MR. H. BERKELEY
said, he rose now to ask leave to bring in a Bill to protect the voters of Great Britain and Ireland in the discharge of that most important duty—the electing those Members who were to make the laws for the protection of life and property. Under ex- 987 isting circumstances they had not that protection, nor could they evade the law which required them to vote free and without intimidation. The Bill which he sought to lay before the House would prevent all intimidation of electors, and would, he believed, put an end to bribery and treating. He might have paused in bringing forward the question on account of what had taken place lately: but he could not understand why there should be some mysterious influence in the year 1861 which should prevent any hon. Member of the House from bringing forward the question of electoral reform. He had found the arguments used against such a course totally without sense or reason. He saw reforms of all kinds brought forward. When he saw legal reforms of a most extensive character carried through the House by the Attorney General; when he saw hon. and gallant Members rise on all sides to propose reforms in military affairs; when he saw the Admiralty subjected to the attacks of reformers of all grades, and crumbling away under the combined assaults of knowledge and ignorance; when he saw the civil service of the country open to reforms, and reforms proposed in the diplomatic service, he wanted to know why electoral reform was to be tabooed in that House. He saw no reason. It might be for the convenience of certain hon. Gentlemen, right hon. Gentlemen and noble Lords at the head of Her Majesty's Government, that it should be so; it might be for the satisfaction of the Opposition that it should be so; but he could see no valid reason why any hon. Member should not approach the question of Reform, and proceed with it as he had hitherto done. As regarded the arguments used by the noble Lord the Member for Loudon, in bringing in his Reform Bill in 1860, and the arguments used by him why he should not bring in one in 1861, he (Mr. Berkeley) thought there was the greatest possible discordance between them. They were as unlike each other as two things could possibly be. In 1860, when the noble Lord, backed by a message from the Crown, brought in his Reform Bill, he said the country was tranquil and prosperous, that there was no excitement, and that, therefore, then was the time for hon. Gentlemen to approach the subject dispassionately. The same thing was said by those who followed in the wake of the noble Lord. They pointed out that there was no Joseph Parkes with 100,000 988 men at Birmingham threatening to march upon London—that Bristol was not in flames—that the country was quiet, and that then was the time to settle the question for a quarter of a century. Well, he need not follow that Reform Bill to its grave. Of it he should say no more, on the principle de mortuis nil nisi bonum. But the reason why the noble Lord refused to bring in a Reform Bill this year was of a precisely dissimilar character to that put forward in his arguments the previous year. This year the noble Lord said the country did not want reform, that there was no excitement in the country. He had a shopfull of reform on his hands at the service of the country; but what he required of the people was that they should knock in the door and break the windows before he would give it to them. So, having decided that it was necessary to bring in a Reform Bill because of the want of excitement in 1860, he would not bring in a Reform Bill because the country was not excited in 1861. The argument which seemed to be adopted by the noble Lord, and by other hon. Members, was, that now the noble Lord's Reform Bill had not been carried, no other Reform measure, however needful, should be passed. That argument, however, did not weigh with him in the least, and he should proceed as he had hitherto done. He felt that to attempt to persuade the present House of Commons to accept the ballot was a hopeless task; but it was not useless, for the sake of Reform to argue the question. He could not get rid of the fact that 160 of the largest constituencies in England had bound their Members to get for them the protection of secret voting; and that thirty-eight of those constituencies comprised more than 10,000 electors. Amongst those constituencies was the City of London, and all the metropolitan boroughs; and of all the metropolitan Members, the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) was the only one who refused to give the voter protection in the exercise of his franchise. He would venture to say, that were it not for the gratitude which the country entertained to his noble Friend for giving them the largest Reform measure they had ever had, and for the confidence that the administration of the foreign affairs was safe in the noble Lord's hands, the noble Lord would not be able to hold his position as Member for the City. The subject he brought forward had been so often and so completely sifted, and the 989 arguments against it had been proved over and over again to be so futile, that he should not attempt to travel over the whole ground again. He looked upon the principle of the measure as sufficiently proven. He knew perfectly well the danger he incurred by taking that course. If he left any point unguarded that point would instantly be attacked. He had not brought the question so often