attained national dimensions. Then it is stated that the masters dared to discharge the men belonging to the union, and at last drew up a document to be signed by the workpeople; this the latter refused to do, and all classes of the working people united in reprobating the conduct of the master-builders; contributions in aid of the lock-outs flowed in from all parts of the country; large meetings of the working classes were held, in which the proceedings of the masters were denounced in unmeasured terms. The paper proceeded to describe the conduct of the masters as sometimes calculated to force the workmen to see their wives and children perish for want of the means of existence, and it stated that nothing remained but the right of association—that is, the right of combining and confederating to compel the masters to give them the same pay for nine hours' as for ten hours' labour. This is insisted on as a true political economy. I find it stated that certain gentlemen, of whom the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets was one, were unanimous in deprecating the tyrannical conduct of the master builders, and the paper, proceeding to state the actual condition, mental and moral, of the working people, observes, that to the crushing effects of overtoil must be attributed the failure of mechanics' institutes and the small number of the industrial class, described as the down-trodden children of humanity, that rise to social eminence. It appears from the paper to which I have referred, that the men described themselves as crushed by the great capitalists, that mechanics' institutes have failed; that the people are ignorant, and want mental, moral, and physical development. Then, I say, that according to their own account, it would be perilous to put into their hands political power. The writer contended that the arrangements of society ought not to be adapted to exceptional cases, that there should be the means of developing the moral and spiritual power, and of raising the down-trodden children of humanity. Their complaints may be ill-founded, but it is impossible to read the pamphlet without pain; but if it speaks the truth in reference to opinions, it would be mercy to the men themselves not to give them a power which they admit they are not qualified to use. But another strange paper has been published relating to "Trades Unions and Strikes; and their Philosophy and Intention." The philosophy of strikes is rather a curious subject. In this pamphlet it is stated that the principal argument against trades' unions is professed to be derived from the alleged ignorance of the working people with respect to political economy. There man is stated as being described as an interchanging animal; but, if he be an interchanging animal, the pamphlet proceeds to say, he has also instincts of a predatory character; and then it tries to make out that the labour of the workmen is stolen by the predatory capitalists, against whom it is necessary to guard the artizans; that, singly, the artizans would be crushed; and that confederacies on the part of the workpeople were therefore requisite to enforce justice against the capitalists. Combinations, they say, afford the only means by which a free exercise of their rights can be secured to them, and then they describe who are the leaders of the strikes. "The trades' unions," they declare, "always combine not only the best workmen, but the best men in a moral sense who can be found in the trade." These opinions, therefore, are held by the most skilled workmen and by those of the highest morality. And then they defend the principle on which trades' unions are founded. "We only operate upon our members by moral compulsion, like that which you use in your clubs, and to which Members of Parliament are subjected. If a Member displeases his constituents, do not they get rid of him?" And they point as an instance to the treatment of the hon. Members for Rochdale and Birmingham. Remember, this is political economy directed against free-traders and great capitalists who won't be just towards the men whom they employ, and who won't give them the full compensation—that is the term—which they deserve for their labour. During the Russian war, Mr. Bright and Mr. Cobden, they observe, thought proper to express sincere convictions which they had a perfect right to express, but which were opposed to what was then believed the public weal. Thereupon all their past services were forgotten, their influence as public men was lost, and there seemed no great probability of their regaining public confidence. It does not appear, therefore, that they have any particular partiality for those who assume to represent their opinions in this House. The whole pamphlet is quite a manual of political economy as taught in Mechanics1 Institutes. Now, looking at this authorized publication, and comparing the opinions there expressed with the arguments used by the hon. Members for Leeds and for Birmingham, and the want of all argument on the Treasury bench, I ask are you justified in transferring to these 600,000 organized men such a vast amount of political power? It is said that an organized minority can never overmaster the will of the majority. Did you read in The Times to-day the admirable lesson taught on this subject in the American Assembly? You will there see how completely an organized minority may, even in a free and enlightened country, trample over the principles of humanity and justice by their perseverance, their zeal, and their union. Which party has been successful need not be said. In every struggle the slaveowners have had the advantage. They have abolished the Compromise Line, they have passed the Fugitive Slave Bill, and they have obtained the Dred Scott decision, which declares that no person of African des- cent can be a citizen of the United States. They have thus made the institution of slavery to a certain degree co-extensive with the Union. This success is attributed by Mr. Seward to the earnestness of the slaveowners, their determination to win at all hazards, their disregard for the interests of the Union, and their consciousness that their opponents were more patriotic than themselves. That it is easy to combine the Capital (Slave) States in defence of even external interests, while it is hard to unite the Labour (Free) States in a common policy;' and that 'the Labour States have a natural