MR. H. BERKELEY
rose to ask leave to bring in a Bill to cause the Votes of Parliamentary Electors to be taken by way of Ballot. Until very lately he thought he should not have had any opposition from his own side of the House, because, until within a few moments of his rising, he saw an array of his own friends—stanch friends of the Ballot—sitting upon the Treasury benches, and those who were usually opposed to the Question had not arrived. However he was disagreeably disappointed. He now saw the noble Lord opposite (Viscount Palmerston), whom it was always so difficult to oppose, notwithstanding the right one might have upon his side. He also saw the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department in his place. He ventured, nevertheless, to lay this question once more before the House; and in doing so, he must be allowed to call to the recollection of hon. Members that soon after the Reform Bill had become the law of the land, some of the most able men in England demurred to certain parts of it. Amongst them were the late Lord Macaulay, Mr. Grote, Lord Durham, Mr. Charles Buller, and many others. Those eminent men considered the Reform Bill was defective, because, in the first place, certain close pocket boroughs were allowed to remain, which were a disgrace to free institutions; and, in the second place, they considered that the electors had a right to protection at the polling-places. Mr. Grote embraced the latter question, and brought it before. Parliament in a series of the most logical argumentative speeches, remarkable for their brilliancy of truth, and also remarkable because they were never answered, and were, as he believed, unanswerable. On the retirement of Mr. Grote from Parliament, Sir Henry Ward, at the suggestion he believed, of Mr. Grote, took up the question of the Ballot, and he remembered on that occasion he chose him (Mr. Berkeley), though unworthy, to be his seconder—an honour paid him, no doubt, more on account of the power of his constituency than of any ability of his own. When Sir Henry Ward retired, he advised him (Mr. Berkeley) to take up the question, and he agreed with Mr. Grote that the question ought to be agitated—he thought, as a matter of justice to the electors, it was a question which should be annually brought 985 before Parliament. He therefore endeavoured to obtain the assistance of his hon. Friends, and proposed that they should take up the matter. And when he found that no man was willing to interfere between him and the question, he took it up himself; and this was the fifteenth time he had had the honour of bringing forward a substantive Motion on the subject. It seemed to him that the question ought to be brought forward. There was a great grievance resting upon the country; and if nobody was prepared to state that grievance, the question might fall through, and at the time when the people were prepared to assert their rights, and to call on the Government of the day to redress the grievance, the good fight would have to be fought over again. At the present moment, it was not too much to say that the question stood, as regarded argument, upon an unassailable foundation. It had been assailed by the greatest talents that that House possessed from time to time, from year to year, no matter which party might possess the Government; and if any one would dispassionately take up Hansard, he would see that the attacks made had all failed. He now brought forward the question under very adverse circumstances, it having been so often argued; but he would pursue the course he had pursued hitherto. He would not attempt to bring forward any new arguments, even if he were ingenious enough to find any; but he should he content to dispose of those arguments which, from time to time, had been brought forward against the question, and merely confine himself to the defensive. He should leave the question to the consideration of the House and the country. ["Divide, divide!"]. There were but two theoretical points which he should touch upon. One objection against the Ballot was, that it was un-English and unmanly. [MR. BENTINCK: Hear, hear!] Though the hon. Member for Norfolk cheered that sentiment—if he (Mr. Berkeley) could succeed in convincing him that the Ballot was the mode—the usual mode—of taking votes in all elections throughout England, and that open voting was an exception to that rule, he thought he would be able to do away with this objection. He held in his hand the list of public bodies, institutions and companies using the Ballot; and he thought that that would be a convincing proof that the Ballot was not only not un-English, but that that was the rule, and open voting was the exception. Now, 986 amongst those who were elected by Ballot, were the vestrymen and auditors of the vestries of London. Of institutions using it, he might name the Royal Astronomical Society, the Society of Antiquaries, the Royal Society, the Linnæan Society, Christ's Hospital, and Dulwich College. The Bank of England and the Charterhouse both acknowledged the principles of the ballot. So also did the following clubs—namely, the Guards, the Carlton, the Senior and the Junior United Service, the Travellers, the Oxford and Cambridge, the Clarendon, the University, Brooks's, White's, Boodles', the Wyndham, and the Union. The benefit societies, numbering 700,000 members, elected their officers by ballot. The Freemasons' Society elected the master and treasurer of every subordinate lodge by ballot. Nineteen out of twenty of the friendly societies used the ballot in the election of their officers. The Volunteer corps, when