before the House without knowing the various "dodges" which were put in force to get an answer of some sort. If he said little on the subject of intimidation he would be taunted with having given up that point, if he said little of bribery, that would be claimed as a point yielded. Then, there was his noble Friend the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston), that expert wrestler, fresh from his triumphs at Tiverton, dragging the unhappy Rowcliffe at the wheels of his chariot, and he knew perfectly well that any one who contended with his noble Friend as a wrestler in that House, if he left any point unguarded, straightway would find himself on his back with the Parliamentary knees of the noble Lord well into the pit of his political stomach. He knew what he had to expect from his noble Friend. If be found that a Government, comprised of noble and hon. Members from cither side of the House, really would apply themselves in earnest to put down the evils of intimidation and bribery, he might pause in his humble endeavours to call the attention of the House, and of the country through the Press, to the subject. But nothing of the sort had ever been done. The Corrupt Practices Prevention Act of 1852 had been found utterly ineffectual. After the last election the subject was referred to another Committee, under the particular care of the late Member for Marylebone (Mr. Edwin James). He certainly thought that his name would have been placed on that Committee, but he was mistaken. His hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury (Mr. T. Duncombe) proposed to add his name; but the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie) objected on the red-tape plea that there were already enough Members on the Committee; and so he was left out. The next thing he expected the Committee would have done, considering it had to try the ballot question, was to call for the evidence of some of the gentlemen connected with the Ballot Society; but here again he was mistaken. The Committee, however, proceeded to 990 take evidence, and the result was that they handed back the old Corrupt Practices Prevention Bill, and recommended it to the right hon. Gentleman (Sir George Lewis), who, getting behind the Report of the Committee, proceeded to construct a new Bill out of the old materials. That was the history of the Corrupt Practices Prevention Bill. He had before him, however, an analysis of the very short evidence the Committee took on the subject of the ballot. He had nothing whatever to do with the getting up of that evidence; neither had any other sinners of the Ballot Society with which he was connected; but short as was the evidence it was impossible to shut one's eyes to its force. He begged to call attention to the evidence of a few of the witnesses. Mr. James Vaughan, the chairman of the Gloucester and Berwick Commissions, was asked if there would have been any security against corruption if the ballot-box had been employed. His reply was, "I should say there would;" and he added that he could not conceive that any person would be disposed to give a bribe if he did not know whether the vote would be given. Mr. Welsford, another of the Gloucester Commissioners, said that in almost every instance in which he found that an elector had been bribed, the bribed was not trusted with the money before he voted, and that in a great many instances he was watched to see that he performed his promise. In answer to the question whether a system of secret voting would have prevented bribery in Gloucester, both witnesses answered in the affirmative. Voters, they said, were suspicious as well as canvassers, and many who took bribes would not vote until by some means they ascertained that the bribe they were to receive was safe. Mr. Serjeant Pigott, the chief Commissioner of the Wakefield Inquiry, referred to the system of intimidation by means of local committees at elections, and said he thought that undue influence would be put a stop to if the ballot were introduced. Mr. Edwin James, in his character of witness, assured the Committee that the ballot would not prevent bribery in small constituencies, but would, at any rate, be an effectual preventive of intimidation. Mr. Phinn, a St. Albans' Commissioner, and who had a largo Parliamentary practice, was also of opinion that the ballot would be the best preventive of bribery, and stated that the late Mr. Coppock had expressed to him 991 a similar opinion; and a person named Edwards, largely engaged in bribery at St. Albans, said that if the ballot existed his occupation would be gone. "Either," said he, "you must trust the corrupt or they must trust you; if you pay them before they vote they will probably not keep their promise; and if the payment is to be dependent on the event of the election, those who vote against you as well as for you will claim a reward." Mr. Rose, the agent for the Carlton Club, who managed the elections for the Tory party—while he had no particular regard for the ballot, bore witness that the Corrupt Practices Prevention Act had proved almost a nullity. Mr. Childers, formerly a member of the Legislature of Victoria, and now a Member of that House, gave his experience of the working of the ballot in that colony, and said there were now no means of ascertaining how the constituents voted, and that consequently that information was substantially a secret. He added that before the ballot came into operation corruption