§ Order for Second Reading read.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I rise, Sir, to move the second reading of the Representation of the People Bill; and, in doing so, I propose to supply a defect which some have observed in the statement with which I originally introduced the Bill to the notice of the House. It was thought on my part almost disrespectful to the House—and suggestions of that kind have proceeded from persons of weight and authority—to have laid a measure of so much importance on the table without dealing more largely than I did presume to deal in substantive reasons for its introduction. I will explain briefly to the House the feelings with which that measure was introduced, and which will, I think, explain and justify the course which I pursued. Her Majesty's Government—for I do not speak on this point of myself alone—Her Majesty's Government were sensible of the tender nature of the ground on which they were about to tread. They had, first and foremost of all, to apprehend that they might prejudice the progress of this great question by giving to it unnecessarily, or at all events prematurely, the character of a party conflict. They had also to apprehend that they might incur a still more serious mischief—that they might give to the course of the argument on the subject the character of a conflict between class and class. They were determined, Sir, that, so far as depended upon them, the discussion should not be marked from its commencement by either the one character or the other. I was therefore earnestly studious—with what success I know not—to thread my way through the whole of that long and, I fear, wearisome address without including in it any statement of principle, any argument, any suggestion, any reference to the past, which could in any manner raise even so much as a flutter of hostile emotion on the part of Gentlemen who sit opposite. I was not at that period aware of any reason, nay, I am not even yet aware of any good reason why Gentlemen who sit opposite, and who may be disposed to take a temperate and conciliatory view of public affairs, should not freely concur in the enlargement—as we think the very mode- 1125 rate enlargement—of the franchise which we propose. We had framed the measure in what appeared to us a spirit of moderation and restraint. We desired that it should be placed before the House in the same spirit. It was in the effort to give effect to that desire that I omitted many of the topics, which would have exhibited more clearly the breadth of the grounds on which we rest our measure, but which might have neutralized that advantage by bringing too easily into the foreground occasions for conflict of opinion.
I must confess that when I heard the demand for reasons urged in terms so peremptory, it was not altogether without a touch of surprise at some of the quarters from which it proceeded. Had I been addressing an assembly never before conversant with the subject I could have felt no such surprise. But it was somewhat singular that Gentlemen who had themselves heard of Reform, who had themselves supported Reform, who had themselves been responsible for the introduction of Reform, who had themselves in some instances—and this is by far the strongest case of all—endeavoured to force Reform, nay, to force piecemeal and partial measures of Reform on a reluctant Government, should come forward and demand reasons why I the advisers of the Crown, forsooth, had; troubled the mind of Parliament and the country by the introduction of the question of Reform. Now, Sir, although I did not enter into reasoning at large, I did refer to authority—I did refer to at least two heads of argument which I thought sufficient for the purpose which we had in view. One was the nature of those remarkable I promises which had been given, and which had been repeated more times than one can easily recollect, with respect to the settlement of this question; and in connection with those promises I endeavoured to explain the peculiar origin of the question—not from the free and spontaneous choice of the Government, but out of the very mind, the very bosom of Parliament itself. A further head on which I touched was the state of things that now prevails with regard to popular enfranchisement in the strict sense—the enfranchisement of the working class—as compared with what prevailed in 1832, and with the undoubted increase during the interval of fitness for the exercise of political duty.
Now, with reference to the origin of the question I was challenged in terms of extraordinary boldness. I must, therefore, 1126 revert to the point again; and I do so for the sake of stating that the only fault in the explanation I gave was that I understated that case of Parliamentary responsibility which I sought to establish. In 1851, when this question was first in a serious form introduced to Parliament by my hon. Friend the Member for West Surrey (Mr. Locke King), I stated that, in spite of the opposition of the Government, a majority of two to one voted for the introduction of the Bill. But, Sir, what, I believe, I omitted to state, and, which, it any rate, greatly strengthens the case, was this—that the House gave that vote, and expressed that determination in favour of the introduction of the Bill even after my noble Friend, who was then, as now, at the head of the Government had stated that the Government would give their attention to the subject and would in the ensuing Session submit a measure to its consideration. And yet, in the very face and teeth of that pledge given by my noble Friend, the House of Commons took upon itself the responsibility of forcing a vote in favour of the introduction of the Bill. Thus, then, the revival of the Reform question under the authority of the advisers of the Crown was in a peculiar sense the wish of Parliament itself. But I am told that, the Bill was subsequently thrown out. No doubt; and under what circumstances was it thrown out? The introduction of the Bill was followed by the resignation of Ministers, who would not submit to the judgment of the House, and who at the same time did not think proper to advise a dissolution. The attempt of the distinguished leaders of the party opposite to form a Government, based as it was at that period on an intention to propose a fixed duty on corn, entirely failed. In that state of circumstances the Government came back by ordinary process and of necessity into the hands of my noble Friend; and coming back by necessity into his hands, of course it followed that the House of Commons which accepted him as Minister should in lieu of the measure for which it had pronounced accept also his pledge with reference to Parliamentary Reform, and decline to proceed with the Bill of my hon. Friend. But what did happen, and what was indeed remarkable, was that, under these circumstances, there were some ardent spirits who could not even thus desist from their attempt, who divided for the second reading of the Bill, and tried to force it on the Government; 1127 and among the Gentlemen who were thus anxious to force piecemeal Parliamentary Reform on the Administration was my right hon. Friend the Member for Stroud. At a subsequent period, in 1858, the very same measure was forced on the Government of Lord Derby. On that occasion I voted against the Bill, not because I disapproved of the reduction of the County Franchise to £10, for I had myself in 1854, as a Minister, been a willing party to a measure which enacted it, but because I did not wish to assume the responsibility of forcing it on an Administration which was not prepared at the time to deal with the question. But again, my right hon. Friend, hot and ungovernable in his zeal for piecemeal proceedings in the matter of Reform, endeavoured by his vote to force on the advisers of the Crown the adoption of a measure not only confined to the subject of the franchise, but confined to a special branch of the franchise.
Now, Sir, let us shortly consider who are the persons who have made to the people of this country the promises of which I venture to remind this House—promises which I think the petitions presented to-day sufficiently demonstrate not to have been forgotten, but to he recorded in the memory of the people as engagements of which they anticipate and of which they now ask the fulfilment. That statement was greeted with something like a jeer from a portion of the House; but let us consider for a moment who were the men that gave those promises. They were first given by Lord Russell, they were next given by Lord Aberdeen, they were afterwards given by Lord Derby and the right hon. Gentleman opposite. Now, what was the engagement taken by the right hon. Gentleman, speaking on the part of the Government of which he was the organ? Was it a first fault on the part of that Government? Was it an occasional and incidental slip from the path of virtue in an unguarded moment which led them to promise a measure of enfranchisement, and finally to include in their promise a reduction of the borough franchise? No, Sir, they had time enough to consider their Resolution. The second reading of their Bill was met, as the second reading of our Bill is, we are told, to be met by a hostile Resolution. It was met by a Resolution, which I was not disposed to support, but of which, at any rate, I will say that it was direct and outspoken in its purpose, and that it gave the country clearly to 1128 understand the real motives that were in the minds of its supporters. That Motion was successful. The Parliament was dissolved. The dissolution of the Parliament gave an opportunity to the Government of Lord Derby to consider whether they had been right or whether they had been wrong in the introduction of a Bill which refused to deal with the borough franchise, and upon the assembling of the new Parliament the right hon. Gentleman opposite announced the deliberate view of his colleagues. On the 7th of June, 1859, he spoke as follows:—We are perfectly prepared to deal with that question of the borough franchise and the introduction of the working classes by lowering the franchise in boroughs, and by acting in that direction with sincerity; because, if you intend to admit the working classes to the franchise by lowering the suffrage in boroughs, you must not keep the promise to the ear and break it to the hope. The lowering of the suffrage must be done in a manner which satisfactorily and completely effects your object, and is at the same time consistent with maintaining the institutions of the country."—[3 Hansard, cliv. 140.][Opposition cheers.] I see that you hail with satisfaction the saving clause of "maintaining the institutions of the country." But we do not ask you now to sacrifice the institutions of the country. We do not ask you at this stage of the proceedings on the Bill to fix this or that particular standard for the lowering of the borough franchise. We may have our own views on the subject, and we have them. We have reduced them to what we think are the narrow limits of strict moderation. We ask you, whether yon are or are not prepared to act on the principle announced by the right hon. Gentleman opposite when he said that the Government of Lord Derby, having before it the question whether it was to continue in possession of power or to retire from it, was ready to propose the lowering of the borough franchise? Well, Sir, I will not omit to notice what, perhaps, hon. Gentlemen opposite may consider important, that at a subsequent period, unless I am much mistaken, the right hon. Gentleman retracted those words. I rather believe, though I cannot give the exact date, that the right hon. Gentleman expressed an unfeigned repentance with regard to the promise he had given. But, Sir, the promise that he gave he gave while in power; he gave it as a Minister of the Crown. He gave it on the occasion of an appeal to Parliament—an appeal made in order to determine 1129 who was worthy to hold power, and who was not worthy to hold it. It was a promise given, I admit, under political pressure, but it was a promise on that very account all the more important and more sacred, and if in the case and leisure of opposition the right lion. Gentleman has retracted it, that is not the first time such things have taken placeEase will retractVows made in pain as violent and void.And, Sir, let me not be misunderstood. I do not doubt that the right hon. Gentleman had a perfect right to make the promise, and he had a perfect right to retract it. It is not for me to question his discretion in the one step, nor do I intend to question it in the other. But let not the right hon. Gentleman suppose, and let not any Member of his party suppose, that the retractation of pledges once given by a Minister of the Crown can make those pledges to be as though they had never been given. They can never be effaced from the record of time; they can never be cancelled in the mind and memory of the nation: they will continue to stand among the material facts, which must bear upon the settlement of this question. A constitutional Government cannot go before the representatives of a free people to-day and say, "I promise you this, that, and the other," and to-morrow say to them, "I have changed my mind and I retract my promise."
Well, Sir, the engagement to which I have referred was subsequently given by the late Lord Palmerston. he not only assented to, but he actually took office upon the basis of a proposal to introduce an extension of the franchise which, if not numerically wider, yet adopted numerically a lower figure than that which we now propose. And I say that if the series of acts and declarations does not constitute an engagement between the governors of the country and those who sit in this House, and between the statesmen of this country and the people, I for one know not in what way, or under what circumstances, it is possible that such an engagement should be formed. Sir, it has been necessary to go into the history of this question—it is necessary to lay firmly and broadly the grounds of our discussion, lie-cause although I was more sanguine at a former period, I do not conceal from myself that we may now be upon the threshold of a long and a painful controversy. It is with the deepest grief that, I contem- 1130 plate the course that has been taken by the principal party now in Opposition, which I conscientiously believe had no adverse interest in regard to such a settlement of this question as we propose, though they have unhappily chosen to consider that they have such an interest. But now let us consider—and it is my justification for dwelling upon the history of the question—in what form this history is sometimes given. Now, in debate we sometimes speak with haste. In the daily press articles may sometimes, we must admit, be composed in baste, and even in the weekly press a trace of passing excitement may not be altogether inconceivable. Hut, Sir, we have likewise a quarterly press, and to that quarterly press we are entitled to look for what I may justly term the philosophy of history. I refer to The Quarterly Review, the latest number of which I had the privilege, through the kindness of my excellent and respected friend the publisher, of consulting yesterday, and there I find the philosophy of history as it is viewed by the acutest minds that can be arrayed in the service of that ancient and justly far-famed periodical. I see from this kind of history; what sort of food is sometimes served up for the most fastidious appetites of the non-intellectual classes. The Review is published, I think, to-day, and what I am about to quote is from a critical notice of the Reform Bill. It is highly complimentary to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham as regards his weight and power, but not quite so much so as respects his moral character. The article in question is a philosophical statement of the real causes of this Reform Bill, and, starting from 1860, it shows why we have not had a Reform Bill since 1860, and why we I have a Reform Bill, now. These are its words—Just as in 1860 and 1801 the reforming zeal of the Radicals was bought off by the sacrifice of the Paper Duty, so, from 1861 to 1865, it was appeased by the sacrifice of the gallant Confederacy. But with the fall of Richmond Mr. Bright's heart was set at case concerning the fate of the Government to which his true allegiance is given.I need not say what Government is intended; it is not the British Government. [A cheer,] I hear the voice of a reader for The Quarterly Review—And the moment Lord Palmerston was removed by death the Government instinctively felt that the time had again come round for buying off once more their insatiable ally.This time there was nothing for it but to reproduce a Reform Bill,1131 [Opposition cheers.] More readers of the Quarterly Review. [Laughter and cheers.] More assenting and applauding readers!—Gentlemen who think it was the duty of this country not to have sacrificed the gallant Confederacy—that is, who think that this country ought to have gone to war on its behalf—Gentlemen who thought, and who may still think, that what they called the sacrifice of the paper duty was a measure adopted simply to appease my hon. Friend, although they themselves, in Government, had recommended that sacrifice; Gentlemen who search in the hidden recesses of the breasts of their opponents for what they call the causes of events, but who are totally oblivious of the fact of the repeated and solemn engagements of the Throne and the Government of this country, although they were engagements into which they themselves had entered. When we read such statements as this, it is necessary that the true history of this Reform Bill, depending not upon foolish imputations and visionary suppositions, but upon the recorded history of the country, should be brought to mind; and really, Sir, when I read this particular statement I sought for a description of it, and I could find no other so applicable—with the exception of one monosyllable which I wish entirely to pass over—as the reply of Prince Henry to Falstaff after the story of the men in buckram—These lies are like the father that begot them—Gross as a mountain, open, palpable.By "lies" of course I mean "erroneous statements." [Much laughter. An hon. MEMBER: "Who is the father of them?] Who is the father of them I will not undertake to say, and of his dimensions of course I cannot possibly know anything, but whether he is or is not equivalent in size to his prototype this description is certainly a true one—Gross as a mountain, open, palpable.Sir, the House will remember that on a former occasion I ventured to refer to the state of the constituency at the present moment as compared with what it was in 1832; and I endeavoured to show by a computation, of which I stated the grounds, that the proportion of the working classes included in the present constituency, although to our great satisfaction we had found it to be larger than we had supposed, yet was smaller than it had been in the year 1832. That statement has not been impugned in this House, and I do not think 1132 it can be impugned successfully. I do not think that any Gentleman who has examined the figures will venture to question my statement that at the present moment the quantitative proportion of the working men in the town constituencies is less than it was in 1832. But in order to obtain a full view of the importance of this fact, neither must the House forget that since 1832 every kind of beneficial change has been in operation in favour of the working classes. There never was a period in which religious influences were more active than in the period I now name. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that within that time the civilizing and training powers of education have for all practical purposes been not so much improved as, I might almost say, brought into existence as far as the mass of the people is concerned. As regards the press, an emancipation and an extension have taken place to which it would be difficult to find a parallel. I will not believe that the mass of Gentlemen opposite are really insensible to the enormous benefit that has been effected by that emancipation of the press, when for the humble sum of a penny, or for even less, newspapers are circulated from day to day by the million rather than by the thousand, in numbers almost defying the powers of statistics to follow, and carrying home to all classes of our fellow-countrymen accounts of public affairs, enabling them to feel a new interest in the transaction of those affairs, and containing articles which, I must say, are written in a spirit, with an ability, with a sound moral sense, and with a refinement, that have made the penny press of England the worthy companion—I may indeed say the worthy rival—of those dearer and older papers which have long secured for British journalism a renown perhaps without parallel in the world. By external and material; as well as by higher means, by measures relating to labour, to police, and to sanitary arrangements, Parliament has been labouring, has been striving to raise the level of the working community, and has been so striving with admitted success. And there is not a call which has been made upon the self-improving powers of the working community which has not been fully answered. Take, for instance, the Working Men's Tree Libraries and Institutes throughout the country; take, as an example of the class, Liverpool; who are the frequenters of that institution? I believe that the majority 1133 of the careful, honest, painstaking students who crowd that library are men belonging to the working classes, a large number of whom cannot attend without making some considerable sacrifice. Then again, Sir, we called upon them to be provident, we instituted for them Post Office savings banks, which may now be said to have been in full operation for four years; and what has been the result? During these four years we have received these names at the rate of thousands by the week, and there are now 650,000 depositors in those savings banks. This, then, is the way in which Parliament has been acting towards the working classes. But what is the meaning of all this? Parliament has been striving to make the working classes progressively fitter and fitter for the franchise; and can anything be more unwise, not to say more senseless, than to persevere from year to year in this plan, and then blindly to refuse to recognize its legitimate upshot—namely, the increased fitness of the working classes; for the exercise of political power? The proper exercise of that power depends upon the fitness of those who are to receive it. That fitness you increase from day to day, and yet you decline, when the growing fitness is admitted, to give the power. ["No, no!" from the lack Op-position Benches.] You decline to give the working classes political power by lowering the borough franchise. ["No, no!" from the lack Opposition Benches.] I do not complain of the interruption—in fact, I am very glad to hear it. [Cheers and laughter.] I wish that cry were much louder, I wish it were universal, I wish it j came from the front Opposition Benches, and from my noble Friend behind me; for if our opponents were so prepared to proceed in what seems their natural sense, we should have little matter for controversy on the subject of this Bill. But I fear it is not so. I fear the intention is to resist the consummation of the process, of which the earlier stages have been favoured and approved. This course appears about, as rational as the process of a man who incessantly pours water into a jug or bason, and wonders and complains that at last it overflows.
Now, what are the arguments that the busy brain of man has framed in opposition to this measure? It is one favourite plea of our opponents that we ought not to hand over the power to govern to those who do not pay the charges of Govern- 1134 ment. In the depository of wisdom to which I have referred that argument occupies a very prominent place, as it did in the speech of a noble Lord (Viscount Cranbourne), a very distinguished Member of this House, from which I am afraid the writers in the Quarterly Review have been guilty of gross plagiarism on more occasions than one. But is this the thing that we are really going to do? are we, indeed, going lo hand over the power to those who do not pay the charges of Government? I will not at this moment go into the first portion of the proposition, although I say distinctly we are not going to hand over the power at all; but is it true that the working classes do not contribute fairly, fully, largely, to the expenses of Government? This question was put to me two days ago, in consequence of my statement that, according to the best estimate I could form, the working classes were possessed of an income forming not less than five-twelfths—that is, not very far short of one-half—of the entire income of the country. I repeat that statement in the presence of those who are able to correct me if I am wrong, and in the presence of the greatest economist of the day. Others have made higher estimates. The hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Bass), who is no mean authority upon subjects connected with the earnings of the working classes, has placed their income at a much higher rate than I have done. This is a matter on which I may be confuted, but scarcely contradicted, because the question is not one of fact but of inquiry, argument, and inference. I repeat that, in my judgment, after the best examination I can make, it is a moderate estimate to put the income of the working classes at five-twelfths of the aggregate income of the country, whereas they are put off under the present law with, at the outside, only one-seventh of the electoral power. Now, on the very showing of our antagonists, and putting aside altogether the question how far the human element itself may weigh, apart from money, is not such a state of things absolutely unjust? [Loud cheers.] Perhaps I shall be told that I have based my estimate upon the income and not upon the property of the working classes. Probably that may be the answer to my statement. Yes, I hear a cheer. I admit I have spoken in reference to income, and not in reference to property. Well, anyone so inclined may take it on that ground if he chooses; but he must also take the con- 1135 sequence of having made that choice, and he must be prepared to change the whole system of your taxation. We now lay upon income the great bulk of your taxes, and to these taxes the working classes contribute, perhaps, a larger proportion, looking at the amount of their earnings, than is paid by the proudest noble in the land. I, therefore, say to those Gentlemen who argue that the working classes are not entitled to the franchise because they do not possess property, that they must be prepared to join hands with the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), and with the financial reformers of Liverpool, and instead of raising a fourteenth part of the revenue, or some such proportion, as we now do, from property and the rest from income, we must raise a fourteenth part from income and the rest from property.