permitted to elect their officers, did so by means of the ballot. He now came to ecclesiastical bodies. He would say nothing about the ancient Established Church of the country—the Roman Catholic Church—because its practice might not apply to this case; but it was well known that all the ecclesiastical elections of the Roman Catholic Church, from the Sovereign Pontiff downwards, took place by ballot. The Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge, incorporated in 1698, was very strict in electing its officers by ballot. That Society comprised some of the most distinguished men on either side of the House, and the Archbishop of Canterbury for the time being was President, and all the Bishops were officers or members; and they voted by ballot. He would ask them to observe for a moment how that society illustrated the utility of the ballot. They all knew that the Church at that moment was torn with dissension by the Essays and Reviews. ["Divide, divide!"] If any young clergyman should come up from Oxford, being a pupil of an Essayist or Reviewer, and should state his desire to vote for a person belonging to that class, he would be received with indignation, and would be considered little better than a heretic. Now, the ballot gave the young clergy the free use of their vote; and if they acknowledged that in a society like that the ballot was useful, why, he asked, should they not extend the same protection to the elector at the poll, who had so much need of it? Again, the Church Missionary Society 987 used the ballot; the Wesleyan Methodists, the largest body of Protestant Dissenters in Great Britain, also used it. So did the United Methodist Free Churches and the Churches of the Baptist denomination. He would wind up the account of those elections with the fact that the Bishop of Canada was elected by ballot by the Synod of Quebec; after the election it was also stated that the Te Deum was sung, and the Synod separated. He had now shown that the ballot was adopted by almost every respectable body throughout England, and he must therefore say that the statement of the ballot being un-English was not merely a mistake or a fallacy, but it almost amounted to an untruth. He had one more theoretical point to answer, and that was a theory in which the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston) always indulged. The noble Viscount made use of that old maxim which nobody disputed—that all that we possessed, whether acquired or a gift by nature, we held for the benefit of mankind; and he applied that general axiom to the votes of electors, stating that the vote must not be given in secret, because the franchise was a trust bestowed upon the electors to be used for the benefit of the non-electors; and, said the noble Lord—he (Mr. Berkeley) now using his own words—"The elector must bear the responsibility, whether for good or for evil." Now, that was a very bold proposition—"for good or for evil;" what did that mean? Surely, if a man were found to be a faulty trustee, he fell under the indignation of the man of whom he held the trust; and if he were a good trustee, he deserved praise. The noble Lord's argument therefore was antagonistic to all the great maxims laid down by our first lawyers and statesmen. Even Lord Russell, who participated in the error of the noble Viscount, used language actually contradicting the position which he upheld. Lord Russell said—Our most ancient statutes, our greatest constitutional laws, our most established maxims, all laid down the position that the people of England ought to elect their representatives freely and indifferently.The noble Viscount, however, said, that the electors were the trustees of the non-electors, and they must have open voting, and be content to bear the responsibility, whether for good or for evil. Now, if that were not directly contradictory of the maxim laid down by Lord Russell, he (Mr. Berkeley) did not know what was. Again, 988 Lord Chief Justice Holt, who was strong upon the subject, said—It is a great privilege to vote for those who make laws which govern life and property—a privilege so important that it may not be deputed to another.But the noble Lord deputed this privilege to the non-electors. He took it from the elector, and placed the non-elector over him. The noble Viscount said the elector was answerable to the non-elector, and bore the; responsibility. There was another authority who delivered his opinions in good strong terse English. He meant Lord Chesterfield. In a debate in 1738, on the interference of Government in the election of Scotch Peers, he said—Every man who is allowed a vote in any election is the law-preserver, capable of determining within himself who is the most proper person for that office to which he elects. If the elector be dictated to in his voting, either by money, by threats, or by promises, it is the person so dictating who is properly the elector, and not the voter himself, who is made a tool of. Therefore it has always been deemed to be a maxim of the common law of England that elections should be fairly and regularly made without any interference whatever.Lord Chesterfield, in this constitutional speech, was directly antagonistic to the noble Viscount and Earl Russell, who held the principle that the elector was to be answerable to the non-elector. One more authority—the last, certainly, upon his (Mr. Berkeley's) list. Edmund Burke, than whom no greater authority could be found as to the privileges and rights of the electoral body, when speaking of Parliamentary elections, said that his (the elector's) unbiassed opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, ought not to yield to any man living; but the noble Viscount said that the elector's opinions should be biassed by the non-electors—that his mature judgment should yield to the non-elector, and that his conscience should be smothered in the commands of those who had no votes. But let him (Mr. Berkeley) deal more closely with the subject—let him ask the question—Since the electors were, as the noble Lord said, the trustees of the non-electors, and were answerable to the latter, to what body of the non-electors were they answerable? Because it was obvious that in a contested election the electors were divided into as many sections as there were candidates; and if the elector obeyed one section of the non-electors, he must disobey the others. Then he thought be bad a right, since it 989 was said that the decision of the elector did not lie within his own breast, to ask to what section of the non-electors did the right of discretion belong? And, further, let him (Mr. Berkeley) supppose that an elector was desirous of voting for a Tory, and that his neighbours, non-electors, desired him to vote for a Whig, which was he to obey—his own conscience or the dictates of the non-electors? Now he should like an answer to that question. He would show how the answer would tell in both ways. Suppose it were said that the electors must obey the command of the non-electors, what state of things was achieved? It was a virtual disfranchisement of the elector, and an enfranchisement of the non-elector. Could absurdity go further? It reminded him of the pas-gage in The Tempest—"Stephano shall be king of this island, and I will be viceroy over him." The noble Lord said the elector should continue to have his vote, but the non-elector should be viceroy over him. Having attempted to upset the theory, he would proceed to show how the system acted in practice. He had in his hand a very strange document founded on the noble Lord's theory. The non-electors of the Borough of Rochdale formed themselves into a society, and they said that Lord Russell had declared that the elective franchise was a trust given to the electors for the benefit of the non-electors. Now how was this trust discharged? They said, "We will have the poll book printed with the vote of every man, and we shall then know who votes one way and who votes the other." The preface to the poll-book was very curious. It was published by order of the non-electors' committee, and they said—The committee of the non-electors' association present to the unenfranchised portion of the inhabitants of the borough a list of the votes polled at the recent Parliamentary contest. The non-electors will read, mark, and learn, who supported their claims to the suffrage, and who have not recognized that right, and will not fail to bring their influence to bear on the electors, to show them that the interests of the electors and non-electors are really identical, and that both are in a wrong position under the present franchise—the one refusing to give, and the other un-able to obtain justice. The theory is that the £10 voters have votes in trust as well as in their own right.This vindicated the practice of publishing lists of voters until the time should come when every man could vote in his own right under the protection of the ballot. Now, if this was not a piece of exclusive 990 dealing, got up under the sanction of the opinion of the noble Lord and Earl Russell, he should like to know what was. But that was not the only instance of the appliance of the noble Lord's doctrine to the rights of electors. At Cork, some years ago, there was a very severe election contest. The candidates were Murphy, Fagan, and Chatterton. The priests were extremely active. They said the vote was a trust held in trust for all who were not voters. It was the duty of the non-electors to watch the poll, and those who voted for Murphy and Fagan were good trustees, and those who voted for Chatterton were faithless and bad trustees. The consequence of telling an Irishman that one man was good and that another man was bad, was that he immediately tapped the good man on the shoulder and gave him a glass of whisky, and knocked the bad man down. That he conceived to be the Irish practice. At least, it was so some years ago. He had it on the evidence of Mr. Chatterton himself, that the hotel was more like an hospital after a battle, with the wounded and bleeding lying about in all directions, than a place of entertainment. That was the effect of the opinions of the noble Lord and Lord Russell as to the vote being a trust held for the benefit of the non-electors. He would just call the attention of the House to the evidence of Daniel Creane, who said or swore that he heard Father Beyney at mass one Sunday tell the people that the voters held the franchise only as a trust for the rest, and therefore he advised them to call on their neighbours and ask them to vote for Fagan and Murphy, and to oblige them so to vote whether they would or not. He then gave evidence as to the number of promises given which were afterwards broken, and the votes recorded the other way, and said the people told him that their only reason for breaking their word was that they had no other means of saving themselves from being murdered. If the doctrine of the noble Lord was right, it certainly was very inconvenient if it produced such results; but he (Mr. Berkeley) asserted that the doctrine was unconstitutional and contrary to the opinions of the greatest men, and mischievous and bloody in practice. He had often expressed an opinion that