prevailed in the constituencies, and that in one constituency, which had been particularly notorious before the ballot system, bribery soon afterwards became almost extinct. Being asked by Sir FitzRoy Kelly how he came to the conclusion that bribery and corruption had ceased, he said that he did so from the notoriety of the effect produced by the ballot, and also by the absence of petitions against successful candidates. In reply to the Chairman the witness stated that the working of the ballot system had given universal satisfaction in Australia. In answer to Sir George Grey he said, he saw his way perfectly clear to the adoption of the Australian ballot in England. Till he went to Australia he was not an advocate of the ballot, but had been convinced of its utility by seeing it in practical operation there. Mr. Philpot, of Gloucester, was of opinion that the Australian ballot would be the most effectual mode of remedying the existing evils in this country arising from bribery and intimidation. Sir Frederick Slade, a Parliamentary counsel, doubted the efficiency of the ballot; but Captain Clarke, formerly a member of the Australian Legislature, said he entirely agreed with Mr. Childers as to the effect and usefulness of the ballot. In New South Wales it had been adopted without a dissentient voice. Captain Clarke said, that he did not think voters generally talked afterwards of the way they had voted. Mr. Wise, election 992 agent of Norwich, who was examined, was not in favour of the ballot, but still he thought there should be some system of secret voting as a protection to the voter. That witness remarked that tenants of large estates did not want the ballot. They liked the landlord to know which way they voted; at all events when they gave their votes to the candidates favoured by the landlords. Such was the evidence, fairly quoted, that was given before the Committee on the subject of the ballot; but why the ballot formed no portion of the subject of their Report was not for him to explain. He would now proceed to quote a considerable number of cases of positive intimidation practised by landlords upon their tenants in England and in Wales. Farmers, householders, and tradesmen, had received notices to quit their holdings, and had lost custom entirely and directly for the reason that they had voted according to their own principles and consciences. In all the cases he had quoted on former occasions, he had given his authorities, and he was prepared to do the same if required that evening. He had an analysis of the elections at Cirencester, drawn up by Mr. Wakefield and confirmed by Mr. Cooke, a solicitor, and secretary to the Liberal Registration Association of Cirencester. In 1834 the hon. Mr. Ponsonby, now Lord do Mauley, stood for the borough upon Liberal principles, but, being the nominee of Earl Bathurst, he did not advocate the ballot. In 1852 the hon. A. Ponsonby announced himself as a ballot candidate, and was returned, beating Earl Bathurst's nominee. After the election notices to quit were given to tenants of Earl Bathurst who had voted for the Liberal candidate. In 1854 the Tories were successful, and no evil results followed; but in 1859 the Tories were beaten, and then again followed a number of notices to quit. Direct evidence on this subject they could not obtain; they must rely only on circumstantial evidence, but the conclusion post hoc sed propter hoc was irresistible. The hon. Member then read a letter from the county of Merionethshire, addressed to the Secretary of the Ballot Society, stating that tenants had been turned out of their holdings for the votes they had given at the election, and that eleven tenants of Sir Watkin Williams Wynn had had their rents raised for the same reason; yet he admitted that hon. Baronet was one of the most amiable of men, as he could testify from 993 having enjoyed his friendship. He related the fact to show the essential viciousness of the system, and the necessity there was for the adoption of the ballot. The writer of the letter, a Dissenting clergyman, the Rev. Michael Jones, of Bala, had been removed from the register of voters by trickery, common in Registration Courts; and his mother had been given notice to quit her habitation, although aged seventy. The rev. gentleman's chapel which was the property of Sir W. Wynne had been sold, but was bought back by his congregation. Simply, because he had exercised his right to vote for whom he pleased had he been thus visited. At the Pembrokeshire election Colonel Owen was defeated, and in his speech to the electors after the election he asserted that the landlords had used their influence against him unfairly, adding, "They will pull the ballot down upon them." This prophesy was not made by an advocate of the ballot, but by one who spoke of it as of an avalanche that would descend and smother them all. The intimidation that at present existed converted the English elector into a mere Toting machine—an automaton—or it consigned him to ruin. If that was a state of things the poor man rejoiced in, he (Mr. Berkeley) had no right to stand there; if not, he should persist in doing his duty in spite of all the opposition he might meet. He might now point out the importance of the ballot as a preventive to bribery; but he would not dwell upon this part of the subject, even at the risk of being chided from the Treasury bench when some hon. Gentleman rose to speak, because there was abundance of