§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. BAINES
* Sir, if in bringing forward the subject of the Borough Franchise, I should have imprudently undertaken a task which is too difficult for me, I will yet throw myself upon that generous indulgence which the House always grants to those whom it believes to be moved by an honest sense of duty. I will the more confidently rely on that indulgence, as I am to advocate the claims of a large body of the people who are not now represented in this House, but who, I believe, desire and deserve to be admitted to the duties and privileges of the Constitution. The House may do me the honour to remember, in proof of the sincerity of my own convictions, that I, last Session, not merely supported the Government measure of Reform in this place, but that I obtained the leave of the House to give evidence before the Committee of the House of Lords on the question. I am encouraged by the recollection that the measure for which I now ask the sanction of the House has been virtually recommended to us from the Throne—that it formed part of a measure last Session presented by the Government—that in principle it has received the approbation of both sides of this House—and that at the last general election this specific extension of the borough franchise was virtually approved by the country. I am not, therefore, offering any visionary or extreme project to the House, but am walking in the steps of our wisest Statesmen and in the old paths of the Constitution.
352 But I am met by two preliminary objections—namely, first, that any measure of Representative Reform ought to be introduced by the Government; and second, that all the defects of the system ought to be cured at once in a comprehensive measure, instead of treating them separately. In reply to the first, I say that this very measure has been introduced by the Government, inasmuch as it formed part of the Bill of last Session; and in reply to the second, I say that Parliament has on several distinct occasions adopted partial measures of Reform, and with great success. The experience of the last nine years seems to show that comprehensive Reform Bills cannot be carried. Five times has such a measure been recommended from the Throne. Four times have such Bills been introduced, by both the great parties in the State, and four times have they been abandoned. The example of 1832 must be regarded as exceptional, owing to the enormity of the abuses which had accumulated for ages upon the representative system, and the strength of the popular feeling then existing. Do we not see continually how practicable it is to deal with individual branches of the law, and how excessively difficult, if not impossible, to effect very comprehensive Reforms? For example, the criminal law is now in course of being reformed piece by piece, whilst all our jurists recoil before the difficulty of consolidating the law into a code. Even this very Session the Attorney General confessed his inability to carry through a measure that shall at once consolidate and amend the bankruptcy law; and therefore he has been obliged to divide the Bill of last year into two parts, and to amend the law this year, in hopes of being able to consolidate it next year. It seems to me that it would be as reasonable to introduce the Army, Navy, and Miscellaneous Estimates together for discussion at the same time, as to introduce all the separate branches of Reform at once.
But, in point of fact, Parliamentary Reform has been treated in its separate branches. You have always had separate Bills for England, Scotland, and Ireland. You twice dealt separately with the franchise in Ireland; first, at the time of Catholic Emancipation, and again in 1850, when you reduced the county and borough franchises. By a distinct Act you changed the property qualification for Members of Parliament, and by another Act you entirely abolished that qualification. By an- 353 other Act you amended the law of registration, by another you altered the law as to the rating of compound householders. By another you shortened the period for taking the poll in counties; by another for taking the poll in boroughs; and by another for taking the poll in Ireland. By another Act you increased the number of polling places. By several others you endeavoured to punish and check corruption. By distinct Acts you disfranchished Gram-pound in 1818, and Sudbury and St. Alban's of late years. By a distinct Act you increased the representation of Yorkshire from two Members to four. And you have now before you two Government Bills, one for the appropriation of vacant seats, and the other to check bribery and corruption; as well as a Bill brought in by an independent Member making it unlawful to convey voters to the poll. Does not experience on this very subject, then, show us that it is far more practicable and expedient to deal with the Reform of the representative system in its several branches than to deal with it as a vast complicated whole? We have far more precedents for detailed than for comprehensive Reforms.
As to the desirableness of such measures as the present being introduced by the Government, I admit that it is desirable if the Government will and can undertake the duty, and no one would be less disposed than myself to take it out of their hands, But it would be dangerous to the rights of the House of Commons to admit any necessity for a governmental origin of the measure. And I, for one, must earnestly protest against such a doctrine gaining ground. Last year we virtually admitted the House of Lords to tax the people without the consent of the House of Commons; and if we were now virtually to admit a right of initiative to the Crown in matters of important legislation, we should be going far to strip the House of Commons of its most precious rights, and should be degrading it to the rank of a French or German Chamber.
One other preliminary objection is made to my Bill: it is said that the country does not ask for it. The assertion is by no means so true as when it was first made. Public meetings have been held in many of our large towns, and petitions in considerable numbers have been presented to this House. But if in a season of unusual prosperity the public mind is unusually free from excitement, this no more proves that public opinion is against the Bill, than a 354 calm at sea one day gives assurance that the winds and waves will not rise the next day. Moreover, our best statesmen have told us that it is safer to legislate on this subject in a calm than in a storm. I believe it would be the truest wisdom to pass a measure which should prevent any great and serious dissatisfaction; and not to wait till that dissatisfaction shall have expressed itself. I think nothing can be more true than the remarks of the noble Lord the Member for the City (Lord John Russell) in introducing his Reform Bill in 1852: he said—I know, Sir, there are some who say that we ought to wait rather until there is agitation on the subject—that it is better to legislate upon a subject of this kind when the passions of the people have been aroused—that then there is great discontent on the one side, and great fear on the other. Sir, I totally differ from that opinion. If we think it is desirable to make any further extension of the right of voting, or to make any Amendment in the state of the representation, it is well to consider the question with calmness in a time of tranquillity, and to confer those franchises without compulsion, as a reward of past conduct, and as a security for the permanence of the institutions of the country."—[3 Hansard, exix. 252-53.]And a conclusive answer to the objection I am combating is found in the fact, that at the last general election the question of Reform was that which above all others was brought before the people; and that they returned a House of Commons favourable to the Reform Bill of the noble Lord the Member for London, in opposition to that of the then existing Government.
Sir, it seems to me that the time has fully come when it is right and wise to extend the popular franchise in the representation of the people in Parliament. Since the great Reform Act was introduced by the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary, a generation of men has passed away. And what a generation ! I suppose that those best versed in history would not be able to point out an era in which any community already highly civilized made such rapid advances in material and mental improvement. Even the marvellous age which followed the invention of the art of printing did not exceed our own in the discoveries of science, the inventions of art, or the development of the human mind. In the speech with which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks (Mr. Disraeli) introduced the Reform Bill of the Derby Cabinet two years since he made the following striking remarks:—I beg the House to consider well those effects 355 of time, and what has been the character of the twenty-five years that have elapsed since the Reform of 1832. They form no ordinary period. In a progressive country and a progressive age, progress has been not only rapid, but perhaps precipitate. There is no instance in the history of Europe of such an increase of population as has taken place in this country during this period. There is no example in the history of Europe or of America, of a creation and accumulation of capital so vast as has occurred in this country in those twenty-five years. And I believe the general diffusion of intelligence has kept pace with that increase of population and wealth. In that period you have brought science to bear on social life in a manner no philosopher in his dreams could ever have anticipated. In that space of time you have in a manner annihilated both time and space."—[3 Hansard, clii. 968.]Sir, that passage is as true as it is eloquent; but I shall show, I think, that the right. hon. Gentleman has in one respect fallen short of giving the facts their full significance. He spoke of "the general diffusion of intelligence having kept pace with the increase of population and wealth." Now it will be ray duty to show that the growth of intelligence has far outstripped the growth of population; and as this is an essential point in my argument I would ask the House to do me the honour to remark the extent to which the facts will prove this. The population of England and Wales at the census of 1831 was just over 14,000,000. According to the estimates offered in recent Reports of the Registrar-General, it is likely to amount at the census just taken to 20,000,000; showing an increase in thirty years of about 43 per cent. But whilst the population has increased 43 per cent. I shall be able to prove that industry, prosperity, social comfort, education, the means of political knowledge, the habit of reading, and the habit of providence, have increased in a far larger proportion, so as to justify the conclusion that a much larger number of the people are qualified mentally and morally for the exercise of political franchises than at the period of 1831. And I would further ask the House to be so good as to watch the facts which I shall lay before them with this special view—namely, to see if they do not raise the strongest presumption of improvement in that section of our town populations which comes below the level of the £10 householders, and forms the better portion of the working classes. My full belief is, that the spread of intelligence has been of the most satisfactory kind—namely, downwards towards the humbler strata of society, and that the £6 householder of 1861 is as well quali- 356 fied to exercise the franchise as the £10 householder of 1831.
I think I may assume, as beyond all possible question, that the £10 suffrage created by the Reform Act was not too low. Though myself an earnest supporter of that measure, I took part in an inquiry made at the time in my own borough at the instance of the noble Lord, the Member for the City, and the conclusion to which we came was that the suffrage might have been safely fixed at a point below £10, as we found considerable numbers well qualified to exercise the franchise who were excluded from its enjoyment, and almost the entire body of the working classes were thus excluded. When the noble Lord brought in his Bill of 1852, he made this statement;—At the time of the Reform Bill, in placing the right of voting in householders where the value was £10 a year, we did what I think it was right to do, and what it was our duty to do; we placed the suffrage rather higher than it was necessary to fix it."—[3 Hansard, cxix. 260.]I may therefore, assume, that by the Reform Act, the franchise was not fixed too low, but rather too high.
Then what is the extension which I now seek to give to the borough franchise? I propose to extend it from the occupiers of £10 premises, to the occupiers of £6 premises. In this point, as the House will remember, I simply copy the Government measure of last year, and my Bill is transcribed in so many words from that of the Government.
In showing the addition that would be thus made to the constituencies of cities and boroughs, I have the advantage over the Government of last year of possessing not only their official Returns, but all the sifting and criticism bestowed upon those Returns in this House, and in the Committee of the House of Lords. In consequence of the doubts then thrown upon the accuracy of the Returns, fresh inquiries were made by the Poor Law Board from the parochial officers of all the boroughs where there was the least room for question. They were revised with scrupulous care; and towards the close of last Session the revised Returns were presented to Parliament by command of her Majesty in the Paper which I hold in my hand, entitled "Return of Male Occupiers in Parliamentary Cities and Boroughs." And then, again, the information was moved for in a somewhat different and improved form by the hon. Member for Brighton, at 357 the close of last Session, and was presented at the beginning of the present Session tinder the not very explanatory title of "Poor Rates, No. 49." I believe, Sir, that this revised Return is as deserving of reliance as any information that can possibly be procured; and it substantially bears out the estimate given by the noble Lord last Session of the number of voters who would be added by a £6 franchise. It shows that the present number of voters in cities and boroughs in England and Wales is 442,210, and that the addition likely to be made by the £6 franchise would be 211,269, or about 48 per cent increase on the old voters.
But this number of 211,269 is, I believe, considerably more than would ever be placed on the register. It is subject to reduction on two grounds. First, the Poor Law authorities have assumed that the same proportion of the occupiers from £6 to £10 would actually get upon the register as of the occupiers of £10 and upwards. It is found by experience that 27 per cent of the occupiers at £10 and upwards fail to get upon the register, either through removals, want of sufficient length of occupation, failure in the payment of rates, neglect to claim or to defend their votes, or some other ground technical or substantial. Now it is reasonable to believe that a considerably larger proportion of the humbler classes would fail to be put on the register from these several causes than of the richer classes. But the Poor Law officers have only deducted the same percentage—namely, 27 per cent, from the gross number of male occupiers at the lower rents as at the higher. On this ground I am convinced that the number actually placed on the register would not be 211,000, but under 200,000 rather than over. I will take it at 200,000.
Then there is a second and more important deduction to be made. A very considerable number of the freemen and scot and lot voters now on the register are occupiers of premises from £6 to £10 in yearly value. If entitled to be put on the register as occupiers they would not form any addition to the constituency because they have votes at present. The number of persons now on the register, and who do not occupy premises of the value of £10, in right of these old franchises, is 48,907; and it is a moderate estimate that 20,000 of them would be among the occupiers between £6 and £10. This is the estimate suggested to me by the gentle 358 man who has had the chief care of compiling the official Returns. If, then, we deduct 20,000 on this ground, the real addition made to the present constituencies would only be 180,000.
Then we come to the inquiry, what proportion of these 180,000 belongs to the working classes, and whether that proportion is more than it is just and right to give them? My own belief, and that of the parochial authorities in my own borough, is, that about three-fourths of the occupiers from £6 to £10 would be of the working class, and the remaining one-fourth would consist of small tradesmen, handicraftsmen, managers of mills or warehouses, clerks, or other persons not receiving weekly wages. If this view should be correct, one-fourth must be deducted from the 180,000, and it would result that the number of the working classes put on the register would only be 135,000. In order, however, to show the whole strength of the working class element we must add (for the present) a large proportion of the existing freemen; and I am disposed on this ground to add 35,000, and to consider that the whole number of the working classes on the register would be about 170,000. This is out of the 653,479, which the official Returns estimate as the whole borough constituency under a £6 franchise; and it would show the probable numbers of the working classes to be 26 per cent of the whole. When we remember that the working class population out-numbers the other classes at least in the proportion of three to one, can it be thought too much that they should have a share in the representation in the proportion of one to three? It is further to be remembered that the freemen are in the course of rapid extinction, and when they shall have passed away, the number of the working classes on the register will sink again to 135,000, which would only be 20 per cent. or one-fifth of the entire borough constituencies.
And here comes in a consideration which has not often been referred to, but which has an important bearing on this part of the subject. The working classes had a very large share in the representation, by means of the freemen and scot and lot voters, before the Reform Act: and even after the Reform Act, although numbers had been disfranchised, there remained upwards of 100,000 voters of these old classes on the register, a very large proportion of whom belonged to the working class. Now this number, through the 359 operation of the Reform Act, has been in course of continual decline. At present the number of freemen is only 48,907, showing a loss to that class of voters, since 1832, of 51,440: and in process of time the freemen will be nearly or quite extinct. Here, then, is a very great loss to the working class element in the representation. It was referred to by the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley), in his speech on the 1st of March, 1859, assigning his reasons for dissenting from the Reform Bill of Lord Derby's Government. The right hon. Gentleman said—Ever since the Reform Act of 1832 the working people have been having a less and less share in the representation. They had considerable representation before 1832, through the scot and lot voters and the freemen. … They are gradually dying out, and I ask my hon. Friends near me to consider, if they draw a hard line, and leave the working people behind it, how long they think it will stand? When I know (he said) that my fellow-countrymen, the workmen of this country, were within the last thirty years considerably improved in everything that distinguishes men and makes them safe subjects, I do not think it a degradation to a borough, or to any other constituency, that a portion of those fellow-countrymen should have, through that legitimate channel, a share in the franchise."—[3 Hansard, clii. 1066-7.]Accordingly the right hon. Gentleman supported the view of the right hon. Gentle man, the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole) in support of a £6 rating franchise.
