Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [12th April], "That the Bill be now read a second time;" and which Amendment was—
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 again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. GRAHAM
said: I feel that there is no slight presumption in one so little entitled to attention as myself occupying the time of the House when there are doubtless many hon. Members of weight and authority whom it desires to hear on this great question; nor is the responsibility a light one of speaking and voting upon it. But I have observed upon so many occasions, and I have myself indeed experienced the great indulgence which it is the habit of the House to extend to those who have recently been admitted to its deliberations, that I am emboldened to do so, while I feel that I should be untrue to my convictions and unfaithful to my duty did I not raise my voice and record my vote on behalf of the measure of my hon. Friend. Although susceptible of improvement, by the omission of provisions for disenfranchising Government employés, I believe it to be just in principle, moderate and prudent in its scope and extent, and eminently judicious to the form in which it is brought before us. I believe it to be pregnant with good consequences, and secure of triumphant success in the almost unanimous adhesion of the Liberal party. 1649 I have carefully considered the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Chester (Earl Grosvenor). I have listened with the closest attention to the very temperate and moderate speech in which it was introduced, to the earnest, able, and various arguments by which it has been supported by others, and especially to the masterly and elaborate speech of the right hon. and learned Baronet the Member for Belfast (Sir Hugh Cairns), and I can honestly say that I have done so without discovering one sufficient reason or hearing one adequate argument to shake the adhesion or ensnare the vote of any earnest and intelligent reformer. The Resolution alluded to does not avowedly attack the principle of the Bill—the principle of a reduction of the county and borough franchise—but only the alleged incompleteness of it. The noble Lords the Mover and the Seconder of the Amendment (Earl Grosvenor and Lord Stanley) alike proclaim themselves genuine and hearty Reformers—and this avowal is, in the case, of the noble Lord the Member for Chester in accordance with his previous history and the traditions of his house, however apparently contradicted by his position at this time; and they and those who act with them, whilst carefully avoiding to condescend on the particulars of what reform of the franchise they would approve (which the question before the House really is), content themselves with saying that what they want is a more comprehensive measure of Reform, but fail to tell us how deep and how broad they would seek to have the foundations laid of this their castle in the air-—fail to tell us whether they disapprove of any reduction of the franchise at all, or whether they consider the reduction too great. The argument of the Amendment has been dwelt not on the question of the fitness of reducing the franchise, but only as to whether a Bill for that purpose can safely be passed apart from measures for re-distribution. Now, Sir, the answer to that argument is very simple. There is, I am certain, no Re-former on this side of the House—no Member of the Government—who would not heartily rejoice in carrying out, at one time in this Session, either in one or separate Bills, no matter which, all necessary changes for improving our representative system; and the only reason against such a course is, I suppose, the strongest of all reasons, that in the present circumstances it is impossible, whilst the assumed know- 1650 ledge of that impossibility is just the true reason and motive for by far the largest portion of the support which the Amendment receives from hon. Gentlemen opposite. There are, I doubt not, some sincere Reformers who may, notwithstanding, be found under the banner of obstruction on this occasion. There are men who can see things but from one, and that their own point of view; men who, from a peculiar idio-syncracy, prefer rather that a thing should not be done at all than that it be done otherwise than in their own way. They are often good men, often able men; but they arc generally very unpractical, and often very mischievous men indeed. But the truth is, the great majority of those who oppose this measure, oppose it not because they are anxious for a complete symmetrical Reform, but because they do not believe in the wisdom or necessity of, and are indifferent and hostile to, any Reform at all; and the plausible proposition which, in perfect good faith no doubt, the noble Earl has put upon the table of the House, is but the lurking-place in which the enemies of all Reform lie in wait to assassinate what they shrink, from openly assailing. The right hon. and gallant General the Member for Huntingdon (General Peel) I cannot find fault with in this respect. He came forward with the gallantry becoming his profession and reputation as the leader of a forlorn hope against the cause and the character of Reform altogether; and, calling up the shade of a great financial Reformer of other days, discourses to him, with an enthusiasm that is really refreshing, of the extravagance in expenditure, the persistent aggressiveness in foreign policy, the wretched mismanagement in colonial and Hibernian Government, and the veanlity and violence in the constituencies, which have been the natural and necessary result of the Reform Act of 1832. That, Sir, is a style of argument which I respect. It is consistent, straightforward, intelligible. By all