Again it is said, at least I believe it has been so said, that where the working classes have a majority they vote together as a class. Now, is there any shade or shadow, any rag of proof that such is the fact? I am going to trespass upon the patience of the House by reading a letter which I received to-day from a working man, and which I shall venture to read for the especial benefit of the Gentlemen opposite. I believe the statements it contains to be perfectly true, and it is my sincere opinion that the writer's arguments are typical of the class to which he belongs. In any case their nature is such that I am confident hon. Gentlemen will not be sorry to hear them.Dear Sir" (I do not know him personally, but he thus kindly addresses me)—"My motive in writing this is to remind you of the Tories who belong to the working classes, as you cannot think perhaps all you wish at the right time. We all know that there are the same variety of principles and opinions in all classes of society. I am a working man, and have an opportunity of knowing that the Tories in principle, especially the artizan class, are very numerous, who are not now in possession of the franchise. The new Reform Bill, I think, will do about as much for the Tories as for the Liberals. It would for all we know. The love of country and constitution is confined to no particular class. A Liberal is as loyal as a Tory. Is there any evidence to show that these men which the Reform Bill or Franchise Bill would enfranchise are not fit to be trusted? They know well that the welfare and prosperity of their country and their masters is at the same time their welfare and prosperity. Please not to make my name public.Well, Sir, in my opinion, the letter presents a true view of the question. There is that in it latent concentrated good sense which often comes from the mind, from the 1136 mouth, and from the pen of an uneducated man with a peculiar free meaning, perhaps because he is in a certain sense, as I may say, without any reproach or disparagement to education, so much nearer to the point at which nature originally placed him than are men with minds more refined and cultivated. Now, Sir, I maintain that there is no proof whatever that the working classes, if enfranchised, would act together as a class. Perhaps you ask for proofs to the contrary. It is exceedingly difficult to give a direct proof of that which has not happened: although in my opinion ample proof, substantial, even if indirect, of the correctness of my statement does exist. For example, I take this point. Municipal franchises are in a predominant degree working men's franchises. Those franchises, if they do not quite come up to universal suffrage, at all events nearly approach household suffrage. What has been the system followed by the working classes in municipal elections? In order to institute a comparison between the municipal and Parliamentry franchises we must select those towns in which the municipal and Parliamentary boundaries are the same. There are 346,000 municipal voters in that portion of the towns of this country, and, computing as well as the information in our hands will permit, I find that there are 163,000 of them on the Parliamentary register. I deduct from that number one-fourth or 41,000 as representing the maximum portion of working men, and the result is that there remain 122,000 as the number of non-working men in the municipal constituency. Thus the working men number 224,000. Is not this a dreadful state of things? Yet there has been no explosion, no antagonism between classes, no question has been raised about property, nor indeed has any, even the slightest attempt, been made to give a political character to municipal institutions. ["Oh, oh!"] Yes, but when the municipal franchise was discussed in 1835 the party who occupied the seats of hon. Gentlemen opposite—[Mr. DISRAELI: Where were you sitting then?] If, however, such questions are relevant to the matter in hand, I was sitting on the Benches of that party; but I was not one of those who supported the argument. Where was the right hon. Gentleman sitting at that time? He was not sitting, indeed, for he did not sit at all, but he was standing somewhere or other in the interests of the "Mountain" 1137 far above the Benches behind me. The material point, Sir, is this, that many of the Gentlemen who were then sitting opposite prophesied that great danger and mischief would spring from the municipal franchise, because it would give a political character to municipal elections, and imbue all our corporations with a similar spirit. That being the case, I think I am perfectly justified in standing upon an important and strictly relevant fact, that, as far as I am aware, we are not able to adduce a single instance in which this majority corn posed from the working class majority has given a democratic—I will not say a disloyal, but a democratic character—a character distinct from that which they bore under the influence of the middle classes to our municipal institutions.
Again, Sir, with respect to the Parliamentary constituency, let Gentlemen glance impervially at the present state of things. I have previously referred to the metropolitan boroughs, which return a large number of what are denominated "advanced" politicians on this side of the House, and which have less than the usual proportion of voters of the working class. I pass now to the other end of the scale. I find that among the present town constituencies there are eight boroughs in which the working classes constitute a majority on the registers. These eight towns are—Beverley, Coventry, Greenwich, St. Ives, Maldon, Stafford, Pembroke, and Newcastle-under-Lyne. What is the revolutionary character of the Members whom they return? I find that these eight towns return five who bear the name of Liberal, and nine who claim to belong to the Opposition. This, then, is the result, as far as our narrow experience goes, of having the working classes in the majority.
But there is a much broader ground, to which, I think, no reference has yet been made, and that is the case of the boroughs which had open constituencies containing large majorities of the working classes before the Reform Act—constituencies much more popular than those of the pre sent day. Upon examining the probable operation of the new Bill, I find that, according to our very large definitions of the working classes—a definition which I have employed rather for argument's sake, I mean in order to avoid contention, than because it was strictly and literally accurate—I find this as the result, that in sixty boroughs, returning 101 Members, the working classes will or may have ma- 1138 jorities. In these sixty boroughs the electors form 8.4 per cent of the population. Now, let us compare with this state of things the state of things that existed in the popular boroughs before the Reform Act. Before 1830 there were sixty-five boroughs of a strictly popular character; more popular, indeed, than the sixty boroughs that are likely to have a majority of the labouring classes under the Bill now on the table, for the electors in them instead of being 8.4 percent of the population, numbered nearly 10 per cent, and furthermore, the sixty-five boroughs returned Members for 130 seats. If it be true that the majority of the working classes in a constituency give the control of the seat, which, however, I entirely deny, you cannot show that, under our Bill, there would be more than 101 such seats; while, under the old Parliamentary system, that system which so scandalizes my right hon. Friend the Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe), they numbered 130. We now, therefore, stand, to a certain extent, upon the firm ground of history and experience for the purpose of comparison. Was there among those 130 Members at any period of our history developed a character in any degree dangerous to the institutions of the country? I doubt if any Gentleman will be found ready to affirm that there was. Sir, it appears to me that these are considerations of great interest, considerations entitled to weight when presented, if it be not done in an offensive manner, to the minds of moderate and reflective men on whichever side of the House they may sit while dealing with this question; if there be a desire, and we are told there is a desire, to see it settled, I frankly own that I, for one, can see nothing dangerous to the party opposite in the proposed reduction of the borough franchise from £10 to £7. There can, I am persuaded, be nothing dangerous to them in that reduction if they will only take warning by the experience of the Reform Act. There was nothing in that measure prejudicial to the power or to the just influence of the party opposite, but by their own persevering conduct they chose to give it that character. The Reform Act was injurious to them through the effect produced on the mind of the nation by their determined resistance to its progress. As long as I could do so, therefore, I cherished the hope that the recollection of the Reform Act and the consequence of their resistance as exhibited in the transfer of 1139 predominant power to their adversaries for almost the whole of a period of five and thirty years, would lead them to avoid falling a second time in the same generation into so palpable a snare, and that they would not prejudice themselves and their credit in the opinions of the bulk of the population by offering a resistance that cannot fail, if it be prolonged, to engender more or less of aversion and hostility.
I think, Sir, these facts are sufficient to disprove the proposition that where the working classes form the majority of a constituency, its members work together in combination against the other portions of society. Perhaps I may be told that my argument goes too far, and that if that be true, there can be no danger in a much larger enfranchisement than that which is proposed by the present measure. I have already said that, in my opinion, some further enfranchisement would not be attended by danger to the State. That, however, is an opinion I cannot expect Parliament, in its present mind, to adopt; and I must add that, though I believe some further enfranchisement would not be dangerous, I am far from saying that it would be wise to go to great lengths in that direction. Changes that effect sudden and extensive transfer of power are attended by great temptations to human nature, and, however high our opinion may be of the labouring classes or of any other classes of the community, I do not believe that it would be right to place such a temptation within their reach. The genius of our country and the history of our institutions dictate and recommend gradual progress, and in the mode of gradual progress, therefore, these changes should be made.
But, Sir, it is constantly alleged, and the argument is employed with confidence, that, if we would only let the matter take its course, the enfranchisement of the working classes is actually in course of being effected by a natural process, whereas we are endeavouring to stimulate and force onwards this enfranchisement by artificial means. This is a matter upon which I should be extremely slow to dogmatize; because it does not admit of being brought to a test with such precision as to warrant the employment of any tone of superlative confidence. But I must say that the whole of the argument upon such facts as are known to us is the other way, and that I wait with anxiety, but without expec- 1140 tation, for the proof of this enlargement, of this natural and spontaneous enlargement, with which it is said we are rashly intermeddling. The number of working men on the register is, I think, undeniably less at present than it was in 1832; but, of course, there is the fact that since 1832 the working men belonging to the class of freemen have somewhat diminished. I do not think that the diminution in this direction is numerically of much importance, but there has been a great diminution in the scot and lot voters who are working men. This class is not, indeed, yet extinct; and therefore, in our computations respecting the future, we must allow for a continuance of this dwindling process, until the whole number of scot and lot voters in existence at the time of the Reform Bill has disappeared. It is said, however, that there is a rapid growth of the working classes among the £10 householders. But where is the proof of this assertion? I believe it to be undeniable that the rate of progress in the aggregate number of £10 householders has been very much less of late years than in the first few years after the passing of the Reform Bill. From 1832 to 1851, while the population increased at the rate of 43 per cent, the constituency grew more than twice as fast, but from 1851 to 1866 the constituency grew only 50 per cent faster than the aggregate population, thus showing a great slackening as compared with the earlier period. This, however, can in some degree be accounted for. There were persons not belonging to the working classes who were classed under other denominations at the time of the Reform Act, but whose successors, as they died off, have subsequently appeared as £10 householders. But it is a mistake, I believe, to imagine that some very extraordinary growth has taken place among the £10 householders; and a still greater mistake to imagine that such growth, as may have occurred, has taken place in the working portion of the population. Let us look at the economical facts of the case. If we take the case of the towns, we find that the increase of the constituencies since 1832 has been nearly the same for the entire period as that of the population. In the population it has been 79 per cent, and in the franchise 82 per cent; a variation so slight that it may be practically disregarded. It is said that there is a growth in the wealth of the working classes more than proportionate to that of 1141 the classes above them; but no attempt has been made to prove this. In my firm opinion, the largest share of the recent increase of wealth has taken place among the middle classes of the country. To put it shortly and intelligibly, the capital of the country has grown in a far greater degree than the income of the working-classes. But other circumstances must be taken into view. We must not assume that the improvement in the dwellings of the artizans in towns has kept pace with the increase of their income, nor even that they are in as great a degree as formerly the occupiers of houses so as to obtain the franchise. Again, we must remember that in the large towns, where the area is limited, the growth in the value of land and rents has been much more rapid than the growth of wealth. If we inquire what is the value of land in the City of London, and compare it with what it was twenty years ago, we shall find that its growth is entirely out of proportion to the growth in the wealth of the City, great as that has been. This constant pressure of growing rents and limitation of area may drive the working man into lodgings, or may send him to such a dwelling beyond the limits of a represented town instead of within them. I shall not be going too far if I assert—in fact, I may say that it is notorious—that there are large masses of the labouring people, especially in London, who, as compared with their position twenty years ago, are better clothed and better fed, but who live in worse houses than they did, although enjoying a larger income. And this arises from the fact that there is not the same limitation in the supply of food and clothing as exists in the supply of houses, because of the contraction of area. I state my own opinions with the reserve that the nature of the question requires; but I must say that I have heard no good argument to the contrary. And I stand finally upon this general statement of the case. For a man to occupy a house of £10 clear annual value, setting aside only the class of men who receive lodgers into their houses, he must, all things considered, have an income from I £90 to £100 a year. That clear annual value is minus rates and taxes, and it is minus the cost and the depreciation of furniture also. It is vain then to stand in the face of your working population and say, "We have a law which will enfranchise all the careful, diligent, and respectable men among you; but no working 1142 man is intelligent, or industrious, or respectable unless he can earn 35s. a week." That is too severe a test; and my general statement of the facts is enough, therefore, to show that it is vain to speak of a £10 franchise, taking the country all over, as one which is capable of admitting, by the natural or spontaneous process which has been set up in argument against us, in all the industrious and diligent among the lower classes.
Sir, I must now beg leave to deny that any general transfer of power, either in counties or boroughs, is contemplated by this Bill. That is to say, the preponderance of power in the constituencies now lying in one quarter is not by it, in our opinion, to be carried over to another. We are met too much, I think, by suspicions and by fears. But with suspicion it is vain to deal; it is vain to deal with fear. The reasonable course is to go to the facts and figures and see how they stand. I am now going to estimate the maximum of this formidable invasion that we are given to understand the country may have to contend with if the Bill pass. There are 658 Members of Parliament; and I would ask first how far will the character of the representation be "tainted," so to call it, by an infusion of the influence of the labouring classes? To begin with, there are 254 county Members. Hon. Gentlemen are aware of the character of the county franchise; and I think they will be inclined to admit that that body of 254 county Members is almost free from "the contamination of the working classes." [Cries of "No, no!" from the Opposition."] I hear cries of "No!" Very well; but I am unable to endorse the opinion, unless, indeed, it be thought that one working man taints a county constituency like a fly in a pot of ointment. I say that, as far as I know, there are no county constituencies where the working class is predominant. I really think that is a proposition not admitting dispute, and it is the only proposition relevant to the present issue. For the inquiry I have now in contemplation is, how many are the seats in the elections to which the working class will be a majority. If I am told they will have an influence also when they are a minority, I reply that much more will the wealthier classes have an influence when they are a minority. Taking, then, the ruling character of each constituency from its majority (and this, I think, involves as to working men an un- 1143 duly large admission) I put counties as a general rule, out of the question. It is true that county Members from Ireland are returned by a £12 rating franchise; but I presume we shall not call those persona working men unless they be tenants, and as tenants-at-will they may be more or less under influence, and can hardly be called working men in the sense we now contemplate.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
They are, I apprehend, for the most part, like the fly in the pot of ointment. [" No, no!" from the Opposition.] What is the proportion? If we are to carry on the debate in this interlocutory fashion, I would ask what is the proportion of 40s. freeholders in the constituency of Bucks?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
The right hon. Gentleman interpolates questions in the middle of my speech—very fairly I admit, and I make no complaint of it if that course be thought convenient—yet, when I invite him to continue the argument in his own way, he declines to follow. Then I only wish to say—and certainly I thought it generally believed—th at the proportion of working men in the county constituencies is too small to allow us to reckon the county seats as seats which could be brought under their influence. I take it, then, that the county constituencies are free from the predominance of working-class influence. If it be not so, I shall be obliged to put the proposition in a manner much more unfavourable to my opponents. I have not dealt unfairly by you in saying the county constituencies, having only a minority of working men, are free from the influence of the working classes; because I have on the other side allowed nothing for the influence of minorities composed of the middle and upper class. Now, the towns in England and Wales where it is likely there may be a majority of working men in the constituency have 101 seats; the towns where they must apparently be a minority have 239 seats. I assume for the moment the same proportions in the Scotch and Irish towns. Upon that assumption the effect will be that the working classes will have a majority in 120 towns and cities of the 1144 three kingdoms, and they will be in a minority in 284 towns and cities. Then come the county constituencies, returning 254 Members. Therefore, putting these numbers together, the working classes will be in a minority in 538 seats, against 120 seats, in the filling of which they may be in a majority. Is that a transfer of power such as you ought to fear?
Sir, I am astonished when I find that it positively seems to be held by intelligent men, such is the effect of fears and suspicions, that property is a cause of weakness, and that mere numbers, in spite of all history and experience, are to be regarded as stronger in determining the force of political opinions than similar numbers when they happen to be backed by property. To the very liberal statement I have made I invite the closest consideration, and I presume to think that Members will be returned to fill at least 9.11ths of the seats of the country by constituencies where the influence of the working class cannot possibly, as a general rule, predominate.
Now, I am desirous to make well understood to the House the position in which the Government stands. I am not about to qualify or alter in any respect, but to confirm, what has already been asserted. To those Gentlemen whom we believe to be earnestly united with ourselves in desiring an extension of the franchise we have cheerfully made a concession. Although we ourselves believed, and believe it to be, the wisest course to dispose of the great subject of the franchise before we went forward to discuss in any way the question of re-distribution of seats, yet we have promised to set our views before you in the most definite and formal manner—that is, in the shape of Bills upon the Scotch and Irish franchise and upon the re-distribution of seats—before we go into Committee upon this Bill. That is what we have said; and we have also said, what I really until the day before yesterday had always believed to be unnecessary to state in express words, that in speaking of this great subject of the representation of the people as a matter vital to the credit, and, therefore, to the existence of the Government, we included the subject of re-distribution of seats along with the subject of the franchise. I had not thought it necessary to say this, because it seemed to me so obvious that nothing could be more contemptible and base than the conduct of a Government 1145 which could give forth, with a view of enlisting the generous confidence of its supporters, that it would deal with the subject of Reform and would stand or fall by its propositions, and which all the while could silently exclude from the scope of their declaration all portions of that question, except only the reduction of the franchise, though among such questions we find one only second in importance to that of the franchise itself.
Sir, I could wish the House more clearly to understand than they do at present, as to the mode in which the question of time has been treated by the Government, as it bears on the progress of this Bill. I have seen or heard it stated, in multitudinous forms, that I have made it known on the part of the Government that we will not go on with anything during the present year, except the question of the franchise. I have never said anything of the kind. But this I have declared—looking at the ordinary duration of the Session, and so much I said on the introduction of the Bill, we did not believe that within that period it would be practicable to deal with those other portions of the subject. Allowing for full and free discussion upon all parts of the subject, we could not expect that these two portions of it would be dealt with, and still less could we entertain a favourable expectation as to the other portions of it, within the ordinary and recognized period for the duration of the Session. But, beyond all this, I have stated, as is well known, that we for our parts, from motives of duty, are indisposed to proceed with any other part of the subject until the fate of the Franchise Bill is determined. When we shall conceive that its fate is determined, it will then be for us to review our position. A portion of our work will still, it is true, remain to be performed; but we shall then more fully know tin1 state of public business, and the feeling and desires of the House. The Franchise Bill is so framed, and professedly so framed, as to afford ample time for disposing of the whole matter under that branch of the subject, without much disturbance of the arrangements of the House—I mean of hon. Members of this House. The notices to be given with a view to registration must be given, I think, on the 10th of June; and as the most sanguine among sanguine men would hardly suppose that this Bill could receive the Royal assent before the next 10th of June, it follows 1146 with certainty that the new constituency cannot be in existence till the end of the year 1867; and consequently, and beyond all fear of what may be the will of the Government of the day, either this Parliament, or, at any rate, one elected by the present constituency, has ample time for dealing with the whole subject. There may, however, be Gentlemen who have as great a love of comprehensive action as to be willing to make personal sacrifices on its behalf, and if there should be any extended desire for a prorogation or adjournment of the House there is nothing in the world to prevent our proceeding during the autumn and fall of the present year with the matter not contained in this Bill, but necessary to make up a complete measure for the amendment of the representation of the people. The appetite for redistribution seems to have grown so enormously within the last few weeks, that if there be a determination to let the grouse, the partridges, and the pheasants have a holiday, and to call Parliament together whether by prorogation or adjournment in order to get this great work out of hand it is not for us to plead our own personal convenience; we shall be ready to make the sacrifice and come up as well as we can, though with visages perhaps pale and languid enough, to set a last hand to the accomplishment of the work. That, Sir, is the position in which we stand as a Government.
Now, Sir, there is, as far as I know, but one allegation made in these debates which is broad enough to cover the opposition to the Bill. I am convinced that all attempts to show there is under the present electoral law a self-working enfranchisement, adequate to the cause, all attempts to show that every working man if only he be intelligent, respectable, and well-conducted, can now come upon the register, will utterly break down. Such allegations cannot be sustained on any careful investigation. There is only one allegation—I do not say whether it has been made—but it was that which was supposed to have been made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Calne. [Mr. LOWE: Understood to have been made.] And I am bound to say, as far as words have meaning, and so far as I can form a judgment of that meaning, rightly so understood. Of course, I accept at once the disclaimer of a man of whom I freely confess that, in my judgment, he is not more eminent for his extraordinary intellectual 1147 power—a power in many points never surpassed and rarely matched in this House, than he is entitled to the utmost respect for his integrity. And, Sir, I take this opportunity of making an apology to my right hon. Friend for having used hastily elsewhere some fugitive words which might have appeared to cast a reflection on his courage. I did not mean any such thing, and if I uttered words which appeared to convey that imputation, I am very sorry for it. But my right hon. Friend will allow me to explain, or rather allow me to answer his explanation, on my own behalf. He has publicly stated that I have been answering at Liverpool the speech which he made in the House of Commons. I did nothing of the kind. It was an answer, so far as it was an answer at all, to a letter which I perceived from the public journals that he had addressed to a portion of the electors of Calne; and I noticed the strange conclusions and the singular labyrinthine complications in which it appeared to me that a certain artful Mr. Bishop had contrived to entangle him. But my right hon. Friend says that, in the speech which he delivered in this House, he referred not to the mass of the labouring class, whom he very greatly respects, but to some persons in the different constituencies. I will not dwell on the fact that in his letter he went on to describe that very portion of the labouring class included within the several constituencies as men who had won their way there by forethought, and as men whom it would be an injustice to mix with the inferior persons below them. But my right hon. Friend, speaking of these guilty persons in possession of the franchise, used four memorable words. And my right hon. Friend's phrases are not words that evaporate, not like what has been said of lovers' vows—In vento et rapidâ scribere oportet aquâ—he uses a pen of steel, and his words are written on the rock. "Ignorant, drunken, venal, violent;" words but too easily remembered! My right hon. Friend, he tells us in his letter, spoke of that portion of the labouring classes in the constituencies. Did he speak of them generally, or merely of one or two here and there among them? If he spoke of them generally, then I say his bold allegation is sufficient for its end. If he spoke of a few men among them, exceptions to the general conduct and character of their order, then his allegation is, as an argument, worthless; his arrow falls short of the mark. 1148 He has no right to apply Pride's Purge to the labouring class, and say, "from you we will riddle out, before we admit you to political rights, every man who is a spendthrift, every man who is a drunkard, every man who has broken any one of the Ten Commandments," while those higher in station, but exempt from the operation of this purge of his, may have been wanting in every one of these respects with perfect impunity, and may be admitted to the constituency, or to this House, without, forsooth, in the slightest degree impairing the efficiency of Parliament. But did my right hon. Friend speak only of the Members of existing constituencies? Is there a man now present, is there a man who heard my right hon. Friend deliver that notable speech, who forgets his famous simile of the Hyperboreans? Who and what were they? There, was a belief, he informed us, among the ancients, that though the north wind brought cold from the region next to them—that was the region of the £10 constituencies; that is, the region in which we stand now, yet that by going a little further towards the north—that is, by going successively to £9, to £8, to £7, and eventually to £6—at last they would arrive at a warm country. My right hon. Friend exposed the absurdity of the idea; and it was not the constituencies alone—it was the masses behind and below the constituencies to whom his observations applied, and who in his simile occupied the place of the still colder and colder tracts which we must encounter as we travel further and further north. Nor is this all. My right hon. Friend supplied us with another and yet more glaring proof of his meaning—though I had endeavoured to warn him off the ground—in the use which he made of an illustration from Virgil. I had said, speaking of the measure, surely this is no "monstrum infelix," no horse charged with armed men who are to be let loose from its womb only that they may carry fire and desolation through your homes. But my right hon. Friend, in his impatience, as though this instead of being a warning had been a hook that had been baited to allure him, rushed straight at his mark, and with portentous emphasis delivered the two lines from which my words were taken—Instamus tamen immemores, cæcique furore,Et monstrum infelix sacratâ, sistimua arce.What is the "monstrum infelix?" Who are the persons contained within its hol- 1149 low side? They are the voters at £7. Sir, I am not seeking to tie my right hon. Friend to this construction. What I have said, I have said to justify myself for having believed, with reluctance and with pain, but still for having honestly believed, that his speech was a denunciation of the working community. If I have been wrong, by all means let us hear it. For one, I shall hear it with joy. It is a matter of deep importance. It has affected the whole tone of thought and language on the question, within and beyond this House. My right hon. Friend has explained his speech. Let him explain his explanation. And when he explains it, let us distinctly understand—is this a charge against the mass of his working fellow-citizens, in which case it is untrue—or is it only a charge against certain bad characters among them, in which case it is insufficient? If that argument of my right hon. Friend can be sustained in the more unfavourable sense, then I admit it is sufficient to destroy this Bill. But, in that case, I think it sufficient to destroy a great deal else along with this Bill. It is sufficient to destroy the hopes of every generous heart and every intelligent mind; there is nothing to hope for England, if that picture which my right hon. Friend, with his matchless power, strove to draw be indeed a true picture. I thank the House for the great patience and kindness with which it has heard me on a subject such as this, and after what has occurred, it can hardly be but that men should become warm. But let us endeavour to keep our balance; let us recollect to look before and after. In this spirit I do earnestly intreat and conjure the House on whichever side, to remember that it is not enough for us now to say, as we shall soon be asked to say, "We are ready to entertain the question of Reform with a view to its settlement." Enough, and more than enough, there have been already, of barren, idle, mocking words. Deeds are what are wanted. I beseech you to be wise; and, above all, to be wise in time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.)