evidence before the House of the existence of bribery at elections throughout the land. He was told that he must be mad to bring forward this subject at the present time, when, in consequence of the state of Europe, so many of their countrymen had felt it necessary to fly to arms. But, instead of looking upon the Volunteer movement as adverse to the cause he advocated, he would point to it as one of the strongest arguments in his case. In the year of the Great Exhibition, when all the world was trembling lest something should happen amongst the masses of the people, he called on them to observe their order, steadiness, and loyalty, and as a test of their knowledge, to compare the conduct of those who attended on the shilling day with the conduct of those who attended on the five shilling day. The difference 994 was most remarkable and extraordinary. He found that while on the five shilling day the visitors paid attention to the carriages, the silks, and the productions of fashion, the attention of the visitors on the shilling day was attracted to works of science. Were they afraid to trust that people with the exercise of their own franchise? Were such men as the Volunteers, who had laid such a tax upon themselves, and had taken so noble an attitude, to be so treated? They were not afraid to trust those men with rifles, why should they be afraid to entrust them with votes? He appealed to the House on behalf of a body of loyal men, many of whom were now deprived of their rights, but he might as well appeal to the floor on which he was standing. They might boast of it, but it was little to their credit. Again, in conclusion, he would ask the House to allow him to bring in this Bill. It was a measure which was not understood; and the House took especial care that they would not understand it. They would not read it a first time, they would not have it printed, they would not extend to this Bill, supported as it was by so many English constituencies, that courtesy which was extended to measures of not half so much importance. He repeated that a lamentable ignorance prevailed with regard to the Bill, and he would cite as instances of this ignorance the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole) the right hon. Baronet (Sir George Grey) and Mr. Stuart Wortley. Those gentlemen believed that the ballot would introduce to the constituencies nothing more than a box into which electors would drop blue, black, or red balls; that those balls would be afterwards counted, and that so the poll would end, there being no possibility of providing an appeal against an undue election, and no means of detecting improper practices. Could anything be more unfounded than such an opinion? If such men fell into such errors, why not print this Bill in order to enlighten them a little? Why was he, who was put forward by some 230 Members to occupy no very agreeable position and to urge this question on an unwilling audience—why was he to be treated with less courtesy than was shown to other Members? Such conduct was neither respectful to the constituencies which they represented, nor was it respectful to themselves. It showed that the House was determined, right or wrong, to oppose the proposition to protect the voter, 995 whenever it was made, and to put a stop to the measure at the earliest opportunity. He could not say what answer would be given to him that evening. They all knew there was an intimate connection between the Treasury bench and Printing House Square, and that in Printing House Square there were certain hon. Gentlemen who would scorn to give the protection of the ballot to the voter at the polling booth, but who did not hesitate to avail themselves of the irresponsibility of protected writing. If such a man were on the Treasury Bench he reflected no credit on it. It was, to say the least of it, an improper act for any hon. Member of the House to wait until he heard a speech, and instead of manfully getting up and confronting the Member who delivered the speech, to sneak away to a back place and write an article. He would say to that Gentleman on the Treasury Bench, if there be such a man amongst you get rid of him—he does you no credit, and the country believes that to be the ease. He now thanked hon. Gentlemen who, though they disagreed from him, had heard him fairly, and he left the question with the House, only observing that he proposed fur the elector a measure of justice, but feeling sure, at the same time, that he might just as well appeal to the Pope at Rome as to the present Parliament.
§ SIR CHARLES DOUGLAS
, rose to second the Motion, and said he was well aware how fully and how often the question had been discussed, and how impossible it was to throw any new light upon it. But other measures had been more frequently debated over and over again before they were carried. Such was the case with regard to Catholic Emancipation, Reform in Parliament, and in later days, with Free-trade, which was for years supported by a right hon. Gentleman on the Treasury bench (Mr. C. P. Villiers) against an unwilling House and defeated by immense majorities; at length, with the assistance of another hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cobden) who was truly right honourable, though he refused to accept that title, that question was at last triumphantly carried. These instances encouraged him not to despair, and the question of the ballot would again and again be brought forward in that