those hon. Members who united with him in advocating the ballot would do well to bring before the House instances of malversation of the franchise. That was the best argument that could be used. The 991 practice which too often prevailed was disgraceful to a civilized country. If hon. Gentlemen would confine themselves to illustrations of such malversation, they would materially assist those who might bring forward the question at some future time. There would then be a record in Hansard which would render the task of those who followed him comparatively easy—for the ballot was founded on the principle of right and justice, and must eventually be carried. He hoped the House would allow him to carry out in a practical shape the advice he had just given to hon. Members, and to lay before them a case or two out of many instances of malversation of the franchise which had recently occurred. Amongst the elections which had occurred since he last brought the question before the House were those of Southampton, East Kent, Devonport, Totnes, and Lisburn. There was likewise a very pretty specimen of an election at New Ross recorded in the papers of that morning, in which it appeared that two or three Roman Catholic priests were put into a boxing attitude before a crowd of women, and it appeared that they got considerably the worst of it. An examination of the details of these elections would bear him out in saying that some change was required. The first case he would mention was that of Devonport. It was the custom bf the Society of which he was the chairman to appoint agents without reference to party to watch the proceedings at elections, to receive reports from them, and then to judge of the necessity of giving them publicity. In answer to questions put to the agents at Devonport they said, there was no evidence of direct bribery, but that treating there certainly was to some extent; that the Corrupt Practices at Elections Act appeared to be only so much waste paper. In reply to the question, "Was the election screw used?" the answer was, "Tremendously, and chiefly by the hangers-on of the Government." They were next asked, if the votes had been given by ballot, what would have been the effect on the election? The reply was, that Ferrand's majority would have been increased considerably. It was stated that probably more than 300 of the electors had Abstained from voting from fear of the consequences. The electors at Devonport had always desired the ballot, and it was a remarkable fact that the same desire was manifested in all the other Government boroughs. From Devonport he would turn 992 to the remarkable borough of Totnes. In Dod's Parliamentary Companion Totnes was described as being under the fostering wing of the Duke of Somerset. He knew not how that might be, but would mention a few cases which had occurred at the last election. Mr. Lee, the seconder of Mr. Dent, the Conservative candidate, said, that as far as he could reckon, four-fifths of the electors were in favour of Dent, and that one-fifth of the Duke's tenants would support him. Mr. Dent stated that he had canvassed almost every vote, and was quite satisfied with the result. Then came an address from Mr. Dent, commencing—I abhor the ballot. In my opinion it would be unworthy of an Englishman to exercise the highest of all privileges and at the same time to shrink from public avowal of their responsibility.He seemed to have copied the noble Lord's words. Now, what occurred the next day? He said—I regret to find myself compelled, by a regard to your interests, to withdraw from the contest at the eleventh hour. After the nomination and show of hands yesterday, a certain territorial influence, which had been looming in the background, was boldly brought to the front From that moment the election was lost, and as I was advised that I could not go to the poll without involving many of my humble supporters in instant ruin and compromising the future development of Conservative strength, I resolved, at whatever sacrifice of my own inclinations, to withdraw from the struggle.The address and the speech were strange commentaries, the one upon the other. And now what occurred on the other Bide of the question? Mr. Seymour, at the nomination, said he had heard a great deal about intimidation and coercion, but he had found everywhere proofs within the borough that the electors were intimidated and coerced on the other side, and he saw men in the crowd who were themselves Liberals, but who were unable to vote with their party because of the influence brought to bear upon them. The electors were kept in folds like sheep, ready to be taken to the poll, and every night many of them were carried out of the borough that the Conservatives might keep them in their power till the day of election. The agents of the Ballot Society reported that bribery and intimidation were in great force, and that one party was just as bad as the other. It was stated at the time in The Standard newspaper—It is confidently expected that the Conservative candidate will win, notwithstanding the unconstitutional influence of the Duke of Somerset, which on this occasion has been exalted to a pitch 993 which has given rise to the by-word that the Duke has surpassed himself. If the Duke's man, as the Duke's local agents call him, does not win on the present occasion, we can only say he ought to do so.P.S.