§ MR. LOWE
Sir, I now only interpose for two minutes to retard the speech which the House of course wishes to hear, as I shall have, at a later period of the debate, to address the House on the subject of this Bill; but, as I desire very much to dis- 1150 entangle the discussion from anything of a personal nature, I ask permission, as one I who has been much spoken against since I the House met hero last, to say now what I have to say in answer to the charge; that has been brought up again to-night by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Now, what I am anxious to meet is not any argument which can be drawn from my words. Any Gentleman is free to draw any inference, however unfavourable to me, from my own words, as long as he does so avowedly as an inference. But what I rise to protest against and to which I desire to call the attention of the House, and, through the House, of the country, is the gross, systematic and wilful perversion of the language which I used in this House. It was used entirely alio intuitu. Let the Chancellor; of the Exchequer enjoy the inferences he drew; I am not going to waste the time of the House in partially entering upon these questions. I so little expected this attack to be renewed, after what has passed, that I did not come down to the; House furnished even with the documents which would enable me accurately and I word by word to refute it. I was arguing whether, well or ill, it was wise to lower the franchise. I drew this argument, or intended to draw it, from the notorious malpractices existing in many boroughs, and among a large number of the constituency in those boroughs. I meant to speak of matters of notorious fact, verified by the Reports of Committees and of Commissions appointed by this House. I did characterize the proceedings of those electors, I did refer to the Reports of those Committees, as showing that venality, drunkenness, ignorance, and violence were very prevalent in many constituencies. And that such was my intention is quite manifest from the beginning of the sentence. "I have some acquaintance with the constituencies of this country," I said, "and if you want to find persons possessing these four cardinal vices, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer calls them, where would you look—to the top or to the bottom?"—that is, of course, to the top or to the bottom of the constituencies. Well, Sir, certain gentlemen, whom it becomes me to speak of with every respect, got up an address to me in which they thought fit to leave out the beginning and the end of that passage in my speech. They left out the part which showed that I was referring to existing constituencies, and they left out 1151 the words, "Where will you go to look for them—to the top or to the bottom?" In manipulating my speech in that manner they were joined by the penny press, whose blessings the Chancellor of the Exchequer has dilated on to-night. Now, I have nothing to say to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for drawing any inference he likes from what I said here or what I have stated in print—what I have said I repeat: but I am informed—if I have been misinformed I can be contradicted—that to the meeting assembled around him yesterday the noble Earl the Prime Minister condescended to read that passage, garbling it exactly in the way it had been garbled before, and leaving out the concluding words, which show clearly the persons to whom my words apply. More than that, the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), in his speech at Rochdale, a few days ago, not only left out the words after "where will you go to look for them," but put in their place—"to the unrepresented classes"—words which I never spoke; words which are not in either of the reports of my speech to which I have referred; words which, though I do not know where the hon. Gentleman obtained them, I do not say he invented—probably were invented by some of his organs in the press. That is what I want to protest against—not only deliberate falsification, but the reprehensible arts of omission and suppression, of suggestion and the substitution of words never spoken. No man in the world has been subjected to more abuse than I have been during the last month. That abuse has been procured by the deliberate and purposed misrepresentation, misstatement, and misquotation of my language. The persons to whom that abuse has been addressed have not the opportunity of consulting the original record of my words. They have to take those words on the authority of the press which instructs, or the orators who inflame them. Sir, I make my protest in the face of this House against that process of political warfare. I entirely deny that I meant to speak of—
MR. OWEN STANLEY
rose to order, amid great cries of "Order!" and "Chair!" He was understood to say that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne would have an opportunity of speaking after the Amendment had been moved, and then would be the proper time for him to make the remarks which he had been proceeding to address to the House.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Gentleman 1152 has not pointed out anything which justified his interruption of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne. The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly in order.
§ MR. LOWE
I only wish, Sir, to say in this public manner, that it never was my intention to say anything reflecting on the honour of the working classes of this country as a body. Whatever may be the inferences drawn from my speeches, those inferences are legitimate arguments, and I must meet them as I may; but I hope the House of Commons as an Assembly of gentlemen—for though you are a Court, you cannot, like the Court of Chancery, issue injunctions—will set their face against the attempt to put down a man by libel. For myself I can say—whatever my failings may be, and no one is more conscious of them than I am myself—in this matter of Parliamentary Reform I have acted as my conscience dictated and with perfect integrity.
Sir, if the House will allow me, I will take the liberty of bringing it down to the region of commonplace. In rising to move the Resolution of which I have given notice, I must first of all beg the indulgence of this House, and more especially of those Members who sit on this side of it, in opposition to whom I have the misfortune on this occasion to appear to act—an indulgence which I know I shall not ask in vain. I am aware that the task which I have undertaken would require some one of more eloquence and ability, and a more practised debater than I am. The only merit that I can lay claim to is founded on the sincerity of my conviction in the course I am taking and on the honesty of my motives. I can assure the House that it was not without great hesitation, not without great anxiety, that I consented to move the Amendment of which I have given notice, nor did I do so without having taken the advice of men in high position well qualified to advise, and on whose judgment could confidently rely. Sir, I have been the subject of very many attacks, both in writing and in speeches, since the time I gave notice of my Amendment; but no more unfair or more ungenerous an attack has been made upon me than that of the learned Member for Oxford. I do not wish to be understood for a moment as alluding to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies—a man of a high and noble mind, for whom I have the greatest respect. I allude to a speech delivered by the learned Gentle- 1153 man the Member for Oxford (Mr. Neate), in which he is also represented to have said that it would be presumption on my part to interpose between the great intellects of the House, and that my part would rather be to give a silent vote on this question. My own inclination would have led mo to give a silent vote on this as I have done on many former occasions; but I felt that there were times and occasions when inclination must give way to duty, and without affectation I may say that I conceived the present to he one of those occasions. I hope the House will allow me to say a word on a circumstance that occurred yesterday in reference to myself, as I believe the matter has been misunderstood. I was anxious to have a clear understanding with the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to the course to be taken by the Government in reference to the measure for the re-distribution of seats; as, judging from the detailed account given by The Star of a meeting held elsewhere, there seemed to he some misapprehension on the subject. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewes (Mr. Brand) said the Government were anxious to answer any question on the subject, and my object was to obtain either a corroboration or a contradiction of the statement as to the course which the Government intended to adopt in respect of that measure. I was not, how ever, able to put the question owing to the forms of the House. The noble Lord at the head of the Government was reported to have said, in reply to the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton), that he intended to proceed with the Bill for the extension of the franchise at once, but did not tie himself to any time in respect of proceeding with the other Bills. I think I am justified, in Borne measure, in bringing forward the Resolution of which I have given notice, by the fact that though the Government have practically conceded a portion of what it asks for by promising to lay the other Bills on the table of the House, yet the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his speech this evening, has totally evaded the question. He has made no reference to the main point on which the Resolution touches—namely, that before the House commits itself to the second reading of this Bill, it requires to have under its consideration the whole scheme of Reform contemplated by the Government. Sir, for many years I have been proud to follow the present Prime Minister; 1154 I have been a follower and a humble supporter of his and of other Liberal Administrations, in supporting the measures they have brought forward, which I considered conducive to the good of the country; and I know the great abilities of the noble Lord, and his heartfelt devotion to the cause of Reform. He began his career of Reform in 1821, and I for one have felt regret at the manner in which the noble Lord has been attacked in some portion of the press since he succeeded to the office of Prime Minister. I am aware that I lay myself open on this occasion not only to the imputation of deserting the Government, but also the party of which I have hitherto been a Member. When in 1859 the noble Lord moved a Resolution against, the Reform Bill of Lord Derby's Government, I followed him into the lobby. May I be permitted to doubt now whether I was right in so doing? It may be wisdom after the event, but it has struck me since that the noble Lord and those who followed him then lost an opportunity of effectually settling the question of Reform in their desire to object to and defeat the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. I would ask the question, whether the Government does not lay itself open, upon this question, to the charge of deserting its party, when in bringing forward a measure of Reform it consults mainly, and in the first instance, the feelings and wishes of hon. Gentlemen who sit below the gangway. Does not the accusation of deserting their party attach more properly to the Members of the Government than to some of the Members of that party? and are not the Government, in disregarding the feelings and opinions of the great majority of the Whig party, and forsaking the old traditions of that party and allowing them-elves to be guided by the opinions of hon. Gentlemen below the gangway, really deserting their party? I am proud on this occasion to be able to say on the part of some—it may be a few—Members on this side of the House, that they at all events are determined as to the course they will pursue on this question, preferring to consider the real interests of their country before their allegiance to the Government. Without in the least degree wishing to arrogate to myself any superior merit or extraordinary virtue, I may be permitted to inquire and wonder how it is so many Members on this side on the House, while partially approving this Bill as containing many good points, but disapproving it— 1155 judging from what they have said in conversation in the lobby and also out of doors—because they consider some of its provisions ill-considered and not required by the circumstances of the times, find it consistent with their duty and with their conscience to support the Government on this occasion. Agreeing with the spirit of the Resolution I have the honour to propose, they yet deem it to be their duty to vote for the second reading of the Bill. I believe that those Members on this side of the House who are acting with me are acting a not unfriendly part to the Government and to their country. We know how the motives and acts of friends are sometimes misconstrued and misunderstood. I believe the time will come when our motives will be appreciated by a party stronger and more united because moderate in its views. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his speech at Liverpool announced that the trumpet of the Government would blow no uncertain sound. The right hon. Gentleman must have obtained renewed courage from the effect of his trumpet sound; for it will be in the recollection of the House that before the Easter recess there were on the paper several Notices of Motion on this subject; they have all disappeared—they have tumbled down, like the walls of Jericho, without apparent cause; and my Resolution alone remains, because, being founded on a rock, it was the only one able to withstand the terrific blast of the trumpet. My Resolution is founded on truth and justice, which are proverbially said always to prevail; I do not know whether my Resolution will be equally fortunate. We proceed by way of Resolution because we believe there are in the Bill some provisions which are worthy of being adopted by the House; and we have precedents for adopting this course in preference to moving a direct negative to the second reading of the Bill. We have the precedent of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, who in 1859 moved in this House a Resolution of a similar nature, which had the effect of throwing out the Reform Bill then introduced and so far preventing the settlement of the great question of Reform. The present Chancellor of the Exchequer on that occasion, although he disapproved the main and general principles of the Bill, yet had such a horror—a horror one can easily understand now—of the Resolution of the noble Lord that he went into the lobby with the right hon. Gentleman who was then Chan- 1156 cellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Disraeli) against the Resolution proposed by the present Prime Minister. The only part of the Bill which the right hon. Gentleman approved was that relating to the re-distribution of seats, and, on that occasion, he declared emphatically—I feel bound in honour to say that upon the whole I cannot help approving that portion of the Bill (re-distribution of seats). This is no small nor trifling matter. In point of fact, the question of the re-distribution of seats is a full half of your whole Reform Bill. The re-distribution of seats and the arrangement of the franchise make up the measure."—[3 Hansard, cliii. 1053.]No one can regret more than I do that the Resolution I have to propose is regarded by the right hon. Gentleman as a Vote of Censure on the Government, and a declaration of want of confidence in the Ministry. He has also said that it says one thing and means another. Nothing that the right hon. Gentleman has said proves that assertion, or gives the slightest support to it. In his great speech at Liverpool the right hon. Gentleman further said—A Motion is to be made which declares—it is not important what it declares—no man cares what it declares—I don't suppose any man knows what it declares. It is not what it declares, but what it does not declare, that is the real question.My Resolution, which has not been framed or worded by a Tory hand, as has been asserted, is as follows:—That this House, while ready to consider, with a view to its settlement, the question of Parliamentary Reform, is of opinion that it is inexpedient to discuss a Bill for the reduction of the franchise in England and Wales until the House has before it the entire scheme contemplated by the Government for the amendment of the representation of the people.I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman can understand the plainest English ever written, but words cannot be more explicit than they are in this Resolution. It is quite impossible to deny—although the right hon. Gentleman has endeavoured to do so—that this House is ready to consider the question of Reform. In his speech at Liverpool the right hon. Gentleman passed that by with a sneer unworthy of him. He said, "The House ready to consider! I don't believe it is ready to consider anything of the sort." [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER made a remark which was not heard.] I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon if I misinterpret what I read in the report in The Times. I thought I was correct; if not, I beg to withdraw that observation. But the House has already given proofs that it is ready to 1157 consider this great question of Reform, and those proofs have come from both sides of the House. The Reform Bills of 1852, 1854, 1859, and I860 are, at all events, sufficient proof of the disposition of the House to consider the question, particularly the last Bill, the debates upon which lasted night after night, though without any satisfactory conclusion. The introduction and discussion of these Bills prove conclusively that the House is ready at all times to consider the question. Sir James Graham, in almost the last speech he ever made, when in 1859 he joined with the present Prime Minister in drawing up the Resolution against the Reform Bill of that year, said that the one great object for Reformers was to prevent the necessity of further reformation, and that he objected to the Bill because the measure was incomplete and could not be considered a final settlement of the question. Now, does the Bill before the House fulfil the principle laid down by Sir James Graham? It deals with only half of the question—the franchise in boroughs and in counties. In speaking, in 1851, in opposition to the Bill of the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Locke King), which proposed to reduce the county franchise to £10, the present Prime Minister said—He would ask the House, considering the gravity of the subject, considering the great, importance of any change made in the electoral body, and considering also that the laws enacted by, and the measures adopted in, the House of Commons depended very much upon the nature of that electoral body, whether it would be wise to adopt the Bill proposed by the hon. Gentleman now, and to take other measures afterwards one by one, or whether it would not be better to reject so partial a proposition and wait until the whole scheme for the alteration of the franchise was placed at once before the House."—[3 Hansard, cxv. 935.]It may be said that the noble Lord has since changed his mind; but I hold that the reasons he gave and the principles he laid down then are as valid now as they were then. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I think in 1859, found fault with the measure of 1854 for the reason that it went too far in its disfranchising clauses. In a great speech the right hon. Gentleman argued powerfully in favour of the retention of small boroughs; he said it was not politic or wise to introduce a sweeping measure of disfranchisement, and that the House would be content with a moderate measure of that nature. With regard to the distribu- 1158 tion of seats, if the inequalities and anomalies are great now what must they be after the passage of this Bill, which would nearly double the constituencies in large towns, and add electors in small numbers to the smaller boroughs, a most unwise proceeding by itself? That fact alone renders the scheme for the re-distribution of seats absolutely necessary. We know the views of some of the party below the gangway. I may refer to a speech, already alluded to, made early in the recess by the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Bass). That hon. Member approved the way in which the Government brought forward this Bill; because, he said, if they passed it and then went to the country, a new constituency would elect those who would proceed to deal with another measure for the re-distribution of seats, and he also said that a reduction of the borough franchise to £7 would only unsettle the question instead of settling it, and that for his part he would prefer household suffrage with three years' residence. These, I believe, are the views and objects of some hon. Gentlemen who sit below the gangway. A Mr. Gibbs, of Wolverhampton, has written an able pamphlet on this subject, from which, if the House will allow, I will read an extract. The writer says—If the object of a Reform Bill be simply to increase the power of such gentlemen as have command over the labouring population of the towns and to destroy the influence of all who cannot appeal to their employment of labour and their wealth, then may we well expect that the first step will be a reduction of the voters' qualification, and that all other questions will be left for settlement until the new men have got into power. But if it is intended that a Reform Rill should provide for the fair and equitable representation of all who are fit to be trusted with a vote, then no question can claim precedence of this distribution of seats. And if it be one involving great care and an impartial manipulation of details, then let the principles only be affirmed, and let the working out of those principles be left to the leisurely and careful handling of an unbiased commission.I believe the tendency of this Bill, if passed, will be to give a preponderance of political power to the working classes. In introducing his measure the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer speaking of a reduction of the borough franchise to £6 said, and he repeated the same thing to-night, that such a reduction would give to those classes a clear majority in the town constituencies. The right hon. Gentleman added—Well, that has never been the intention of any Bill proposed in this House. I do not think it is 1159 a proposal that Parliament would adopt. I cannot say I think it would be attended with great danger, but I am sure it is not according to the view or expectation of Parliament. And although, for my own part, I do not think that much apprehension need be entertained with respect to the working classes, yet this I fully admit, that upon general grounds of political prudence it is not well to make sudden and extensive changes in the depository of political power. I do not think that we are called upon under the circumstances to give over the majority of town constituencies into the hands of the working class.Well, but if the Returns which had been laid upon the table by the Government themselves tend to prove that this will be the effect of their Bill, how can the right hon. Gentleman consistently argue that such is not the fact? Those Returns go to show that the working classes have a much larger share of electoral power than was generally supposed, and that that share is increasing in a greater ratio than the population. They, therefore, require a more careful study and consideration than the Government appears to have yet devoted to them. It is a point well worthy the attention of the House that the late Sir James Graham, in 1859, argued in favour of a £6 borough franchise upon the assumption that the voters in this country were diminishing; and when the noble Lord (Earl Russell) brought in his measure of Reform in 1860, he seemed to be under a similar impression. Lord Russell's estimate, under a £6 franchise, of the number of electors in 1860, founded, I believe, on the Returns of 1858, was under 200,000. The accuracy of those Returns was disputed; it will be recollected that they formed the subject of an inquiry by the other House, and I believe it was admitted that they were incorrect. This shows how careful we ought to be not to legislate on one of the most vital questions that can engage our attention upon imperfect data and inaccurate information. The Returns for 1866 put the numbers that would be included under a £6 franchise at 336,700; thereby showing either that the other Returns must have been incorrect, or that a very great increase must have taken place in this class of persons. As far as I can make out, the borough electors from 1851 and 1866 have increased by 45 per cent; and the greater portion of this increase has, of course, consisted of the working classes, while the population has increased by 26 per cent. Sir, the great majority of the most able and influential organs of the press are favourable to the Resolution which I have to propose, and unfavour- 1160 able to the course pursued by the Government. I may, perhaps, mention that one very able and respectable journal which I have always read with the greatest pleasure, and which is supposed to reflect the views of the right hon. Gentleman himself, seems altogether to have changed its staff of writers lately, and to have adopted a new style of argument, much resembling that followed by the organ which is supposed to represent the hon. Member for Birmingham. Those journals, instead of meeting the question by fair argument and reason, have put forward menaces and threats towards those Members of this House who venture to express their own honest and independent convictions. Sir, I can only say I feel quite certain that no threats, no abuse, no appeals to physical force, will deter any Members of this House from pursuing the course they think wise and patriotic. I can assure the House that no menaces of that nature, and no suggestions as to my unfortunate son being deprived of the property which he may one day expect to inherit, will prevent me from coming forward on this occasion and performing what I conceive to be a public duty. There is one point which it would not become me to pass entirely over, because it has been imputed to me, in no very delicate language, that I have been engaged in a "dirty conspiracy." Now, Sir, I have sat for many years in this House, and have listened on various occasions to perhaps some of the noblest sentiments, couched in the noblest language, from the lips of the hon. Member for Birmingham; and I am sure, therefore, that the House shares with me a feeling of sincere pain and regret that that hon. Gentleman should use language, either in his letters or his speeches out of doors, which no Gentleman in this Assembly would venture to use, and that no gentleman out of this House would tolerate. It is unnecessary for me to argue whether it is wise or prudent to make so great a change in the Constitution of this country as this Bill proposes to do. Thirty years since the Reform Bill of 1832 is a short time in the history of a country which has had a representative government for some 600 years. It may be the opinion of some that the working classes are fitted to be what are called depositories of political power. I believe that a silent change has been going on in the constituencies, and that many of the working men have become qualified, may qualify themselves, 1161 and are daily qualifying themselves, by their providence and intelligence, to come up to the £10 standard. The increase in the rate of wages, the rise in house rents, and the depreciation in the value of gold have no doubt accelerated that salutary process. I can only say that there is no nobler class of Englishmen than this; and if that class has been thus enabled to rise to the level of the franchise, I believe that no better class of voters could be found. I gladly embrace this opportunity of denying all the accusations made against myself—I leave others to take care of themselves—to the effect that I have aspersed the character of the working classes. Now, Sir, it has ever been my habit and my feeling—it has been the whole tenour of my life, to respect every class of my fellow-countrymen, and I have never uttered, or dreamt of uttering, a single word of contempt towards any class whatever—certainly not towards the working class. We know that the influences of religion, civilization, and education have produced a great effect among all classes of the people. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has borne eloquent testimony to the exertions of the ministers of religion to improve the condition of the people as contrasted with those of the ministers of a hundred years ago, as illustrating his argument that the working classes have yielded to those influences, and, therefore, that they should have the franchise. And what, Sir, did the hon. Member for Birmingham say in regard to the influence of education the other day at Rochdale? He deplored the fact that there wore great masses of our fellow-countrymen belonging to the working classes who were never reached by those elevating influences, and who, while the legislation of this House remained what it was, never would be. But, the same hon. Gentleman also lately declared that if the working classes of this country once had political power in their own hands they would then obtain-—as was already the case in America—the blessings of education. In connection with this matter, I think the hon. Gentleman implied a charge against this House which was hardly fair. Some twenty years ago the Education Grant was, no doubt, very small—somewhere, I think, about £30,000. Now it amounts to about £800,000. I do not mean to say that nothing more could be done in the same direction by this House; but I think the argument used 1162 by the hon. Member for Birmingham was scarcely just towards this House; and, moreover, instead of telling in favour of granting a preponderance of political power to the working classes, it seemed to me to tell exactly the other way. Sir, I believe the majority of this House is desirous of passing a moderate measure of Reform. There are a few great objects and great principles which most of us agree in wishing to uphold; and among them are the good government of the country—which I think we now have—and also a fair representation of all clases of our fellow-countrymen. Have we got this? I believe we have not. We all wish to obtain it; the question is—how we are to do so. I am bound to say that I do not think the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman will enable us to attain the object in view. I believe no Reform Bill will ever pass this House which consults the views of those hon. Gentlemen who sit below the gangway, in preference to those who have hitherto supported the Government, and the hon. Gentlemen who sit on the opposite side of the House. I do not think there is any possibility of a Reform Bill passing until the question be taken out of the domain of party—an idea which the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary has regarded as Utopian—and put into the hands of some dispassionate tribunal, such as the Committee of the Privy Council, as suggested by Lord Grey. I believe that moderate opinions generally prevail throughout the country, and that they will continue to prevail; and unless a Bill be founded on moderate principle, on accurate information, and mature opinions, it will never meet with the approval of this House, and become the law of the country. I will now detain the House no longer. I thank the House with all sincerity for the patience with which it has listened to me. I would appeal to hon. Members who sit on this side of the House, and who concur in the spirit of my Resolution, and ask them whether they cannot in conscience support it. I believe the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman as it stands never will pass the House. I know there are Members around me who agree with the spirit of my Resolution, but whose idea of allegiance to the Government deters them from acting on their convictions. It is my duty now to move this Resolution—That this House, while ready to consider, with a view to its settlement, the question of Parliamentary Reform, is of opinion that it is inex- 1163 pedient to discuss a Bill for the reduction of the Franchise in England and Wales, until the House has before it the entire scheme contemplated by the Government, for the amendment of the Representation of the People.LORD STANLEY: Sir, I rise to second the Amendment which has been proposed by my noble Friend the Member for Chester. There are few Members of this House to whom it is less personally agreeable than to myself to take a prominent part in a debate of this kind; and assuredly I should not have done so if I did not entertain a conviction—which every day's consideration which I have given to the subject only serves to strengthen^ of the impolicy, the inconvenience, the confusion, and the mischief which are involved—I do not say in the Ministerial Bill, for that has no part in my argument this evening—but in the mode of procedure which the Government has thought fit to adopt on this question. I do not intend to follow the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer through his long and able speech; I only hope he has been more accurate in his figures and deductions than he was in one or two of those digressions with which he enlivened though he hardly strengthened his argument. The right hon. Gentleman taunted my right hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire with having sat on the Benches of "The Mountain," but at the time to which he referred, if my recollection serves me, my right hon. Friend was not a Member of this House. The right hon. Gentleman also quoted a passage from The Quarterly Review, just published, the bearing of which on his argument I did not very well understand, but which he appeared to wish to fix on the Conservative party as necessarily representing their views. Now, I have not seen that article—I have no doubt it is an able one—but I entirely deny that either an individual or a party is to be held responsible for a document with which they have had nothing to do. I do not know for what purpose the quotation was given to the House, unless it was to fix on the Conservative party—which the Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed anxious to do—the stigma of having desired to go to war in defence of the American Confederacy. I thought, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer came to that, he was, in his own phrase, treading on somewhat tender ground, because it is a fact that from these Benches from the beginning to the end no suggestion or proposition was made favouring such a course as is referred 1164 to in the article; whereas the nearest approach to a recognition of the Confederate State that was made by any English statesman was the celebrated declaration of the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself, that President Davis had "not only created an army but made a nation." The right hon. Gentleman closed his speech this evening with an impassioned appeal to us not only "to be wise"—that, of course, means voting for the Ministerial measure—but "to be wise in time." Now, I am curious to know at what moment the necessity for urgent haste in this matter began to dawn on the Chancellor of the Exchequer's mind. He was a leading and indispensable Member of Lord Palmerston's Government. That Government brought in a Reform Bill which was not thrown out by the House, but after passing its second reading was simply dropped by its authors, and was not taken up in subsequent years. I am not going to question their discretion in that respect; but I say this, that if they had a legitimate and reasonable right to hang up this question for six years without its having met with a defeat in this House, the Government are not justified in turning round upon us now and saying the case is urgent and you must not waste time—you must not lose a minute in discussion, but you must take the Bill as it is and pass it, and that with the least possible delay. I propose to confine myself as closely as I can to the Amendment of my noble Friend. I do not now intend to go into the details of the Bill, nor do I even desire to discuss its principles; all I wish to do is to establish the proposition contained in the Amendment; and my difficulty in doing so arises not from a want of arguments or reasons that can be urged in its defence, but rather from a fear of overlaying with cumbrous and superfluous proof propositions which, if we could discuss them apart from party interests and party feelings, would appear to every hon. Member to be so simple as to be almost self-evident. What is it the Government ask us to do? They ask us to act on a principle which they themselves, in the debate three weeks ago, acknowledged to be unsound and untenable. Of course, I do not expect that statement to pass unchallenged; and therefore let us see how the facts stand. The theory on which the Government originally proceeded was this—that the question of the franchise and that of the re-distribution of, seats are wholly independent and distinct the one from the other; that they might be, and ought to be, sepa- 1165 rately considered; and, that as a matter of convenience, it was even better that one of these questions should be put out of the way before the House proceeded to deal with the other. That is a view consistent with itself, and capable to some extent of being supported. I do not think it a sound view; I think the objections that may be taken to it are exceedingly strong; but if Ministers had adhered to the principle with which they begun, they would at least have had the credit of showing their own conviction that what they were doing was right. But what have they done silica that time? Why, they have distinctly acknowledged our right to know what they proposed to do about the re-distribution of seats before we go into the details of the Franchise Bill. The Government, however, say that the House must pledge itself first to the second reading of this Bill, and when the House has performed that act of faith in them, but not before, they will reward our submission and confidence by telling us not what will be, but retrospectively what has been the effect of the vote we have given blind-folded. I wonder that Ministers do not see, or, seeing, that they do not care for the construction to which that course is necessarily exposed. No one can suppose they have not their plan ready, or believe that they do not now know as well as they will know a fortnight or three weeks hence what boroughs they intend to disfranchise, what boroughs they intend to group or enlarge, and what constituencies they intend to create. Of these facts they must have a knowledge; and these facts they keep back from the House—and purposely keep back—for what reason? Because, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer said at Liverpool (and it seemed a curious remark coming from the leader of the House of Commons), "We know with whom we have to deal"—that is, putting on his words the only construction they will bear—"although we are going to ask the House of Commons to trust us, we are not inclined to trust the House of Commons, because we think" (I do not wish to put it unfairly) "if the two measures are brought forward at the same time, one of two things will happen—either the Disfranchisement Bill, if on a small scale, will disappoint and disgust, and make indifferent to the fate of the whole measure a certain number of our warmest supporters; or, on the other hand, if the scheme of disfranchisement is found to be large, then those Members whose constituencies were likely to be af- 1166 fected by the scheme will vote against the measure, and thus the cumulative objections to the two branches of the measure will he sufficient to defeat the whole." That I take to he their real position; and if it be so, then I contend that what they are proposing to do, is simply this—namely, that they are proposing to ask the House to consider separately and successively the two branches of a measure which they well know, if they had produced it as a whole, the House would not accept. Am I not right in saying that is not trusting the House of Commons? For my part, I only wonder that a device so transparent should have been deemed to be worth the trouble of adopting. It seems to me to be, after all, very artless art. It is true, indeed, that this is a new Parliament, and that we have within these walls a very considerable number of young Members; but I should have thought that there was no bird so innocent or so unfledged as to be snared in a net spread so openly before their eyes. And what, after all, do Ministers gain by this device? They gain a little time; they get rid of a certain amount of opposition on the second reading of the Franchise Bill; but they get rid of it only for the moment, for in laying on the table, as they now propose to do, a measure for the re-distribution of seats, before going into Committee on the Franchise Bill, they will have to encounter that opposition at a later stage, and one hardly sees what advantage they find in merely postponing it for a few days or weeks. But do they not see that a much more awkward construction may be put on the arrangement which they have adopted? Is it wholly impossible that the political fate, not of a Member, but of a constituency, may depend, or be considered to depend—which amounts to the same thing—on the vote which the representative of that constituency may give on the second reading of this Bill. Schedules, as we all know, are very elastic things. There is a very large number of boroughs on the border line between those which are so small as to be included in every plan of disfranchisement, and those which are so large as not to be endangered by any. A good deal may be done in the case of such boroughs, in the way of grouping and of extending boundaries, to swamp a hostile constituency or to save a friendly interest. Even in that sound and wise measure—as I believe it on the whole to be—the Reform Bill of 1832, there were, if I do not greatly 1167 mistake some arrangements of that kind, I about which the less said the better. I must not he understood as charging the Government with intending to make any such corrupt bargain, but I think the House ought very carefully to consider the position in which we stand with regard to the matter. We are to have a Bill brought forward for the re-distribution of seats. The measure is not before us, and any addition to it, alteration, or omission which the Government may desire to make is still in their power. Ought we to be asked to vote on a measure on which the Government stake their existence with such a means of exercising influence as I have described—I do not say they are going to exercise it—retained in their hands? Let me put the matter in another point of view. We are to have a scheme for the re-distribution of seats laid on the table in the course of the present Session, but all action upon it is, I take it for granted, to be suspended until next year. I am quite aware that the Chancellor of the Exchequer declined to express himself positively on the subject; but I have not forgotten a speech which he delivered not very long since, in which, with considerable detail and in his most convincing manner, he pointed out that there were only a certain number of Government nights at his disposal before the close of the Session, so that it would be simply useless to bring in any Bill except a Franchise Bill, in connection with the subject of Reform, inasmuch as the House would not be in a position, owing to want of time, to proceed with more than that one. I suppose that argument was used sincerely; and, if it is of any validity, the scheme for the re-distribution of Beats must, as I have already suggested, be suspended until next Session. What, under these circumstances, is its value? Who is to guarantee the identity of the plan of 1866 with that of 1867? Will the Government themselves say that in a matter of this kind they will accept no Amendment, listen to no suggestion, and pledge themselves not to re-consider their perhaps hasty first thoughts? As sensible men they cannot hold such language; and if they cannot hold it then we must regard this Bill to be laid on the table but not proceeded with in the present Session as a pure work of fancy, worthless as a practical guide for our action, and attended with this additional inconvenience—that if the Franchise Bill should go through Committee, and if Members disliking that measure 1168 but approving the Bill for the re-distribution of seats should support the one for the sake of the other, and that afterwards into that other alterations should be introduced, then charges of inconsistency and want of good faith are sure to be made—not perhaps deserved—but plausible on the face of them, and which it may not be easy to meet. It comes to this—the pledge which the Government have given on this subject is simply a pledge to do a certain thing next year, provided that circumstances admit of their doing so, and provided also they do not in the meantime change their minds. If a pledge of that kind is to he taken literally, it is unmeaning; and if anything more than its literal meaning is given to it, it ceases to be unmeaning, but it becomes delusive. The question is not merely one of what a Ministry may wish to do, but of what they may have it in their power to accomplish. Who is to answer for the events of the next twelve months? Who can say that the Cabinet of next year, though still composed of Members sitting on the Liberal side of the House, will be the identical body which we now see before us? Who can tell what question, foreign or domestic, may arise, leading to a dissolution of Parliament after the passing of the Franchise Bill—supposing it to be passed in the present Session—and before the Bill for the re-distribution of seats is brought on for discussion? And if, in the interval between the passing of the two Bills, a dissolution should occur, in what an extraordinary position would not this House and the country be placed! If you appeal to the old constituencies, you make your appeal to those whom the House will have by its deliberate vote already condemned, and from which it will have transferred political power. If you appeal to the new constituencies you will have this still more extraordinary anomaly, that you will be called upon to perform the most important act known to the Constitution—that of appealing to the country to return Members to Parliament—under a provisional Constitution; for the constituency will be neither that of 1865 nor that of 1867—neither the old constituency which we have been accustomed to, nor the new constituency which Parliament will have sanctioned; but something between the two—an electoral body which will be the creation of an accident, and which no one ever intended to be the depositary of political power. This is a consideration which 1169 I think it is but fair the House should take into account. What we really want is some guarantee that the body which deals with the question of enfranchisement shall be in a position also to deal with the question of the re-distribution of seats. Now, that guarantee cannot exist if the decision of the two questions is to be separated by an interval of twelve months. I may be asked what course I am, under those circumstances, prepared to adopt? Now, the course which I would propose may not he acceptable to hon. Gentlemen opposite, but its adoption would, I think, result rather in a saving than in a loss of time. I may in passing-observe that I do not blame the Government for not having introduced this Bill earlier in the Session. They were, I think, quite right in making the preliminary inquiry which they instituted. That, indeed, was, I think, the wisest thing which they have done in the course of their proceedings. Nor do I complain that the inquiry has been unduly protracted, or the publication of its results delayed. Indeed, the Chancellor of the Exchequer told us that so anxious was he not to lose time in the matter that the only copy of the blue book containing the statistics which the Government ordered to be collected was that which he laid on the table when about to introduce this Bill, and that he himself had had no opportunity of referring to its contents. I could wish that he had had a little more leisure; because it seemed to me that both his speech and his Rill were framed on the supposition that the figures would turn out to be somewhat different from what they really are. But, be that as it may, I do not blame the Government for having brought in the Bill. I quite admit that they could hardly have avoided doing so after what took place in 1860. It is, however, quite evident that the whole scheme cannot be passed this year; and the best way, in my opinion, would be to suspend the entire question until 1867 when it might be taken up at the very beginning of the Session as a whole; and if we were called together for that purpose at an earlier period than usual, I, for one, should not complain. That is the result to which the Amendment of my noble Friend naturally points, and that is the course which, even should the Amendment not be carried, must, I think, be ultimately adopted. It may, of course, be said that we should by pursuing this course be affording opportunities for agitation and the creating of disturbance. For my own 1170 part, I have not the slightest fear of agitation, I wish for nothing better than to have the deliberate opinion of the public on this question. I am not called upon to give advice, but if I were I certainly should not advise those who are interested in the success of this measure to call upon the working men to crowd the streets of London and surround the doors of this House—not because I am apprehensive of the consequences—but because, in the first place, such a demonstration is not easily got op; and, if it fails, it only brings ridicule on its promoters; whereas, if it succeeds a little too well, I can conceive of nothing which will more discredit the cause of Reform among the upper and middle classes. I hope I shall not be understood as maintaining that because there is no agitation in the country we ought not to proceed with a measure like this; all I say is, that in the present state of public feeling—a state not, as I believe, of indifference, but of calm rational interest in the matter—you are not called upon to rush precipitately: into a scheme of which we know only a part, and to pass a bad Bill this year rather than to frame a good one for next year. But when we get the plan for the re-distribution of seats, even then we shall not have got the whole scheme complete Is there not to be a Boundaries Bill, by which it is intended, I suppose, to take in the suburbs of great towns, when, as often happens, they lie beyond I the limits of the Parliamentary boroughs? Has the Franchise Bill nothing to do with a measure of that kind? One most real and practical objection to the large extension of the borough franchise is the enormous and unwieldy size of the borough constituencies you are about to create; but if the suburbs of great towns are to be taken in, those constituencies, large as they now are, and larger as the new franchise will make them, will then be enlarged: again. And what is the House asked to do? We are asked, first of all, to make one alteration of the constituencies by the francise Bill in the present year; afterwards, to alter them again next year by a re distribution of seats; and again, to alter them a third time by a Boundaries Bill; and the House is called upon to make the first alteration without knowing the extent or the probable results of the second or third. This is not an instance of the common sense which the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer displays when dealing with 1171 financial matters. If an hon. Member gets up and proposes a Resolution for the reduction or abolition of an unpopular tax, the official answer, and I think a sound one, invariably is, "Wait until the whole case is before you? Wait until you know what are the Ways and Means of the year, and what are the claims upon them; then, and not till then, you will be in a position to consider the matter." I should have thought that a permanent alteration of the Constitution was a matter of as much importance as the financial arrangements of a single year. Or is the defence this—that for Parliament to ask a Minister to adopt a measure on imperfect information is inexpedient and unjustifiable, but that for a Minister to ask Parliament to do the same thing, and enforce his request by a threat of dissolution, is only a legitimate exercise of power? I will go further, and say that even if you adopt the plan, unsound as I believe it to be, of dealing with this question piecemeal, still, even in that case, the Government have made a mistake by beginning at the wrong end. The question of the re-distribution of seats is that which ought to be taken first, because, of all matters connected with the representation of the people, undoubtedly the greatest anomaly is the unequal distribution of electoral power. I have not forgotten the taunt of the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he spoke of Gentlemen who were just now greatly in favour of a re-distribution of seats, but who never were so before, and never would be again. That does not apply to me, for the language I am holding now is precisely that which I held eight months ago to my constituents, long before this question of the extension of the franchise was thought of. The evil, if an evil it be, of that partial exclusion of the working classes from the franchise which exists at present is in course of gradual reduction with the rise of rents and wages; but the other evil, the anomalies and inequalities in the distribution of electoral power, tends every year not to diminish, but to increase. £10 now represent a less value than £10 did thirty years ago, and thirty years hence the same nominal amount will represent a still smaller purchasing power. In that way the franchise is self-extending. But the case is very different with regard to the distribution of electoral power. Trade has a tendency to centralize itself; great towns grow fast, while the population of small boroughs is either stationary or falling 1172 off. Common sense, therefore, dictates that you should deal first with an evil growing greater rather than with one decreasing by lapse of time. But this is not all; the course proposed by the Government has a direct tendency to increase the disproportion between the small and the large constituencies, because by this Franchise Bill the constituencies are precisely those in which the numerical addition of strength will be greatest. There is another and most important consideration connected with this matter. When the question of re-distribution comes on, it is impossible to doubt that a very serious controversy will arise not only as to the extent to which that re-distribution should be carried, but also—and this will probably be the question about which the greatest difference will arise—as to what should be the distribution of the new seats. There is the claim for the counties, which if you take the tests of population and property is unanswerable. There is the claim also urged on the part of unrepresented towns, and also on the part of large represented towns for increased representation. There can be no doubt there will be conflicting claims of this kind, which we shall have to consider next year, and it is not at all improbable that the House and Government may come to different opinions on the subject. What I want to ascertain is, what security have we that the decision of these difficult questions will be left with the House? If I looked at the course adopted by the Government simply from a Ministerial point of view, I could make out a very good case for the manner in which they propose to proceed. I could understand the convenience, in case of any mishap to the Ministry, of having the new constituencies all ready as far as the franchise is concerned. No one doubts that the new voters would be grateful to the authors of their existence. Naturally enough, Government influence will for some time be predominant among them; and supposing that, in consequence of their scheme not finding favour here, the Government appeal to the country, then the proposition to defer the question of the new seats until after the new electors are created is a proposition to take from the House of Commons the power of dealing with that question, and to transfer it in the last resort to the new electoral body, in which the natural feeling of gratitude to the Government may be expected to overbear all opposition to the Ministerial scheme. That 1173 policy may be ingenious—it may be that of a skilful electioneering agent—but it is another question whether it is fail to the House or to the public. I do not know that I need follow the example of my noble Friend the Member for Chester, and vindicate myself from attacks made out of the House for the course we are now pursuing. I recollect that I read—and not with any feeling of indignation—the phrase "dirty conspiracy," used by the hon. Member for Birmingham, in reference to the supporters of this Amendment, I am not going to complain of strong language, though it is not such as I should like myself to use. People who feel strongly speak warmly, but when a phrase of that kind is used by a great master of the English language, I feel a natural curiosity to have its meaning defined. What is a dirty conspiracy? Does it mean the temporary junction of a minority of the Liberal party with the Conservative party ill opposition to the Liberal leaders, for the purpose of accomplishing some particular result? That is the natural interpretation of the phrase; and I think I can remember such a union on two occasions within a few years past, One was in 1857 on the China War; the other, in 1858, was in the matter of the Orsini conspiracy, and on both occasions, I believe, we had the advantage of the support of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham.
who rose amid loud cries of "Order!" said, I do not wish to interrupt the noble Lord—I only want to say that on the first occasion I was not in the House. ["Order, order!"]