loyalty to the Union, while the Capital States have a natural facility for alarming that loyalty by threatening disunion,' the speaker takes to be propositions made evident by past legislation. To say, therefore, that an organized minority can effect no mischief in a State, is disproved by the most extraordinary fact in the history of the world—that in the Republic to which the hon. Member for Birmingham so constantly and triumphantly alludes, even there, when the great interests of justice are at stake, the organized slaveholders get rid of every law which prevents the working of their peculiar system. And just in the same way, I believe, that the action of a united minority here may produce a great effect upon your electoral system. We have been told by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bright) that in America the people enjoy the blessings of education, and that they are so enlightened and so highly educated, that this country cannot reach its standard. The hon. Gentleman is not in his place just now, and, I may add, seldom is in his place at the right time. But if he were present I should venture to submit to him that education is to be judged of as it produces effects on human conduct. Unless the conduct of men corresponds with their cultivation, they may, indeed, be educated in one sense, but they are educated impostors. Unless the great principles of justice and humanity are exhibited by the powerful Republic to which the hon. Member is so fond of alluding, I am old-fashioned enough to prefer the less educated people in this monarchical State. Looking, then, at the measure, I ask on what principle this jump in the dark is to be made by the House of Commons? It is vain for you to contend that you have any information as to the effect of your measure. The hon. Member for Stirling has given notice of a Motion for introducing a 40s. freehold franchise into Scotland. Now, on this subject, take an historical fact or two. I see on the Treasury bench several followers of the late Sir Robert Peel. The right hon. Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ire- land is, I know, peculiarly conversant with the political opinions of his late chief. When Sir Robert Peel brought in the Emancipation Bill, he stated, substantially, that you could not govern a country by a 40s. franchise; and he disfranchised 250,000 freeholders in Ireland—not because they were immoral or corrupt, but because they were ignorant and prejudiced. That body, if they had remained, would have voted away three things—the Church, the Law, and the State; and that without any hesitation whatever. Sir Robert Peel, therefore, laid down the principle that, in order to ensure public safety, you were to ascend, not descend, in the social scale. He created a £10 freehold estate franchise, a very high one; and it was fortunate he did so, because when the agitation afterwards sprang up in Ireland, though O'Connell had the masses on his side, he had not the entire electoral body. The system was changed at the time of the Reform Bill; and here I wish to call the attention of those who are opposed to a rating franchise. The hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) said he wished for a rental qualification because it had worked well. Now, what happened when the £10 freehold franchise was created in Ireland? The question of what was a beneficial ownership arose, and the conflict of opinion and of evidence on this subject gave rise to the Parliamentary Committee of 1837 or 1838. The whole subject then underwent investigation, and in the result the rental qualification was got rid of, and a fixed standard of value was substituted in the shape of a poor rate. A valuation was subsequently effected, which now pervades the whole country, and the effect is to prevent altogether the conflict of evidence and opinion as to supposed values, and to establish a sound franchise to which everybody trusts, which is found rather Conservative than otherwise, and which has therefore, I suspect, led to a new Reform Bill being proposed for Ireland. You have now a sound constituency in Ireland—a £12 rating in counties and £8 in boroughs; and the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell), finding that he is in a minority in that country, and that the intellect and the majority of the Irish representatives are against him, then proposes a fifth Reform Bill for Ireland. What is the consequence? Look at your paper. One hon. Gentleman proposes to reduce the franchise to £8, another will reduce it to £5, another to £4—all which proposed changes the right hon. Gentleman invites by his unnecessary, wanton, uncalled-for Bill—a Bill which has not been asked for by a single individual throughout the length and breadth of Ireland, not even by a travelling tinker or a loquacious barber. The duty of the Government appears to be not to do the business of the country, but to reform the poor did Parliament, which, when it was not reformed, raised the country to a pitch of power and glory which it will be well if future Parliaments succeed in being able to establish and maintain. Therefore, I join my friends in imploring those thoughtful statesmen by whom this Bill has been inconsiderately introduced to inquire into the facts which I have laid before them, and to consider whether they will not considerably raise their reputation by raising the franchise proposed by this Reform Bill. Whatever may be-the result of the inquiry, there can be but one conclusion, that the Parliament which has heard the arguments on this serious and momentous question is disposed to consider fairly and dispassionately how best to secure the institutions and preserve the constitution of the country upon the basis on which their ancestors placed it.

MR. EDWIN JAMES moved the adjournment of the debate.


said, he was quite ready to go on with the debate, but as there was no hope of concluding it that night he would not resist the adjournment.


thought there should be a clear understanding as to when the debate should be adjourned.


said, it would be equally desirable to many hon. Members to know how many more nights of debate there were to be. The Government would take the chance of going on to-morrow night after the other business. [Cries of "Monday, Monday!"] Then I will at once say Monday night.

Debate further adjourned till Monday next.

House adjourned at half-after Twelve o'clock.