—The Duke's man won by eight votes.That was a picture of an English borough. He did not say there was one word of truth in the charge against the Duke of Somerset; but if it were true that he had exercised all that power, the doctrine of the noble Lord would exonerate him, for the Duke of Somerset was a non-elector, and had a right to dictate to his trustees. Why should not the Duke adopt the opinion of the noble Lord as to his right over his trustees, or, following the example of an other Duke, say, "Have I not a right to do what I like with my own?" He now came to the East Kent election. When the screw was put on most tremendously, one man stated that that screw was put on him ferociously by his landlord. He wished to vote for Dering but his landlord desired him to vote for Knatchbull. The result was that he received notice to quit; but his landlord was cunning, and having the Corrupt Practices Act on his mind, he said, "I must take care—I must not say a word as to why I turn the tenant out; but I shall tell him I did not turn him out for political purposes;" and that was sufficient to put aside that glorious Act of Parliament. In another case, an East Kent elector, by the advice of his lawyer, went with a witness to his landlord with a view to draw from him a declaration that he was to be expelled from his holding on account of the Course he had pursued at the recent election. "I am very sorry," said the man, "that you should think it necessary to turn me out of my cottage on account of my vote." "Well," said the landlord, who saw through the object of the visit, "who told you that?" "You were very angry," said the man; "and as I have always paid my rent, I cannot see what other reason you can have except the manner in which I voted." "Now, mark me," said the landlord, "I have a great objection to men with Roman noses. You, Sir, have got a nose like a reaping hook, and I mean in future to have no tenants but those who have small noses." The tenant informed the lawyer of what had occurred, and the lawyer said, "There is no redress; you must consider yourself turned out on account of the turn of your nose." Thanking the House for the attention they had shown him, he would remark, that since he last addressed the House the ballot had been 994 bearing excellent fruit in every part of the world—even in America. It was looked upon there as the support of respectability against an overweening rank democracy. He would quote a paper adverse and impertinently personal to himself, and that was The Times. And what said The Times?—at least, what said The Times Correspondent? He always found that the faithful correspondents and reporters of that paper were in opposition to those gentlemen who wrote the leading articles. Well, what said the Correspondent of that paper? "That the only hope of upsetting Abraham Lincoln and his crew was the ballot-box." He did not say that the ballot was perfect in America; but it was the best institution that America possessed at present. Now as to France. We were told the other day that the French Government were preparing the ballot-box with great care, as The Times said, "with excellent care;" and then it added with a sneer, "Of what use is the ballot? It will be under the power of an autocrat, and will therefore be utterly useless." He was not prepared to say "No" to that, for an autocrat could override everything. But what happened? The ballot-box defeated the Government, and returned Members in their very teeth. He held in his hand a letter from M. Simon, who had been returned for one of the arrondissements of Paris. The Ballot Society had asked him his opinion relative to the operation of the ballot? This gentleman The Times described as a moderate politician and an able and honest man. The first question was this—The enemies of secret voting in England are accustomed to refer to secret voting as used in France under the decree of February 1852, as an institution hostile to public liberty.The answer was—The ballot has always been considered in France as the shield and guardian of public liberty. After the coup d'élat of 1851 it was demanded that there should be open voting. The nation, preferring to give a vote of absolution to the author of the coup d'état, would not give up the secret ballot, and the Government yielded.In reply to another question, M. Simon said he thought the opposition candidates in Paris might have been elected by open voting by a slight majority; but that in the communes they certainly would have been defeated. France, then, under adverse circumstances, was favourable to the ballot. America looked to the ballot for protection. And in Australia, while reviewing their electoral constitution, and 995 very properly, as he thought, deciding that electors should be three months resident, and able to read and write, not a man was to be found who spoke of the ballot as faulty. On the contrary, the whole of them rejoiced in the ballot as one of the most beneficial measures they ever had in Australia. He begged leave to hand in his Motion; and although he had no expectation that the House, would allow him to introduce the Bill, he should sit down perfectly satisfied that the foundation of the perfect structure of the ballot had been laid in the House.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, he rose to second the Motion. He felt great pleasure in doing so, and he entirely adhered to the opinions he had expressed on former occasions. He never heard any answer to the admirable speeches annually made by his hon. Friend on the question. The noble Lord at the head of the Government was the only man who had attempted to answer them, but he always failed in doing so.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to cause the Votes of Parliamentary Electors to be taken by way of Ballot."—(Mr. Henry Berkeley.)