I do not refer to the hon. Gentleman alone; but I must remark that all this indignation and these hard words used by the hon. Gentleman and his friends and by a large portion of the press arise from this—that a certain number of Gentlemen of the Liberal party, setting their conscientious convictions against their party ties, have asserted their own individual right of judgment, and have revolted from democratic dictation. If that is the cause of all that we have heard and read against my noble Friend, we may form some judgment of the nature of the reign of freedom approaching, when day after day Members on the other side are told, "You have nothing to do with private opinions; all you have got to do is to swallow your scruples and follow your leader." From a party point of view nothing would give me greater pleasure than the adoption of such 1174 principles and rules of action in the Liberal ranks, because it would bring a greater accession of strength than anything else could do to the Conservative party. I will not notice mere invective, but one objection to the Amendment of my right hon. Friend will be used which I ought to deal with, because, although unfounded, it is obvious and plausible. It will be said, What right have you to bring forward a Resolution of this kind when seven years ago, in 1859, you objected to a similar Resolution as factious and unfair?" I will not argue this question on the ground that we have a right to use the weapons that were used against us, because if it was unfair then it will be unfair now. Two wrongs do not make one right. But there is no similarity between the Resolution of 1859 and that of my noble Friend. The Resolution of 1859, moved on the second reading of the Bill proposed by the Government of the day, asserted that no settlement of the question could be satisfactory which did not include the lowering of the borough franchise. We objected to that as an unusual and improper course, and on this ground—that the alteration desired to be made in our Bill was one that if the Bill had been allowed to go to a second reading might have been made in Committee if such were the wish of the House; and that in Committee was, according to the practice of the House, the proper time to propose it But in the present case we have no such option, and no such alteration can be made. The present Bill is one for dealing with the franchise only; and it would be impossible, according to the rules of the House, to insert a clause relating to the totally different matter of re-distribution. That is a very simple answer to the resemblance set up between the two cases; but although simple, it is conclusive. I have stated at greater length than I could have desired why I shall support the Amendment of my noble Friend; but let me impress upon the House that his is not an Amendment that negatives the principle of Reform, or that even expresses disapproval of the provisions of this Bill, if only we had the opportunity of dealing with all parts of the scheme. I want to deal frankly with the House. My opinion may be worth little, but after what has been said—after Ministerial pledges, Queen's Speeches, and frequent failures to settle this question—I should not be willing to vote against the second reading of the Bill, merely on the ground that it contains some provisions of 1175 which I cannot approve. Anything that can fairly be discussed in Committee ought to be settled there. Some things in the Bill are good, some are doubtful, and some, to my mind, exceedingly bad. If it gets into Committee, I think it will be possible to show that the Government have underrated the transfer of power which will be effected by this Bill. It is not a small measure, whatever else it may be. It is possibly not inferior, in extent and in the magnitude of its results, than the measure of 1830. But we are cut off from arguing this question of the transfer of power by the peculiar manner in which the Bill is brought forward. If I am able to show that in a large number of boroughs—one estimate makes it over fifty, returning ninety-five Members—the effect of the franchise is to give a large majority of votes to the working classes, and if I show that in about as many more they will be a minority so large as in any close contest turn the scale, I have proved nothing at all; for the question is not as to the effect of this Bill upon existing constituencies, but as to the effect of this new franchise in the existing constituencies plus those new boroughs which are about to be called into existence. These new boroughs, however, are entirely cut off from the discussion; we do not know how many, or what, they are to be—and we are, therefore, acting in the dark as to the ultimate balance of power between the different classes of the community. I am glad we have not to-night had a repetition of those phrases about "trusting the people," and of our being "all one flesh and blood." If distrust means exclusion, both parties exclude. I understand such taunts in the mouth of a supporter of universal suffrage; but I do not see how they can be consistently addressed to those who wish the franchise to remain at £10 by those who have no objection to draw a line of arbitary exclusion, and who only differ from them by placing it at a lower figure. And if there is no cause of alarm in numbers, and if we are all one people; that is, I suppose, having all the same interests and feelings, what is the use of figures, and why should we have an inquiry? What in that case is the value of the blue book for which we all waited, and which we have been studying with so much interest? But that plea cannot be seriously put forward. It is our duty to see that no class is excluded, and that no one class should overbear the rest. I do not propose now to discuss the exact rate at 1176 which the franchise should be fixed. If this Amendment is carried, it will be needless to discuss the £7 franchise this year. If not, there will be plenty of opportunity of discussing it before the Session is over. All that I contend for now is, that when we are framing that which really is a new Constitution for the country, it is as insane an act to sanction part of a scheme without knowing the whole as it would be to begin building a palace room by room without an estimate or a general plan, and with only the assurance of the architect that he understands his business. I would not trust any architect, however skilful and scientific, with an authority so unlimited. This is not merely a question of convenience; it is one of constitutional right and duty. We are intrusted by the Constitution with legislative power; we are bound to use that power according to our free and conscientious judgment; we are bound not to use it in ignorance, not to waive it under popular pressure, not to devolve on the Ministry or any one else the responsibility which belongs to us. Our judgment ought to be free, unbiased, and founded on full knowledge; and it is because no one of these conditions is complied with under the arrangement which Ministers propose that I shall support the Amendment of my noble Friend.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House, while ready to consider, with a view to its settlement, the question of Parliamentary Reform, is of opinion that it is inexpedient to discuss a Bill for the reduction of the Franchise in England and Wales, until the House has before it the entire scheme contemplated by the Government, for the amendment of the Representation of the People,"—(Earl Grosvenor,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. P. WYKEHAM MARTIN (Rochester)
said, that having given notice of an Amendment which he considered of vital importance, and which he should bring forward if the second reading were carried, he desired to state how much further his views extended than the Motion of which he had given notice. He represented a constituency in which, more than almost any other, the artizan class predominated. He had mixed with them much more freely, and on terms probably of more friendly intimacy, than most other Members were 1177 in the habit of doing with their constituents; and he must say, having visited at their houses and partaken of their hospitality, he had hardly ever been in the home of one of these respectable artizans in which, by the care they took of their furniture, the decent little library they possessed, and their general manners and habits, they did not give proof of refinement treading close on that of the class superior to them. He had therefore given notice of his Amendment, because he thought the Bill dealt hardly with some portion of the working classes; these details, however, he would reserve for another occasion. While he was prepared to resist the Amendment moved by the noble Lord the Member for Chester, he could not help thinking there was some inconsistency in the course which was pursued by the Government. Their conduct had been honourable and straightforward, and great indulgence ought to be shown them; but how did they carry out in practice their professed intentions with reference to the working class? His special duty, however, was with the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to disfranchise 20,000 voters in the dockyards. It was a curious clause in a Bill which was to add 200,000 to the borough voters. The Government had pleaded that there was not time to deal with the class of voters who were convicted of bribery and corruption; and if any appeal to the country should become necessary, the Nottingham lambs would be allowed to play as before, the electors of Totnes would have a voice, and the voters of Great Yarmouth would have another chance to lay in "tooth stopping." The voters in those boroughs were to have indulgence because there was not time to deal with them; but yet, in direct conflict with the principle of the Bill, the Government proposed to disfranchise 20,000 against whom no such charge was brought. And in this Bill one class was to be visited with a punishment which had never been resorted to in the history of the country, except in cases of evident necessity and the grossest corruption. And yet corruption was not alleged against these men; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that the introduction of the clause was not to protect them against their own corrupt desires, but to protect other people. Nothing could be alleged against these men. They had given up their only holiday in the year, last Easter Monday, to assist in getting off the Northumberland; and at a time when the Government were meditating to deprive 1178 them of their votes these men volunteered to give their services to the Admiralty without the expectation of reward, in order that they might save a private firm from loss and the country from reproach. Many of the dockyard men had saved enough to become the aristocracy of the constituencies, and had purchased freeholds to give them the right of a vote in the counties. It had been alleged that if the working men received the franchise they would combine together; but the dockyard voters had not so acted, though they spent the greater part of their lives in the same workshops. It could not be alleged that the dockyard men changed their views with the Government of the day. He had caused the votes of his own constituents to be analysed; and he found that during the last ten years only one voter from the dockyard men altered his views; and that for the same time, though the Government in three out of four of the contested elections were Liberal, the majority of the dockyard voters supported the Conservative candidates. In the last election the dockyard men voted against him in the proportion of 33 to 27. It had been said that these men did not care for the possession of the franchise; but the crowded nightly meetings in his own borough during the past fortnight bowed that these men smarted under the sense of the punishment with which they were to be visited. There might be some reason for depriving policemen of the right to vote, because in times of excitement their province was to keep order, and during such times it was unwise to place them in a position which might cause them to have personal feelings; but the same principle could not hold in the case of revenue officers and employés of the Post Office. Mr. Massey, in his History of the Reign of George III., explained the reason why these men were deprived of the right to vote.In a population of 8,000,000 there were no more than 160,000 electors. The representation of the people was merely a phrase. The people of England had for the most part no more voice in the election of the House of Commons than the people of Canada. The great and growing increase in the Customs and Excise since the late war had enlisted in the service of the Government numerous persons engaged in the collection and supervision of this extensive revenue. These men were necessarily spread over the country, and most of them had votes for Members of Parliament; holding their offices at pleasure their votes were of course at the command of the Government, and the memorable example of 1762, when the vengeance of the Minister for Parlia- 1179 mentary insubordination was visited upon every public servant, from Lords Lieutenant and great Officers of State down to the humblest individual who ate his daily bread at the pleasure of the Crown, was doubtless still regarded as the leading rule and precedent. Dowdeswell moved for leave to bring in a Bill to disfranchise these revenue officers, and considering that they mainly influenced the elections in nearly seventy boroughs, and numbered nearly 12,000 votes in other places (such was the uncontradicted statement of Lord Rockingham when he introduced and carried a similar Bill in 1782), it is not surprising that the Government made a strenuous effort to defeat a measure which, if carried, might have gone far to destroy their influence in the House of Commons.The proper remedy for this state of things would have been to extend the franchise and thus swamp the influence of the servants of the Crown instead of depriving them of their votes. The Parliament, however, showed no such extraordinary haste as the Government was showing now, for they did not bring in a Bill to disfranchise these men until they had taken twelve years to consider it. He would say to the Government, if they were resolved to disfranchise them, to go and do likewise, for this time twelve years would be quite time enough to set about it. Would any man tell him there was any public necessity now to disfranchise these 20,000 voters at a time when they were about to raise the constituencies to 1,300,000? If the secrets of the prison-house could be revealed, he believed the history of this miserable clause would be this. When the Government were preparing this Reform Bill, several hon. Members (himself included) called attention to the fact that in Kent the wages averaged 15s. a week. The Government maintained they were 13s.; but he (Mr. Martin) said they did not know the state of wages in Kent as well as he did, and so some Member of the Cabinet probably said, "Disfranchise them quietly," for they were suspected of appealing to him and other hon. Members to get them an increase of pay. But was the House to be told in 1866 that it was a crime for an Englishman to try to improve his condition in a peaceable way? He had not the slightest intention of opposing the Bill at its present stage, for the Government, he thought, had made out their case in point of time; but he would ask them to deal justly in this matter, and strike out a clause which was opposed to the principle and to the very title of their Bill. He was pledged to his constituents to divide on every possible occasion against the clause, and he was determined to keep his pledge. If he were forced to oppose 1180 the Government in a formal way, he had every hope from the support promised him that he would be successful; at any rate such a course would play sad havoc with the twelve days which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had told them were alone available for passing the Bill.
§ MR. HORSFALL
hoped that, as the borough which he had the honour to represent (Liverpool) had been put forward as an illustration, of the probable working of the Bill, and as, moreover, it had been taken last week under the special patronage of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he might be allowed to occupy the attention of the House for a few minutes. He must say he thought too much importance had been attached to the right hon. Gentleman's visit to Liverpool, and to the three gatherings held there. The first of these was a dinner given by the Liberal electors of South Lancashire, six months after the election, in honour of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had been elected a Member for that constituency, standing the third on the poll. That dinner, he had no doubt, like all Liverpool dinners, was a very excellent one, and the newspapers informed them of whom the company consisted. It appeared that, in addition to twenty-five invited guests and twenty-eight reporters, about 500 gentlemen sat down to dinner, besides 600 ladies in the gallery attended by 800 gentlemen. Now, all he had to say was, that if a Chancellor of the Exchequer, a distinguished orator, a Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, a noble Lord who was an Admiral, and a noble Duke, would go down to Liverpool and would have in the gallery 600 ladies, or, as they were called in his county, Lancashire witches, he would undertake to say that there would be as enthusiastic a meeting—if not a more enthusiastic one—in favour of Conservative principles. Well, the next gathering wa3 entitled a public meeting in the Amphitheatre; but how were persons admitted on that occasion? Why, by ticket, and they knew full well to whom those tickets would be distributed for a meeting of that kind. Far be it from him to say a word in disparagement of any gentleman who was present there—but of course free discussion was out of the question. He knew the building, and how many people it would contain—namely, from 3,000 to 3,500. He freely admitted that the meeting was full and was enthusiastic; but what of 1181 that? He had frequently attended meetings in that building when there was a far less important subject under discussion, and far less important personages present, and yet that building had been equally crowded and equally enthusiastic. Lastly, there was a so-called "mass meeting," but there never was a greater misnomer. He could not speak from his own observation, but he found in one of the local papers an account the accuracy of which, he thought, would not be questioned by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. This was the account which that paper gave of the mass meeting—A demonstration of the working classes of Liverpool in favour of the present Reform Bill was announced by placard to be held on Saturday afternoon, at three o'clock, in front of the Wellington Monument. At that hour there were about thirty people at the place appointed, and the expectation of the enthusiasm which was anticipated seemed to he altogether hopeless, when suddenly a small body of prominent Liberals—in the person of Mr. R. J. Jeffery, Mr. Robertson Gladstone, and one or two others—made their appearance at the corner of London Road. They directed their way to the vacant space in front of St. George's Hall, whither they were eagerly followed by the people who had gathered together. Beside the place where the famous 'lions' of Liverpool are stationed a couple of floats, as they are called, were put, into which as many as could be accommodated scrambled in the most extraordinary manner. Something like an appearance of order was given to the arrangement by the placing of several chairs on one of the floats. By this time the crowd had considerably enlarged, and numbered perhaps a few hundreds It was composed partly of working men who had come with the intention of hearing the speeches, but chiefly of clerks and others who were on their way home after leaving office, and who evidently came to listen to the proceedings more from a feeling of curiosity than from any interest they had in the result. As always happens on such occasions a good deal of 'chaffing' prevailed, but even in that respect (perhaps owing to the fact that at no time was the number of those persons above 1,000) the affair was a miserable failure.It was an absurdity to designate as a mass meeting an assembly of 1,000 persons in a place like Liverpool, which had a population of half a million. He had himself been present at a meeting in that town of 5,000 working men, who had assembled for the purpose of petitioning Parliament on a far more important question than the present, and that was the closing of public houses on Sunday. Yet that petition was disregarded by the House. He would pass on to some of the observations made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had told his audience that one great object of the Reform Bill was to improve the composition of the House of Commons; and he proceeded to illustrate that by pointing 1182 to my hon. Friend and late Colleague Mr. Ewart, who occupied the chair, and saying—With reference to the constitution of the House of Commons, one method in which you may improve that constitution is, I will venture to say, by sending back among us my respected Friend who sits in the chair.Now, he had nothing detrimental to say against Mr. Ewart, with whom, though they sat on opposite sides of the House, he had acted cordially for ten years, and he would pass over the compliment paid to his hon. Colleague and himself, for it was plain Mr. Ewart could only be re elected by turning one or the other of the present Members out; but what did the Chancellor of the Exchequer go on to say? And here he might remark that he had never heard or read a speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's which contained such unhappy illustrations as that delivered by the right hon. Gentleman at Liverpool. As an illustration of the necessity for a Reform Bill, though he did not admit that the present electoral franchise was had, the right hon. Gentleman said—Suppose a merchant has a flourishing business, with all its arrangements complete, and suppose an opening is made evident to him that by some increased outlay and venture he may, in perfect consonance with the rules of prudence, make a more increased profit on his industry and capital, does that merchant require to be shown that his business already is a bad one? No, certainly not; but he says, 'I will make it as good as I can.'Now his (Mr. Horsfall's) experience in mercantile life told him that where a merchant had a good and a flourishing business he ought to be content. He had known very melancholy consequences to arise when a merchant who was carrying on a flourishing business had fancied that he could improve it. The result, too, frequently was that he brought ruin upon himself and caused serious loss to others. Again, the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave his audience another illustration. His words were these—Gentlemen, how often do you usually in business transactions allow a man to renew a bill. The measure has been considered by five Governments, and been mentioned in seven Queen's Speeches. The question now is, Is there a serious proposal? All we can do is to step ourselves upon it. The matter will rest with the country. Whatever word we can speak—whatever act we can do is solemnly pledged, and long ago. It rests with that public of which you form an important part to determine what shall be the issue. We call upon you to say whether you are satisfied with this attempt 1183 for the seventh or eighth time to put off that which I shall best describe in Liverpool as a mere renewal of a Bill.Now, he would appeal to hon. Gentlemen opposite who were engaged in mercantile pursuits as to whether, in the first place, the renewal of a Bill did not create distrust. When, however, that Bill had been renewed seven or eight times was not all confidence lost in the parties connected with it? He would now make a few remarks as to the practical working of this Bill in Liverpool, and his reason for doing so was because Liverpool had been put forward as an illustration of what the working of the Reform Bill would be throughout England. Assuming that the Parliamentary Return was correct as far as Liverpool was concerned, the number of voters on the register of that borough was 20,618, and 22,526 votes were given at the last election. This apparently was a contradiction; but he apprehended that the party who made out the Return had made the total by adding together the votes polled for each of the three candidates. But, admitting the Return to be accurate, he protested against 20,618 being taken as the greatest number of voters who could vote in Liverpool. Every male occupier of a house was on the rate book, and might vote, as the law stood at present, if he chose to pay rates. Supposing they were all to do so, the number on the register would be 40,000 instead of 20,000. He would, however, give the Government and their Bill the benefit of a reduction of 10 per cent, in respect of those ratepayers who would not be qualified to vote owing to want of the proper length of residence. This would reduce the number to 36,000. Again, the Return showed that by reducing the qualification from £10 to £7, 15,917 additional voters would be admitted to the franchise. Well, if 10 per cent were deducted from these also for want of the residence qualification, the number of fresh voters would, in round numbers, be 14,500, making an aggregate of 50,500 voters. It must not be forgotten that that number did not include those who would be added by the lodger and the savings bank qualifications. The former would, according to the Government Return, let in only 2,000 voters; but the number of voters with the savings bank qualification it was impossible to estimate. At any rate, under this Bill the constituency of Liverpool would be nearer 60,000 than 50,000. Now, he wondered whether the Government had 1184 ever considered the expense attending an election with such a constituency? Everybody was aware that every 300 voters required a separate compartment at the polling place. It was easy to calculate, therefore, how many compartments would be required for between 50,000 and 60,000 voters. It would be necessary, of course, to have a deputy town clerk in every booth, and these deputy town clerks would have to be paid three guineas a day. Why, the hustings and the incidental expenses alone would amount to between £2,000 and £3,000. With regard to the freemen, he had seen it stated that there were some 2,000 or 3,000 in Liverpool; that the votes of all might be had for a consideration, and that they had the power of turning an election. Now, he believed the Chancellor of the Exchequer was a freeman of Liverpool; at all events, the right hon. Gentleman's brother was, and the Return showed that only 312 of the freemen belonged to the working classes; so that if all their votes were to be purchased they could not influence the result of the election. For his own part, he did not hesitate to say that the freemen of Liverpool were as pure and as uncorrupted as the £10 householders. He was sorry to observe that the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) was not in his place, because that hon. Gentleman had upon more than one occasion undertaken to lecture the constituency of Liverpool on the election of its Members. In one of his rural speeches the hon. Gentleman had said that Liverpool had stultified itself by returning one Member to vote one way, and a second to vote another. At a meeting held at Liverpool he (Mr. Horsfall) had taken the opportunity of replying to that statement by saying that the hon. Member for Birmingham was perfectly correct in his view of the matter as to party questions, because on party questions he and his late Colleague (Mr. Ewart) had voted differently; but on every question of local interest, and on every question of commercial interest, his late Colleague and himself invariably voted on the same side. He further told the meeting that Liverpool was more consistent than Birmingham, as upon the most important commercial and political question of that day—the war in America—one hon. Member for Birmingham stoutly advocated the interests of the North, while the other as stoutly defended the interests of the South. However, the people of Liverpool had since thought proper to act 1185 upon the advice of the hon. Member for Birmingham, and they had accordingly returned two representatives who voted alike on every question. It might have been supposed that the hon. Member for Birmingham would have been now satisfied; but in December last, at Blackburn, the hon. Member made use of the following language:—But whether your election was a blunder or not, I have asked myself how it happens that there can possibly be in a populous manufacturing town a Tory party strong enough to return two Members to Parliament, and I find that in this county, which very ignorant people at head-quarters sometimes fancy to he very democratic, we have three great populations, each of which is represented by two Tory Members—the great commerciality of Liverpool and the great manufacturing boroughs of Preston and Blackburn, Now, if we did not know this to be the fact, we should scarcely believe it to be possible, for hardly anything can he more strange, hardly anything more discreditable, hardly anything which we can scarcely account for, than that these great manufacturing and industrial populations should permit themselves to be represented in the Imperial Parliament by Members of that party whose whole career has been one of permanent and virulent hostility to commerce.Having with his Colleague for many years been engaged in doing his utmost for the interests of commerce, he was much surprised to hear himself accused of permanent and virulent hostility to those interests. He supposed that the hon. Member for Birmingham knew what would be for the interest of Liverpool better than Liverpool itself did. The speech of the hon. Member reminded him of the case of an unfortunate man who was confined in an asylum, and who, on being asked why he was there, replied, "Oh, through a mere difference of opinion. I thought all the world was mad, and all the world thought I was mad." He protested against the hon. Gentleman being supposed to speak the opinions of Liverpool, or the opinions of England. What was the position occupied by the hon. Gentleman? He had been returned by the Liberal city of Manchester; but, when the inhabitants of that city had had some experience of his extreme views, he was rejected at a subsequent election by a majority of 3,000. Then he went to Birmingham, of which—that town being the great centre for the manufacture of firearms—he might be regarded as the most fitting representative. Yet even there he did not head the poll, but came in second. He (Mr. Horsfall) would now proceed to make one or two observations upon the general policy of the Bill before them. He did 1186 not intend to touch upon the question of the county franchise which he left to the county Members to deal with. In dealing with the borough franchise he had endeavoured to show what would be the effect of the proposed Bill upon Liverpool, which had been selected by the Government to illustrate the working of the Bill. He did not look upon the franchise as a right, but as a trust for the benefit of the country, and in the selection of the trustees they must consider who were the best qualified to hold it. Although he thought that it would not be advisable to reduce the franchise below £10 in such towns as Liverpool, yet he was not prepared to say that if the subject of Reform had been fairly and fully considered, if the principle contained in the admirable Amendment of the noble Lord opposite had been carried out, and if the Old Whig party, or if hon. Members on that side of the House, had been consulted, he did not doubt that some compromise would have been come to, or some arrangement entered into, which would have been not only beneficial, but acceptable to the country. Cordially approving as he did of the Amendment, he had given it the support of his voice, and he should certainly give it the support of his vote.