House, and sooner or later be equally triumphant. It was not worth while at that time of day, when so many eminent men on both sides of the House had changed their opinions on so many other 996 great questions, to occupy the time of the House respecting any change on his part with regard to this. He (Sir Charles Douglas) had changed his opinion, because his reason was convinced. He had not done so from any interested motives nor even concurrently with any advantage to himself, and, therefore, he was not justly liable to any taunt whatever. It was no sudden change. Nineteen or twenty years ago he had voted against the ballot; during ten years he had not voted on it at all; and eleven years ago he had voted for it. He last year repeated that vote, and he now in compliance with the request of his hon. Friend was about to second this Motion. The question was whether forced publicity or the option of secresy was the better security for the exercise of the franchise? He should endeavour to show that influence which was the bane of all elections would be prevented by the ballot, and by so preventing it they would act fully and entirely in accordance with the feelings and practice of the people of this country. The noble Lord at the head of the Government had said that the franchise was a trust and not a right, for if the latter a voter could justly sell it; but it appeared to him (Sir Charles Douglas) that it was a trust to which every man had a right, but that no man could sell that right for no one could sell a right, the exercise of which he could not transfer. But be it a right, or be it a trust, all men were satisfied that it was an immoral act to sell it; or to attempt to influence it. He could not understand how any one could lay down the proposition that a man was not to be ensured the free exercise of that which he by law possessed. No influence, good or bad, ought to be exercised upon a voter; that influence which resulted in spontaneous action was the only influence that could be defended in that House. If hon. Members would consult that valuable book, Dod's Electoral Facts, they would see what was meant by the term "influence." According to that authority Bridgnorth had been represented by a Whitmore since James I.; Calne had been under the influence of the Marquess of Lansdowne since 1762; at Huntingdon the influence of Lord Sandwich was predominant; at Hertford Lord Cowper's influence was all powerful; and so on with other places—such as Leominster (where, however, it was said that a candidate's financial capabilities were highly valued). Newark, the Duke's influence returns one Member; Colchester, influence is money; in 997 a short period five candidates were bankrupts after contests, and one fled the country; North Leicestershire, the Duke of Rutland returns one Member; in Droitwich, Sir John Pakington's influence returns himself; and, lastly, Tiverton, which, returned the noble Lord at the head of the Government was in the hands of Mr. Heathcote. [Cries of "Warwick, Warwick, "from the Opposition.] He had not intended to refer to Warwick; but he was not ashamed of it, and what was more, he believed the men of Warwick were not ashamed of him. He would say, moreover, that men of all parties in Warwick expressed their earnest hope for his success at Banbury. And, therefore, when hon. Members asked him about what had occurred fifteen years ago, he could tell them that he then made a sacrifice, one of the greatest which he could make, from no paltry motive—he made it in support of the great principles of free trade—he rejoiced in being one of those who were called at that time "renegades" and "janissaries." The book said of Warwick, thatThe influence there was possessed by the Ear of Warwick and Brooke, but it was not of a stable or permanent character, and since the Reform Act money influence had been more than once successful.That such things should exist and be defended was a libel on the British Constitution; for according to Judge Blackstone—It was essential to the very being of Parliament that all elections should be absolutely free, therefore, all influences upon electors are illegal and strongly prohibited.And that learned JudgeRegretted that the depravity of mankind did not permit such influences to be sufficiently guarded against.Now, it appeared to him (Sir Charles Douglas) that the arguments against the ballot were imaginary and speculative, whereas the evil to be remedied was positive and undeniable. From his own experience he knew of no place for the last twenty years in which the ballot would not be hailed by the people with satisfaction. He remembered hearing it said by the noble Lord at the head of the Government that if the ballot was established they must give up canvassing. But who that knew what canvassing was did not feel that it was degrading to both electors and elected? If the ballot would put a stop to the practices which took place when the candidate entered the borough and went round attended 998 by the clergyman, or an influential banker, or the steward of the landlord, or any one who could exercise influence over the voters, that would be an additional argument why it should be established, and it would at least prevent such intimidation, the necessary consequence of canvassing, which, if possible, was a worse evil than direct bribery. In answer to the hon. Member who called out "money." He (Sir Charles Douglas) could declare that he had never bribed any man; but