It will be remembered by many that one of the objections strongly urged against the Reform Bill in 1831–2 was, that it would deprive the working classes of all share in the representation; and the following were the grave terms in which the most eminent Conservative statesman of the day, Sir Robert Peel, spoke of that operation of the Bill. He said—I conceive the noble Lord's plan to be founded altogether upon an erroneous principle. … The objection is this—that it severs all connection between the lower classes of the community and the direct representation in this House: I think it a fatal objection, that every link between the representative and the constituent body should be separated so far as regards the lower classes. But what will be the effect of cutting off altogether the communication between this House and all that class of society which is above pauperism, and below the arbitrary and impassable line of £10 rental, which you have selected? If you were establishing a perfectly new system of representation, and were unfettered by the recollections of the past, and by existing modes of society, would it be wise to exclude altogether the sympathies of this class? How much more unwise, when you find it possessed from time immemorial 360 of the privilege !—to take the privilege away, and to subject a great, powerful, jealous, and intelligent mass of your population to the injury—ay, and to the stigma, of entire uncompensated exclusion."—[3 Hansard, ii. 1346–7.]I must invite the attention of the House still to another point—namely, that the working classes of England are represented in the boroughs alone, and not in the counties. For, although the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) recently asserted the right of labour to its share in the representation, and said that be had a considerable number of working men among his constituents as 40s. freeholders, I apprehend there are extremely few counties in England—perhaps not more than half a dozen—where working men form any appreciable proportion of the constituencies. Nor is it proposed, by any plan of Reform hitherto offered, to bring agricultural labourers into the constituencies. Therefore, the only representation which the working classes of England will possess, will be through those of their number who may be enfranchised in the boroughs. Consequently I ought not to have compared the 170,000 of the working classes who would be on the register if my Bill should pass, with the whole number of the borough voters, but with the whole number of the borough and county voters together. The number of county voters in 1858–9 was 529,213; and adding these to the estimated number of 653,479 borough voters under a £6 franchise, the whole number of electors would be 1,182,692, of which the working classes would only have 170,000, or one-seventh of the whole. Is that a proportion to alarm any Member of this House?
But there is one more point to which I must ask the attention of the House. We have been considering the number of the working classes whom it is proposed to admit to the franchise, which I estimate, including the present freemen, at 170,000; but let us for a moment look at the number of those classes who would remain excluded. The population of the represented boroughs of England and Wales is 9,000,000, and that of the counties and boroughs together is 20,000,000. One-fourth of each of these numbers are adult males. Therefore, the adult males in the boroughs would number 2,250,000, and in the whole of England 5,000,000. Of these the working classes compose at least three-fourths; so that the number of working-class adult males in the boroughs would be 1,687,500, and in the 361 whole of England 3,750,000. Of these it is proposed to admit 170,000 to the franchise, who would constitute one-tenth of their whole class in the boroughs, and one-twenty-second part of their whole class in the country. If any hon. Gentleman should be alarmed by the proportion admitted, it is high time that he should repair to a hydropathic establishment for the restoration of his nerves.
One more consideration and I have done with this part of my subject. That portion of the working-class voters now on the register as freemen and scot and lot voters, and who are gradually wasting away, is (generally speaking) the lowest, most ignorant, and, it is said, most venal portion; whilst those of the working classes who would be put on the register by this Bill, or would be retained on it, would be the highest and best portion of them. Sir Robert Peel complained in 1831 that the working classes would be subject to "the injury and stigma of uncompensated exclusion." Now I propose at this late day to give them a compensation; but that compensation will include a substitution of the best portion of the working classes for the worst portion—a great improvement in their quality, as well as a moderate increase of their numbers.
This brings me, Sir, to consider the happy and wonderful change which has been effected in the condition of the working classes, and especially in the upper section of them, whom I propose to enfranchise, within the thirty years which have passed by since the introduction of the great Reform Bill. Here I am to find the justification of the enlargement of the popular franchises, and here I confidently believe I shall find it. The evidence by which I propose to establish my case is necessarily drawn from the public records of the country, and applies to the whole nation; but I believe the House will find that in all its branches it especially proves the advancement of the working classes in all that can fit them for the enjoyment of the franchise. Sir, I feel that there is great interest, I may even say a dignity, in the task which I now approach, of taking a rapid bird's-eye view of the material, mental, and moral progress of this country in perhaps the most brilliant era of the world's history. I am certain that hon. Members will accompany me with interest and pleasure in tracing the evidences of our advancing civilization and more secured social condition. Nor will the House 362 think it irrelevant, if, for a moment or two, I look at the advancement of England in material wealth and prosperity; for hon. Members well know the important connection which there is between prosperity and temperate views of politics, and on the other hand how poverty and distress provoke to violence. I will once more ask them to remember that the increase in the numbers of the people within the last thirty years has only been 43 per cent, in order that they may appreciate the bettered condition of those numbers necessarily resulting from the far higher per-centages in all the elements of improvement.
Within the last thirty years, Sir, England has nearly quadrupled her foreign commerce, her manufacturing industry, and her navigation. Without multiplying figures I may say, as an index to the rest, that the total amount of exports and imports of the United Kingdom was in the year 1831 £97,623,332; and in the year 1860 it was £373,491,000, being an increase of 283 per cent. In the midst of this amazing activity and extension of trade, the country has executed, by means of private enterprise, a system of railways which I believe to exceed in magnitude and cost, and still more in utility, the most stupendous works of Rome, Egypt, or China. At a cost of £330,000,000 sterling she has constructed in these islands, within these thirty years, 10,000 miles of railway, along which are carried every year 150,000,000 of passengers, a distance of 2,000,000,000 of miles, besides an incredible amount of minerals and merchandize. Whilst her general shipping has increased nearly fourfold, that portion of it which has so immensely accelerated travelling and traffic by sea—namely, the steam vessels, has been increased fourteen-fold. Within the same period England has laid down 10,000 miles of telegraph, using 50,000 miles of communicating wire; and by this wonderful agency, which is yet in its infancy, a species of earthly omniscience seems to be imparted to man. Since the abolition of protection, England has immensely improved and extended her agriculture. In her colonies she has discovered and worked mountains of gold, from which and from those of America £200,000,000 sterling have been imported in twelve years.
The natural consequences of these extraordinary strides in material prosperity are, that the people are better fed, better clothed, better lodged, and better instruct- 363 ed, than at any former period; and that the wages both of manufacturing and agricultural labour have increased, whilst the hours of labour are shortened and commodities are cheapened. Perhaps the most decisive evidence of the effect on the labouring population is furnished by the facts that the national expenditure in the relief of the poor has been reduced from 9s. 9d. per head of the population per annum in 1831, to 5s. 6d. per head in 1859–60, being a decrease of nearly one-half; and that on the 1st of January, 1859, the number of able-bodied adult males receiving out-door relief in 629 unions of England and Wales was only 26,286, of whom 24,505 were relieved on account of sickness, accident, or infirmity, 1,687 on account of want of work and other causes, and 94 on account of sudden and urgent necessity.
Thus much, Sir, for the better circumstances of the people. I will next call the attention of the House to their improved education: and here I must ask hon. Members to bear in mind that the evidences of advancement must apply in a very great degree, indeed almost exclusively to the working classes, because the education of the upper and middle classes was well provided for before. I need scarcely say that those who were admitted to the franchise in 1832 must have received their education at least twelve years earlier; and, therefore, I may go back to the Returns obtained by Lord Brougham in 1818, when it was found that the number of children attending day schools in England and Wales was only 1 in 17.25 of the population; in 1833 it was 1 in 11.27, whereas in 1858 it was computed to have risen to 1 in 7.7. At the earlier date the number of children at school was 674,883, in 1833 it was 1,276,947, and in 1858 it was 2,535,462. Further, the number of children in those admirable institutions, the Sunday schools, which have been a chief agency in the promotion of virtue and piety, was 477,225 in 1818, 1,548,890 in 1833, and 2,411,544 in 1858; and, what is a wonderful proof of the zeal for religious education in the country, there were in 1851 no less than 318,135 voluntary and unpaid teachers in the Sunday schools—persons of the highest character and of Christian principle, and whose benevolent labours serve to cement together the different classes of society beyond any agency I have ever heard of. Among the Sunday schools there are periodicals for their 364 special use, with on united circulation (I am told) of 200,000; and a gentleman who possesses, perhaps, a larger acquaintance with Sunday schools than any other, Mr. Charles Reed informs me that he believes one-third of the male teachers who are householders are of the class below £10 occupiers. In the forty years from 1818 to 1858, whilst the population only increased 68 per cent, the increase of day scholars was 275 per cent and of Sunday scholars 405 per cent. I believe, Sir, that single fact would be sufficient to prove my case. But I shall not leave it there.
There have sprung up since 1824 a vast number of popular institutions for supplementing the education and carrying on the mental improvement of the industrious classes, bearing the general name of mechanics' institutions. In these institutions there are held evening classes for elementary education; and, also, in many of them for instruction in mathematics, drawing, chemistry, and other branches of useful knowledge. They all possess circulating libraries, reading rooms, and news rooms; and in most of them lectures are delivered during the winter months. They hold annual meetings, to which public men are invited; and probably there is not a Member of this House who has not frequently attended such meetings. I can answer for you, Mr. Speaker, for the noble Lord at the head of the Government, for his noble Colleague, and for almost every Gentleman on the front benches at both sides of the House. I attach the highest importance to these institutions, founded by those great promoters of education, Dr. Birkbeck and Lord Brougham, as means of developing the minds of the industrious classes and directing them into channels of useful study. I have obtained from Dr. Hudson, the author of the History of Adult Education, an estimate of the comparative numbers of these institutions in 1831 and 1861; and he informs me that in the former year there were in England and Wales only 55 mechanics' institutions, with 7,000 members, whereas in 1861 there were 777 institutions, containing 132,460 members; and, adding other institutions of a similar nature, and evening schools for adults, he says—I am fully satisfied that the estimate may be taken in round numbers at above 1,200 institutions affording adult class instruction, and attended by 200,000 pupils and members.Among these there are 103 "Young Men's 365 Christian Associations," numbering 10,000 members.
There is, no doubt, a large admixture of the middle classes in these institutions, but I believe a majority of the members belong to the working classes; and I hold in my hand a very gratifying return from Dr. Hudson of the results of the evening class instruction in the 137 institutions in the Lancashire and Cheshire Association of Mechanics' Institutes. He gives the total number of members in those institutes as 24,600, the pupils in the evening classes as 12,000; and he, as inspector and examiner, last winter examined 1,203 of the more advanced pupils, among whom were—
Dr. Hudson also writes as follows as to the intelligence of the working classes:—
MALES. Mill operatives. 566 Mechanics and persons employed in foundries. 155 Building trades (journeymen) 75 Other trades (do.) 78 Shopmen 29 Employed in field operations 18 Out of employ 10 Clerks in mills and warehouses. 136 Total males, 1,067. FEMALES. Mill operatives 86 Dressmakers, hat-trimmers, &c. 17 Domestic servants 12 Employed in shops or at home 21 Total females, 136. 1,203I consider our examinations in Lanoashire and Cheshire as strong evidence in favour of the superior intelligence of the working classes in Lancashire; perhaps you are hardly prepared for this statement, that the working classes in Lancashire offer from their ranks competitors who invariably excel the middle classes. In mathematics, in chemistry, in French, nay, even in British history and geography, the clerks and bookkeepers of Manchester are far inferior to the weavers of Oldham and small towns: seventy-eight clerks competed in our last year's examination, yet who were the men who excelled them and carried off the prizes?In Geometry—a shoemaker from Oldham.History—a mechanic from Crewe.Colonial History—a weaver from Blackburn,Chemistry—a packer from Bollington.Algebra—a plasterer from Blackburn.Social Economy—an engraver in calico printworks from Crawshawbooth.Trigonometry—a weaver from Oldham.Arithmetic—a mill-warehouseman from Earls-town.Decimal Currency—two joiners and one clerk.In the Yorkshire Union of Mechanics' Institutions we have 143 institutions, 26,000 members, 8,325 pupils in the 366 evening classes, and 141,151 volumes in the libraries.
It might be expected that improved education would create an appetite for intellectual food; and we find accordingly a wonderful extension—I may almost say creation—of popular literature, both cheap and useful, which I confidently mention to the House as one of the strongest evidences of the reading habits of the working classes. Publications of every kind have multiplied during the last thirty years, but by far the most marked feature of the case is the increase of those publications which by their price and quality are suited to the classes whom I propose to enfranchise. The general increase in our political literature appears from the following facts, taken from The Newspaper Press Directory for 1861, compared with the official Returns of 1831—
Showing an increase of 273 per cent for a population which only increased during the period 43 per cent.
In 1831. In 1861 Newspapers published in England and Wales. 205 819 Do. do. Scotland. 33 138 Do. do. Ireland. 57 132 Do. do. British Isles. — 13 Total ditto in the United Kingdom 295 1,102
I have also obtained, through the kind assistance of Mr. Francis, the publisher of The Athenæum; Mr. David Chambers, of the firm of Messrs. Chambers, Brothers; Mr. John Cassell, the publisher of educational works and various periodicals; and Mr. Tweedie, the publisher of temperance works, a mass of facts too large to be laid before the House, but proving an enormous increase in the quantity of the cheap periodicals, religious and literary, and a decided improvement in their moral character. Indeed, the literature of this class has almost originated within the period to which my review extends. I will, with the permission of the House, quote the following figures:—
In 1830. In 1860. Circulation of London Newspapers per annum. 19,746,851 118,799,200 Circulation of Newspapers in the United Kingdom. 36,807,055 Assuming the increase to be the same as in London, it would be 221,444,000 London Weekly Newspapers for the working classes— per week 75,000 730,000
Then came that phenomenon, The Times newspaper, which it was physically impossible could have been produced in 1830, as it at present appeared.