§ MR. PIM
said, that connected as he was chiefly, but not exclusively, with the Liberal party of the city which he had the honour to represent (Dublin), and sitting amongst Gentlemen with most of whose views he sympathized, he felt great difficulty in refusing his support to the Government on the present occasion. He felt very strongly the necessity of adhering to the party in whose general views he coincided, and there were comparatively few questions on which he should be willing to take the part he was now doing; he felt the necessity of acting with a party, and he had not been in the House two nights before he was convinced that an independent Member was frequently an independent and useless unit. Still, he must say that when he was addressing his constituents on the hustings, he stated that whilst he was prepared to give an honest support to the party then represented by Lord Palmerston, it would be an independent support, and that he would not; vote for any measure that might be brought in unless he thought it a good one. He felt it necessary, in regard to his constituents and to his own honour, to keep the pledge he had given, and he was satisfied that many persons who had voted for him would not have; done so if he had not made that declaration. 1187 He would not give a factious vote against the Government. He did not, however, consider this to be a factious vote. It had been said by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the Government would consider a vote against them on this occasion as amounting to a Vote of Want of Confidence; but, so far as he was concerned, he repudiated the accusation. He was anxious that his vote on the present occasion should not be viewed in that light, for he had no want of confidence in the Cabinet, and he should be very sorry indeed to see the administration of affairs pass out of their hands; but, notwithstanding his confidence in the Ministry, he felt that he ought not to be led blindfold into a course of which he could not approve. He could not vote for a Reform Bill which dealt with only one part of the great question of Reform—which did not touch a most important branch of Reform. He was not opposed to Reform in the representation of the people; but he did think that to agree to merely an enlargement of the franchise, without at the same time dealing with the other points of the great Reform question, was to be led blindfold. At the same time, he had no sympathy with those who said that there was no necessity for Reform, because there was no outdoor agitation upon the subject. Such an assertion appeared to him to be very unstatesmanlike. He did not see why they should need agitation to prompt them to the performance of their duty; what they had to do was to do the best they could for the country they represented. He knew that on a former occasion there had been great agitation; and he might say that during the fortnight's recess which had just terminated there had been a sufficient amount of feeling shown in the country to prevent the necessity of any such talk. Some things had been proposed which were, in his opinion, very far from what they ought to have been; they were unconstitutional replies to an unstatesmanlike taunt. There had been quite sufficient feeling shown in the country to prevent the necessity of any reference to a want of feeling, otherwise he should ask hon. Members if they thought it necessary or desirable to have such an agitation as occurred in 1832 in order to warrant them in making the alterations which were conceived to be for the benefit of the country. He was one of the young Members of the House, but he thought there were not many Members who recollected the proceedings of 1832 so well as 1188 he did; and certainly he believed that those who did recollect them, however much they might have sympathized with them at the time, and however valuable they might have considered the object in view, would never wish to see such an agitation again. He recollected the minor measures which were proposed before 1832 to disfranchise one or two small boroughs and transfer their Members to Manchester and Birmingham, and he remembered the feeling it caused in the country when these minor reforms were rejected. No one, he felt sure, would wish to see a repetition of the riots that then took place. Popular feeling was shown to a very large extent, and some endeavour was made to coerce Members of that House; but he did not think such things could happen again under present circumstances. If anything would lead to it, however, he thought it would be the taunts used against those Gentlemen who advocate Reform when it was said that they had no support out of doors. The fact that there was no very strong excitement out of doors was the very reason why they should make use of that period of quiet in order to settle this important question. It was of the greatest importance that the question should be settled. It had been brought forward on several occasions, and the objection to its so continually occupying their attention, arose not so much from the fact that it excited feeling out of doors, as from the stoppage that it caused to the proper business of the House, which was in reality of great importance. That business was really so great that it seemed to him to he somewhat like the throng in Fleet Street or Cheapside, and the running in of the Reform omnibus could have no other effect than to block up the way and stop the traffic. He supposed nothing else would be dealt with during that Session. He did not think that any Member could deny the necessity for Reform. There could be no question about that, for they all knew that there were places returning Members which, under present circumstances, should be disfranchised. He would not say whether alterations should be made by enlargement or by the addition of other constituencies, but some change in that respect was necessary; and that was, in fact, the most important part of a Reform Bill. He was far from doubting the propriety of an extension of the franchise; for, he thought, they should extend the basis of the representation, or, he might say, of the Constitution. 1189 There were several propositions contained in the Government Bill, but this was not the time for considering their value, and he did not wish to be understood that in taking the line he had adopted he was opposed to those propositions. He did not mean to say that there might not be objections to some of them, and he should have been better pleased if it had not been pro posed to take the franchise lower than £8 in boroughs, instead of carrying it down to £7, The latter, indeed, would, in his opinion, effect that sudden change which had been deprecated that night by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he said that sudden changes were undesirable. He could not see much value in the objection that the present measure would not be final; because no measure that the House could agree to could have that character. He recollected on a former occasion the excitement caused by the hon. Member for Birmingham making use of the words "for a time;" but surely no one could expect anything else than that the measure should only be for a time? They were not going to bind their successors; they had no right nor power to do so; and no arrangement could be good except for a time. Still, they bad a right to expect that any arrangement they might make should last a generation at least. It was for the reason so well stated in the Amendment that he objected to the course taken in introducing a measure which only dealt with one portion of Parliamentary Reform. In the year 1859 a Bill was brought forward by the right hon. Gentle man on the opposite side of the House (Mr. Disraeli), which he believed at the time—and he had not seen any reason since to change his opinion—might easily have been made into a good Bill. Though several things in it required alteration, he thought, had it gone into Committee, it might have been made an useful Reform Bill. On that occasion an Amendment was proposed to that Bill which he would read to the House. The hon. Gentleman who proposed it (Mr. Baxter) spoke of the project then before the House as piecemeal legislation, and moved as an Amendment—That it is expedient to consider the laws relating to the representation of the people in England and Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, not separately, but in one measure.That Amendment was subsequently withdrawn, and it was not upon it that the division took place; but he held that in principle it was a right one The prin- 1190 ciple was not only that the representation of the people and the re-distribution of the seats should he considered in one measure, hut that the Bills for England, Scotland, and Ireland, ought all to be submitted to the House at one time. As an Irishman he said that, even as regarded the representation of the people, the measures intended for Ireland and Scotland should be laid upon the table at the same time as the English Bill, To this it had been objected that it could not he done for want of time. That might to a certain extent be true; but the question of time in a matter of that sort was of secondary importance compared with having what they wanted to do done well. If the necessary information was laid before the House—and he did not see why additional information should not be obtained—at the commencement of next Session as early as they liked in January or February—and measures for England, Scotland, and Ireland, in one Bill or in three, were prepared, and if the Government declared that all the Bills should be prosecuted together, he thought they would settle the question better than they were likely to do by the present Bill. He thought there was no subject which less deserved to be treated as a party question. Many reasons might be given for that view, and among the rest it might be said that both the great parties in the House had pledged themselves to Reform. It had been said that those that had made pledges which they found it inconvenient to fulfil could relieve themselves of their responsibility by resigning; but a party could not get out of its difficulties in the same way—a party could not resign. The only mode by which they could get rid of their pledges was by coming forward boldly and manfully and admitting that they had made a mistake and done wrong, and giving arguments to show that the arguments they had previously used were bad. If they did that the country would understand them; but if not, their pledges remained, and he would say that if hon. Members on the other (the Opposition) side supported the Amendment of the noble Lord (Earl Grosvenor), they were giving another pledge that they would support a good practical measure of Re-form. If they afterwards declined to support a fair measure with the view of obtaining a complete settlement of the question, it would be discreditable to them as a party; but he could not believe that, under such circumstances, they would decline to 1191 give that support. It was essential to any Bill which had a chance of success that it should not be a party Bill, by whichever side it might be brought forward. It should not be intrinsically a party Bill, but should be moderate in its tone; for there was a large number of Members in the House who would not accept anything which they did not consider moderate. No Bill had any chance of success which did not engage the sympathies of the moderate Members on both sides of the House. He denied that a vote in favour of the Amendment could reasonably be construed into a Vote of Want of Confidence. He believed that the Government were sincere in their intention to bring forward a fair and honest Bill, as they had promised, but no one could tell what might happen in the meanwhile. The Government no doubt had not held out on that occasion a threat of dissolving Parliament; but it was, nevertheless, possible that before the question was settled the rejection of a Bill might involve the dissolution of Parliament. If we were to suppose that, this Franchise Bill having passed, the Government were to lose their promised Bill for the Redistribution of Seats, and were in consequence to dissolve Parliament, it would be observed that the new Parliament would be elected by the new constituencies created by the Bill under consideration. That would be no common difficulty, and would lay the Government open to the charge of having got the Franchise Bill passed in order that, if they lose the future Bills, they could, by dissolving, get a Parliament more to their liking. Many Gentlemen had spoken highly of the independence of the working classes of the country, and he believed their statements upon that subject were well founded; but it was impossible not to conclude from the facts which had more than once been brought under the notice of Election Committees, that in the smaller boroughs there were many persons of that class whom a £7 qualification would serve to enfranchise that did not possess the incorruptibility of the great mass of operatives in Lancashire or Yorkshire. He was not, however, anxious to see the smaller boroughs deprived of the power of electing Members of Parliament. They sent to that House many of its most distinguished Members, and he hoped that in any scheme of Reform that might be adopted some means would be found—such, for instance, as the grouping together of smaller 1192 towns—which would afford the chance of a seat in Parliament to gentlemen of the same capacity and position. He should also be glad to see an extension of the number of learned bodies who had the right of returning Members. The Universities, which had hitherto been intrusted with the privilege, had not, for the most part, elected Gentlemen of whose political opinions he could approve; but those Gentlemen had, in the great majority of instances, been distinguished by their ability and character; and if the same right were conferred upon such bodies as the University of London, the Queen's Colleges in Ireland, and the Universities in Scotland, he hoped they would select representatives who would unite with the same high personal qualities warmer and more extended popular sympathies. The argument of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was fallacious in one respect. He omitted to state, when speaking of the places where the working classes would and would not predominate, in what way the re-distribution of seats would influence those constituencies where the working classes would have a majority. It might be that the promised Bill for the Re-distribution of Seats would give those places where the working classes were predominant another Member. He was favourable to making the voters more numerous, because the larger their number the more interest would be taken in the proceedings of Parliament, and because it was well for a man to feel that he formed a part of the machinery which governed this great country. He confessed, however, that he had more confidence in the power of an enlightened public opinion as a means of ensuring an efficient House of Commons than in any change in our electoral system, and he had no fear but that an honest and intelligent people would find fitting Parliamentary representatives.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
Sir, in rising to oppose the Amendment which has been moved this evening by my noble Friend the Member for Chester (Earl Grosvenor), I wish to say that I at least am quite willing to concede to him not only the merit of perfect honesty and sincerity in bringing it forward, but also to give him credit for perfect political consistency. My noble Friend is not now, nor has he been for the last year, an advocate of Parliamentary Reform. I do not know what he may have been in former times; but certainly he showed he was not an advocate of Parliamentary Reform, as 1193 far as a reduction of the franchise is concerned, when the Motion of the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Baines) was before the House during the last Session of Parliament. Lest some misunderstanding should exist respecting the vote which he gave upon that occasion, he very shortly afterward sissued an address to his constituents, in which he gave more fully than is usual in documents of that description an explanation of his conduct, and the reasons which had induced him to act as lie had. The noble Lord said, in the letter to his constituents—I think it right to issue my address at once, in order to explain the reasons which induced me on that occasion to vote against the reduction of the borough franchise.And then, after giving those reasons, with which I need not trouble the House, he concludes by stating that, he was opposed to the lowering of the franchise. Thus, it is evident his opinion was well formed last year; and I think his speech this evening has shown that he is still not an advocate of the extension of the franchise. ["No, no!"] I retract the word "extension." I mean, as I said before, that he is not an advocate of a reduction of the franchise. Accordingly, I do not see that he has committed any breach of consistency in moving an Amendment of such a nature as will enable him to get rid of the Bill, altogether, if possible. But, although I admit the noble Lord's consistency in this respect, I cannot understand why, holding the opinions he does, he thought it necessary to oppose the second reading of the Bill in any other manner than by a direct negative. I can understand that many parties in this House may have their reasons for declining to meet this Bill by a direct negative. For anything I know, Members of the party opposite may have their reasons, for I cannot tell what their present sentiments with regard to the reduction of the franchise in boroughs are. I know that in 1859 they were opposed to any such reduction. I know that in 1860, by the mouth of their leader, the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli), they admitted that they were prepared to consider the question of such a reduction. What their views now may be I am unable to say; but I think it perfectly possible that while they may be willing to entertain the question of reduction of the franchise, they may not be willing to entertain it in the manner in which it is brought forward by 1194 the Bill of the Government, It may even be that some lion. Members behind me feel objection to the way in which the subject has been introduced; but, of all Members of the House, my noble Friend the Member for Chester has the least ground of complaint. The noble Lord, in the course of the speech which he made to-night, stated that it was with great pain he separated himself from those with whom he had previously acted, and said that on many occasions he had somewhat strained a point in order to maintain consistency of action with his political friends. Among the votes which he mentioned that he had given with some hesitation was, I think, the vote in favour of the Amendment moved by the noble Lord now at the head of the Government to the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, and he added that if that Amendment had not been carried, it was possible the question of Reform might then have been settled. I think I understood him to express his regret that that Bill had not been given a chance. Well, if that he the view of my noble Friend, I wonder I that he did not take a lesson from his own past experience. Regretting, as he does, that this question has been allowed to go on for seven years longer, I do wonder that on the first occasion when a really practical proposition—[Ironical cheers from the Opposition Benches.] Sir, I do not understand the cheers of hon. Gentlemen opposite. That they may object to the proposal is intelligible, but that it is a real proposal I cannot, I think, he denied. Whatever the Bill may appear in the eyes of the noble Lord who moved the Amendment, the noble Lord who seconded it (Lord Stanley) said, that whatever else the Bill might be, it was no inconsiderable one, and he evidently thought it had some reality and importance. When, therefore, there is again a chance of the matter being brought to a conclusion, I do wonder that the noble Lord the Member for Chester should adopt a course which he himself deplores that he took seven years ago, and should bring forward an Amendment, the only result of which, if it should be successful, can be to postpone a settlement for nobody knows how many years. The noble Lord, in addition to the objections which we all know that he entertains to any reduction of the franchise, appeared to attach great weight to the objection that this Bill was brought forward by the Government at the dictation of the hon. Member for Birming- 1195 ham. I should like to know on what tittle or particle of evidence that allegation rests. In the speech made by the hon. Member for Birmingham in the course of last winter—which I suppose is the one alluded to—he made four distinct recommendations. First, that the questions of the franchise and the distribution of seats should be separated, and that the question of the reduction of the franchise should be dealt with first; secondly, he recommended that it should be reserved for another Parliament to deal with the question of the re-distribution of seats; in the third place, he recommended that the present county franchise should be reduced to £10; and fourthly, that the borough franchise should be reduced to £6. It is perfectly true that one of these recommendations has been adopted in the Bill of the Government, and it is equally true that of the other three recommendations, all of which he made as distinctly and emphatically as he made the first, not one has been adopted. [Cries of Oh, oh!"] Which has been adopted? If the mere reason that a certain course was recommended by the hon. Member for Birmingham, which course appeared to the Government in any particular to be the best which they could adopt, I say it would have been unworthy of the position which they occupy to reject that course simply and solely because it happened to have been recommended by the hon. Member for Birmingham. The noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn and hon. Gentlemen opposite, appear to entertain great objection to the manner in which the Bill is brought forward. Let us see what the noble Lord recommends. He himself, as well as his Amendment, professes a desire to consider this question of Reform with a view to its settlement. I turn again to the address which he issued to his constituents, and I find these words—But as in all important matters Legislative action is preceded by inquiry, such inquiry should, in my opinion, be instituted to show how, without affecting the present balance of the Constitution, the franchise should be extended. We could then proceed to legislate on a sound and ascertained basis.When I read over that passage the other day, I was not quite sure what course the noble Lord was pointing to; but after his speech this evening, I think there is very little doubt that he is a convert to the recommendation of the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Blcho), and that he means to delegate the investigation of this question. In fact, I 1196 believe my noble Friend this evening suggested, as an alternative to the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire, that instead of a Commission the matter should be referred to a Committee of the Privy Council for investigation. Now, I ask Reformers on this side of the House, and I ask Gentlemen on the other side of the House, who are so desirous to consider this question with a view to its settlement, whether they really believe that the question would be advanced one step by the adoption of such a course. I would ask first, what is the Cabinet that sits upon these Benches but a Committee of the Privy Council? They have already considered the question, and they have brought forward their deliberate opinions for discussion in this House. I should like to know what further object is to be gained by discussing this question before a Royal Commission or a Committee of the Privy Council. I am not aware that the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire ever explained what he thought this Commission would do. It seems to me, judging from the speech which the noble Lord delivered on the Franchise Bill last year, that the object which he had in view in referring this question to a Royal Commission was simply that the Commission should devise means by which the grant of an extended franchise to an additional number of our fellow-countrymen should be surrounded with restrictions and hedged in by provisions making the boon altogether nugatory and delusive. In fact, it would be doing the very thing which the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli) told us six years ago we must not do—it would be keeping the promise to the ear and breaking it to the hope. Much as I regret that my noble Friend should have felt it necessary to take the course which he has adopted on the present occasion—for I feel quite sure that my noble Friend has no intention of separating himself permanently from the party with which he and his ancestors have so long acted—I do regret that on this occasion he should have thought it necessary to separate himself so distinctly and decisively from those who, whatever may have been their mistakes, whatever may have been their failures, have at any rate been the consistent friends of the extension of political rights. I do regret that, if my noble Friend does not intend to leave our ranks for ever and to take his seat on those Benches opposite, he should have been induced to bring forward a Motion 1197 such as he has proposed to-night. The Amendment, however, has been moved, and, such as it is, it must be met. As I have said, I am not at all surprised at the attitude of the party opposite. They no doubt see in this Amendment the best way of getting rid of the Bill before the House, if not the best way of getting rid of the Government that has brought it in. It is possible they may think they see the best way of getting rid of the whole question, I do not think that extraordinary at all, I do not complain of the party opposite because they support this Amendment. If they think it likely that there will be a majority for the Amendment their doing so is a perfectly fair party move. The noble Lord who seconded this Amendment (Lord Stanley) also spoke of the Amendment moved in 1859. I am not at all desirous of proving that the two Amendments resemble each other; and I think there are other grounds of dissimilarity which the noble Lord did not mention. I think there was this difference in the Amendment moved in 1859 by the noble Lord now at the head of the Government—that it declared, in as distinct and emphatic a manner as words could do, what it was we did object to in the Bill before the House, That may not have been a good mode of proceeding—that is not the question now before the House; but, whether it was or was not right or politic on our part to say what objections we had before the second reading, we did distinctly state our grounds of objections. But I defy any one to make out the meaning of the Amendment now before us. It may be made by those who vote for it to mean anything. In the mouth of the noble Lord who moved it, it means a total opposition to a reduction of the franchise; in the mouth of the noble Lord who seconded it, it means that in his opinion we ought not to have brought forward a Reform Bill at, all this year. The noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn thought that separating the re-distribution of seats from the extension of the franchise was an inconvenient mode of dealing with the question, and he saw no reason why we should not have postponed the whole subject for another year; so that for the noble Lord who seconded it it does not mean the same thing, or anything like the same thing, as what it means for my noble Friend who proposed it—because, if I understand the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn, he does not oppose a reduction of the franchise. No 1198 doubt much might be urged in favour of the proposition of the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn; but I should like to know whether, if we had postponed the Reform question till next year, the position of the Government would have been a very honourable one; or, to put it, on lower grounds, whether their position would have been a very comfortable one? Had we taken such a course we should have been told that we were purchasing a year of office by shifts and dodges. The noble Lord may be right in saying the question ought to have been postponed or he may not; but I think there can be no doubt that from the opposite side of the House the Government would have had very little peace if they had announced it was their intention to postpone bringing in the Bill for another year. Suppose most of the Members on that side vote for the Amendment of my noble Friend, knowing what we do of the composition of the House, I think we may assume that unless it receives support on this side of the House they are not very likely to succeed in carrying that Amendment. The most practical question to consider therefore is, what amount of support is the Amendment likely to obtain from this side of the House? No doubt a great many Gentlemen who sit on this side—being very ardent and sincere Reformers, as I suppose we all are now—did entertain a very strong objection to the mode in which we proposed to deal with the question—namely, by separate Bills; but I must say that, as far as I can see, this is not a question of principle—this seems to me to be simply a question of convenience—of the best practical mode of doing what we all are agreed has to be done—namely, of passing some measure of Reform. I think I am justified in saying it is not a question of principle; and though there are some very ardent Reformers on this side of the House as well on the other who object to our mode of dealing with the matter, there are other authorities who approve the course we are taking. As showing that all Reformers are not of the same way of thinking on this point, it would be sufficient to quote the opinion of the hon. Member for Birmingham in favour of one view, and that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman) in favour of another. But another objection is that we have made concessions to those who entertain somewhat different views from the views of the Government with respect 1199 to the mode of dealing with the question. Well, I quite admit we have made some concessions. I think it is perfectly fair and honourable to the Government to make some concessions. I go further, and say, I think it the duty of the Government to make concessions to men really and sincerely desirous of acting in unison with them in the main, which they might, perhaps, decline to make on objections urged by a party hostile to them. No doubt, when the Bill was brought in, we found a much stronger objection entertained to dealing with the Reform question by separate Bills than we had anticipated. No doubt, we found that many Members on this side of the House did attach great importance