of the tyranny of influence he had many proofs. He, of his own knowledge, knew a small borough in the north, in which he had heard himself from the lips of many voters, that they dared not vote as they desired, because the agent had been round, and threatened expulsion from their holdings if the family candidate were not returned. In 1853, when a Committee of that House declared the seat for Durham vacated, it was determined that he (Sir Charles Douglas) should be the candidate, and that the election should be conducted on principles of purity. It was true that he lost the election, and it was equally true that he might have gained it if money had been spent. At an election, ten years previously, Mr. Bright had been defeated by the same means, for it was recorded that in 1843,Without any other influence than that of principle upon the minds of the constituency, the free trade candidate headed the poll from first to last, and was returned by a majority of seventy-eight.The Morning Post of August, 1843, at that time the Protectionist organ, stated—That had the Marquess of Londonderry exerted his power the result would have been to defeat Mr. Bright.Well, when he (Sir Charles Douglas) stood at the same place in 1853, it was decided that no money was to be spent by him, nor was there to be any canvass. At all previous elections it was usual that the expense of the hustings should be borne by the candidates; but on that occasion when it was understood that none of the expenses were to be borne by the candidate, the people of the place went to the mayor and said, "Why have hustings at all?" "Why not have the town-hall?" And so they got the town-hall. Thus, the moment it was proposed that the people should bear the expenses themselves, they resolved that the election should be conducted at the smallest possible outlay. Well, he was in a majority at about twelve o'clock; but about one, a body of 100 999 men, almost all miners, came in together—and the result was he was beaten, as he believed, by 108 or 110 people who were driven into the town, exactly as had been done ten years before to defeat Mr. Bright. He would read an extract from a letter which he had from Durham, dated the 12th of April, in answer to his inquiry if his recollection of what had occurred was correct—My dear Sir Charles.—No real representation of the feelings and opinions of the voter can be made manifest without the ballot. I am glad to think you look back with satisfaction to your visit to Durham in 1853, when you enabled us to demonstrate what could be done by spontaneous action and perfect purity of election. The interest was and is to this day overwhelming. You are certainly within the mark when you say 108 electors came in at twelve o'clock, and voted for your opponent to a man. You would be within the fact if you name 120. The usual practice with these voters is this: they are collected together from their different localities, have a liberal breakfast given them at some public-house, and then taken into the city, each lot having some subagent or overman with them. The head, and all the other, agents of the property are in the city during the day of election. The band of music of the property is in attendance to cheer and keep up the spirits of the party. You may not know the fact, but it is notorious, that a considerable number of freemen are placed at the collieries, within legal distance, many of whom are nearly worthless in point of labour value, but their votes tell thus on the day of election, and that is sufficient. You ask me what were the expenses of that election? They were very trifling, consisting only of two items:—The charge of the returning officer, and for printing your speeches, and the bills advertising when you would address the constituency. There were no paid agents, no tally or committee-rooms, no band, and no runners; £60 paid everything. It is greatly to be feared we shall not see the like again.Let them not tell him that influence was exercised over only miners and persons of that class. A gentleman asked him one day if he could find out why it was that a friend of his (Sir Charles Douglas) in another borough had voted in a particular way? He wrote and got this answer. His friend was in a good position of life, with ample means made by the sweat of his brow, and as independent a man as any in that House; but what answer did he give? This was his reply—My dear Sir—I voted for Mr.—. My vote was given irrespective of politics, for in the circumstances I am placed I dare not show any; but, had I followed the bent of my own inclination I should have gone straight for the Liberal side; but as every client and almost every friend I have are the other way, I know that would extinguish my professional prospects for ever, so I am compelled to act with duplicity and smother my opinions.1000For two or three years prior to the election I had not exchanged six words with Mr.—on politics; but when the struggle came, he like others, tried to secure both my vote and services—the latter was entirely out of the question, as I did not hesitate to tell him; but as to the former, I told him, equally without reserve, that as my friend had withdrawn, and as neither Mr.—on the one hand, nor Mr.