Literary Periodicals in 1860. Unsectarian Christian Literature, as the Leisure Hour, British Workman, &c., at 1d. and ½d. per No. monthly issue 2,210,500 Journals, useful, educational, and entertaining, as those of Messrs. Chambers and Messrs. Cassell, at 1d. and 1½d. per No. weekly 600,000 Temperance Journals, at 1d. per No. monthly 203,000 Journals containing Novels, Tales, and Biographical Sketches, &. weekly 700,000 Romances, at 1d. exciting wonder and horror. per week 5,000 Immoral Literature, 1d. per No. weekly 52,500 Free-thinking Literature, circulation small, and the character much less objectionable than formerly. Magazines, at 2d. and upwards per Number. monthly 374,316
Thus furnishing what was supposed to be one of the most marvellous combinations of talent, enterprise, capital, and mechanical appliances to be found in the world, The number of printers in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, and Leeds, was 298 in the year 1830; and 1,123 in 1860. The following summary of the facts appears in Chambers's Encyclopædia now in course of publication, under the head of the "Book Trade"—
The Times in that year was printed at the rate of 4,000 per hour, and then circulated daily. 10,250 The Times, in 1860, was printed at the rate of 15,000 to 20,000 per hour, and circulated daily. 53,000The cheap periodical literature may be classed and summed up in amount as follows:—1. Works of an improving tendency, circulation per month, 8,043,500. 2. Works of an exciting nature, but not positively immoral, circulation per month, 1,500,000. 3. Works immoral, and opposed to the religion of the country, circulation per month probably under 80,000." "Considering (says the writer) the preponderatingly large proportion of cheap periodicals of an unobjectionable and not uninstructive kind, and looking also at the perfect freedom now enjoyed by every department of the press, we have a striking illustration of the vastly improved state of public feeling, with which cheap literature has steadily kept pace, since the reign of George IV. Not even in the most objectionable of the religious prints is there anything at all resembling the scurrilities which were at one time prevalent. The classes of books and periodicals, which a number of years ago consisted of coarsely offensive attacks on the Government, church, laws, &c., have entirely disappeared, and at no time in its whole history has 368 the book trade of Great Britain been on a more healthy footing than it is at present.Sir, there is one fact of peculiar significance, and that is, that copies of the Holy Bible—the source of the purest morality and of heavenly doctrine—are now multiplied beyond anything that the imagination could have conceived. It has been computed that the whole number of copies of the Scriptures in existence in the world before the present century did not exceed 4,000,000. There is one society, the British and Foreign Bible Society, of which the annual issues in 1831 were 470,929 Bibles and Testaments; and in the year 1860, 1,917,897 copies, or an increase of 307 per cent; and I believe the aggregate issue of Bibles in this country every year is now nearly 4,000,000, or as many as existed in the whole world before the present century. I think we may infer with certainty from that fact an increase in virtue and piety in this country. There are also numerous societies for the circulation of religious publications; but I will only mention one, the Religious Tract Society, the operations of which are most extraordinary. In the year 1831 that Society issued 11,090,259 tracts and books, and in 1860 its issues were 41,710,203—being an increase of 276 per cent. These publications are chiefly intended for circulation among the poor.
The extraordinary increase in the number of letters sent through the Post Office is no, doubt, mainly to be ascribed to the admirable measure of Sir Rowland Hill, reducing the postage to a penny. But it also indicates a very great increase in the mental activity of all classes of the people. The number of letters going through the post in the year 1839 was 82,471,000; in 1859 it it was 544,796,000—being an increase in twenty years of 560 per cent.
I shall adduce one more fact illustrative of the vast augmentation in the intelligence of the people; it is afforded by the increase in the production of that article which constitutes the raw material of books, newspapers, and letters, namely, paper. The quantity of paper which paid duty in the year 1831 was 62,738,000lbs.; in 1860 it was 223,575,285lbs., or an increase of 256 per cent. And you have only to remove that duty entirely to give another impulse to literature and to the public mind.
I will next allude to a class of facts tending to show the habits of business which have already been acquired by many of the working class, and which prove, 369 quite as decisively as their extended education, a fitness for the exercise of the franchise. I refer to the number of cooperative societies formed amongst them for the conducting of businesses for their own profit. In Rochdale and other towns of South Lancashire, at Leeds, and other places, such societies have been established, and have existed for several years with great success. Some of them have flour and grocery stores; some have flour mills, to supply their members with good flour at a cheap rate; and there are considerable manufactories for spinning and weaving cotton, for making paper, for machine making, &c. They are mentioned with respect by Mr. Redgrave, the factory inspector. A list of these societies has been published by Dr. Watts, with the capitals respectively belonging to them, and which amount in the aggregate to £1,088,000, of which it is supposed that £600,000 is paid up. Those concerns are organized and conducted by working men, very large sums of money are turned over, and the profits are equitably divided. As some of the establishments in question have existed and flourished for years, they show both a capacity for business and a trustworthiness in their managers and members which entitle them to the respect of their fellow-countrymen and the confidence of the Legislature. To suppose that men actively conducting great mercantile and manufacturing establishments are unworthy to have a voice in choosing Members of Parliament is absurd; and yet it was stated in this House by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, that out of thirty-two persons filling the position of managers of co-operative societies in Rochdale, and turning over £400,000 a year, there was only one who had a vote for the borough and one who had a vote for the county.
I now come to another manifestation of the intelligence of the working classes, combined with those provident habits which are of the highest possible value, not only for the comfort of themselves and their families, but also as a guarantee for their good conduct as members of society. It is not easy to estimate the amount of the savings of the working classes, because of the many forms which they assume, some of the most important of which have no public record. But we know the number of depositors in the public savings banks and the amount of their deposits; and these facts of themselves prove a moral and social progress of the most decisive 370 kind. In the year 1831 the number of depositors in savings banks in the United Kingdom was 429,503; in the year 1859 it was 1,503,916; in the former year the amount deposited was £13,719,495; in the latter it was £38,968,312; showing an increase of 250 per cent in the depositors, and of 184 per cent in the deposits.
But this is only one way in which the working classes have begun to exercise the habit of provident care for the future.
There are numerous institutions for the purpose of mutual insurance in sickness and old age, and for the expenses of funerals, under the title of Provident Institutions, Friendly Societies, Odd Fellows, Sick Clubs, &c. I am not aware that there are any complete Parliamentary or official Returns of these institutions; but having applied to Mr. Tidd Pratt, the well known Registrar of Friendly Societies, I have been favoured with the following particulars. He says—The number of Friendly Societies enrolled and certified and now in existence is about 20,000. The number of members (including the children and women in building societies) exceeds 2,000,000, and their property in hand is about £10,000,000. These observations apply to enrolled or certified societies, and not to unenrolled or uncertified societies, of which there are a considerable number. In France one inhabitant out of seventy-six belongs to a legally established Friendly Society; in Belgium, one in sixty-four; and in England and Wales, one in every nine.But this refers only to "the legally established" friendly societies. The Rev. Nash Stephenson, M. A., in a paper on benefit societies, read at the Social Science Congress in 1859, said—Every village and hamlet in England and Wales has its friendly society, while the towns and cities have them by hundreds. The computed number of members of all the societies is not less than 3,052,000; the amount of their annual contributions is estimated at £4,980,000, and their accumulated capital at £11,360,000.The fact that such vast numbers of the working classes are practising self-denial to provide for the future wants of themselves and their families, affords the most encouraging evidence of their increased morality and thoughtfulness. In addition to the provident institutions, there are also the benefit building societies, in which, I am assured by Mr. James Taylor, of Birmingham, who has taken a leading part in promoting them, there are 100,000 members, subscribing annually £1,750,000, and with a capital of £6,000,000 lent to their own members only upon the security of land and houses.
371 There still remain another class of institutions indicative of virtuous aspirations, and which prevail chiefly among the upper and better portion of the working classes, namely, the temperance societies, the members of which abstain wholly from intoxicating liquors, either as a safeguard to their own morality or by way of example to others. There are no general statistics of these societies; but I believe Mr. Tweedie, the publisher, who has for many years been one of their most active promoters, has more knowledge of them than any other individual, and be writes to me as follows:—I should say that there are at least 4,000 temperance societies in the United Kingdom, and not less than 3,000,000 teetotalers, including all ages, three-fourths of whom are not likely to belong to any society, and perhaps more than half of whom are under fifteen years of age. During last year I sold pledge-books sufficient to take 270,000 names, and during the same time sold over 200,000 pledge cards. In the United Kingdom, during last year, there were thirteen large temperance associations, employing forty paid lecturers, with an united annual income of £22,000. The movement sustains three weekly newspapers, with an united circulation of 25,000 weekly; also six monthly magazines, with an united circulation of 20,000. The British Workman may also be classed as a temperance monthly, and its circulation alone is upwards of 250,000. Besides these there are two periodicals for the young, namely, the Adviser, whose circulation is over 50,000, and the Band of Hope Review, with a circulation over 250,000. There are also two quarterly reviews, with a joint circulation of about 10,000. There are two societies on a large scale supported by teetotallers—the first the Temperance Provident Institution, with an annual income of £114,000, and the second the Temperance Permanent Land and Building Society, with an income of £77,000.As the excessive use of strong drink is the greatest curse of the country, so these societies must be reckoned among its greatest blessings. But if this is their general operation, peculiarly are they important at popular elections, when drink has time out of mind furnished the commonest and most degrading instrument of corruption. The temperance societies have all risen since the year 1831.
Whilst education, providence, and temperance have so largely increased, a diminution might of course naturally be expected in the amount of crime; accordingly we find that there has been such a diminution, although there are several classes of crimes which seemed to be nursed by prosperity, especially those which result from drunkenness and licentiousness. The number of commitments for trial at assizes and sessions recorded 372 in England and Wales in 1831 was 19,647, and in 1859, notwithstanding the increased population, 16,674; but this remarkable decrease is partly to be ascribed to the greater number of cases now dealt with summarily by the magistrates. The general contentment of the people may be inferred from the fact that prosecutions for political offences seem to be forgotten. No information or indictment for libel against the Government has been resorted to for many years.
There is also another fact which I offer to the House as a mark of increasing popular intelligence, namely, the amazing multiplication of public meetings, in the form of anniversaries, soirées, lectures, &c., connected with all the institutions I have mentioned—with places of worship, schools, Sunday schools, mechanics' institutions, benefit societies, temperance societies, religious and other charities. Every hon. Gentleman who is connected with a populous constituency must have a lively impression of the number of these meetings; and I think there can be no doubt that they are calculated to draw forth and exercise the faculties of those who attend them. I have often been struck with the great talent for public speaking displayed on these occasions by the humbler classes; and I have thought it would be impossible, with such an amount of speaking power, to deny those classes their fair share in the representation.
I have now, Sir, offered a great number of important facts, chiefly drawn from national records. But before I conclude I must add two or three testimonies to the increased intelligence and improved character of the working classes, in a few of our largest cities and towns. I was much struck by the statement made by Mr. Alderman Heywood, the extensive publisher, of Manchester, before the Committee of this House on Newspaper Stamps in 1851, as to the great number of newspapers, magazines, and other publications sold weekly in the city of Manchester; and I wrote to him and to a few other large publishers of periodicals for the working classes, to ask for facts and opinions on the improved condition of those classes. I have been obliged with replies in several instances, and I will read brief extracts from two or three, which are really important. Mr. Alderman Heywood, of Manchester, in reply to my inquiry whether the class occupying houses between £6 and £10 are (generally speaking) qualified by their 373 intelligence and character to exercise the franchise says—My long connection with the working men at trade meetings, temperance meetings, social improvement meetings, political meetings, &c. &c., enables me to speak with confidence when I say that from the rentals mentioned their intelligence, character, and conduct qualify them for the exercise of the franchise. Since 1848 Manchester has been more peaceable than during any former period in my knowledge. The general tone of the people, the bitter acrimonious religious feeling which thirty or thirty-five years ago existed towards the Catholics and others, is truly wonderful to compare with the present state of feeling. The order and regularity maintained by the police force, compared with twenty years ago, is very gratifying. The working men are a new class and order of men, when contrasted with what they once were. Newspapers—There were no daily papers published here in 1831. The gross number issued by the four weekly papers was not more than 12,000. Periodicals had not begun their career at that time, except the Poor Man's Guardian. It is true there was the Mechanics' Magazine and the Mirror, and a few small ones, the contents of which were tales, poetry, and romance. The sale of the Poor Man's Guardian was then 2,000 weekly. The newspapers now published in Manchester in one week, including daily and weekly, are 346,000. Periodicals—The nearest approximation I can make with certainty to the sale of periodicals which come into the city weekly will be 200,000.
Newspapers 346,000 Periodicals 200,000 Total 546,000In this statement I have not included the London Daily papers, nor those published in the surrounding towns.Mr. Jas. T. Staton, bookseller, of Bolton, says—The change that has taken place both socially and morally in the £6 occupiers is very strongly marked and decided. In 1839 there was much political excitement in this neighbourhood. Chartism was then very rife, and the country was much agitated upon the points raised by what was called 'The People's Charter.' The people were led to believe in the most extravagant and dangerous doctrines; and in the height of their enthusiasm they actually purchased pikes and other weapons, and prepared for a general and simultaneous rising. From that time to the present a change in the dispositions and political peculiarities of the people has been gradually but surely developing itself. The cheap daily and weekly press has done much, very much, to dispel the false notions which had been sown broadcast over Lancashire, to indoctrinate the masses with the true principles of political economy, and to imbue them with a solid conviction that it is not only unwise and unbecoming to attempt to change the laws of England by violence and outrage, but that the true mode of effecting changes is that which is shadowed forth in the Constitution. Thirty years ago we had one newspaper printed in Bolton; its circula-was not more than a thousand. The circulation of the two Bolton papers is now upwards of 5,000 a week: and a monthly journal, half literary and 374 half political, has a circulation of about 3,000. There are about 2,000 Manchester papers sold sere daily. The working classes are not satisfied until they have seen the daily paper, and they are uetter informed of passing events than were the bquirearchy thirty years ago. I think you will be able to gather from the foregoing sufficient to convince you that the six-pounders are men whom it is now safe to trust.Mr. James Guest, bookseller, of Birmingham, sends me the following interesting and remarkable statement:—In the year 1830 there were two newsvendors in Birmingham, whose business it was to supply the daily and weekly papers, taken almost entirely at public houses, where the working man took in his news, and left, on an average, one-third of his wages. There were at that time several stationers who supplied the monthlies. Several publications had been tried, and all seemed to fail except two, the Mirror at 2d. and Mechanics' Magazine at 3d.—I have no doubt for want of persons who could read. The only survivor of this antediluvian period is the Mechanics' Magazine. The Penny and Saturday Magazine and Chambers's Journal were started, and sold wonderfully well for that period. These were for a long time the only unexceptionable ones published. The sale of all kinds, I should say, about 7,000 weekly in 1831—the immoral and objectionable publications forming a very large proportion of this number. Now, in 1861, I find over 300 newsvendors and 24 very respectable booksellers who deal more or less in periodicals, selling, on an average, 83,200 per week, comprising very few of an objectionable character. Almost every tradesman and many working men have now their penny daily paper; and the fact of about 2,000 copies of the Cornhill Magazine at 1s. being sold in Birmingham, of No. 1, will give some idea of the improvement of the working classes and small tradesmen since 1831. These classes all then resorted to the public-house, either kitchen or parlour, nearly every night. They now join building societies, and many become their own landlords. I can tell you something of the mining district, as I went myself once a week for a long time, taking with me such unstamped news and periodicals as were then current, and I know the lamentable state of ignorance in those districts in 1830–33. I have entered a room in which twenty men, all black from the pits, were drinking beer, and asked if they wanted a newspaper at only 1d. or 2d., and the answer was, 'Noa, I caw read, I wish I kud.' There was not one in all that district sold anything of the periodical kind. Shops are now opened in every direction, selling from twenty dozen to fifty dozen per week each, or, I should say, 15,000 weekly, where I could (thirty years since) sell about 200. The beerhouse is now less attended, and a great proportion of the people can read. I have been much mixed up with working men and boys, and I consider them very much improved in all respects, and fully as much entitled to the franchise as the men of 1830 were to what they had. The £6 men now are better than the £10 men of 1830.Will the House reflect for a few moments on the extraordinary import of the facts which have been laid before them, as evidence of improvement in the intellectual, 375 moral, and social condition of the people since the year 1831. The House will remember that the increase in the population since the passing of the Reform Act has been only 43 per cent. or less than one-half; but that within the same period all the elements of improvement have increased from 200 to 400 per cent. whilst many of the instruments for social elevation have been absolutely created. It will remember the vast augmentation in the material wealth and comfort of the people—in the number of schools and institutions for primary and secondary education—in the political, scientific, and literary publications which supply the intellectual appetite created—in the circulation of the Scriptures and of religious works—in the letters sent through the Post Office—in the co-operative societies formed and managed by the labouring class—in the depositors in savings banks, and the members of provident institutions, building societies, and temperance societies. It will remember that railways and telegraphs have been invented, that wages have been increased whilst commodities have been cheapened, that labour has been shortened, that pauperism has been reduced one-half, and that crime has been diminished. With regard to most of these elements of improvement, the House will observe that they apply chiefly to the better portion of the working classes. In their nature they cannot apply to the upper and middle classes; it is feared they do not apply very greatly to the lowest portion of the working classes: therefore they must apply with concentrated power to that very section of society for whom I now claim admission to the privileges of the constitution. In them the mental and moral improvement must have been immense, and I say that that improvement constitutes a right to the suffrage.