means let us go back to the old constituencies, who selected sensible men to represent them. If so senseless a body as the present House of Commons can be persuaded so to decide, let us put that issue plainly—do not let us make believe more than is absolutely necessary—do not let us be firing blank cartridges as feux de joie in honour of Reform, and slipping in a loaded one in the shape of a Resolution to slay it from behind its back. Nor would it be possible for me to question the good 1651 faith, or to treat otherwise than with profound respect, the arguments of the right hon. and learned Baronet the Member for Belfast (Sir Hugh Cairns.) His transparent sincerity and deep earnestness of personal character need no words of acknowledgment from me. I believe him to be incapable of arguing contrary to his honest convictions. I am but a stripling, and he a man of war from his youth, and how should I match myself with his trained and nervous intellect and power of argument? Yet, honestly differing from him in opinion, I may presume to mention one or two points in which he seemed to me to be at fault; and that I may not unnecessarily trespass on the time of the House, I shall confine myself to three points—1st, his conclusion that personal fitness is not the proper basis of the suffrage right. With regard to this he has said that certain examples which he laid down "disembarrassed the case of the invidious consideration of fitness." Again—I agree that unfitness ought to prevent the exercise of the suffrage, but it by no means follows that because there is fitness there should be right.And again, "the mere question of fitness is beside the argument." Now the right hon. and learned Baronet's is a just authority, as the organ of the Opposition. But there are other authorities of no inconsiderable weight. In the debate on Lord Russell's Bill in 1860, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli), when speaking on the question of the borough franchise reduction, said—In proposing to confer the franchise on those who do not possess it we ought to look to their fitness.And again—But it appears to me that founding a recommendation to extend the suffrage merely on considerations of numbers is an unsafe and shallow proceeding.So that we find two of the great leaders of the Conservative party at variance upon the point that lies very much at the bottom of all this controversy—namely, whether a man's fitness for the suffrage is a reason why we should give it him; second, his belief that there is danger to the Constitution in such an influx of new constituents as the Bill now before the House proposes. That Bill, he states, "is precipitate, blind, and reckless," and he asks whether the Constitution, if changed, will transmit to our children the blessings we ourselves have received. And 1652 here again I find him at variance with his political leader. In the same debate to which I have already referred, the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire thus spoke—I say that if, instead of 257,000, there had been 557,000 men who, in the opinion of the House, are fit for the suffrage, the suffrage ought to be given them.The right hon. Gentleman, with a strict sense of justice which does him infinite honour, would not even omit the odd 7,000; and now, when we propose to admit 400,000 men, the Constitution is in danger. The third point on which I have to find fault is his opinion that to deal with one branch of the Reform question, apart from all others, is unsafe and improper; and here once more I appeal to Cæsar—to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire. Now, Sir, when the Bill of Lord Derby was before Parliament in 1859 the Scotch Members were anxious to know how their interests were to be affected before giving their votes; and on the second reading Mr. Ellice, on their behalf, asked the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, how Scotland was to be dealt with? The right hon. Gentleman replied—As soon after the English Bill has been read a second time as the pressure of public business will admit, it is our intention to introduce a Scotch Reform Bill. At present we contemplate introducing it before Easter, and I think that the House will agree with me that it will be much more convenient that a general statement of its provisions should then be made than that on the present occasion we should give any partial information which might lead to very great misconceptions."—[3 Hansard, clii. 1284.]So that the Scotch Members were to vote for a measure which might so change the views of Parliament as greatly to affect their interests, without being told how these interests were to be affected—the very thing which is to you so objectionable in the case of the English Members now. Am I not justified in asking how views so opposite can be reconciled? What are on these three points the real views of the Conservative party? Sir, I am always opposed to the practice of turning public men into ridicule by showing how they have contradicted themselves at separate periods. I think it unfair and ungenerous, and rather tending to be a demoralizing style of argument; but to contrast the publicly declared opinions of the leaders of a party, and to show that the principles asserted by one are as positively 1653 contradicted by the other, seems to me a perfectly legitimate reply, when these principles are pleaded against us by them. There is one other point arising out of the late argument which I must refer to. The illustration afforded showed how difficult and yet how desirable it is to look at questions affecting the working classes from their own point of view. Much has been said of the danger and impropriety (and I quite assent to it) of giving the working classes a predominancy in