—on the other, had any right to force a stranger upon us to his exclusion, in need I would vote for him, without regard to the way it might tell against either of the other candidatesI confess to you that if admiration of the man, or of his qualifications for Member, were necessary to determine a vote, then the poll would have closed without mine.I did not intend to vote at all; I never took the slightest part in the election in any way; but at the last moment, just as the poll was closing, Mr.—came to me, and said that his friends had alarmed him by assertions that the last ten minutes would throw him over, and begged me to vote, and I plumped just before four o'clock. The vile lot who supported his colleague have done all in their power to ruin me. If I had yielded to their repeated solicitations (and thrown my friend overboard previously), I should have been the finest fellow in the creation; but, for the crime of refusal, I have been the object of their bitterest hatred, and my name has been held up by them to public execration through the length and breadth of the town and neighbourhood. A Tory friend, who has always taken much interest in my welfare, states that 'I have given deep offence to this party, and have lost brilliant opportunities of success.'How was it possible to defend open voting when its result was that a gentleman's professional prospects would be extinguished unless he acted with duplicity and smothered his opinions? He (Sir Charles Douglas) knew the case, could answer for its truth, and he called for a remedy for such a scandalous electoral grievance. [The hon. Member's speech was now so much interrupted by cries for a division as to render it difficult to follow his argument. He was understood to say.] It had been said that they were never to look to France, to any part of the Continent, to America, or anywhere else for examples to guide them. To a great extent he agreed, for it was true what might be good in France or America would be ill-suited to England. There was no denying that through the agency of the ballot peace and good order had been secured to France. If a despotism had been established it was because it was in accordance with the feelings and wishes of the people. He was not one of those who thought we differed so entirely in feelings, opinions, habits, and customs from other countries as to preclude referring to them for reasons why the principle of the ballot should be in- 1001 troduced. He could not forget the fact which had been mentioned by the hon. Gentleman who made the Motion, that they had just recognized in Italy a kingdom established by universal suffrage and vote by ballot. Surely some good inferences might be drawn from this. But, if the feelings and affections of the Italians differed so much from their own, let them go to their own colonies, where the people were of their own flesh and blood. He would remind the House that in our colonies the ballot had been found to answer. With the permission of the House, he would read a short extract from the Sydney Morning Herald with reference to the introduction of the ballot into the colony of New South Wales—One thing is clear, that there has been much less importunity. Men have felt indisposed to ask what many have thought proper to conceal; and it has been deemed useless to purchase support, or to demand pledges, since the class of men who would give promises under pressure are just those who would avenge themselves by breaking them. The working classes have enjoyed the benefit of the ballot, not in relation to their employers, but in reference to each other. There are everywhere noisy, dogmatical, and oppressive men, who, by force of will, domineer over their neighbours. Thus many, rather than incur the opposition and contempt of people with whom they have daily to work, have often voted against their inclinations and their conscience. From this necessity they are now relieved. That surveillance by which men were forced almost to set in regiments is broken by the secrecy of the ballot.The right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Wiltshire (Mr. Sotheron Estcourt), in opposing a Motion of this kind some three or four years ago, used these words—If absolute secrecy could he obtained, I might almost say I would not object to the ballot. In my opinion intimidation and bribery would he best prevented by an alteration of our electoral districts, and by such an increase in the number of voters as would prevent these two evils. I think three things are required for the voter—intelligence to decide between candidates, property to give him an interest in the franchise, and independence to make him a free agent.It was to confer that independence upon the voter that the House was asked to extend to him the protection that was afforded by the ballot. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say—I advocate publicity because I regard secrecy in respect of public functions un-English, and opposed to the habits, customs, and feelings of the people.He (Sir Charles Douglas) differed entirely from the right hon. Gentleman when he said 1002 that the ballot was un-English. He could show that the reverse was the case. Its use pervaded every class of society. He had made wide inquiries, and he asserted the fact that the ballot was universally practised in England—in no sense, therefore, could it be called un-English. He could, in detail, quote 150 societies of one kind or another in all of which recourse was had to the ballot in the election of officers. He would mention to the House a few of the names of those corporations and institutions, schools, and colleges, by which election by ballot had been adopted. The Metropolitan Vestries Boards of Guardians, Burial Boards, Astronomical Society, Public Libraries, Geological Society, Natural History Society, Royal Society, Royal Society of Antiquaries, Royal Linnaean Society, Clubs of all kinds—Political. Social, Military, Literary, Commercial, Theatrical, &c., &c.