While the scholars, the readers, the abstainers, and the savers of the country have been increased by millions, the whole addition which I propose to make to the number of borough voters is 170,000, or one-seventh of the voters in England and Wales.
I believe, from my own observation, as well as from the testimony of others, that among the upper section of the working classes there is much independence of thought and feeling, there is both physical and moral strength, there is industrial energy and domestic virtue. In look upon these classes as forming much of the pith and marrow of the nation. In any time of national trial 376 they would be a bulwark of defence if invested with the rights of citizens, but an element of danger if deprived of them.
I believe, Sir, England has gone too far in the course of freedom to be able now to resist a full measure of justice. Your representative institutions, your free and cheap press, your numberless public meetings, are inconsistent with the exclusion from constitutional rights of a large section of the people as well qualified to exercise them as their present possessors, and knowing that they are so qualified. It is said that "knowledge is power," and if it is power to any purpose, it is pre-eminently power for the attainment of right.
Sir, England has been blessed by a kind Providence with a long and almost unparalleled course of prosperity. But experience teaches us that there is no such thing in this world as prosperity without interruption. We have had one bad harvest, and we are threatened with a second. Recent events across the Atlantic have raised doubts as to the supply of our most important raw material, on which the industry of Lancashire, Cheshire, Nottinghamshire, Lanarkshire, and other counties so much depends; whilst we are likely to be almost excluded by the new American tariff from our largest foreign market. Though I fervently hope we shall adhere to the policy of non-intervention in continental quarrels we cannot see without concern the nations of Europe bristling with arms. It is possible that a time of trial awaits us from domestic distress or foreign danger. Should it be so now or at any future time, where would be our security but in a people satisfied with their institutions? I believe the English Constitution to be the strongest and grandest citadel of freedom in the world; but it is strong by the fidelity of its garrison; and surely it would be the height of folly to thrust out from that garrison and from the pale of the Constitution a large proportion of the stoutest hearts and strongest hands amongst us.
Sir, there seems to be in Parliaments, as in men, a natural repugnance to the work of Reformation. They are ever ready, on one excuse or another, to put it off to a distant day, and to the very eve of dissolution. May I respectfully counsel the House not to trust to a death-bed repentance; a kind of repentance which, it is to be feared, is often not sincere and not accepted. Parliaments, like men, are liable to sudden death, and after death to judgment.
377 It may not be inopportune to remind the House of the lesson which the history of so many European countries is now teaching us, that there are two main errors into which Governments have fallen, when forced to make concessions to their subjects. Their first error is that they offer too little, their second that they offer too late. Let not the Parliament of England fall into either of these errors: let it not, in an ungenerous and niggardly spirit, concede too little to a deserving people; and, above all, let it not defer the concession till it comes too late.
I am encouraged to hope better things from a Parliament which was expressly elected to carry the very measure of Reform I have now the honour to propose. It is to timely reformations that we owe all the strength of our institutions, the harmony and happiness of our people. And it is my eonscientious conviction that a juster and better deserved Reform has never been proposed than that contained in the Bill of which I now move the second reading.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
MR. DIGBY SEYMOUR
said, he rose with much pleasure to second the Motion of his hon. Friend (Mr. Baines), and he joined with him in the fervent prayer that the House would consent to the second reading of the Bill. His (Mr. Seymour's) labour had been made light by the admirable way in which the hon. Gentleman had proposed his Motion. There was no aspect in which the working-men of England could be put before the House, so that their position and their claims might receive attention, which had not been dealt with by the hon. Gentleman. He (Mr. D. Seymour) came down to the House with a large supply of notes; but he found, as the hon. Gentleman proceeded, they were rendered one after another unnecessary. And he appealed to the House whether his hon. Friend had not spoke with singular moderation? In this, at least, he (Mr. Seymour) would follow his example. He believed this was a subject which ought to be treated in a spirit of moderation. There was a radical Reform which was sometimes true Conservatism, and there was frequently a false Conservatism which was revolutionary; and he believed that by sanctioning the second reading of this Bill the House would most strengthen the hands of the friends of constitutional freedom, and of those whose desire was to give 378 additional security to the institutions of the country. He believed that this Bill had a claim for support, not alone from the merits of the parties whom it sought to introduce within the pale of the Constitution, but also on its own merits. The Bill asked for nothing revolutionary: it simply sought to popularise our institutions. It did not seek to destroy the Constitution, but to introduce thinking men within it. It sought to restore the first principle of the Constitution by giving a wider extension to the representation. Those who had studied the Constitutional history of the country, and read the works of Constitutional historians, from Granville down to Hallam, would not call in question the proposition that the old Constitutional rule was in favour of the vote being given to every burgess who paid scot and lot in his own particular borough. What, then, was this Bill but an attempt to restore first principles? But this was not all. The Bill sought to supplement the Bill of 1832. That Bill opened the door of the Constitution to the great middle class. And what had been the result? Why, from 1832 to the present time we had got law reform, Church reform, educational reform, financial reform, commercial reform, sanitary reform, and reform in every department of the State. There had, in fact, been one general course of improvement from 1832 to the present time. And with the growth of commerce and manufactures, there had been an increasing class of working men who were entitled to enjoy Constitutional privileges. The Bill of the hon. Member for Leeds was, then, a further working out of the problem of 1832. Then came the third question, as to the fitness of the working classes to be admitted within the pale of the Legislature. His hon. Friend (Mr. Baines) had thrown considerable light on this subject. And he (Mr. Seymour) might mention one circumstance as bearing on it also. He had been to Liverpool lately, and he had visited the Free Library, which the splendid munificence of Mr. Brown had given to the people of that thriving town. He was astonished at observing in the reading-room of that building the number of men dressed in the ordinary habiliments of working artisans engaged in poring over books of art and travel, of history, and biography. At his request the librarian furnished him with an average of the number of volumes which had been distributed weekly in the library during the first month or six weeks. The average number of vo- 379 lumes distributed was between 8,000 and 9,000; and though this at first included a large proportion of novels and romances, yet in the last week these light works were exchanged for a sounder class of literature. With respect to co-operative institutions, a newspaper had been recently started called the Co-Operative, and he was struck by seeing reduced there into figures the extraordinary progress which had recently attended many of these institutions. The Co-operative Society of Rochdale, which started in 1844, with a capital of £28, possessed a capital for the past year of upwards of £33,000. These societies could not be spoken of as communistic institutions, which had no respect for private rights or private investment. They were a number of men who had associated themselves together and worked for the common good with honesty, independence of character, and sobriety. This showed to him that the working classes were entitled to a further share in the franchise. Allusion had been made to the Manchester Society of Oddfellows, and the Foresters' Society of this country, in which were comprised something like 500,000 men. Now, if they took it that each man belonging to these two societies represented something like £6 capital they would get something like £2,500,000. How was that money invested? It was invested for the purpose of meeting the time of sickness, supporting the widow in her desolation, and providing for the education of the orphan. These were strong proofs in favour of the present measure, and in favour of a large introduction of the working classes to a share in the representation. He thought the working classes had just ground to be indignant at the manner in which hopes were held out to them, which were afterwards to be forgotten or broken. In 1852 a Reform Bill was proposed by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, and withdrawn. In 1854 another Bill was proposed, and withdrawn. In 1859 a Bill was introduced by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli), but was thrown out on a Resolution proposed by the noble Lord (Lord John Russell). The result was that the right hon. Gentleman was now an ex-Minister, and the noble Lord occupied a seat on the Treasury bench. The excuse of the noble Lord for not bringing in a Reform Bill this Session was that the Bill brought in by him during last Session had been criticized by various Members sitting on his side of 380 the House. The noble Lord referred, he supposed, to the speeches made by the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Massey), the hon. Member for Rye (Mr. Mackinnon), and other Members, and endeavoured to represent himself as a political Actæon worried by his own dogs of Reform. If there had been greater unanimity on the Treasury bench on the subject of Reform those speeches would probably not have been delivered; but when hon. Members saw that the Government were undecided, and when one leading statesman among them was believed to be inimical to Reform, it was too much to expect that among the Liberal Members there would be unanimity on the subject. He hoped that the present Bill would be allowed to go into Committee, where it could be amended. There was a clause dealing with the borough franchise, and perhaps some hon. Member might introduce a clause dealing with the county franchise. The principle of the Bill was to extend the limits of the franchise. Let hon. Members show that they were sincere in their professions for Reform by going into Committee on the Bill, and they would have the feeling of the country with them. They would, then, be justifying the sincerity of their former acts and aid in the task they had imposed on the hon. Member for Leeds to introduce the present Bill. The noble Lord the Member for the City of London had spoken on a previous occasion of the difficulty of tiding a Reform Bill over the bar of the House of Lords; and of the necessity of waiting till a rising wave should carry it over. Why was it that his ship was unable to get over the bar? Because she was down too much in her bows, and lay too low in the water—she was over-freighted; her cargo was not properly trimmed, and her mariners were not sensible of the importance and difficulties of their duties. His hon. Friend the Member for Leeds had applied himself to the task, and he had built and launched a simpler and a smaller craft, more lightly laden—she carried on board no schemes of re-distribution, no schedule of disfranchisement. Her simple freight was a £6 franchise, and she wanted no high wave to carry her over the bar. All she wanted was a cloudless sky and a favouring breeze, and in the name of the people of England he wished his hon. Friend a happy venture and a prosperous voyage.