Parliament, of putting them in a majority; but I have not heard one word upon the impropriety of the opposite course—the predominance of the middle classes—indeed, the working classes being in a minority seems to be accepted as of perfectly unquestionable right. The claim of the middle classes seems to be founded on the belief that the middle classes are the wise, the impartial, the worthy, the unimpulsive. Now this may be all true, or it may not; it is a pleasant persuasion for us to live in, but remember that from the working classes point of view this may not be so apparent, and every argument which may be used to debar these working classes of an equal share in Parliament is susceptible of being applied by them exactly in the reverse sense of the middle classes. They, Sir, have never claimed, as we have done, the preponderating share. They do not expect—they do not wish for it. They are prepared to accept the theory of the right hon. and learned Baronet, that of an equal participation, which, however, he states theoretically, and with no practical intention of applying it. Nay, they are content to accept this Bill, which offers them much less than an equal share. To the elaborate statistics which have been quoted on the opposite side, I do not refer; I leave that to the arithmetic master of the House. I will only upon the arithmetic of the case suggest a little ode to be committed to memory by the hon. Gentlemen opposite, many, probably, of whom may have early reminiscences of the words—Multiplication is vexation,that is, of the borough constituencies;Division is as bad,that is, the division on the Franchise Bill;The rule of three perplexes me,that is, the little sum set them on Thursday last by my right hon. Friend;And fractions drive me mad.that is, the infinitesimal portion of the Liberal party that will go with them into 1654 the lobby. Sir, of the sincerity and good faith of some of the distinguished men who oppose us I have not a doubt; but I am sorry to say I cannot believe that the great majority of those who support the Amendment do so upon the ground which it ostensibly holds out; much less do I believe that hon. Gentlemen on our own side, who profess themselves earnest Reformers, desire to prevent Reform altogether, and yet what else must be the result, if not the intention, of a Resolution supported by such allies should it prove successful. It complains, forsooth, not of too much Reform, but of too little. It is not that the unwelcome little stranger of which my right hon. Friend has been delivered is not the legitimate child of Liberal opinion, but that the right hon. Gentleman has not been brought to bed of twins, and these Egyptian midwives on the other side of the House encourage the demand for a double accouchement only that they may more effectually do the bidding of Pharoah and strangle both infants at their birth. With those who are thus insincere in dealing with this great question it is in vain to debate; we know their opinion; we accept the real and not the feigned issues between us; we have proved the victorious power of Liberal principles, and political truth in the past; we measure our strength and the goodness of our cause against them in the present, and we have no fear of the result. But a far different consideration is due to those of whose sincerity and whose right-mindedness we have had abundant proof in the past, and whose co-operation we earnestly desire still to secure—to secure, I say, for their sakes as much as for our own to them. If one so humble in position and influence as myself may presume to appeal, I would address a few words of earnest remonstrance, and would ask them, Do you wish to imperil a cause that you have really at heart? Tell us fully and frankly what you hope for by such a course; and I do not believe that, if your objects be faithful to the cause and consistent with the interests of Reform, there can be anything that should prevent a perfect understanding between us. Of their sincere wish for such an understanding the Government have already given proof by the concessions they have made. Is the reduction of the franchise contemplated in this measure in itself a dangerous thing, an evil, or a good? What are the dangers to be apprehended from this 1655 reduction being passed apart from the other measures of Reform which they desire? Are such other measures more or less likely to be passed after this one has become law? What probability is there that any larger and more explicit measure of Reform would command a greater or even an equal measure of support? And first, as to the intrinsic merits of the proposition that the franchise should be reduced, I have never held the opinion that the franchise is the right of every man untainted by crime. I believe that, as inequality of condition is one of the necessary and inevitable accidents of society, it is the duty and privilege of society to recognize such inequality of condition in all matters in which its recognition tends to the general good. Such a matter I believe the distribution of the franchise to be—a matter not of abstract right, but of equitable adjustment. But I think that, so regarding it, it is perfectly evident that the more wide the area of that franchise, consistently with the general good, the better for the State and for society. This I look upon as the true distinction between really democratic and really constitutional principles in this matter; and this word democratic—this bye-word and reproach—it is too much the habit of the day to apply indiscriminately to men and to opinions—to whom, whether it be a reproach or not, it has at all events no just application. Those who differ from you as to fitness of individuals or classes for admission to the privilege of the franchise in