—Mechanics' Institutes, Young Men's Christian Association, Elocution Society, Literary and Scientific Institute, Benefit Societies, Freemasons, Odd Fellows, Foresters, Friendly Societies, Freehold land Societies, Accident and Burial Society of Labourers, All Soul's College, Oxford; Royal Masonic Schools, Christ's Hospital, Proprietary Schools, Lincoln College, Oxford; British and Foreign Unitarian Association, Wesleyan Conference, Methodist Free Churches, Baptist Churches, Christian Knowledge Society (Established 1698), Church Missionary Society, and London Congregational Board of Ministers. That practice, which the right hon. Gentleman said was un-English, was adopted in all these societies. In social, religious, educational, and all other societies—in the management of all local affairs and in all the great corporations managing millions of money the ballot prevailed. There was one very remarkable case in the City of London of the good effects which were experienced from the adoption of the ballot. They had all heard of a class of men called the "Longshore men," who were considered as amongst the most venal and depraved of the electors of this country. The following extract bearing on this case had been communicated to him:—There is in the City of London a fraternity called the Fellowship Porters' Company. At every contested election for M. P., these men are generally brought prominently before the public as the most corrupt voters, being no other than the notorious 'Longshore men.' They are about 3,000 strong, and very many being liverymen, have votes for the City. They are governed by 1003 a court of rulers, selected from their own body, consisting of twelve men, and presided over by the deputy of the ward of Billingsgate. These rulers are elected by ballot for three years, and go out by rotation; therefore, there is an election every year, besides those caused by death or otherwise. Any member of twenty years' standing is eligible. Candidates announce their intention by placards, cards, handbills, &c, &c, setting forth their pretensions, but they have no public-house meetings for discussing merits of different candidates, but each party have canvassers. On the day of nomination, candidates and their supporters, and as many of the members as can cram themselves into their hall, attend, and the proceedings are conducted with an order and decorum that would astonish those who see these poor men under other circumstances. No drunkenness, brawling, or shouting—no open public-houses—not a penny given or taken for a vote! As party spirit runs high, no candidate walks over the course. After nomination, speeches, show of hands, a poll is demanded, and the votes taken by ballot.I have described this body of men (who are notorious for their venality under open voting for Members of Parliament) in their own every-day life, as orderly citizens when apart from temptation; and, notwithstanding the great interest they take in elections of their rulers, there is an absence of all drunkenness, rioting, and debauchery, and they immediately return to their ordinary daily labour after the election by ballot. Now, take the 'Longshore men' under other circumstances—that of open voting for the City Members. A great many are liverymen; so many that at a contested election no candidate can consider his seat safe till the 'Longshore men' are polled. On these occasions they have their regular organized staff of agents and canvassers amongst their own body, who receive their instructions from the various candidates' committees, and then follow the demoralization and corruption which are notorious at these elections by open voting. The severer the contest for the City the greater the harvest to the 'Longshore men,' and it is at such times that all the corruption of 'the free and independent voters' is brought to perfection in the persons of the 'Longshore men.' But who is to blame? Surely those above them who advocate the present system of open voting for Members of Parliament, which directs the minds of these poor men to the two objects—drink and money.He felt much obliged to the House for having listened to him so long. He was, however, under no obligation to hon. Gentlemen opposite to whose demand for division without debate he now yielded. He had had a seat long enough in that House to know that when Gentlemen came down to the House determined by noise and clamour to cut short a debate, in order to get away to dinner, it was in vain for any hon. Member attempt to address the House. He knew there was a combination to prevent discussion of this question, but he did trust that the scene would not be repeated on this occasion which occurred last year, when the question was treated by the Go- 1004 vernment in a manner which reflected no honour upon them; and, considering the great support which the ballot met with from the people of this country, he must add that it was discreditable to a large portion of the Members of that House.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for the Protection of Electors in Voting for Members to serve in Parliament.
§ Question put,
§ The House divided: —Ayes 154; Noes 279; Majority 125.