§ MR. CAVE
rose to move the Previous 381 Question; and he did so with more confidence, because, with all due attention, he had not been able to discover anything new in either of the speeches of the two hon. Members who had brought forward this Motion—anything in the arguments urged, or the facts adduced which could justify Parliament in departing from its manifest determination of last Session, expressed equally by both sides of the House, or of running counter to the decision deliberately arrived at and communicated to the House a few weeks since by Her Majesty's Government of whose original measure this was a mere fragment. It might be asked why with these feelings he did not at once move that the Bill be read a second time this day six months? His answer was this, that they on that side of the House had never objected to the principle of admitting the working classes to such a share of the franchise as should be just, moderate, and safe. They had said so before, and they said so still. They had proved it, and were ready to prove it again. For these reasons they did not oppose the second reading of the Reform Bill of last Session, and for this reason he did not now ask the House to negative the principle of the hon. Member's Bill. But there were three distinct and capital grounds for his thinking that this question ought not to be submitted to the House. The first was that it appeared in a most objectionable form; the second that it was introduced at a most inopportune time; and the third, that the source from which it emanated was not one which could command the confidence of the country. He would take the last head first, that he might lose no time in assuring the hon. Member for Leeds that he intended nothing personally offensive to himself. He hoped never to say anything of that kind, to any Member of the House. His meaning simply was that the House and the country expected, as they had a good right to expect, that a measure of such great importance as a change in the Constitution—the transfer of power from one class to another—should be brought in with the authority and upon the responsibility of an united Cabinet—differing however much in other things yet agreeing in this—representing various portions of the country, and, therefore, acquainted with the desires and peculiarties of all—chosen for experience and sagacity to guide the helm of the State—skilful to weigh objections and reconcile inequalities, and, therefore, likely to bring forward a measure be- 382 neficial to all, though for that very reason, perhaps, failing to be immediately popular with any. This he said the country had a right to expect, and not that these important changes should be introduced at the whim of a private Member, however able, who was responsible only to himself and those who sent him there, whose views were likely to be limited by the desires and circumstances of a small section of the community, and whose measures, therefore, were apt to he cast in the mould of a partisan rather than in that of a statesman. The instances quoted of private Members bringing in measures of this kind corroborated his view, showing as they did that these proposals were so premature that they had, in some cases, to wait nearly half a century before the nation was ripe for them. Like pioneers and inventors of other kinds, they were on the right track, but advanced a little too fast for security or success. But, secondly, the proposition came in a most objectionable shape. The hon. Member called it a simple measure, and so it was; but its simplicity was that of the savage arising from paucity of material and ignorance of art. It might seem adapted to some infant State. Who would imagine it the reconstruction of the ancient and complicated Constitution of England? That it was such a reconstruction who could question? Not those hon. Members opposite, who, night after night last Session—as the debate dragged its slow length along—night after night got up and insisted that, although they were zealous Reformers, that was not the kind of Reform which suited them; and why? Because they had begun to discover that this portion of the Bill, apparently so harmless, was really a transfer of power from the middle classes to the lower. The Committee of the House of Lords had since proved, even by the confession of one of its Liberal Members, that this must be so. But he need not go beyond these walls. The Member for Birmingham, the great authority in such matters, ridiculed the notion; he told them that the addition of 160,000 to 440,000 electors could make no perceptible difference. Well, if the 160,000 were all on one side and the 440,000 on the other, this would be true enough. If five men attacked twenty they had not much chance, but if the twenty were equally divided the addition of five to either side would, he imagined, go very hard with the other. The hon. Member for Leeds had given the House some in- 383 teresting statistics; he might almost call it a volume of contemporaneous history, which would have been a valuable addition to the papers they had filled up the day before yesterday (the census); but they seemed rather to tell against his proposition, as showing the great prosperity attained under the system he wished to destroy. He also seemed to seek to reconcile them to the measure by showing how few real working men there would be admitted—a most awkward argument for a working man's franchise. But what was the opinion of the Member for Birmingham? Why, he said if the Bill passed they must have the ballot. The ballot would be necessary, and must be carried. What did that show? Why, that a very low franchise did not necessarily imply a really popular Government. To secure that they must have an independence that could do without the ballot. Their Hampdens and Sidneys were men of the middle class who dared to withstand the encroachments of tyranny. Despotic power could exist even with universal suffrage; and the ballot had been the tool of oppression quite as often as the handmaid of liberty. The hon. Member ridiculed the idea of constituencies being swamped; but what was the case of the metropolitan boroughs? Take Marylebone, where the upper classes were so entirely swamped that a third of them never went to the poll, and were practically disfranchised. So in the case of the United States, they found a large body of those Americans, who from their education, leisure and independent position were most fitted to bear a part in the government of their country, forming small colonies in Paris, Vienna, and other capitals of Europe, deterred from public life by the overwhelming preponderance of mere numbers—a fact often lamented by American writers. Precisely the same thing would happen to the humbler employers of labour, and even to. £10 voters in the smaller places. Of what use would it be for a man to go to the poll if his half-dozen journeymen were going against him? Who would ask for the vote of the £10 householder when he would be so much out-numbered? The hon. Member said they did not know the working classes, and, therefore, did not trust them. He believed he knew as much of them in his humble way as many who declaimed so confidently about them. He had admired their patience and endurance under suffering and privation, their unbought, disinterested kindness and charity 384 to each other. He did not believe the hard hand of the working man was more likely to be soiled by a dirty action than the hand of any Member of that hon. House. He acknowledged the good sense and good feeling of many individuals among them with whom he was acquainted; but it was as individuals he must go to them; he must have a chance of appealing to that good feeling and good sense. He had told them, and probably should tell them again, that he was afraid of them in the mass, when infected with that contagion common to masses—especially when inflamed by demagogues, who knew well how to inflame them by perverted facts and specious arguments—when, in spite of what the hon. Member said of their various opinions, they were apt to go almost blindfold one Way, and to do things for which in their calmer moods they were the first to grieve. The hon. Member had spoken of the great improvement of the working classes of Leeds. He could well believe it. They were improving everywhere. While some of their friends had contented themselves with inciting them to claim higher privileges, others had laboured less ostentatiously to fit them for those privileges. Without wishing to detract in the least from hon. Gentlemen opposite, with some of whom he had long had the pleasure of working in this cause, he could not help drawing attention to the fact that on his side of the House, especially on the benches below him, were many whose names were household words in the country wherever the education of the working-man was mentioned. Yes, they were improving; yet painful events—some of them very recent. some even now taking place around them—showed that the working men had still a lesson to learn and a position to achieve before they could safely be intrusted with a preponderance of weight in the Legislature. The lesson was greater tolerance to each other; the position was independence of those agitators who, while professing to defend their rights, used them as instruments for their own ambition or greed of gain, and fettered them with disabilities in their daily work infinitely more degrading to themselves and inimical to their progress than any fancied evil produced by want of the franchise. Then, lastly, this measure was introduced at a most inopportune time. They had heard a great deal, one way or another, of the apathy of the country. There had been a few meetings, and the usual crop of petitions, which on these oc- 385 casions were garnered into the bags at the table. The promoters of this measure, with all their organization, could scarcely have done less. Still he confessed that this apathy would not seem to him a sufficient reason against any unexceptionable or necessary measure. The voice of the people had before now, compelled their rulers to unjust and imprudent as well as to beneficial actions. But he confessed he did not wonder at the apathy. There was no parallel between these times and those of the first Reform Bill. Circumstances had changed very much since then. Those were the days of low wages and insufficient food. Famine stalked through the manufacturing districts. Demagogues, who were as capable then as now and not more scrupulous, told the people that when the Bill passed the price of bread would fall, and wages rise; that there would not only be a political hut such a social revolution, that it was notorious servants refused to engage themselves for the usual time, because they said, the Reform Bill was coming, and they should change places with their masters. That was worth fighting for. But the people were wiser now; they saw that they were offered a barren duty, not a privilege—hence their apathy. There was a sharp contest even for the post of parish clerk or beadle; but whoever heard of a rush to fill a jury box? They proposed to extend to them an onerous duty, which they purposed to make still more onerous by obliging them to go at their own expense long distances to discharge it. They took away with one hand what they gave with the other, and, while professing to extend the franchise to the working men, they practically disfranchised all who did not live within easy distance of the polling places. But there was a still graver cause for apathy at this moment. When the Æqui and Volsci were moving, even the patricians and plebians of old Rome ceased to strive for the mastery. Had we no parallel now? Was Italy so tranquil? Was Austria disarming? Were not the seeds of discord being sown in Hungary and Poland? Was not Prussia threatening Denmark, and France threatening Europe? Hon. Members opposite laughed at these alarms, but while they were crying peace, the nation, with a truer instinct armed itself, and the working man, feeling that these were not times for hazardous experiments upon our laws, enrolled himself in defence of that Constitution which he prized, in spite of the 386 efforts of so many to persuade him that it was worse than worthless. What then was wanted? Was it a Reform of Parliament itself? He could hardly think so when he looked around and saw the representatives of great territorial houses not voting as a class, but sitting on both sides of the House; when he saw, on the other hand, men of the people, some who had even themselves belonged to the working classes, and if not their best exponents—why, that was admitting a great deal—when he saw all professions and all interest represented, he beheld a tower of strength which no English Parliament could hope to surpass, and which no other assembly in the world had ever equalled. And what had been the course of legislation? Whichever side had been in power it had been marked by measures for elevating the working man by education, and relieving him by read-justment of taxation. They heard, indeed, complaints of Members who fancied they were not properly appreciated, but even a democracy would hardly cure that. They heard occasionally denunciations of unjust wars and oppressive taxation; these were mere idle tales, whichNec pueri credunt, nisi qui nondum ære lavantur.But the working man, it was said, desired a share in the formation of the Government which he helped to support. Well, such a wish was very creditable to him, and a statesmanlike measure might gratify that wish without destroying the balance of power. There was the counterpoise of what were called the fancy franchises, and there were precedents of even graduated universal suffrage in ancient times, to which he need only allude. Something similar had been advocated in our day by a deep thinker, Mr. John Stuart Mill; and a still keener and more practical writer, also of Liberal opinions—the late Mr. James Wilson, at least in a paper which was understood to embody his sentiments. These were not views to he lightly dismissed. Not that there was really any class deprived of the franchise, as a class, kept down by any insurmountable barrier. The best were always emerging as children grew to manhood. The changing value of property was constantly assisting them and the best workman would all, ere long, doubtless, live in £10 houses. Some safe mode might be adopted for bringing them more rapidly forward, but this Bill, in his so-called simplicity, admitted many who were confessedly unfit, and excluded many 387 more who ought to have been admitted long ago. He impeached no man's motives, he questioned no man's sincerity, he could imagine that in the hon. Member's own locality there might be exceptional causes which justified him. That might well be, but they would not justify that House, who are not the delegates of this or that place, but the Parliament of England. Her Majesty's Government had chosen a wise and patriotic course; but they had not fully carried it out. It was good generalship to retire silently from an untenable position; but it was not good to tolerate irregular bands which might cause much irritation and do much mischief, but could exercise no influence on the result of the campaign. Therefore, he could not but think that this Motion of the Previous Question should have come from Her Majesty's Government. But, however, that might be, he felt confident that though individuals and even parties might deem themselves fettered by obligations hastily incurred, and bound by opinions formed upon an imperfect knowledge of facts, yet that a majority in that House, and a majority of thinking men throughout the country, in their inmost hearts concurred in the views he bad imperfectly expressed. Feeling this, he had no hesitation in suggesting that whatever might be the abstract merits of a proposition like the one now before them, when combined with other carefully considered plans, and brought in as a Government measure, at a favourable moment, yet that in its present shape it did not commend itself to the support of the House, or the confidence of the country. It was for these reasons that he ventured to move that the present was not the time for putting this question.
§ MR. AUGUSTUS SMITH
said, that as no member of Her Majesty's Government had risen to second the Previous Question—as the hon. Gentleman opposite seemed to think that they should, he rose to do so. He should not enter upon all the important points which the speech of the hon. Mover of the second reading had opened; but there was one question which might be asked—namely, whether the franchise should he given to the working classes unaccompanied by the ballot? It would be almost useless to them without that protection. A meeting had been held the other day at which two Members of that House attended; and one of them stated that inasmuch as the number of voters for Sheffield at present was 6,000, if this Bill 388 passed, it would make them 18,000 or 20,000. What would be the result of that? It was quite clear that, if this Bill passed, the whole electoral power of the borough must be transferred from those whose qualification was £10 to those whose qualification was under £10. That was one of those great revolutions which ought to cause Members on both sides to pause before they gave their assent to this Bill. If the hon. Member for Leeds succeeded in getting his Bill through the House, the result would be that all the other important measures which had been introduced, or were to be introduced this Session, would be either delayed or hurried over, or perhaps abandoned altogether. A measure most important to the commercial interest had been introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade; another most important measure was yet to be introduced by him; the Home Secretary had brought in several measures of great importance as regarded the local administration of the country—the Highways Bill, the Local Government Bill, the Parochial Assessment Bill, which must necessarily engage a large amount of attention; and then there were the Estimates. The Navy Estimates had already been introduced; but the Civil Service Estimates, notwithstanding the promise of the Secretary to the Treasury some six weeks ago that they would be laid upon the table in a fortnight, had not yet made their appearance, and when they would it would be impossible to say. It was quite clear that the Government were at their old dodge of keeping back the Estimates till the close of the Session when they could not be thoroughly discussed. In fact, those Estimates alone would, in his opinion, he fully sufficient to justify the House in refusing assent to the second reading. It was several years since there was a thorough discussion of the Estimates at such a period of the Session that they could be properly attended to. For these reasons he was decidedly opposed to the second reading.
Sir, I shall not take up the time of the House by any attempt to refute the proposition of my hon. Friend who has just sat down, that because this measure is likely to be defeated by the opponents of Reform, therefore, it is the duty of the friends of Reform to aid them in defeating it. Nor shall I combat the arguments of the hon. Member for Shore-ham, because those arguments ought, I 389 think, to have formed part of a speech in which the hon. Member moved that this Bill be read again this day six months. Indeed I do not think that the debates will suffer materially if we dispense altogether with the arguments of both hon. Members, because I cannot regard them in any other light than as clever skirmishes thrown out in very loose order in advance by hon. Gentlemen opposite to cover a more serious attack upon our position. Nor, Sir, shall I enter upon any elaborate criticism on the policy of the Government with regard to this question, because I desire to speak no evil of the absent. If, Sir, the professions upon the faith of which the noble Viscount and his friends were permitted to oust the Government of Lord Derby were not quite sincere (but far be it from mo to believe what everybody believes out of doors); if this cry about Reform was manufactured for a paltry party purpose, then, Sir, I fear that those who will come after us (who somehow or other will have to believe a great many things which it would be highly unparliamentary to express in this House), will simply say that this great triumph of the Reform party—this displacement of the Government of Lord Derby—was after all an impudent usurpation. If, however, those professions were sincere, what must be our opinion of the prostration, or the timidity of a Ministry which, thoroughly and profoundly in earnest upon this great question, is compelled thus to wash its hands of it altogether? Nor, Sir, shall I attempt to go over any of the same ground which has been occupied by my hon. Friend who, with so much ability, has asked the House to read his Bill a second time to day. Leaving then the positive arguments which may be adduced in favour of the Bill, I shall proceed, if the House will permit me, to call their attention to arguments drawn from the inconsistencies in which hon. Gentlemen opposite have been involved in the attempt to hold what I believe to be an untenable position. I think, Sir, that if anyone takes the pains to glance through the debates upon this question in the last Session of Parliament, especially that portion of them which came from the other side of the House, he cannot fail to be struck with two things—the length of the speeches and the brevity of the arguments. Of the argument I will speak presently; but the staple of the speeches consisted of observations upon something which had been said, or what was reported to have 390 been said, or supposed to have been said, or imagined to have been said, by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright). So much was this the case that I think if any stranger had entered the House during the course of our debates he must have gone away with the inevitable conviction that it was not the Constitution which we were endeavouring with so much labour and so much eloquence to reform, but the hon. Member for Birmingham. Why, my hon. Friend was a positive butt for the rifle practice of hon. Gentlemen opposite, not only for the skilled and organized sharpshooters of debate, but for every clumsy volunteer to point his random piece at and to run away, and yet my hon. Friend survives, and I dare say, if the truth were known, it has afforded much gratification to my hon. Friend to have given so much recreation and occupation to his hon. Friends opposite and at so trifling an expense to himself. Now when hon. Members had exhausted all they wished to say about the hon. Member for Birmingham they sometimes condescended to say something about the Bill, and that amounted generally to pretty much the same thing, and it was this. The Bill of the noble Lord will have the effect of introducing into the constituency of the Empire a new class—a homogeneous class—a class so numerous, so unanimous, and at the same time so poor and so immoral that they cannot fail to outvote every one above them, and then to invade the rights and property of every one above them. This was what the right hon. Baronet the Member for Hertfordshire (Sir E. Bulwer-Lytton) picturesquely called giving "poverty and passion the lion's share of political power," and the right hon. Baronet rang many changes upon the words "poverty and passion" as though there were nothing offensive in them, and as though he were enamoured of that alliteration which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks told us a few days before "tickled the ear, was a very popular form of language among savages, but was not an argument in legislation." The right hon. Baronet made himself and the House extremely merry at the expense of that poverty, and in one of the most impassioned speeches to which it was ever my good fortune to listen denounced that passion. And the right hon. Baronet was followed in the course of the debate by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli) who spoke of this reduction of 391 the borough franchise as "the degradation of the franchise," and proceeded to draw an alarming and spirited sketch of the evils which must ensue from its adoption. To listen to the right hon. Gentleman the House would hardly recognize the same right hon. Gentleman who, about a year before had come down to the House and told us that "he was perfectly prepared to deal with the question of the reduction of the borough franchise and the admission of the working classes by the reduction of the franchise in boroughs and by acting in that direction with sincerity." Although to do the right hon. Gentleman justice only a month before he made this startling announcement he had taken the pains to foretell to the House all the calamities which must follow this course of procedure. But, Sir, during that short interval something had happened—something which I wish would happen now—something which would have the effect of very materially accelerating the progress of this measure through the House. The right hon. Gentleman in common with every Member of the House had been compelled to avail himself of Montalambert's prescription. They had been to take "a life bath in free England," and I suppose that hon. Members found some one to put them into the pool at the moment when some angel, perhaps that of Reform, was "troubling the waters" for political miracles were wrought on every side. The blind came seeing, and the cripples danced. The right hon. Gentleman who had gone down with the country a Reformer (the whole House were Reformers then, in the event of a dissolution the whole House would be Reformers now with the solitary exception of the noble Lord the Member for the City); but the right hon. Gentleman had gone down to the country a Reformer of a some what paralytic type, and the right hon. Gentleman returned from the country with the full use of his limbs. And if there was anything more remarkable than the rapidity of the right hon. Gentleman's cure, it was the rapidity with which he afterwards suffered a relapse. Now, Sir, I should not have called the attention of the House to this vacillation in the policy of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to this question if I heard a good deal about the inconsistency of hon. Members upon this side of the House—and if I were not desirous of presenting to the House something like a little tabular statement of a few of those 392 inconsistencies into which hon. Gentlemen opposite—even the most astute politicians, have been led in the exigencies of their defence. The right hon. Gentleman—and here I would pause a moment to apologize to the right hon. Gentleman for the frequent use which I am about to make of his speeches. I hope that the House will not misunderstand me. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will acquit me of any foolish and presumptuous wish to seem in any sense to enter the lists with him. The right hon. Gentleman has few more attentive auditors, and his eloquence and ingenuity few more sincere admirers in this House. But the right hon. Gentleman speaks with authority. The right hon. Gentleman speaks as the organ of the great party which he so skilfully heads, and it is with the official arguments of the party that I am now attempting to cope. On March 31, 1859, the right hon. Gentleman said—You cannot encounter the objection to the reduction of the borough franchise by sentimental assertions of the good qualities of the working classes. The greater their good qualities, the greater the danger."—[3 Hansard, cliii. 1246].And on 19th March, 1860, he says—It is said that the working classes are exceedingly intelligent and educated, and, therefore, likely to appreciate the possession of the franchise. But these are reasons why you should take care in legislating upon the subject that you do not give them a preponderance."—[3 Hansard, clvii. 844].Well, but the very same day the right hon. Gentleman is criticizing the conduct of the noble Lord because he did this very thing, because he took the pains to ascertain the number of those who would be enfranchised by his Bill in order, I suppose, that he might not alarm the apprehensions of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman says—In proposing to confer the franchise upon those who do not now possess it, we ought to look to their fitness; we ought not to consider how we can obtain a certain number of additional votes, and then ask the House to support our measure because the number is one which may not alarm them. I say that if, instead of 257,000 there had been 557,000 men who, in the opinion of the House, were fit to receive the suffrage, the suffrage ought to have been given them."—[3 Hansard, clvii. 841].But on the 25th of March, 1859, the right hon. Gentleman was anticipated by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Whiteside), who asked—What is the only principle upon which this 393 question can now be fairly and properly discussed? It is not whether it may not be expedient to infuse new blood into the body politic; whether it would not be advantageous to extend the area of representation, and to give all who deserve it the right of being represented if they fairly and reasonably ask for it?"—[3 Hansard, cliii. 887.]Now, I want to know how all this can be made to agree with the argument that we are not to pass this Bill because it would have the effect of swamping the constituencies. For example, the noble Lord the Member for Stamford (Lord Robert Cecil) says—The worthiness of the working man was not in question. It was impossible to admit the working men indefinitely, however worthy they might be.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, that if the speeches were delivered in the present Session, the course taken by the hon. Gentleman would be irregular; but as they were not delivered in the present Session his conduct was not irregular.