the interests of society are not therefore democrats in the sense of asserting a right of admission, independent of fitness altogether. And what does the Bill of my right hon. Friend assert but that by the progress of education, intelligence, and virtue, and by the growth of population, a number of persons, in all not exceeding 400,000, may be added to the present constituencies with advantage to the country; and that as there was more room and more need for that progress amongst the lower than amongst the higher state of society—witness the evidence of the Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe)—and a much larger number of the former than of the latter were excluded, we rejoice to find that the large number of the new constituents will be furnished from that class. Primâ facie, then, and assuming the growth of education and intelligence, which I presume no one denies, the extension of the franchise is a right proposal, and will be 1656 an auspicious event. But what are, apart from the primâ facie view, the positive benefits to be anticipated? The advantage to those thus admitted consists in the increased self-respect, the diminished class feeling, the closer contact with higher cultivation, the lessened temptation to illegitimate self-assertion which the possession of its legitimate scope affords in this House, and just as men work themselves up into an unreasoning distrust of the working people of this country—the more surely, the less they know and the more they talk about them, so do the working people distrust and dread the upper classes just in proportion as they are shut out to pursue their objects in a state of political separation from their social superiors. The advantage to us who admit them, on the other hand, will be the disabusing us of many prejudices, and relieving us of many fears as to what the aims of these working classes are. We shall disarm their opposition to wholesome things, which they dread chiefly as coming from us, and secure their cooperation in removing unwholesome things which are too strong for us too deal with without their help. We shall understand them better and trust them more. But, Sir, I am ashamed to trespass on the House with my feeble expression of these views after the noble and exhaustive exposition of them by the hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. J. Stuart Mill), views which honourably contrast, in their calm and dispassionate truthfulness, with those of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hertfordshire. He proclaimed the astounding doctrine, far from the franchise right being an educational and elevating thing, it was positively a.demoralizing one. He demonstrated this eminently Conservative theory by a reference to the pot-wallopers of the good old days, and a contrast between the venal voters of Yarmouth and the unrepresented men of Rochdale; and, in his benevolent anxiety for the virtue of the working man, he seeks to save him from the possession of that vote whose demoralizing influence must of course be deepest among those who have longest been exposed to it—of those who possessed it before Liberal principles were in the ascendant at all. But if the advantages of extended franchise are such as I have indicated, what are the dangers to be apprehended, apart from that demoralizing influence, in the admitted classes themselves, which the hon. Baronet the Member for 1657 Hertfordshire anticipates?—an invasion of democratic Members—an avalanche of democratic measures—a confiscation of the rights of property—a capital sentence upon capital itself. Well, are the representatives of the -working people, or those who are accused of being so, the least respectable or the least valuable Members of the House of Commons? Is it, indeed, a calamity to this House that it numbers in its ranks the hon. Members for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), for Westminster (Mr. J. Stuart Mill), for Brighton (Mr. White), for the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Ayrton), for Manchester (Mr. Bazley)—nay, even the humble representatives of Glasgow—are they very dangerous men? Sir, election by working men does not necessarily imply election of working men. We all know it is far otherwise; and if some violent men should find their way into this House—so far from that being an evil, I regard it as a positive good. Talk of public schools, talk of Universities; there is no school for men like the House of Commons. Many a wild elephant has been tamed ere now by being coupled with tame ones; and in the conflict of opinion in the free and yet self-restrained intercourse of thought which here arises, there are subduing, and sobering, and improving influences that only a very stupid man, a very bad man, will resist. And do not suppose the working classes are fools. Extreme and violent men will never acquire influence in an Assembly such as this unless they first accept the lessons which it teaches; and the people would soon tire of sending men to represent them who failed to secure influence and command attention here. Nor are the working men all of one way of thinking, so as to use their power with a special concentration. They are no more gregarious in their habits of thought than the classes above them. On the contrary, I believe they profess more originality and individualism. Why, Sir, I will find you at the corner of any street down in our northern towns a set of men amongst whom almost any ten are prepared to differ upon public questions, and many of them to maintain their differences, in argument, with an ability that would do no dishonour to this House. Is it an avalanche of measures, conceived in a spirit of hostility to property and capital, that is feared? Was there ever such a calumny—such