THE LORD MAYOR (Mr. Alderman Roan)
said, he rose to speak on the subject with great reluctance, especially as he understood that the discussion would not be carried on; but he felt that the arguments which had been addressed to the House required a protest against the fallacies uttered in favour of the measure. The cases of France, America, and Australia which had been cited really tended strongly against the hon. Gentleman's argument instead of being in its favour. In France the Emperor could not have been elected except through the ballot-box. In America secret voting had driven the leading minds out of the Government, and they had no men to guide the people out of their present difficulties. That was the effect of the ballot. He thought the United States was a standing warning to this country; and, in fact, that which had been going on there had caused a reaction in this country. The next case referred to by the hon. Member was that of Australia. Now, Australia was an example to the world to avoid and eschew the ballot-box. There men got to power to carry out some great scheme for their own aggrandisement; and when they had accomplished this, they went out of power again. The hon. Mem- 996 ber said that the elector was entitled to the protection of the ballot-box; but the elector was the representative of the non-elector, and, that being so, he was no more entitled to the protection which the hon. Member claimed for him than were the Members of that House when discharging their Parliamentary duties. He thanked God that in the House of Commons the Members of Parliament had an array of reporters over their heads, and that publicity was given to their acts in that assembly. While that publicity remained, this country would maintain her present position. As soon as she lost it, she would sink to that dead level to which France and America had already come. The arguments against the ballot might be carried on ad infinitum, and it appeared to him that there was no argument on the other side. The hon. Member had alluded to the Southampton election. That was as open and as constitutional a fight as ever come off in this country. The men there cared no more for the political opinions of their masters than they did for those of any other individuals in the community; but it was not against the influence of the masters that they had chiefly to contend, because they had been oppressed for twenty years by the iron heel of Democracy. They had, however, indicated in his person their right to elect the candidate of their choice; and, in doing so, they had spurned a thraldom under which there had been a long struggle to place them.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, I will not detain the House for more than a very few moments, but I should be unwilling that my hon. Friend (Mr. Berkeley) should go to a division under the impression that he had convinced me by the mere assertion, which he has so frequently made, that all the arguments which I used against his Motion on former occasions have been answered, and are worth nothing at all. My hon. Friend, like other great performers, has an annual benefit; and though I am afraid he will not draw a great deal this time, still there it is, and I do not in the least deprecate it. But my hon. Friend, with great simplicity and frankness, said he had tried all over the House to find some other person who would undertake to moot this question, and that he had not succeeded—such was the general opinion, either of the merits of the question or its chances of success, that having knocked at every door, he was obliged to undertake the task himself. So much for his admission as to the value of the question in the minds of the Members of this House. 997 Then my hon. Friend stated, that though he had frequently had a great number of amateur supporters, yet, somehow or other, every Government that was responsible for the conduct of affairs opposed the Motion which he made. Well, that, I think, indicates primâ facie that there must be some value in the objections urged against his proposition. My hon. Friend seems to me to place the whole thing on a wrong foundation; for in his arguments in favour of the ballot he appears to forget what is the vital principle—I may say, the breath of life—of the British Constitution—namely, public opinion and public responsibility. My hon. Friend quotes a great number of private societies which use the ballot in the election of their members. That has nothing to do with the question—it has nothing whatever to do with the matter, and his illustration is totally foreign to his argument. Those private societies have no public responsibility; those clubs are not answerable to the country for the election of their members. They are guided solely by the consideration, who is likely to prove an agreeable member of society—whom it may be pleasant or whom it may be unpleasant to meet in the club-room; and therefore the argument founded by my hon. Friend on the practice of those societies is altogether inapplicable to the question under consideration. In clubs are there reporters present to make known in detail to the world the proceedings of the members? If there were, the case of my hon. Friend might be somewhat advanced by an illustration drawn from the clubs; but as it is the clubs do not help him. What would be the effect of the ballot in respect of public opinion and public responsibility? What is public opinion? The avowed opinion of the aggregate of the members of the community; but, according to my hon. Friend, an elector is to have no openly-expressed opinion, not only on the day of the election, but all through his life; because, if he ventures to express his opinion in conversation with his friends or neighbours, the ballot is of no use to conceal his political sentiments. If a man is known to be a zealous Tory, every one may legitimately conclude, when he goes to the ballot-box, that he does not vote for a Liberal; and so it is vice versâ. Why, Sir, if you have the ballot, the elector must conceal his opinion even from his wife and family; and is that a position you would wish any Englishman to 998 be placed in? To nullify public opinion by crushing it in each individual—that, I say, is contrary to the very spirit and