, in continuation, said, that the noble Lord the Member for Stamford had declared that… ….."It was impossible to admit the working classes indefinitely, however worthy they might be, even if educated morally up to the last degree, without swamping every other class. …. If every one worthy of the franchise was admitted to its enjoyment, it would not be possible to stop at a £6 or a £5 franchise, for at the rate at which education was going on everybody would soon be worthy of it."—[3 Hansard, cliii. 478.]And when everybody is worthy of it where is the voice in this House which will forbid it? Is it the voice of the noble Lord the Member for Stamford? But mark the tendency of the noble Lord's opinions. The noble Lord treats as revolutionary the opinions of hon. Members who sit in this part of the House; and as the noble Lord is candour itself, he has never hesitated to intimate to us that we hold revolutionary opinions. With equal candour, then, I do not hesitate to tell the noble Lord that there is something in this opinion of his more revolutionary than anything which was ever uttered below the gangway; not even my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham when, as the noble Lord with so much propriety says—Like Cato to give his little Senate laws—And sits attentive to his own applause.Not even my hon. Friend ever uttered anything so fatal to the patience, so provoca- 394 tive of the indignation of the working man as that which was uttered by the noble Lord when he dared to say that he would refuse to him the franchise, however worthy he might be, even if educated morally up to the last degree. I have been astonished, Sir, to hear hon. Gentlemen opposite thus sowing sedition broadcast and in the same breath, after every offensive thing has been said against the people, to hear them talk about the inflammatory language of hon. Gentlemen below the gangway. Well but, Sir, as this assertion about swamping the constituencies has proceeded out of the mouth of the hon. Member for Shoreham, and every hon. Member who has spoken on that side of the House, I think it would be scarcely courteous were we to meet it by a simple negation—equally unsupported by evidence and argument. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment (Mr. Cave) was referred to a Committee which was appointed in "another place" to make curious and elaborate researches into the manners and customs of the people among whom we dwell. Their Lordships collected a mass of conflicting evidence which they were either unwilling or unable to sift, and to decide whether or not it tended to confirm the Returns which had been made to the Government. Indeed, although there appeared to be every disposition on the part of some of their Lordships to throw if possible discredit upon those Returns, they were wholly unable to arrive at any Report which should have this effect; and I think that the supplementary Returns which were laid before the House tended very materially to confirm the first rough estimate which had been made. But, supposing that for the sake of argument we accept the greatly exaggerated estimate which was formed by our noble Lord, and which he failed to induce their Lordships to adopt. Supposing that we grant that to a borough constituency in England and Wales amounting 442,009, this Bill would make the addition of 320,000. What then? How would this hand over the Government of the country to "poverty and passion?" "Because," the right hon. Gentleman will say, "these new voters will all be taken from the same class—their habits, feelings, principles and opinions will be identical" But will they all be taken from the same class? In the first place we shall have a vast number of retail traders. Then we shall have a vast number of skilled artizans. But the skilled artizans ac- 395 cording to your own showing belongs to the middle class, to the class already directly represented, and the class which hon. Gentlemen opposite declare governs the country. For the right hon. Baronet the Member for Hertfordshire speaks of the middle class asThe combination of various interests which is formed in the middle ranks of society, which cannot be called a class because it comprises all classes—from the educated gentleman to the skilled artizan.Now, if hon. Gentlemen opposite, instead of reiterating the assertion that we are about to swamp the constituencies, had taken the pains to do that which was done by my hon. Friend who with so much ability has asked the House to read his Bill a second time to-day, for the great borough which he so worthily represents, and that which was done by my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling for the city of Edinburgh, they would have found that in the class whom he proposes to enfranchise there exists the same combination of classes which is to be found in every other class of society. But the noble Lord the Member for Stamford admits thatUpon every other question except taxation the lower classes would probably be divided like the upper ones.Of course they would. And the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Staffordshire amused the House on one occasion by telling them that the skilled artisans of Birmingham had met in one of their clubs to discuss whether or not my hon. Friend represented their opinions, and that after the question had been duly debated the club divided, and one-half the club, minus one, voted in the negative; and the other half, plus one, in the affirmative, so that my hon. Friend had a very narrow majority indeed. Turning again to the evidence which was laid before their Lordships we shall find that Mr. Griffin, the clerk to the Guardians of Stoke-upon-Trent (which by the bye is one of the few places where the skilled artisans have been admitted in any numbers to the franchise), Mr. Griffin was asked, "You stated, did you not, that there are a very large number of skilled artisans upon the electoral list at present?" "Yes."… "Can you state on which side the majority have lately gone, whether on the Conservative or the Liberal side?" "Both the Conservative and the Liberal sides have com- 396 mittees of working men; and in Hanley and Shelton, where the contest has been as warmly fought as anywhere, they are as equally divided as possible." Well but, Sir, I am ashamed to multiply proofs of what everybody who knows anything of the working classes is perfectly aware of, that among them there exists the same diversity of opinion which exists amongst ourselves.
But, Sir, I think that our position is so strong that we can afford to grant, for the sake of argument, that the classes to be enfranchised are identical in principle and opinion. How many seats would change owners through their unanimous action? Where is it that they would possess a numerical majority? Is it in the large boroughs or in the small boroughs? Unquestionably in the large boroughs, in the very boroughs in which the right hon. Baronet the Member for Hertfordshire tells us that "even under the present franchise the suffrage is practically so low that democracy may be said to prevail." But I am prepared to grant still more. I will grant that it is not merely in the large boroughs, but if you like in every borough in the kingdom that the working classes will have a numerical majority. You may think that I have at last surrendered our position altogether. But I turn for consolation and defence to the speeches of right hon. Gentleman opposite; and roally right hon. Gentlemen do express our arguments with so much force and ability that I am delighted to shelter my own clumsiness behind the eloquence and ingenuity of right hon. Gentlemen who have the ear of the House. On the 28th February, 1859, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks said—We know very well what takes place at a Parliamentary election in this country. The man of princely fortune has, when he goes to the poll, no more votes than the humble dweller in a £10 house, because we know very well that his wealth, his station, and his character will give him the influence which will adequately represent his property, and the constitution shrinks from a plurality of votes in such a case."—[3 Hansard, clii. 975.]On the 19th March, 1860, he repeats the argument—First of all I think he (Lord John Russell) is acting on a complete fallacy in establishing what I venture to call cumulative Members for places already represented. Now, I want to know from the Government on what principle they have so acted. You do not act on that principle in the electoral body. If a man has £100,000 a year he has only one vote, and on very good grounds; 397 for you know that although the man has a large fortune, and you give him the same vote as the humblest dweller in a £10 tenement, he has an indirect influence in the country, which asserts itself and sufficiently protects his property. Why should you do that in Manchester and Birmingham which you do not do for the wealthy individual?"—[3 Hansard, clvii. 852.]The right hon. Gentleman, therefore, appears to admit that the mere unit of a vote is no measure of individual political power, and I would venture to submit that in surrendering this proposition he surrenders that upon which the whole argument about swamping the constituencies is based. Then the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Whiteside) says—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."—[3 Hansard, clvii. 1106]Now it may be said that recent events have impaired the force of the right hon. Gentleman's illustration, but if his illustration proves anything it proves that in a free and enlightened country a mere numerical majority is no proof of political ascendency, I will take one more illustration from the speeches of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I will take it from a very memorable speech delivered on the 22nd March, 1859, by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Hertfordshire (Sir E. Bulwer Lytton). The right hon. Baronet is speaking of what he is pleased to call "the majesty of disciplined intellect," and be quotes Mr. Fox, who says, "What gives England her place in Europe? It can never he numbers, it must be always intellect." If the right hon. Baronet had been in his place I should have asked him to apply his own illustration to the question before the House. If the "uninstructed numbers" of whom he speaks be so ignorant as he supposes what chance have they in their conflict with the "majesty of disciplined intellect?" Can not and will not that which gives England her place in Europe give to the educated classes their place in England?
And now, Sir, if I do not weary the House 1 should like to refer to other inconsistencies which I think I have discovered in the policy of hon. Gentleman opposite upon this question. And one of them is the extremely complimentary manner in 398 which hon. Members invariably speak about the working classes and the extremely uncomplimentary manner in which they invariably vote about them. For example, the noble Lord the Member for North Leicestershire (Lord John Manners) says, that "he does not fear the use the working classes would make of the franchise." The hon. and learned Member for Cambridge (Mr. Macaulay) says, "No one doubts the good feeling and the loyalty of the working classes." The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Staffordshire (Mr. Adderley) says of the skilled artizans of Birmingham, that "no persons were more fit to enjoy the franchise; among them were to be found some of the most independent voters in the kingdom. They allowed themselves to be at the beck of no master … They discussed political affairs together, and were capable of forming an independent opinion respecting them." The noble Lord the Member for Huntingdonshire (Lord Robert Montagu) says, that "he has no distrust of the working classes, on the contrary, he thinks they have a perfect right to be represented." The noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho)"will say for his own part that no man entertains a higher respect for the working classes than he does." And the hon. Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Ben-thick) who is the champion of rustic intelligence and rural energy says, "that he agrees so far with the noble Lord that he believes that popular intelligence has greatly increased within the last few years, that the diffusion of education has tended much to humanize the masses in this country, that men are not so easily worked upon and their passions aroused as formerly, and upon the whole he thinks too highly of the English people ever to believe that it would be possible to substitute violence for reasoning, and intimidation for argument, whether such a course were suggested by hungry placemen or (with a withering glance below the gangway) by disappointed demagogues." But what a comment upon all this adulation are the votes of hon. Gentlemen. This working man, of whom you have no fear and no distrust, who stands so high in your esteem and your respect, whose good feeling and loyalty no one doubts, who has a perfect right to be represented, of whom you think too highly ever to believe that it would be possible to substitute violence for reasoning, and intimidation for argument, this admirable and model elector you proclaim by your 399 votes, is to be kept at all hazards at arm's length—and cost what it may we are called upon to protect the Constitution from the invasion of his impatient poverty and of his unprincipled passion. So "there are tears for his love, joy for his fortune, honour for his valour, and political death," I suppose, Sir, "for his ambition."
Now, I know very well what hon. Members will say in reply to all this. They will say, "We brought in a Bill full of fancy franchises, the express object of which was to give representation to working men. But that was not representation, that was filtration, and the working man does not thank you for a franchise which is not frankly given; he does not thank you for a vote which is clogged with conditions which do not attach to the votes of any other man. Possibly he is not yet convinced of the fact of which you appear to be so confident, that he is an unclean beast who is only to be admitted into the ark of the Constitution, a single male at a time, while all the rest are clean and go in by sevens. But there are some hon. Members who appear to think that the working-man is directly represented already. "Take any borough, any county," says the right hon. Baronet the Member for Hertfordshire, and asks with a naiveté which is perfectly exquisite, "Have we not all and each of us several working men among our constituents?" Do you call this the representation of an interest? Hon. Gentlemen opposite lay great stress upon the representation of all the interests in the country in this House. "This House, in my opinion," said the right hon. Gentleman, "ought to represent all the interests of the country." "I agree with the Government," says the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), "that the different interests of the country should be represented. There is the agricultural interest; there is the mineral interest, the manufacturing interest, the monetary interest, the maritime interest to be represented in this House;" and why not the interest of labour? Because, perhaps hon. Gentlemen will say, the interest of the labour which is employed and the capital which employs the labour are identical. What, then, becomes of your argument which is based upon the assertion that they are not identical—that they are frequently antagonistic—and that the men whom we propose to enfranchise would avail themselves of the power that we give them in 400 order to wrest the rights of those against whom they already combine? What becomes of the argument of the noble Lord, the Member for Huntingdonshire, when he says—"Agricultural labourers are attached to the country gentlemen, but the working classes did not entertain the same feelings towards their employers. In cotton mills, mines, collieries, and factories, you may see the relations of the workmen towards the capitalists. They were ready to sacrifice their comfort and their savings, and to see their families ruined and their children die in a fierce struggle with the capitalists who employed them. They had many defeats to avenge and much despotism of capital to repay." Strange that between interests which are identical there should be this fierce struggle going on—all their defeats to avenge, and all this despotism to repay. But the noble Lord goes on to say—"The employers would perhaps be the first victims marked for destruction, if once they evoked a spirit and a power which they could neither command nor control." It is very kind and thoughtful of the noble Lord to take the master manufacturer under his protection, and the master manufacturer ought to be extremely obliged to him, especially when he reflects that this is the first occasion upon record on which the noble Lord has vouchsafed to fling over him the aegis of his eloquence. But perhaps my hon. Friends around me—their first unconscious victims marked for destruction—think that they know the workmen among whom they have spent their lives as well as the noble Lord can know them; and perhaps they think that in giving them the franchise they are calling into existence no new and uncontrollable power. By the Bill of my hon. Friend you are calling into existence no new power at all. I was struck with a passage in a speech by the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley), delivered in the debate upon the second reading of Lord Derby's Reform Bill—The Act of 1832 did not create that power (of the middle class), it merely recognized and embodied in the political institutions of the country that which it found already existing."—[3 Hansard cliii. 424.]And so it would be with the Act of 1861. It would recognise and embody in the institutions of the country a power already in existence. And, Sir, we think this an object of such vast importance as to justify us in opening that whole question of the constitution of Parliament which the 401 hon. Member for Salford considers to be of so sacred a character. But, Sir, in conclusion, I would venture to submit that there is something which is more sacred still—that which renders that Constitution possible, which repairs its defects, which restores; its decrepitude, which reconciles its anomalies—the sacred loyalty, the sacred love of order and of justice, the sacred patience of my countrymen.