a chimera? You tell us of the protectionist tendency of democrats elsewhere. Was it working men who op- 1658 posed those doctrines of free trade, and free agriculture, and free navigation, that have enhanced the value of property and increased the accumulation of capital in this country to an extent unprecedented in the history of the world? Tell me what measures conceived in such a spirit it is that you dread? Leave the region of vague, general insinuation! Come to particulars, and the shadows will flee away. Look at the savings banks and the trades unions. Are not the working classes learning the value of capital? Look at the co-operative building and manufacturing societies. Are they ignorant of the value of property? Are they dishonest more than ourselves, that they should wish to seize what they know is not theirs? Who run most swiftly in the paths of every speculative adventure, and figure most prominently in the records of the Insolvent Court, and the arrear books of unfortunate tradesmen? Is it the working people of this country? Are they selfish? Ask them how neighbours and relatives and friends are supported, specially in times of want and sickness and sorrow! Woe to the poor if they depended only on the charities of the rich—great and noble as these Christian charities are! No, Sir, the dangers that we picture on the horizon of a distant future are only the fata morgana—magnified and distorted images of ourselves. Again, I ask, what evil can possibly arise from the reduction of the franchise, as passed apart from other measures of Reform? Now, if I rightly understand the apprehension entertained on this point, it amounts simply to this—that supposing, as the hon. Member for Westminster has put it, a most improbable concurrence of events to prevent the Ministry from completing their measure before another election, there would then be a somewhat larger, although still a very moderate number of constituencies under working men's influence, who would elect Members to share in the deliberations on re-distribution. I must say I cannot see anything very alarming in that to sincere Reformers. I can quite understand the aversion to it of the "Let well alone" party in this House—the aversion of those who have vested interests in the question, which it may be difficult to defend. But if you believe that it is a good thing to have Reform—that it is a good thing to bring more of our fellow citizens within the suffrage—that it is a good thing to secure a more faithful representation of national rather than individual interests— 1659 for, remember, if the suffrage be not the right of the working man at all as an individual, neither is it the right of the upper classes for any selfish or personal end—if, I say, you believe these things, and if you regard the class of men who have hitherto and are still likely to represent the working class constituencies in this House, and if you regard the tone and temper of this House itself, and the large predominance of other interests that will still remain—what possible injustice or wrong can you believe will be perpetrated in the course of that re-distribution by the representatives of the working classes? Of course the large probability, almost the certainty is, that this same House of Commons will have to deal with the question; but even if it should not, you know the worst that can happen; and is that so very terrible? Again, you profess to desire an equitable re-distribution of seats. Is that more or less likely to be passed after the franchise measure has become law? Any child can answer that question. If there be a difficulty in re-distribution, it must be in wresting from the stronger and giving to the weaker, or securing to the weak what may be coveted by the strong. Who are the stronger in this House now?—the middle and upper classes, or the working classes? And if the effect of the Franchise Bill be to strengthen the hands of the latter, is it not strengthening the hands of those who seek an equitable re-distribution? And, still more, what probability is there that any larger measure of Reform would command a greater, or even an equal, measure of support? Upon the simple issue of an extended franchise there are but two opinions to consult—the affirmative and the negative. Upon the questions of re-distribution, of boundaries, of securing purity of election, and the many collateral questions that must be included, there are conflicts of opinion and of interest at every step. To the bitter opposition which this measure of simple justice and expediency has evoked will be superadded the thousand oppositions of ten thousand conflicting claims. That obstruction, which is the last resource of our opponents when arguments has failed, will wear out the time of the House, and exhaust the patience of the country, until at last, in the jaded weariness of baffled effort and disappointed hope, we resign ourselves to the apathy and hopelessness out of which we have only now, after so many years, awakened; or, under the pressure of some 1660 unforeseen emergency, yield to clamour in a moment of alarm far more than what we have denied to justice and expediency in the hour of our opportunity. Sir, I have addressed myself solely to those who profess to be sincere adherents of the Liberal cause. Of persuading others I have no hope, and I have not made the attempt. I know not the shibboleths of their party, nor the arts by which they are to be won; but to those I have presumed to address I offer this feeble appeal—offer it not so much for our sakes as for their own—believing as I do that the shame and the loss will be all on their side who are fainthearted, when the division lists of this House, as they will shortly do, proclaim a victory in which they have no share.