essence of the British Constitution. The mere sneaking to the hustings with a paper in your hand, and poking it into a hole, hoping that no one will see how your wrist turns, that is not secret voting, unless you secure that all a man's political opinions, partialities, and preferences shall be confined within his own breast. The way in which a man votes will be known by the political opinions which he expresses. Then I say, that if you divest a man of the responsibility to which he ought to be liable in respect of his public trust, you quash public opinion, and extinguish one of the essential principles of the British Constitution, and establish a principle which is unconstitutional and un-English. My hon. Friend quotes other countries. He refers to America, that country which we have so often heard quoted as an example in this House. But does not every one know that voting is not secret in America? Certainly, they vote there by means of pieces of paper for their governors, judges, and other public functionaries; but their vote is known, it is no more secret than ours. They put their tickets in their hats, and every one knows whom a man votes for as well as we do here. I believe there is one State in which there is an attempt at secret voting; but, generally, the ballot in the United States is no more secret voting than is the open polling in this country. I am astonished at the arguments which those who approve the ballot make use of to show that it is a thing which this House ought to wish to establish; but I am happy to say, that so far from my hon. Friend having made converts to his cause, I believe there is a great and recent instance of conversion the other way. There is in this town a society which has adopted a name which is a guarantee for its liberal and advanced opinions—it is called the Reform Club. Well, I am told—it is reported in town, and hon. Members and others will say whether the rumour is correct—that this society has recently been converted to the opinion opposed to that of my hon. Friend on the subject of the ballot. I am informed, that in the first place, whereas up to a recent time the mode of election in that club was similar to the mode of election in other clubs—namely, by ballot—the members have upon deliberate discussion, and also upon the advice of a very eminent Reformer, the hon. Member for 999 Birmingham decided, after full consideration, that election by ballot is not a proper mode of election; and I am told that, in the next place, they have gone further, and imparted to the club the resemblance of a nomination borough, for they have invested a select committee with the choice of the persons who are to be admitted members. I am right in saying that they have gone further than to abolish the ballot, for upon the advice of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, they have not only abolished the ballot—but, instead of reverting to open voting, which would seem to be the legitimate alternative, they have invested a select committee with the task of admitting members. I shall not detain the House; but I assure my hon. Friend that my opinions are rather confirmed than otherwise by the arguments which he has adduced. The mere assertions which he has indulged in, that his arguments are unanswerable, while those of his opponents are worth nothing at all—all those assertions have no effect on my mind, and I hope they will have no effect upon the minds of others. I hope the decision of the House will be on this occasion similar to that which it has been on so many former occasions, and that they will come to the conclusion that the proposition of my hon. Friend is one which ought not to be adopted.
§ MR. COX
, who was almost inaudible amid the general calls for a division, was understood to say, that the ballot was the cardinal point in the creed of the Liberal party; and if the Conservative members would refrain from voting now, reserving to themselves the right to reverse the decision hereafter, the Government would be placed in a minority of at least three to one. The noble Lord forgot that he was at the head of the Government when a Bill was brought in for the government of the metropolis, which gave all householders of £40 a year and upwards the right of voting by ballot. The Metropolis Local Management Act had worked well for the metropolis; and if it was good for 3,000,000, it must be equally good for the whole country. The ballot would get rid of jobbery, bribery, and intimidation, and render elections less noisy and turbulent; because it would be impossible to tell, until the ballot closed, what was the state of the poll. He thought that so great and important a question ought not to be brought to a division without some discussion and some observations from hon. Members. As for the election at New Ross, 1000 which had been mentioned, the excitement there would have been entirely avoided by secret voting, as no one would have known until some time after that the majority had been so narrow.
MR. H. BERKELEY
said, that at present electors were not subject to the legitimate influence of public opinion, when they might sacrifice themselves by voting openly. Public opinion would act just as much upon men's minds as it did now, and, indeed, it would act more strongly if they gave their votes secretly. When a man's hands were tied, he could not consult public opinion. The noble Lord's manner was very graceful and charming, even when he talked about other gentlemen's wives. No doubt hon. Members were excellent disciples of the conjugal school; but he had some little doubt whether they told everything to their wives. Speaking for the wives, one thing he could be certain of, and that was, that if intrusted with the secret of the votes their husbands intended to give, they would not betray them, especially when ruin might be the result of betrayal. In such a case the wife and the children might be pretty safely intrusted with the husband's secret. Those, however, were futile objections. The noble Lord had intimated that he (Mr. Berkeley) had said his arguments were unanswerable. He (Mr. Berkeley) never thought or said so, but he did say that Mr. Grote's arguments were unanswered.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 102; Noes 122: Majority 20.