§ SIR JOHN RAMSDEN
said, he believed the great majority of the House and of the country would have been well content to leave the question of Parliamentary Reform, for this year at least, where it was placed, and apparently with so much deliberation and judgment by the Government, on the first night of the Session. They then announced their determination not to attempt this year a measure of Parliamentary Reform, and the reasons given for that determination were generally approved, as they were based on facts that were acknowledged to be indisputable. But the question had not been permitted to rest there, and the Bill of his hon. Friend, the Member for Leeds, and the Amendment moved upon it, raised two distinct questions for their consideration. The one as to the abstract merits of the measure, the other as to its reasonableness and practicability at the present time. The Amendment of the Member for Shoreham, which came to be first considered, pronounced no condemnation of a £6 franchise—it invited them to no opinion upon it; but the question was shown, in the very clear and concise explanation with which he prefaced his Amendment, to be this:—Whether, as the Government had determined, for reasons approved by the House and the country, to leave the question of Reform this year untouched, any practical advantage was to be gained by individual Members of Parliament undertaking a task which the Government had relinquished as beyond its powers? and the hon. Gentleman thought that it would be a very unbusiness like and senseless proceeding on the part of the House of Commons to affirm, in the same breath, two such conflicting propositions, as that the Government introducing a Bill that they had little chance of carrying, would be such a waste of the public time as ought to be discouraged, while an individual Member introducing a Bill which he had no chance of carrying at all was so wise and profitable an employment of the public time that it ought by all means to be supported. He must own that it ap 402 peared to him that the views of the hon. Gentlemen were recommended to them by every consideration, not only of consistency but even of common sense. He wished to remind the House how this question now stood. The present Ministry, having taken office pledged to deal with the question of Reform, did last year introduce a Bill in fulfilment of that pledge. It failed, and as the noble Lord himself (Lord John Russell) had told them, from the very general dissatisfaction which it exhibited on all sides of the House, and the Bill was withdrawn. This Session the Cabinet had to consider what they were to do; they had the experience of last year to guide them, and when the House met in February they appeared to have profited by that experience. Their means of dealing successfully with Reform were not increased: the country was still cold and the prospect very uninviting. The Government had decided, therefore, not to hazard a repetition of the damaging debates and discomfiture of last year. They made known that decision to the House and their reasons for it; and it seemed to him that the opinion entertained by Members of the sufficiency or insufficiency of those reasons, must guide their votes on the Amendment of the Member for Shoreham. Those of them who thought that the Government ought to have proposed a measure of their own—that they were too easily disheartened and deterred, and so shrunk from a plain and very practicable duty—he thought that such Gentlemen might feel justified in saying, with his hon. Friend, the Member for Leeds, that the question should not drop, and in vindicating their convictions and consistency by an impossible measure of their own. But those who, on the first night of the Session, supported the Ministry; and from a sincere conviction that the introduction of another Bill, in which the Government themselves did not believe, would not raise the character either of the Government or of the House—they he thought, could hardly stultify their own convictions by voting for the further progress of a Bill which practically affirmed that legislation was possible and desirable, and that the Government were wrong not to undertake it; and, although they understood that the Government were prepared to-day to pronounce this censure upon themselves, he for one, must decline to join them in it; for he could not acknowledge, either the consistency, the dignity, or the wisdom of such a proceeding. But 403 he would not only endeavour by his vote to vindicate the Government against themselves on this point, but he would go further, and say that on another point he thought he was bound in common with the general body of their supporters to share with the Government a blame that had hitherto been cast too exclusively upon them. The Government were now reproached very bitterly from their own side of the House with unfulfilled expectations and broken pledges. Now what did that mean? He understood it to moan that they had rejected Lord Derby's Bill, and turned out Lord Derby's Government on the promise of a Reform Bill which they had since failed to pass. But the rejection of that Bill, and the expulsion of that Ministry, were the act of the whole Liberal party and not exclusively of their leaders—they were all free agents—and with their eyes open they had joined in what they knew was a party move, and one directed far more against the Ministry than against their Bill. It had turned out to be a false move, but they had no right to say that they were deceived by the Government—for they were willing to be deceived; they could judge for themselves of the probability of carrying a better Bill than the one they had rejected; and when the very small Bill of the Government was introduced to them last year, its dimensions did not surprise them, because they knew that their diminished majority could not carry a larger one, and no one in any part of the House blamed the Government for withdrawing it. Did any one really believe that the Government could have passed a Reform Bill this year? Then what were they to do? Were they to introduce a Bill and dissolve upon it? Why, did not they all know that a dissolution this year on Reform would have been the dissolution of the Government and the destruction of the party? It was not fair, it was not manly, that they on that side of the House should now endeavour to shift all the blame from their own shoulders on to those of the Government. They were bound to share it with the Government, for they were parties to the pledges given on that side of the House—they were parties to the introduction of a small Bill—they were parties to its withdrawal—they had been parties—aye, and before the country, they, the supporters of the Government, who had placed and kept that Government in office, they were responsible parties to the policy of this year, and it 404 was of no use trying to disguise the fact; the Government did not legislate on Reform because they were unable, and their inability had arisen from causes which the party were responsible as well as the Government. And how did the honourable Member for Leeds help them out of their difficulties by this Bill which every one knew he could not carry? Suppose even that it should pass a second reading to-day, it could still never pass into law, and so it would become another abstract Resolution, and he thought they had had abstract Resolutions enough. The Liberal party did not thrive upon abstract Resolutions, for look at their condition now whenever Reform was mentioned—crimination and recrimination amongst themselves—the Ministers blaming their supporters, and their supporters reproaching the Ministry; and that party that had been so strong on the other side of the House had constantly declined in strength, in numbers, and in credit since it came to this. And all this arose from their mismanagement of Reform—by raising expectations they were unable to fulfil, and giving pledges under which all sections of the party had broken down; and they might rely upon it that the same mistaken course that had made their condition bad, would not, if repeated on that occasion, conduce to make it better. It was, therefore, in his opinion high time that the Liberal party—both followers and leaders—should profit by what were now acknowledged mistakes, and cease to deal carelessly and lightly with the very serious question of Reform. It was much to be regretted that the settlement had been so long delayed, but they were responsible for that delay. If a satisfactory measure were possible that year, they ought to compel the Government to undertake it, and it would be unworthy of them to permit the Government to shift the responsibility on to other shoulders from their own; but if such a measure were not now possible, he owned he could see no advantage in making a flourish of Reform, when it must begin and end with a mere party flourish. For his part, while he was ready and anxious to support to the utmost of his power any well considered measure that might lead to legislation, he deprecated stirring the question for the mere purpose of stimulating agitation, and on that ground he gave his vote that day, not against the principle of his hon. Friend's Bill, not against an extension of the suffrage to which that House was pledged, 405 but against relieving the Cabinet from their responsibility to deal with a great constitutional question, a question which could only be dealt with properly by the Executive Government, and to which of all other men in that House, the present Executive Government were most deeply pledged.
§ MR. LAWSON
said, he agreed with the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down that the credit and honour of the Liberal party in the House of Commons were declining, but he differed from him as to the cause. He believed it was on account of the House having done too little in the way of Reform, and because it had not fulfilled the pledges which hon. Members had given to their constituents. The noble Lord at the head of the Government had stated the other day at Tiverton that the reason why he and his colleagues bad not brought forward a measure of Reform this Session was because they were not geese. According to that doctrine, the hon. Member for Leeds belonged to that class of creatures. But, in his opinion, the hon. Member for Leeds, in bringing forward this Bill, had acted in a wiser and more honest manner than the Government, The noble Lord the Member for the City of London, who had been so long regarded as the leader of the Reform party, had astonished the world at the commencement of the present Session by making the announcement that he was retiring from that position. He appeared before the House as an unsuccessful agitator. That, however, need not prevent other Members from bringing the subject before the House. The noble Lord excused himself by alleging the apathy of the country. But on what grounds did the noble Lord decide that the country was apathetic on this subject? Since that declaration was made the country had shown pretty plainly what its feeling on the Reform question was. Meetings had been held in all the great towns, and a large number of petitions had been sent to Parliament. The country was astonished at the way in which the Government had treated the Reform question, and was manifestly as anxious for Reform now as it was some years ago. Another reason the noble Lord gave for abandoning Reform was this—that no comprehensive measure would pass through the House of Lords. If that were true it was no reason why a measure like the present should not pass the Lords if supported by the whole influence of the Government. And he must 406 protest against the doctrine that the House of Commons was not to do right because it was apprehended that the House of Lords might do wrong. After the admirable speech of the hon. Member for Leeds, it was not necessary for him to say anything regarding the fitness of the working classes to exercise the franchise. He must remark, in conclusion, that Parliament might go on too long resisting the wishes of the people, which had been distinctly expressed. It was of no use, he knew, to appeal to the noble Lord the Member for the City, nor to the Government, nor to the party opposite, to give their hearty support to this Bill; but he did appeal to the Liberal Members of the House to show that the House of Commons was still the people's House, by giving them those rights which had been so long withheld.
§ MR. BLACK
, who spoke amid continued cries of "Divide," said, he hoped to be permitted to refer to a circumstance in which he was personally concerned. The noble Lord the Member for the City of London, in his speech at the opening of the Session, stated as one reason for not bringing in a Reform Bill this year that there appeared to be no strong desire for it, or there would have been condemnation meetings held, in which those who had opposed the Bill of last Session would he visited with the disapproval of their constituents. Now, he must acknowledge that at a large meeting held at Edinburgh, which both be and the Lord Advocate attended, there was much irritation expressed against them by considerable numbers, but not on that account, while he justified his vote against the £6 clause in the last Bill they felt little interest, it was only the support he gave to the Annuity Tax Bill that excited their indignation. There were Reformers whose only idea of Reform seemed to consist in lowering the franchise, and he was the best Reformer who was prepared to go lowest in the social scale. There might be some defects in the present system of representation, but he thought, there was no class whose interests were so much attended to in that House as those who lived by manual labour, whom it was the fashion to designate as the labouring classes, as if they were the only working bees in this great national hive of industry. The hon. Member for Leeds stated before the Committee of the House of Lords that a £6 franchise would add 4,736 voters to the present constituency of 6,023 in the town which he represented; while 407 Mr. Baxter stated the addition at 10,000 and another Gentleman at 19,000. By this Bill it was proposed the right of voting should be given to all occupants of houses rated at £6 or of a house and land, when the house itself might not exceed £3 or 1s. 3d. a week. It should be remembered that by the increased rate of wages, owing to the increase of employment and the influx of gold, the working classes were now enabled to live in houses of a higher rent than formerly; the number of those who had the £10 household franchise bad been doubled since 1833, and 3 per cent was added to it every year; but from the anxiety of Members to come to a division, and the lateness of the hour, he would not proceed further.