to knowing what were the intentions of the Government with regard to disfranchisement before they were called on to vote for the second reading of this Bill; and, therefore, I cannot see any unworthy concession in the promise of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer that after the second reading the Bill for the re-distribution of seats would be laid on the table. The difference, therefore, between the Government and those hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House who support the Amendment is really as to whether we ought to deal with this question in one Bill or in two Bills. And I submit that there are some reasons to be urged in favour of the plan which we have adopted. In the first place, let us have regard to what we have learnt from experience. This is not a subject on which we are without experience. It is quite true that in 1832 a Reform Bill dealing with the whole question was passed; but that was passed, as we all know, in a time of great tumult and excitement, when the whole social system of the country was to a certain extent disorganized. I suppose the Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House do not wish for the recurrence of a state of things like that. I can assure them that we on this side do not desire it. But since 1832 we have had additional experience. There have been, I think, four or five Reform Bills since that time, every one of which has attempted to deal with the subject as a whole. Every one of them has failed; and certainly that is a primâ facie argument against such a mode being a judicious one. So far as experience goes, then, there is some reason for the other mode of dealing with the question. There is another argument also—that of convenience. Though I am quite 1200 willing to admit that the two matters have an intimate connection with each other, there is a different principle involved in a Bill for the re-distribution of seats from that involved in a Bill for an extension of the franchise. We have promised the House to put them in possession of our views on both points; but even if the House should not like the Bill for the re-distribution of seats, still it will always be in their power to pass the Franchise Bill. Several objections have been urged to the Bill now before the House. It has been said that we are legislating in the dark—in other words, it is said that we cannot tell what will be the result of this Bill until we see the Re-distribution Bill to be passed along with it. If any one believes that the Government, in spite of their repeated assertions to the contrary, are acting on the advice of the hon. Member for Birmingham, and that, although they have several times denied it, they have deliberately preferred to postpone a Re-distribution Bill until a better Parliament has been elected—if there is any party in the House thinks that, I quite agree with them that the sooner they vote for this Amendment and pass any Motion that will get rid of us and of our Bill the better; for in that case the Government, having repeatedly asserted the contrary, is utterly unworthy of the confidence of the country, of the House, and of any section of the Gentlemen sitting behind us. It is said that if even the Government are honest in this matter—about which there appears to be considerable doubt—it is quite possible that circumstances over which neither we nor any one could have control might prevent a Re-distribution Bill being passed this Session or next, and that it is possible there may be a dissolution, in spite of all our efforts to the contrary, before a Re-distribution Bill is passed. I cannot agree with the hon. Member for Birmingham that such an event would be particularly favourable to a very democratic Re-distribution Bill; but what would be our condition in that event? We should know, the country would know, all the small boroughs whose existence it is proposed to threaten by a democratic Re-distribution Bill would be thoroughly aware of the position in which they were placed. They, at least, would take care to elect Members who would be opposed to any such Bill. In the other boroughs, in the larger number of boroughs in which it is not maintained or asserted that this Bill would give any preponderance to a new 1201 and more democratic class of voters, the class of £10 voters, who are now considered by hon. Gentlemen opposite to be so Conservative and so highly worthy of the possession of political power, would also be thoroughly awake to the situation, and would probably be disposed to return candidates who would not vote for a democratic Re-distribution Bill. Further, there would be the whole influence of the counties:—and with all these Conservative influences at work I do not see, even in the contingency of a dissolution taking place before the Re-distribution Bill is passed, that there is any reason to apprehend that the result would be the passing of a very democratic measure. I object to the doctrine that has been be prominently put forward—a class doctrine altogether, an assertion that I have not heard supported by a tittle of proof—that even in the constituencies in which, by the addition of new voters, the working classes will have a majority, they will all be inclined to vote one way for political purposes. In what ease have they done so? Is the election of Members the only way in which the working classes, if they were so disposed, could exercise political power? We know their power of organization for certain purposes, and if they had wanted to use it for any political purpose whatever, is it not possible that before now they might have found some mode of doing it? Until you have some evidence that you have not adduced that the working classes are prepared to vote in a body against the voters on the register now for a particular class purpose, the assertion is one that you have no right to make in argument. I do not think that the objections dealing with this question in two Bills instead of one are very satisfactory or conclusive. I quite admit that my opinion is a biased opinion, but I maintain it is a sincere opinion; and it is that the House would do a great deal better to reject the Amendment of my noble Friend, and to proceed to the discussion of the measure before it. I do not say this because the passing of the Amendment involves the fall of the Government. I think the settlement of the question of Reform is of far greater importance than the existence of a Government, were its existence of ten times the importance it is, I believe I that neither we nor you on the opposite Benches can escape from the pledges we and you have given on this subject. I am | quite sure we do not wish to escape from them, and I doubt whether you on the 1202 other Benches do. I believe that the pledges which have been given, though they may have been rash, have been sincere. I do not suppose any one doubts the sincerity of Earl Russell on this matter. I, for one, do not doubt the perfect sincerity of Gentlemen opposite when they take this matter in hand. But I would remind the House, whether they consider these pledges were rash or not, they must be fulfilled; and even though it might cross our minds that they should be repudiated, it would he impossible. It is all very well to say that no excitement about Reform prevails at present. Is it impossible that a contingency might arise in which something might happen to disturb the tranquillity of the country, and produce a great political agitation? I am far from saying it is impossible to resist successfully a great political agitation; but I do say that the only ground on which you should successfully resist agitation should be the high ground of justice, patriotism, and honour, and I say that we cannot build a platform on which to raise ourselves to that height out of broken promises and abandoned pledges. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe) quoted the eloquent and beautiful lines of the poet—His honour rooted in dishonour stood,And faith unfaithful made him falsely true.I must say I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman should have quoted one of our greatest poets in defence of a policy which, whatever we may say of its expediency, cannot be recommended as one of high and chivalrous honour. I do not believe that any poet who ever wrote or any statesman who was ever worthy of the name and exercised power in this House would counsel any party or any Member in this House to cast away pledges so solemnly given as those which we have given, and to which we now desire to give effect.
The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer told us at the commencement of his speech this evening that he spoke for the purpose of acquainting the House with the grounds on which the present Government brought forward this Reform Bill. Perhaps he will allow mo to state what I think were the reasons which induced the Government to bring forward this Bill in the Palmerston House of Commons. I call it the "Palmerston House of Commons," because it is notorious that the last House of Commons was dissolved sooner than it otherwise 1203 would have been for the express purpose of securing to the Government the very great advantage of the popularity of Lord Palmerston. I am far from finding fault with them; indeed, I think it is the wisest thing they ever did. There is a very great similarity between the circumstances under which the last Parliament was dissolved and the first General Election I can remember as a boy. George III. at that time was what Lord Palmerston undoubtedly was last year, the most popular man in the kingdom, and his Government took advantage of that and dissolved the Parliament, upon the cry—" The good old King and No Popery." Last year the cry was—" The good old Lord Palmerston and No Reform." I do not mean to say that the cry of "No Reform" was loudly uttered; but it was perfectly notorious that so long as Lord Palmerston was at the head of the Government no Reform Bill would be brought in. There are many hon. Members opposite who were elected with no other pledge and no other definition of their principles than that they supported Lord Palmerston and his policy. I ask you whether a Reform Bill formed any portion of that policy? How was it, then, as we are told, that at the first Cabinet meeting after the death of Lord Palmerston it was decided to bring in a Reform Bill? I do not know whether there was any Cabinet meeting between the elections and Lord Palmerston's death; but if there was, I venture to say Reform was never mentioned at it. How was it, then, that this change in the policy of the Government occurred? No doubt, you will say you had a new Prime Minister, and a veteran Reformer was at the head of the Government; but recollect that this veteran Reformer had been a leading Member of Lord Palmers-ton's Government, had been an accomplice in the withdrawal of the Bill of 1860; and, so far from being pledged to any further Reform Bill, he himself had advised the country to "Rest and be thankful," satisfied with what it had already got. I do not mean to say that Lord Palmerston's death did not make a very great change in the position and prospects of the Government. I will not say of that Government, as was said of another Whig Government, I think in 1835, that when the brains were knocked out, it was impossible for the carcase to continue to exist:—I do not say that Lord Palmerston monopolized the brains of the Cabinet, but he was the heart and life of it; and, with the right 1204 hon. Gentleman opposite (the Chancellor of the Exchequer), he monopolized the whole of the confidence and the popularity which it enjoyed in the country. The right hon. Gentleman from that moment became a necessity to that Cabinet. His position in regard to Reform was different from that of any of his Colleagues. I am perfectly willing to admit that after the remarkable speech made by the right hon. Gentleman two or three Sessions ago it was impossible for him to remain in any Cabinet—I do not think he could have remained in Lord Palmerston's Cabinet—if it had not brought forward a Reform Bill. Well, the right hon. Gentleman being a necessity to the Cabinet, and a Reform Bill being a necessity to the right hon. Gentleman, something, of course, had to be done; and what did they do? They created a sort of new office; although I have never seen it gazetted, and they called in the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) as the adviser, of the advisers of the Crown. Another right hon. Gentleman, and a Member of the Government, has told us that bringing in a Reform Bill was a question of honour, of morality, and of respectability. Now, I draw the greatest possible distinction between the personal honour, the personal morality, and the personal respectability of right hon. Gentlemen opposite and their political honour, morality, and respectability. For the one I have a great respect, but for the other none at all. If, however, it was a question of your honour, morality, and respectability, I ask how it was that you allowed your honour, your morality, and your respectability to go to sleep for six years? reconciling it to your consciences, I suppose, by placing over them the usual consolatory epitaph—Weep not for us, our masters dear,We are not dead, but sleeping here.And when your honour, morality, and respectability awoke again into life, they took the shape of this Franchise Bill. The right hon. Gentleman told us that this measure was framed upon the electoral statistics which he placed on the table. There was no particular reason, à priori, why the figures hit upon for the franchise should have been £14 for the counties and £7 for the boroughs; £10 or £20 in the one case, and £6 or £8, or any other figures, might just as well have been chosen, for aught that anybody could see. But the right hon. Gentleman took the pains to tell us that £14 and £7 were the 1205 precise results produced by the Electoral Returns which were presented to us, and he invited the House to enter with him into a rule of three sum, in order to convince us of the correctness of his figures. Nobody, I believe, availed themselves of his offer. They accepted his numbers rather than take the trouble of going through his rule of three sum. But if I recollect aright the result of his figures was to produce an addition of 400,000 to the constituencies, of whom about 200,000 would belong to the working classes in the boroughs; but he also told us that the middle classes in the boroughs would still retain a majority of about 30,000. Well, objections were taken to our proceeding with this Bill, until it was known what were the intentions of the Government with respect to a re-distribution of seats. The right hon. Gentleman had been exceedingly coy upon that point. He refused to pledge the Government to anything but the Franchise Bill which be had placed before us. But when he saw the storm that was gathering round him he made a change in his order of battle. I do not think he was fairly liable to the military censure passed upon him by my right hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire. Certainly, it is a very dangerous operation to change your front in the presence of the enemy; but sometimes it is absolutely necessary. When all the strong positions taken up are in your rear, and a heavy fire is opened upon your rear and flank, you are compelled to alter the disposition of your forces. And the operation was perfectly successful; for the right hon. Gentleman soon found out that the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Kinglake), the right hon. Member for Gateshead (Mr. Hutt), and the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Oliphant), were only firing blank cartridge. They were completely fright ened at the position they had taken up, and at once slunk back into the ranks they had left with a celerity that does the utmost possible credit to the discipline enforced by the hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Brand). It is to be hoped that some future military historian who may trace the career of this Reform Battle will give a much better account of these manԓuvres than the hon. and right hon. Members who performed them have done. But it is not quite correct to say that the right hon. Gentleman opposite changed his front. He put forward his Franchise Bill in the front, and he stuck to it. He said, "I will bring 1206 this Franchise Bill into action and leave it to its fate; and although I have got in reserve nil the things that you ask for—a Re-distribution of Seats Bill, a Boundaries Bill, and Heaven knows how many other Bills besides—I will not show you any one of them until you have decided the fate of this measure," I am not sure that that was not good generalship on the part of the right hon. Gentleman. We know that with an army composed of mixed forces it is often good strategy to keep some of them out of sight as long as you can. They are much more likely to produce a panic among your own troops than strike terror into your enemy. But surely, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman has treated the House of Commons as if we were children. He has treated us as some nurses treat children to whom they show one thing and say, "Shut your eyes and open your mouth and see what we; will put into it." I think they are bad nurses who do that; it is not a good course, even in the case of children; but I am quite certain it will never do to deal in that way with a British House of; Commons. I say, treat us like men; tell us what is the scheme of Reform that you have to propose. You told us that you; had brought forward a Franchise Bill, measured for and fitted to, the present distribution of seats. You now tell us that you are going to change that altogether, and give us a re-distribution of seats. But nobody can say what effect your re-distribution of seats will have upon your Franchise Bill. You may completely alter your; numbers; and instead of your 400,000 new voters, we may have 500,000 or; 600,000; instead of a majority of 30,000; being left with the middle classes, the 30,000 may be quite the other way, and your 30,000 may turn out to be 100,000. Then, forsooth, we are told not to inquire into the figures, because all these persons who are to be introduced into the constituencies are, after all, only "our own fellow; countrymen, our fellow-Christians, our own flesh, and blood." Why, that is exactly the same argument, clothed only in different words, that the right hon. Gentleman made use "of some two Sessions ago, when he I declared that every man was entitled to the franchise unless you proved that he was specially disqualified. Are not the other millions whom you yourselves are to exclude equally "your own fellow-country-men, your own fellow-Christians, your own I flesh and blood," with those whom you pro- 1207 pose to admit? Sir, for my own part, I disclaim altogether looking upon the working classes "as an invading army." I have always said, and I now repeat what I volunteered to say on the hustings at the last election, although nobody had asked me a single question about Reform, namely—that there are many people without the right of voting who might not only very safely but very advantageously be admitted to the franchise; but that I have no idea that for the purpose of admitting them you should open the door so widely as to overwhelm those who already possess that right. I am delighted to find by the Returns before us that the constituencies are increasing so fast; and, with the assistance of some of those franchises which when we brought them forward you called "fancy franchises," and would not hear of, I hope that every man who is properly entitled to the suffrage may very easily obtain it. But you say, "Why are you afraid of the working classes? Why do you higgle about the numbers to be admitted?" Well, I confess that I am not half so afraid of the working classes as of those by whom they are likely to he led or rather misled. I do not wish to see the connection between representation and taxation completely put aside. I do not wish the working classes to have a majority of the representatives in this House. I know perfectly well that one of the avowed objects of some extreme Reformers is to substitute direct taxation for all indirect taxation. Let me ask, would they not be most warmly supported in that by those among their constituents who would pay very little or nothing at all towards the direct taxes? Would they not be perfectly indifferent to the amount of that taxation, and to the amount of the public expenditure? I recollect perfectly well that one of the principal arguments for the first Reform Bill was that a reformed House of Commons would be a better guardian of the public purse, and would reduce our taxation and expenditure. Why, the noble Lord now at the head of the Government made use of that argument as his answer when he was asked why he brought forward the Reform Bill. He said that the then House of Commons had been exceedingly lavish of public money; that it had not attended to the wishes of the people in regard to the reduction of taxation and expenditure. Well, what has been the effect of the first Reform Bill? Why, whereas the taxation in 1852 was 1208 about £50,000,000, the reformed House of Commons has added £20,000,000 to that amount. And the great difficulty now felt is not to increase, but to resist the increase of your public expenditure. Why, the last great economical Reformer you had in this House, who represented Lambeth (Mr. Williams), was always found haggling about a few odd pounds, shillings, and pence in the Estimates, and at the same time asking for a Vote for thousands to provide a park for his own constituents. I always believed that the late Mr. Hume, although I never agreed and never voted with him, was a perfectly honest and sincere man, and I can easily imagine that if he could now return to this House his very first question would be, "What is the amount of your Army and Navy Estimates?" And when he was told their present amount he would exclaim, "Surely you must have some great war going on." Well, we have had a great war since you left us, and several smaller ones too—small with regard to the Powers we attacked, and still smaller as to the honour we derived from them, but by no means small in a pecuniary point of view. Indeed, the fault was not with the Liberal Governments if we have not had a war with everybody, for they have interfered with the affairs of every country, and have interfered in such a way that the prediction of the late Sir Robert Peel has been fulfilled to the letter. In the last speech he made in this House he said—The time will come when, frightened by your own interference, you will withdraw your support from those whose hopes you have excited, and leave them to the bitter recollection that they have been betrayed.Mr. Hume would then say, "Well, I do not think that the reform of the House of Commons has done much with regard to economy, or the honour of the country; but no doubt a liberal and paternal Government has had its attention directed to the promotion of the liberty and the welfare of the country. No doubt he would say that Ireland at thin moment is the happiest, the most loyal, and the freest country in the world, and that all our colonies are in a state of prosperity? To this I should reply, This is an awkward moment to answer your inquiries, for I believe every barony in Ireland is proclaimed, the Habeas Corpus Act is suspended—but that is always so when Lord Russell is Prime Minister. And as to the colonies. I am sorry to say Jamaica 1209 has thrown up her constitution, and a Royal Commission is instituting an inquiry into the cause of the deplorable proceedings which have taken place in that island. We have had a mutiny in India since you left us. We have had a war in New Zealand, the circumstances of which it is difficult to understand; and now Canada is armed to the teeth for fear of an invasion. But all these things, we are informed, are to be set right by another Reform Bill. "Another Reform Bill!" Mr. Hume would exclaim, "why I suppose you must be going back again to the old constituencies, who selected sensible men to represent them, and who would never have allowed such a state of things to exist?" Well I should say we are partly going back again, You recollect all the freemen, potwallopers, and scot and lot voters who used to cut such a conspicuous figure before the Election Committees, and we are going to get them all back again only under a new name, £7 householders, and I have no doubt with their assistance every borough in England will have its market price. Some of the ten-pounders have been doing a good stroke of business on their own accounts, but we shall be able to have a regular list of prices, the amount of mint sauce required for the lambs of Nottingham, the price of Yarmouth bloaters, and a scale of prices for the Totnes tenants of the Duke of Somerset. I have not the slightest doubt that joint-stock companies will be formed, with regular circulars respecting seats in Parliament to be disposed of; and the Stock Exchange will be the arena for the transaction of business of this description. The right hon. Gentleman gave us another reason for bringing in a Reform Bill. He told us that some fifteen years ago the hon. Member for Surrey (Mr. Locke King) obtained leave by a majority to bring in a Bill to reduce the franchise in counties to £10; but he did not state that on the second reading it was thrown out by a large majority, I do not think the right hon. Gentleman was wise to remind ns of that Bill at all, because there was not a single argument made use of on that occasion that would not apply at the present moment to a Bill for the reduction of the proposed franchise from £14 to £7 in counties. The argument was that, if a £10 voter had a right to vote in the borough, he had an equal right to vote in the county. I now ask, will anybody get up and tell me that the Bill now before the House is likely to bring about a final settlement of the question? Would it not be made use of to make fresh 1210 demands and new extortions, so soon as the Liberal Government finds itself in a new emergency. Will the measure satisfy those who advocate a £6 franchise, or those who desire universal suffrage, at the head of whom the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer must be considered as taking his stand? Why, the very unanimity with which Gentlemen who advocate different franchises support the Bill is suspicious. Are they saying one thing and meaning another? Or are they only looking forward to this Bill as a step to that democratic form of Government which prevails in America, and which has been so much lauded? Now I, for one, have no hesitation in saying that I am for maintaining that old English Constitution which has carried us through so many perils to which other; forms of government have succumbed. I shall continue to support the division of power between the Crown, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons. I hold that the maintenance of the prerogatives of the Crown and of the House of Lords is just as essential to the liberties of the country as the maintenance of those of the House of Commons, The House of Lords has often rescued the country from an ill-considered or tyrannical vote of the House of Commons, which had been probably carried through some such gentle pressure as that spoken of as coming from the multitude; assembled between Charing Cross and the venerable Abbey. The hon. Member for: Birmingham lately reminded his constituents of what their fathers were prepared to do it 1831, for fear they should have forgotten it; but his version of the case I believe to be perfectly untrue. He told them that the country was within twenty-four hours of a revolution, and that nothing could save the Crown, and that the House of Lords ran great risk of being thrown into the river, I have such a perfect reliance, not only on the good sense, hut on the loyalty of all classes of the people of this country—not only on their loyalty to the Throne, but on their preference for the institutions of the country over those of any other country in the world—that I believe the demagogues who counselled such measures would be more likely to be thrown themselves into the Thames, and that there are millions of Her Majesty's subjects who would mush rather see the Thames flowing with blood instead of water, than that the Monarchy I should be swept away to give place to a 1211 Republican form of Government. It is all idle talk about danger; there is no danger of the institutions of the country being assailed. I believe there never was a monarch in the history of this country—I will not say so popular, because I think that word does not express the meaning—so thoroughly beloved by every class of subjects as Queen Victoria is at the present moment; but that is love for the individual and not for the kingly power. It is impossible to disguise the fact that the power of the Crown and the power of the House of Lords have been materially interfered with since the passing of the last Reform Bill. Why, the hon. Member for Birmingham himself admitted, in this House, I think, that the power of the Crown, and the power of the House of Lords had been diminished, and that the power of the House of Commons had been increased. We all consider it to be the duty of the monarchs of this country, not for their own sakes only, but for the sake of their descendants and that of the people of this country, to look with the greatest jealousy upon any encroachments upon the prerogatives of the Crown. We have been threatened within the last week or fortnight with a dissolution of Parliament if this Bill should not pass. I think that is a most unconstitutional threat, and that in making it you are encroaching upon the prerogative of the Crown. Now, in regard to this Bill, I have no hesitation in saying I would not, under any circumstances, vote for an indiscriminate reduction of the franchise in boroughs to £7. I would not vote for that under the present distribution of seats, and a re-distribution of seats would only add to my objections to it, because it would increase the evils I anticipate from it. The Government have told the people that they have a right to know what the intentions of the Government are, and that their trumpet shall give no uncertain sound; but I can imagine nothing so vague and uncertain as the sound they have given. They do not allow us to know what the proportions of this Franchise Bill will be when it is fitted to a new distribution of seats. You will shortly be called upon to say "Aye" or "No" to the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Chester; but if you believe that this is not a proper way of dealing with this question; if you think you ought to say "Aye" to the Amendment of the noble Lord opposite, while for party purposes yon are going to say "No;" 1212 if your lips say "No," although your consciences says "Aye,"—then will you be pursuing a course which reminds me of the two lines addressed by Achilles to the ambassador—Him count I hateful as the doors of Hell Who in his heart thinks other than his tongue doth tell.