§ LORD ELCHO
Sir, the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down (Mr. Graham) has asked the House whether they regard the hon. Member for Glasgow as a dangerous man. Now, Sir, I do not of course know what the opinion of the House may be on that subject; but, as far as I have been able to judge of the hon. Gentleman, I believe him to be a most amiable man, but I should also regard him as a most dangerous supporter of any measure which I might bring forward. I shall not follow the hon. Gentleman through many of the points in his speech, because in the remarks I am about to address to the House I shall have to touch upon questions cognate to some of those to which he referred; nor shall I, indeed, offer any opinion upon the questions raised by the hon. Gentleman as to the virtue of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the legitimacy of the Bill which his right hon. Friend has introduced. The hon. Gentleman has characterized this Bill as just in principle, moderate in scope, eminently judicious in form, and pregnant with good. It is this opinion I shall venture to dispute, and if the House will hear them, I purpose stating the grounds for the opinions which I entertain. The hon. Gentleman has further said that the Bill will receive the adherence of the great body of the Liberal party, with the exception of that "fraction" which, he says, "drives him mad." Now, I should be very sorry, as one of that fraction, to contribute in any way to reducing the hon. Gentleman to that unhappy mental condition, the more so as I see that the Scotch Members are summoned by the Lord Advocate for to-morrow night to the consideration of some new Lunacy Bill. In deal- 1661 ing with this question I have, as an observer, been much struck by the haste—I might almost say the indecent haste—which the Government have shown in dealing with this subject. My noble Friend the Member for Galway (Lord Dunkellin) who spoke on Monday night with so much ability, and who put some telling points against the Government and the Bill, said that our Constitution was 600 years old. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in introducing the Bill said that we had twelve days, and twelve days only, wherein to pull it to pieces and to put it together again. The greater part of six of those days is gone, and six days only therefore remain to us for the completion of the work. 1 have no doubt that the Government thought they were wise in their generation in pursuing the course upon which they have determined; but in the whole of their conduct upon this Question we cannot, I venture to think, detect that reverence for the Constitution which we have a right to expect from those who are our paid and responsible Ministers. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer twitted me before the Easter recess with feeling strongly upon this question. I admit the truth of that charge: and it is because I dread the hasty, the impulsive, and the fragmentary way in which the Government appear inclined to deal with this vital question, and, above all, because I am alarmed at the wild sentimentalism by which, in default of arguments, the Bill is supported, that I would request the patience of the House while I express the views which I have formed both upon the Bill itself and upon the Amendment which has been proposed.
Before, however, doing so, I would ask the House to favour me with its indulgence while I refer to my own position in reference to this question, and that also of Parliament. I hope the House will not believe that I request this indulgence from any feeling of egotism. Those who know me best will, I am sure, acquit me of any such motive. The tactics of the Government and of the defenders of the Bill in reference to its opponents appear to consist in making charges which they cannot possibly substantiate. My hon. Friend the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Layard), whom I see near me, said the other night that I was the opponent of all Reform. That statement I deny, and if I were to ask him to cite any speech of mine, or any 1662 passage in any speech of mine, delivered either in this House or out of it, which would corroborate that statement, he would, I believe, find himself in a difficulty, similar to the one in which he found himself placed the same evening when he was asked to name one of those measures which, he said, dealt with great public questions in a way as fragmentary as that to which this question has been subjected at the hands of the Government. My course with regard to this question may not have been wise, but it has, at least, been consistent, and it is, at all events, one to which I have been prompted by the dictates of my own conscience. It is said I am the opponent of Reform. As a Reformer, I supported the Bill of Lord Derby—a Bill which was opposed by all you Liberals. I forgot for a moment, I am happy to say my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer was a consistent Reformer and voted with us. That this question was not settled in 1859 was the fault not of that fraction in which I include myself, but of the great majority of the Liberal party who were opposed to that settlement. On the hustings and in my addresses I have alike advocated the settlement of this question. I opposed the Bill brought forward last year by the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Baines) proposing the reduction of the borough franchise to £6, because I regarded it as a fragmentary measure, and as one not likely to lead to the settlement of the question; and the course I then adopted was, I am happy to say, perfectly justified by that which the Government pursued in relation to the same proposal. I say that I am not opposed to Reform. All that I desired was that there should be an inquiry into the question, and that we should ascertain with certainty the nature of the path which it was suggested we should tread. On that ground I proposed that the Government should appoint a Commission upon this subject. I am obliged to refer to this matter in consequence of what was said the other day by the Prime Minister at a meeting which he convened in reference to this Bill, and because one of the reasons assigned for our conduct is a hostility to the Government. Now at the meeting Earl Russell made a statement concerning myself, on reading which I confess I was not a little astonished. That statement was—I inquired of a gentleman I considered well informed whether Lord Elcho intended to pro- 1663 pose the appointment of a Committee to obtain information as to the persons who may be entitled to the franchise. I was answered, 'No, that intention is given up, because it is believed that the Government will be got rid of without having recourse to that means.'Now, if words convey any meaning at all, that statement implies that I intended bringing forward that measure in a spirit of hostility to the Government, but that I abandoned the intention on finding an easier way of getting rid of the present Ministry. Now what are the facts of the case? I came to London in order to attend Lord Palmerston's funeral, when a Member of the Cabinet told me that he thought there was a good deal to be said in favour of my Commission, and asked me whether I would give him my reasons for it. I said I was willing to do so, and suggested that I should write them down, as it was a long story. He expressed his thanks, and I sat up during the best part of the night writing my reasons. I might have answered him "No," and said "That is my thunder, and I intend it in hostility to you." But I went frankly into the whole question and gave every possible argument for the measure, which I believed to be not only for the good of the country, but for the interest of the Government, and stating to him that in my humble opinion the course I proposed was the best one of dealing with the matter. I heard when in London that Lord Russell had seen this letter, and hence the Electoral Returns; and when these were produced I heard that a Member of the Government had said, "Now I think that we have taken the wind out of Lord Elcho's sails." I thought that perhaps I had been misinformed; but I made inquiries and found that Lord Russell had seen that paper. He is now Prime Minister of this country; but as a humble Member of Lord Aberdeen's Government I can never forget the way in which he left that Government upon a threatened hostile Motion, from a gentleman who sit opposite to where I am now standing. I most readily admit that Lord Russell is one of the most distinguished statesmen that this country has ever seen; that no man has done more for the liberty and good Government of his country; and, therefore, all that I have to say on this point is that I am surprised that Lord Russell, with a full knowledge of the spirit in which that paper was written, should have expressed himself as he did at that meeting, and should have spoken of me in my absence in the way he did. I must 1664 apologize for having referred at so great a length to this matter. I should not have done so at all, had I not been lugged into it by the Prime Minister.