§ MR. STANSFELD
said, if the House would listen to him he would promise not to detain them more than ten minutes. ["Divide."] He was anxious to reply, and he had a right to some reply, to the arguments addressed to the House by the hon. Baronet the Member for the West Riding (Sir John Ramsden). The hon. Baronet said that the faults of the Government upon the question of Reform ought to be shared by the party which placed them in power. He entirely agreed with that conclusion, but he could show some reasons why those at least who remained sincere in the cause of Reform were not bound to share in the blame in which his hon. Friend was so willing to participate. A correct view of the opportuneness of the measure of the hon. Member for Leeds depended upon a correct view of the recent history of this question as a Parliamentary question. A Session or two ago no party in that House pretended to doubt the expediency or opportuneness of Reform. This universal sense of its expediency culminated during the Administration of Lord Derby, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, as the organ of a large party, introduced a measure of Reform into that House. What was the fate of that measure? The late House of Commons refused to receive it, because they said it was not a genuine Reform Bill—they said that the Reform Bill which they were bent upon enacting should be brought in and carried through by an earnest, a Liberal Ministry, in whom they and the country could have confidence. The Derby Ministry were placed in a minority, and they appealed to the country. The country responded not to the Derby Ministry, but to 408 the House, and decided that the passing of a Reform Bill should be placed in the hands of the Liberal party and of the Ministry representing that party, and that it should contain amongst others precisely the provisions contained in the Bill of his hon. Friend the Member for Leeds. The present Parliament met, and the Govenment, in redemption of their pledges, introduced their measure. It was, as had been truly said, a measure of no great proportions, but it had the aspect of genuineness, and the country accepted it universally because it recorded those conclusions which it was to record, and which the country and the House had decided that it should enact. It seemed impossible that the measure should not pass the House. But the very imminence of the question brought to light a new element upon which they had not calculated before. No man had yet gauged the want of earnestness upon this question of public men. He verily believed that they were unconscious of it themselves. But the imminence of the question brought this element into play. It lay in the hands of the Liberal majority to pass the measure, and precisely because this was so they began to doubt, and to cavil, and to hint dislike. They all knew how rapidly the cue was taken up by hon. Members across the floor; and though the change was too new to be unblushingly avowed, it was felt possible to talk out if not to vote out the measure. And so, at length, with certain reserves maintained, and certain decencies half observed, it was forced to be withdrawn for the Session. They had come now to the concluding act in that drama, and to the present Session, when they found an amazing progress in their anti-Reform tendencies. They seemed to have grown strangely familiar with their vices—the very point of honour seemed to have changed, and hon. Members appeared desirous of showing their consistency by hastening to ignore the virtuous professions of their earlier days. Even the noble Lord the Member for the City, who might be supposed to feel some personal mortification in the loss of his own measure—and who, he persisted in believing did regret, with some bitterness its loss—even he caught the prevailing infection, and announced the withdrawal of the Bill in terms of affected complacency—which were as mistaken as be believed them to have been unreal. Upon the noble Viscount at the head of the Government the effect was somewhat different, for nothing could undoubtedly be 409 more evidently and really unaffected than the sense of joyous relief with which he announced his own freedom from the incubus of Reform. But the aptest scholar of the Session was to be found in the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucking-shire, for he fairly did penance before the whole House for his former unorthodox sins of Reform—and he deliberately sought to win back the hesitating allegiance of his party, and to give unmistakable assurances of his future fidelity, by treating the whole question of Reform with contempt, and covering with ridicule those who, like the hon. Member for Leeds remained faithful to the pledges which brought them into that House. And now he would ask his hon. Friend the Member for the West Riding (Sir John Ramsden) whether he had to travel far for their justification after the things which had been enacted in that House? It was said that the country had fair warning after the withdrawal of the Bill last Session, and that it remained quiescent; that the noble Lord had invited the country to manifest itself in "indignation meetings," and that the country refused to be roused. He was not there to discuss the amount of indignation or of apathy—that hon. Members must guage at their own discretion. Nay, more, he would make a candid and fair admission—they were not dealing with the fidelity of certain leaders, but that House was collusively responsible for the position in which it found itself today—it had tried its coup d'état against the political morality of the country, and the country had not risen in overwhelming indignation to protest against it. What followed from that? Did those who sought for every opportunity to evade Reform hope to read in this temporary quiescence their certificate of indemnity for the past? They seemed to forget that public opinion was not hound to be ready at a moment's notice to answer to their call. Public opinion in these days required public men to divine and anticipate its decrees. Time ran not against its right of judgment and when the hour should come, as come it would, when public opinion should pronounce its verdict on those who had sought to evade Reform, on them and on them only would it visit the offence of professions volunteered without faith and abandoned without shame. That was their (the Liberal party's) justification. He was well aware that they might be fairly expected to take their share even of 410 the odium of any course which they had in any manner or degree approved of were it only by a tacit approval before or after the event. But there was one thing in the world in which he never heard that any men or any party could be bound in honour to share, and that was in the weight of a shame which was not their own.
§ Whereupon Previous Question put, "That that Question he now put."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 193; Noes 245: Majority 52.
|List of the AYES.|
|Adair, H. E.||Divett, E.|
|Adam, W. P.||Douglas, Sir C.|
|Alcock, T.||Duff, M. E. G.|
|Angerstein, W.||Duke, Sir J.|
|Ashley, Lord||Dunbar, Sir W.|
|Atherton, Sir W.||Duncombe, T.|
|Ayrton, A. S.||Dundas, rt. hon. Sir D.|
|Bagwell, J.||Dunlop, A. M.|
|Barnes, T.||Dunne, M.|
|Bass, M. T.||Ellice, rt. hon. E.|
|Bazley, T.||Enfield, Visct.|
|Beale, S.||Ennis, J.|
|Beamish, F. B.||Evans, Sir De L.|
|Bellew, R. M.||Ewart, W.|
|Berkeley, Col. F. W. F.||Ewart, J. C.|
|Bethell, Sir R.||Ewing, H. E. C.|
|Biggs, J.||Ferguson, Col.|
|Bouverie, rt. hon. E. P.||Fermoy, Lord|
|Bouverie, hon. P. P.||Forster, C.|
|Bowyer, Sir G.||Forster, W. E.|
|Brand, hon. H.||Fortescue, hon. F. D.|
|Bright, J.||Fox, W. J.|
|Briscoe, J. I.||Freeland, H. W.|
|Bristow, A. R.||French, Col.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||Gavin, Major|
|Bruce, H. A.||Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.|
|Buchanan, W.||Gifford, Earl of|
|Buller, J. W.||Gilpin, C.|
|Buller, Sir A. W.||Gladstone, rt. hon. W.|
|Bury, Visct.||Glyn, G. G.|
|Butler, C. S.||Goldsmid, Sir F. H.|
|Butt, I.||Gower, hon. F, L.|
|Buxton, C.||Graham, rt. hon. Sir J|
|Caird, J.||Gregson, S.|
|Calthorpe, hn. F. H. W. G.||Gurney, S.|
|Cardwell, rt. hon. E.||Hadfield, G.|
|Carnegie, hon. C.||Hanbury, R.|
|Cavendish, hon. W.||Handley, J.|
|Childers, H. C. E.||Hankey, T.|
|Clay, J.||Hardcastle, J. A.|
|Clifford, Col.||Headlam, rt. hon. T. E.|
|Clive, G.||Heneage, G. F.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Henley, Lord|
|Coningham, W.||Hodgkinson, G.|
|Cowper, rt. hon. W. F.||Hodgson, K. D.|
|Craufurd, E. H. J.||Howard, hon. C. W. G.|
|Crawford, R. W.||Humberston, P. S.|
|Crossley, F.||Hutt, rt. hon. W.|
|Dalglish, R.||Ingham, R.|
|Davey, R.||Jackson, W.|
|Davie, Col. F.||Jervoise, Sir J. C.|
|Denman, hon. G.||Kershaw, J.|
|Dent, J. D.||King, hon. P. J. L.|
|Dillwyn, L. L.||Kinglake, A. W.|
|Kingscote, Col.||Ricardo, O.|
|Kinnaird, hon. A. F.||Ricardo, J. L.|
|Langston, J. H.||Robertson, D.|
|Langton, W. H. G.||Roebuck, J. A.|
|Lawson, W.||Rothschild, Baron M. de|
|Layard, A. H.||Roupell, W.|
|Leatham, E. A.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Lee, W.||Russell, A.|
|Lewis, rt. hon. Sir G. C.||Russell, Sir W.|
|Lindsay, W. S.||St. Aubyn, J.|
|Locke, J.||Scholefield, W.|
|Lysley, W. J.||Scott, Sir W.|
|MacEvoy, E.||Scrope, G. P.|
|Marjoribanks, D. C.||Seymour, Sir M.|
|Marshall, W.||Seymour, H. D.|
|Martin, P. W.||Shelley, Sir J. V.|
|Martin, J.||Sheridan, H. B.|
|Massey, W. N.||Sidney, T.|
|Mellor, J.||Smith, J. B.|
|Merry, J.||Stansfeld, J.|
|Miller, W.||Stuart, Col.|
|Mills, T.||Sykes, Col. W. H.|
|Milnes, R. M.||Thompson, H. S.|
|Mitchell, T. A.||Tite, W.|
|Moffatt, G.||Tollemache, hon. F. J.|
|Monson, hon. W. J.||Trelawny, Sir J. S.|
|Morris, D.||Vane, Lord H.|
|Norris, J. T.||Verney, Sir H.|
|North, F.||Villiers, rt. hon. C. P.|
|O'Connell, Capt. D.||Warner, E.|
|Onslow, G.||Wemyss, J. H. E.|
|Owen, Sir H. O.||Western, S.|
|Padmore, R.||Westhead, J. P. B.|
|Paget, C.||Whalley, G. H.|
|Paget, Lord A.||Whitbread, S.|
|Paget, Lord C.||White, J.|
|Paxton, Sir J.||Wickham, H. W.|
|Pease, H.||Wilcox, B. M'Ghie|
|Peel, rt. hon. F.||Williams, W.|
|Peto, Sir S. M.||Wyvill, M.|
|Pinney, Col.||Baines, Mr.|
|Ponsonby, hon. A.||Seymour, Mr. Dighy|
|List of the NOES.|
|Adderley, rt. hon. C. B.||Bridges, Sir B. W.|
|Annesley, hon. Col. H.||Brooks, R.|
|Astell, J. H.||Browne, Lord J. T.|
|Baillie, H. J.||Buckley, Gen.|
|Ball, E.||Bunbury, Capt. W. B.|
|Baring, A. H.||Burghley, Lord|
|Baring, H. B.||Burke, Sir T. J.|
|Barrow, W. H.||Burrell, Sir C. M.|
|Barttelot, Major||Cairns, Sir H. M'C.|
|Bathurst, A. A.||Cartwright, Col.|
|Bathurst, F. H.||Cecil, Lord R.|
|Beach, W. W. B.||Cholmeley, Sir M. J.|
|Beaumont, W. B.||Clive, hon. G. W.|
|Beaumont, S. A.||Close, M. C.|
|Beecroft, G. S.||Cobbold, J. C.|
|Bentinck, G. W. P.||Cochrane, A. D. R. W. B.|
|Bentinck, G. C.||Codrington, Sir W.|
|Benyon, R.||Cole, hon. H.|
|Beresford, rt. hon. W.||Collins, T.|
|Bernard, T. T.||Corry, rt. hon. H. L.|
|Black, A.||Cross, R. A.|
|Bond, J. W. M'G.||Cubitt, G.|
|Botfield, B.||Curzon, Visct.|
|Bovill, W.||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Bramston, T. W.||Damer, S. D.|
|Dawson, R. P.||Jervis, Captain|
|Dickson, Col.||Johnstone, hon. H. B.|
|Disraeli, rt. hon. B.||Jolliffe. rt. hn. Sir W. G. H.|
|Drax, J. S. W. S. E. D.||Kekewich, S. T.|
|Du Cane, C.||Kennard, R. W.|
|Dunne, Col.||Kerrison, Sir E. C.|
|Du Pre, C. G.||Knatchbull, W. F.|
|Dutton, hon. R. H.||Knightley, R.|
|East, Sir J. B.||Knox, Col.|
|Edwards, Major||Knox, hon. Maj. S.|
|Egerton, Sir P. G.||Lacon, Sir E.|
|Egerton, hon. A. F.||Leeke, Sir H.|
|Egerton, E. C.||Legh, Major C.|
|Egerton, hon. W.||Legh, W. J.|
|Elcho, Lord||Leighton, Sir B.|
|Elmley, Viscount||Lennox, Lord G. G.|
|Elphinstone, Sir J. D.||Leslie, W.|
|Estcourt, rt. hn. T. H. S.||Lindsay, hon. Gen.|
|Farquhar, Sir M.||Long, W.|
|Fellowes, E.||Longfield, R.|
|Fergusson, Sir J.||Lopes, Sir M.|
|Filmer, Sir E.||Lovaine, Lord|
|Finlay, A. S.||Lowther, hon. Col.|
|Fitzgerald, W. R. S.||Lyall, G.|
|Forde, Col.||Lygon, hon. F.|
|Forester, rt. hon. Col.||Lytton, rt. h. Sir G. E. L. B.|
|Franklyn, G. W.||Macaulay, K.|
|Gallwey, Sir W. P.||M'Cormick, W.|
|Gard, R. S.||Macdonogh, F.|
|George, J.||Mackinnon, W. A.|
|Getty, S. G.||Malcolm, J. W.|
|Gilpin, Col.||Malins, R.|
|Gladstone, Capt.||Manners, rt. hn. Lord J.|
|Goddard, A. L.||Marsh, M. H.|
|Gordon, C. W.||Maxwell, hon. Col.|
|Gore, J. R O.||Miller, T. J.|
|Gore, W. R. O.||Mills, A.|
|Graham, Lord W.||Montagu, Lord R.|
|Greaves, E.||Montgomery, Sir G.|
|Greenall, G.||Moody, C. A.|
|Greenwood, J.||Mordaunt, Sir C.|
|Gregory, W. H.||Morgan, O.|
|Grev, de W. Visct.||Morgan, hon. Major|
|Griffith, C. D.||Mowbray, rt. hon. J. R.|
|Grogan, Sir E.||Murray, W.|
|Haliburton, T. C.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Hamilton, Lord C.||Newport, Visct.|
|Harcourt, G. G.||Nicol, W.|
|Hardy, J.||Noel, hon. G. J.|
|Hartopp, E. B.||North, Col.|
|Hassard, M.||Northcote, Sir S. H.|
|Heathcote, hon. G. H.||Packe, C. W.|
|Henley, rt. hon. J. W.||Packe, G. H.|
|Hennessy, J. P.||Pakenham, Col.|
|Henniker, Lord||Pakington, rt. hn. Sir J.|
|Herbert, rt. hon. H. A.||Palmer, R. W.|
|Hervey, Lord A.||Papillon, P. O.|
|Heygate, Sir F. W.||Parker, Maj. W.|
|Hill, Lord E.||Patten, Col. W.|
|Hill, hon. R. C.||Paull, H.|
|Holford, R. S.||Peacocke, G. M. W.|
|Holmesdale, Visct.||Peel, Sir R.|
|Hood, Sir A. A.||Peel, rt. hon. G.|
|Hope. G. W.||Pevensey, Visct.|
|Hopwood, J. T.||Phiiips, G. L.|
|Hornby, W. H.||Potts, G.|
|Horsfall, T. B.||Powys, P. L.|
|Horsman, rt. hon. E.||Pugh, D.|
|Howes, E.||Ramsden, Sir J. W.|
|Hubbard, J. G.||Repton, G. W. J.|
|Hume, W. W. F.||Ridley, Sir M. W.|
|Hunt, G. W||Rolt, J.|
|Ingestre, Visct.||Rowley, hon. R. T.|
|Salt, T.||Trollope, rt. hon. Sir J.|
|Sclater-Booth, G.||Turner, J. A.|
|Scully, V.||Upton, hon. Gen.|
|Selwyn, C. J.||Vance, J.|
|Shirley, E. P.||Vansittart, W.|
|Smith, Montagu||Verner, Sir W.|
|Smith, A.||Walcott, Adm.|
|Smith, S. G.||Walker, J. R.|
|Smollett, P. B.||Walpole, rt. hon. S. H.|
|Somerset, Col.||Walsh, Sir J.|
|Somes, J.||Walter, J.|
|Spooner, R.||Watlington, J. W. P.|
|Stanhope, J. B.||Way, A. E.|
|Stanhope, Lord||Welby, W. E.|
|Stanley, Lord||Whitmore, H.|
|Stirling, W.||Williams, Col.|
|Stuart, Lieut. Col. W.||Woodd, B. T.|
|Stracey. Sir H.||Wyndham, hon. H.|
|Sturt, H. G.||Wyndham, hon. P.|
|Sturt, N.||Wynn, Col.|
|Talbot, hon. W. C.||Wynne, C. G.|
|Taylor, Col.||Yorke, hon. E. T.|
|Thynne, Lord E.|
|Thynne, Lord H.||TELLERS.|
|Tollemache, J.||Cave, Mr.|
|Torrens, R.||Smith, Mr.|
|Trefusis, hon. C. H. R.|
§ House sojourned at ten minutes before Six o'clock.