said, he could not understand why he, who had taken no part in the debate, should have been assailed by the shafts of the gallant General, to many of whose statements he thought the maxim humanum est errare might be very properly applied. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman accused him in the first place of having withdrawn the Amendment which he had placed on the Notice Book; and secondly, of having fired blank cartridge—an offence which must be regarded as being rather of a serious character. In answer to the first charge he would only say that he had never withdrawn his Amendment, and that it up to the present moment stood on the Order Book of the House, where it would remain until the conditions on which it was based had been faithfully fulfilled. To the second charge, that the Amendment was merely blank cartridge, the answer which he had to give was, he thought, conclusive, fie proposed to move, on the Motion for going into Committee on the Franchise Bill, that it was not expedient to do so until the House had before it the expected Bill for a re-distribution of seats. What had been the result of the notice to that effect which he had given? Why, that it had been followed the very next day by a statement from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in which he announced that the Government would not ask the House to go into Committee on the Franchise Bill until they had before them the Bill for the redistribution of seats; thus proving, in the most express way, that the terms of his Amendment should be complied with. So far, therefore, from having fired blank cartridge, he had, by means of his Amendment, dealt an effectual blow, inasmuch as it was now certain that the House would, before going into Committee on the Franchise Bill, have a Bill for the re-distribution of seats laid on the table.
MR. BANKS STANHOPE
said, that he thoroughly agreed with the noble Lord who seconded the Amendment (Lord Stanley) in the opinion that it was desirable the question of Reform should, if possible, be settled, in placing complete trust in all classes of his countrymen, and in welcom- 1213 ing all those who by their industry had raised themselves to the franchise. The question, however, was not, he thought, whether there was to be any Reform; but rather, was that the proper Reform which the Government proposed? He did not feel himself bound to defend all the details of the Reform Bill of 1832, although he was ready to admit that it had been productive of benefit. He was not prepared, for instance, to defend the principle that because a man happened to live in a £10 house be should have a vote, while his neighbour who occupied a lodging was excluded from the franchise. Neither was be a supporter of the principle of a man who lived in a borough having by some quibble two votes, one for the borough and one for the county, or that upon which a large number of towns that were larger than some small boroughs should be unrepresented instead of being grouped together and have Members to represent them. He did not, he might add, defend the numerous discrepancies between the number of Members which were returned for boroughs and for counties. He could not see why counties—and he thought the figures were very significant—with a population of 11,000,000, and an estimated rental of £69,000,000, should have only 162 Members, while boroughs with a population of only 9,000,000 and an estimated rental of £41,000,000 should have 334 Members. If, therefore, there were a re-settlement of the question of Reform, he should be very glad, because lie did not think that matters as they stood were entirely perfect. He could not, however, look on the Bill under discussion as one which was entitled to his support. It reminded him of an amateur builder who in erecting a fine house made one mistake in the plan and another in the estimate. His bedrooms were as good as the rooms in which he was to live, were magnificent, hut he forgot the staircase. His estimate also was most moderate, hut he forgot his kitchen, offices, and stables. The Government also had made one mistake in their plan, and one in their estimate. Was their Reform Bill, he would ask, likely to effect a real settlement at all of the question with which it dealt? In discussing that point he would quote from a book which contained several speeches of the hon. Member for Birmingham, and he quoted these speeches because they laid down very clearly the basis on which a measure of Reform ought, in the opinion of its most earnest advocates, to be founded. A speech which he made at Birmingham, in 1858, is most valuable as 1214 giving his plans for Reform. The hon. Gentleman said—Whenever a Reform Bill is brought into the House of Commons by any Government be as watchful and exacting as you like on the subject of the franchise, but never, I beg, take your eye for one moment from the question of the distribution of the Members, for in it lies the great subject of dispute, and unless you guard your rights you will have to fight your battle over again and to begin it the very day after the next Bill has I passed.Again, speaking at Bradford, in 1859, he used the following language:—Now, the Reform Bill of 1832 gave sixty-three seats to boroughs, and, I think, sixty-five seats to counties, I believe, generally, from that time to this, there has been a feeling among all those who are in favour of Reform that the Reform Bill gave I too large an influence to the counties and to the: landed interest in the distribution of Members which was made by it. Repudiate without mercy any Bill of any Government, whatever its franchise, whatever its seeming concession may be, if it does not distribute the seats which are obtained from the extinction of small boroughs mainly among the great city and town populations of the kingdom. The question of distribution is the very soul of the question of Reform, and unless you watch that you will be deceived, and when the Bill is passed you may possibly turn back to lament that you are not in the position in which you now find yourselves,A few months ago he said—I argue, therefore, that it would be an incumbrance to a Suffrage Bill at this moment to interfere with the distribution of seats; it would make; it more difficult to carry a Bill, and whatever distribution of seats you could now make must necessarily be trifling and unsatisfactory, and would leave that question still unsettled, even for the shortest possible period. You will carry such a Bill much more easily; public opinion hereafter will be more ripe to deal with the question of the re-distribution when there are a larger number of electors returning your Members to Parliament; I mean a larger number in the different boroughs. You will have what a mechanic will call a larger lever and a better Parliament, which would deal more satisfactorily with all questions which may come before you.What, then, was the use of introducing such a measure as that under discussion when it would not settle the question even for "the shortest possible time." In Schedule A the hon. Member proposed to knock out nine places; in Schedule B some more; to the towns he gave 129, a very large number of them to the metropolis and the large towns; and he gave only twenty-nine to the counties. Supposing in any way that they obtained a Redistribution Bill, remarked the hon. Member for Birmingham, then they would have a better Parliament and a larger lever, which would give them 191 more Liberal Members. But why was it, it might be asked, that the hon. Member for Birming- 1215 ham seemed to have changed his opinions on the subject? Because his own plan of the re-distribution of seats could not be carried out in the present House of Commons, and because he had arranged that the question of re-distribution should be left to a future Radical Parliament. This measure, then, could not be considered a perfect measure, because it did not secure to them those measures which the hon. Member for Birmingham and others held to be absolutely necessary. The hon. Gentleman further said that no measure would be satisfactory that did not give the voters the shelter of the ballot. Might he (Mr. B. Stanhope) ask, whether the Members for Lancashire generally protested against this measure unless accompanied by the measure of the ballot? But the hon. Member for Birmingham had expressed himself in favour of household suffrage in preference to any other description of franchise. Well, then, they had there a distinct declaration from the hon. Member for Birmingham that no Reform Bill would be satisfactory unless it contained provisions for the re-distribution of seats, the ballot, and household suffrage. The Chancellor of the Exchequer the other day had—unintentionally, no doubt—created a wrong impression at Liverpool in leading the people to believe that the opponents of this measure viewed the working classes who were to be admitted to the franchise under this Bill as a hostile body. Now, he (Mr. B. Stanhope) must say he had entire confidence in the working classes of the country. The householders in boroughs that would be admitted under the Bill were estimated at 300,000. Now, if that number added to the present constituency were sufficient to destroy the agricultural interest, however well disposed each man might be individually, so far as those 300,000 new voters were concerned, they were clearly in the position of an invading army. The Chancellor of the Exchequer in his speech when proposing this measure adduced a vast amount of figures, and subsequently the Government laid on the table a volume of statistics extending over 354 pages. When he (Mr. B. Stanhope) ventured to say that some of those figures were inaccurate the right hon. Gentleman became greatly excited—he might almost say angry—in his reply. "What have you to do with figures," said the right hon. Gentleman; "you treat these working classes as an invading army, though they are our fellow Christians, and of the same flesh and blood as ourselves." So the 1216 moment they commenced to deal with figures the Chancellor of the Exchequer met them with sentimentality of that sort; and the moment they talked common sense the right hon. Gentleman asserted that they were dealing with the working classes as if they were an invading army. He (Mr. B. Stanhope) submitted that that was not a fair discussion, and he did not think that the House generally would approve of the manner in which the right lion. Gentleman conducted the business of the House. On what basis were they to admit the working man? Was it to be on the basis of facts and figures? Was it to be on the basis of mutual confidence, or upon the claim of being fellow Christians and flesh and blood like themselves? Now, he (Mr. B. Stanhope) yielded to no man in respect towards the working classes. At the same time, he confessed he was not prepared to give them unlimited power. The English aristocracy was the best in the world, but he was not prepared to give them unlimited power. He contended that the middle classes were the very mainstay of the wealth of the country; nevertheless, that was no reason why they should possess unlimited power. It was not fair to ask the House to place unlimited confidence in the working classes, or to give them unlimited power. It was argued the other day that because the people of Lancashire behaved so well during their recent heavy distress they were entitled to votes. Now, he admitted that no people could have borne their long suffering with greater patience. Nevertheless, it should be recollected that they had a great moral force at their back. They were aided, too, by great pecuniary contributions from England, Australia, and many other parts of the world. They had also the active and generous support of Lord Derby, and other men of station and wealth. But what was the reason that the working man living in Lincolnshire was not equally entitled to a vote as the working man living in Manchester or other places in Lancashire? From 1847 to 1852 the men of Lincolnshire underwent an amount of privation which few were aware of; and they bore their sufferings with equal patience as those men of Lancashire, although they had no public subscription, nor any general sympathy to aid or console them. In a letter of Mr. Haughton, recently published, the agricultural labourers were estimated at 885,000. Now, there were an enormous number of freeholders who might be called working men. About 200,000 working 1217 men, he believed, had the franchise. Were not the whole of these classes our fellow Christians and our own flesh and blood? Well, if they were to push this fellow-Christian theory to the utmost, should not, the five millions of adult women in the country be considered? Was there any man who would dare to say that the women were not fit to govern? Social trust could certainly be placed hi the working men in the counties, but that did not imply political confidence. He could not place implicit social trust in the working man in boroughs, because he was always engaged in strikes. The tailors, carpenters, and bricklayers had their strikes in 1865–6, and the iron men had a terrible strike in 1864. He was afraid, indeed, that the effect of these strikes would be to send our capital and business to foreign countries. He would not place political confidence in the working classes, because they believed almost everything they were told. The hon. Member for Birmingham, addressing his constituents in 1858, said—There is no actuary in existence who can calculate how much of the wealth, of the strength, of the supremacy of the territorial families of England has been derived from an unholy participation in the fruits of the industry of the people, which have been wrested from them by every device of taxation and squandered in every conceivable crime of which a Government could possibly be guilty. The more you examine this matter, the more you will come to the conclusion which f have arrived at, that this foreign policy, this regard for 'the liberties of Europe,' this care at one time for 'the Protestant interests,' this excessive love for 'the balance of power,' is neither more nor less than a gigantic system of outdoor relief for the aristocracy of Great Britain.The Chancellor of the Exchequer made a speech at Liverpool the other day, in which he compared the £250,000,000 income of the working man with the £300,000,000 income of the people who pay income tax. The income of the working man he made out to be three-sevenths, or as equal to 3 or 4. But there was a gigantic fallacy in the right hon. Gentleman's argument, because the income of the working man was payment for his labour from the capital of others; the income of the taxpayer was interest on his own capital, while the muscles of a working man were his capital. He would not go into the subject how far the muscular capital of the working man was above or below the money capital of those who paid income tax, If they wished, however, to represent clearly the amount of money of both they must mul- 1218 tiply the £300,000,000, the property of the income taxpayers, by 17, which would give a total of £5,000,000,000 as against £250,000,000 the income of the working classes. This proportion, instead of being as 3 to 4, was but 3 to 70. The Chancellor of the Exchequer undertook to give his audience at Liverpool the meaning of the word "democracy." He said—The word 'democracy' has different meanings. If by democracy he meant liberty—if by democracy he meant the extension to each man in his own sphere of every privilege and of every franchise that he can exercise with advantage to himself and safety to the country, then I must say I do not see much to alarm mo in the word 'democracy.'This was the most dangerous sentence he ever read, for the word "if" led either to no franchise at all or universal suffrage. It must lead to universal suffrage, for no one would dare to tell the masses that they I could not "exercise the franchise with advantage to themselves and safety to the State." This was a mere repetition of the statement made in 1863 by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that—Every person not presumably incapacitated by some consideration of personal unfitness or political danger was morally entitled to come within the pale of the Constitution.If they carried out even household suffrage—and he did not see how they were to stop short of it—and if every working man was to have a vote, the question was, "What he would do with it?" The hon. Member for Birmingham said at Glasgow, in 1858—I am no advocate for a law to force the division of land. I do not want any landlord to be compelled to have a greater or smaller number of tenants, but I say the system of legislation on primogeniture on the law of entail, which is intended to keep vast estates in one hand through successive generations to prevent that economical disposition and change of property found so advantageous in every other kind of property—I say that state of things is full of the most pernicious consequences, not only to the agricultural classes, but to all other classes of our countrymen, for all are affected by it.And the hon. Gentleman, in the same speech, said—Is there any reason why land should not be as free as machinery, or ships, or household furniture, or cattle, or the goods and manufactures in your warehouses?The hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. Stuart Mill), in his Political Economy, wrote—When the sacredness of property is talked of, it should always be remembered that any such sacredness docs not belong in the same degree to 1219 landed property. No man made the land. It is the original inheritance of the whole species. Its appropriation is wholly a question of general expediency. Where private property in land is not expedient, it is unjust.If property because it was land was not to be sacred, a landowner would ask how many years' purchase his land was worth? The question next arose, who in the new Parliament, and under the proposed distribution of seats, were to settle for the future the finances, questions of peace and war, or our foreign relations? The hon. Member for Birmingham said, on these subjects—In our Foreign Office we have no massively constructed columns, we have no statues, but we have a mystery as profound—for in the innermost recesses we And some miserable intrigue, in the defence of which your fleets are traversing every ocean, your armies are perishing in every clime, and the precious blood of our country's children is squandered and regarded as valueless. I hope that an improved representation will change all this, that that great portion of our expenditure which is incurred in carrying out the secret and irresponsible doings of our Foreign Office will be placed directly under the free control of a Parliament elected by the great body of the United Kingdom, and then, and not till then, will your industry be secured from that gigantic taxation to which it has been subjected during the last 150 years.It was highly important to know on what principles the Government was to be carried on under the new representation. The agricultural interest, it was plain, was meant to be—and must be—destroyed by this Bill. He would not go into statistics, but would only say, that if the Government gave county votes to the householders in towns—say 300,000 votes—they would swamp the county constituency. The House had recently combined to carry out measures of repression with regard to the cattle plague, which the Government had not had the nerve to adopt. The cry thereupon arose that the agricultural interest was too strong, and, therefore, this Bill was brought in and re-distribution postponed. If 129 borough Members (to be destroyed like flies in a December frost) voted for the Bill, they would emulate the courage of the gladiators who died for the amusement of the masses. Before they voted they ought (as the gladiators did) to bow to their ruler (the Member for Birmingham), and before taking their fatal and final march, they ought to defile (as gladiators did) before him and cry—Ave, Cæsar, morituri te salutamus.The House of Commons must not legislate under a panic, or be supposed to be "dic- 1220 tated to" or be influenced by threats, or fear of personal violence. Now, what said the hon. Member for Birmingham in his letter to his constituents on the 25th of March? He said this—What should be done, and what must be done under these circumstances? You know what your fathers did thirty-four years ago, and you know the result. The men who in every speech they utter insult the working men, describing them as a multitude given up to ignorance and vice, will be the first to yield when the popular will is loudly and resolutely expressed. If Parliament Street from Charing Cross to the venerable Abbey were filled with men seeking a Reform Bill, as it was two years ago with men come to do honour to an illustrious Italian, these slanderers of their countrymen would learn to be civil, if they did not learn to love freedom.Who was the Member for Birmingham to threaten the House of Commons? He had no fear of a row, because he had social trust in his countrymen; and there would be none, because the Member for Birmingham knew he was legally, as well as morally, answerable. That House was a peculiar House. He knew not its mission, its end, its name in history. It might be "The Short Parliament," or "The Black Parliament" that began democracy. At present its name was "Lord Palmerston's Parliament." It was elected to maintain him and support his policy. Lord Palmers-ton had been buried with all honours by his Colleagues. North American Indians bury their great chiefs with their weapons as a mark of their greatest respect, to assist them on to what they call the "happy hunting grounds." The Government had similarly honoured their chief. They interred Lord Palmerston, and they buried his principles with him. He confidently appealed to both sides of the House to reecho the words he was about to utter—that the House of Commons would not and should not be dictated to by the Member for Birmingham.
§ MR. BAXTER moved the adjournment of the debate.
§ MR. AYRTON
thought that debates on great questions like this ought not to be regarded as of secondary importance, and that the debate should not, as a matter of course, be adjourned at twelve o'clock. Such was not the case in former days. They did not foumerly give up at twelve o'clock, or give way to a feeble wearisome-ness, but discussed the question until an hour at which they could reasonably adjourn. Now-a-days Members went in the morning and read the debates, and came down repeating what they had read; so 1221 that the debates were not only protracted but tiresome. He hoped whenever the debate was resumed that it would be brought to a conclusion.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that the practice to which the lion, and learned Gentleman had alluded was one which had now prevailed for twenty-five years, and he very much doubted whether at any period of our history the House had ever sat till three or four o'clock with the view of then adjourning a debate. But what he ventured to presume was, that there would be a disposition, through the kindness of lion. Members, to facilitate the progress of the debate; and as the rule which placed Supply as the first Order on Friday enabled Members to introduce a variety of topics which were not likely to be listened to with much advantage to-morrow, he would appeal to those having Motions on the paper to give way, so as to enable this debate to be then proceeded with.
§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE
said, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated, as a reason for not having introduced a more comprehensive measure, that he could not trust much to the tender mercies of private Members, who were not to be expected to give up the only nights they had for bringing forward questions in which they felt an interest, and therefore the Government would have only about twelve nights at their disposal for the discussion of the Reform Bill. Under these circumstances, it was rather hard to ask Gentlemen who were not inclined to facilitate the passing of the Reform Bill to give up their nights. If, then, out of deference to the wishes of the House and the Government, and in opposition to his own conviction of the necessity of the question, he was to yield his right, he was justified in asking Her Majesty's Government to give, him a day for bringing forward the subject which stood in his name for to-morrow evening.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, it would be impossible for the Government to give a day. His right hon. Friend had made a suggestion which was in conformity with the general feeling of the House, and the good sense of the hon. Gentleman would, no doubt, lead him to act in deference to that feeling.
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow.
§ House adjourned at a quarter before One o'clock.