Now, I have to say something with regard to the general question of Reform. The Chancellor of the Exchequer in bringing in this Bill laid great stress upon the fact—and, indeed, this was really his only argument—that Reform had been put into so many Queen's Speeches, and had been brought forward by so many Governments—in fact, he said that Parliament was pledged upon the question of Reform. Now, I might say that the fact of this Reform question having been put into so many Queen's Speeches, and of so many Bills having been brought forward during the last fourteen years cuts the other way; for if there had been any great necessity for it or any desire for it on the part of the country, instead of the question being before the country for fourteen years we should not have had fourteen months of agitation upon it. My right hon. Friend said that Parliament is pledged; but I imagine that this Parliament is not pledged upon the question of Reform; and I say that even if we are pledged upon every other question this Parliament is clearly and distinctly not pledged upon Reform. Now, what are my grounds for saying this? In the debate upon the Bill of the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Baines) last year, we got a distinct assurance from the Home Secretary that the Government did not go to the country upon the question of Reform. I shall not repeat his words, for they have been quoted already in this debate, [Cries of" Read!"] These, then, are the words used by the right hon. Gentleman—We are not pledged to, and we do not intend to ask, the support of the country as the advocates of a great measure of Parliamentary Reform.… We are not prepared to go to the country as the advocates of a measure of Parliamentary Reform without reserving to ourselves a discretion to act upon that matter, as upon all others, as the interests of the country may require."—[3 Hansard, clxxviii. 1639.]And the right hon. Gentleman said upon the hustings—Lord Palmerston had fully redeemed the pledges they made on taking office, and the reason why they had not pressed a Reform Bill upon Parliament Session after Session was the disinclination of that body to deal with the question and the apathy of the country with regard to it. He held that it was not the duty of a Government to propose organic changes in the Constitution without a fair prospect of carrying the matter to 1665 a successful issue, and that Lord Palmerston's Government had taken the wise course of proposing measures of practical utility. After the past experience, it would now he an act of folly for any man to pledge himself either to the introduction of a Reform Bill or to any of its details.I turn from the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary and look at the election address of the late Prime Minister. I have not got it here; it is unnecessary that I should read it, because it does not contain a single allusion to Reform from beginning to end. Nay, more, when asked why he did not propose to deal with Reform, Lord Palmerston answered, "Because we are not geese." But I would quote from another authority to which all Members on the Ministerial side of the House will bow. I have found an analysis of this Parliament that was made in September, and it gives the Liberal Members as follows:—Liberals expressing themselves on Reform on the hustings, 160; Liberals making no declaration on the subject of Reform, 165; those who announced that they were supporters of Lord Palmerston, 42, making in all 367. Now, where did I take that analysis from? It was a calculation made after the election in September, and I took it from the pages of the Leeds Mercury. Why, Sir, all this only tends to one inevitable conclusion—that as long as Lord Palmerston lived there was no hope of Reform; under his judicious and calm leadership there was no chance of Reform, and, indeed, the hon. Member behind me (Mr. Bright)—and I shall endeavour not to bring his name in more than necessary—when invited to go to Glasgow upon the question of Reform, said that if was of no use "trying it on"—it was more eloquently expressed, of course—so long as Lord Palmerston lived he unhappily died, and peace appears to have departed with him; Lord Russell became Prime Minister; agitation followed, and my right hon. Friend the leader of the House goes and stumps it in the provinces. No man regrets more than I do that ray right hon. Friend should have taken this course. I have great admiration and always had for him; and when he takes to stumping it in the provinces the necessary consequence is that a comparison is drawn between him and another, and unfortunately his eloquence upon the stump suffers in comparison. His eloquence here is unrivalled, and if I might presume to give advice I would advise him to keep his eloquence for the House, and not to follow the example of a person whom I will not name.
1666 Now, Sir, I come to the Bill of the Government. It is a Franchise Bill, and I object to it per se, because it says one thing—but I will not use towards it the language which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer used towards the Amendment, and say that while it says one thing it means another—but I will say that while it says one thing 1 am perfectly confident it would lead to another. My objection to it is that it is only a Franchise Bill. Now, what does it profess to do? It touches the county franchise, but the main characteristic of the Bill, is the way in which it deals with the borough franchise. It professes to be a Bill to enfranchise the working classes. The working man has been the stock argument of Reform agitators for many years past, and lie was supposed to have no voice whatever in the representation. I need not quote passages in support of this, but I will say that the Chancellor of the Exchequer said last autumn at Liverpool that he did not know whether 50,000 or 100,000 working men had no franchise; Lord Russell said the working man had no franchise, and the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Baines) said last year that the number having the franchise was so exceedingly small that it had no appreciable weight upon the representation. I had always doubted this, and this was the reason that I wished for inquiry. The inquiry was made and a Return furnished; and what does it show? Why, that there are 26 per cent of the working classes upon the electoral roll. This inquiry has further shown that the barrier which is said to stand between enfranchisement and the working classes is a barrier that has lowered itself by the change in the value of money, and that the working classes are getting taller by the rise in the price of labour; and therefore the number of voters of this class upon the register is increasing at a more rapid pace than the increase of the population of the country. It appears to: me that these facts should make us look well before we leap, and examine well the; Bill of the Government lest we give a preponderance in the Constitution to one class of the population. I believe that there is danger of this, and I believe that those Electoral Returns show the danger of action, and all inquiry leads me to the conclusion that if we do not take care the Bill may have the effect of giving a preponderance to one class. I need not trouble the House with quotations, but here is a 1667 passage from Lord Russell which distinctly denies the doctrine of the natural right of every man to the suffrage. In his introduction to his work on the Constitution he says—There were two modes in which Reform might be approached. The one was to consider the right of voting as a personal privilege possessed by every man of sound mind and of years of discretion as an inherent, inalienable right belonging to him as a member of a free country. According to this theory the votes of the whole male adult population form the only basis of legitimate Government. Other political writers and eminent statesmen acknowledge no personal right of voting as inalienable and essential. They consider that the purpose to be attained is good government, the freedom of the people within the State and their security from without, and that the best mode of attaining these ends is the problem to be solved. It seemed to me that these last reasoners were in the right.Now why should we be so cautious? Because the spirit of the Constitution is not the giving of a vote, but the attainment of good government; and even the hon. Member behind me (Mr. Bright)—for even he has lucid intervals with regard to the Constitution—in his speech at Rochdale advocated a moderate measure on the ground that the right to vote does not necessarily belong to the individual or the classes. This I gathered from his speech. No doubt the hon. Gentleman will speak in the course of the debate, and then he will be able to make an explanation if I have misunderstood him. [Mr. BRIGHT was understood to deny that he entertained such view with respect to the right of voting.] I am sorry I gave him credit for what he appears now to deny in regard to the principle of representation by classes. Why is it desirable that we should be cautious with reference to the representation of classes? Because I dread class legislation in this House. We hear from hon. Gentlemen that there, is no fear of this; and that you have Liberals and Conservatives among the working-classes, just as you have them among other classes of the community. But what are the views the working classes take of this question of Reform? They desire it in order to attain a certain object. A deputation waited upon the Prime Minister, when a working man from Glasgow said that the working classes wanted Reform in order that they might be able to do what they had been obliged to do by strikes—namely, regulate wages and labour. Let me quote upon this point an opinion which I think will have great 1668 weight with hon. Members—that of a Gentleman who has contributed so much both to the debates of this House and to the character of this assembly—the hon. Member for Westminster. What does Mr. Stuart Mill say with reference to class legislation? He says—In all countries there is a majority of poor, a minority who, in contradistinction, may be termed rich. Between these two classes, on many questions there is complete opposition of apparent interest. We will suppose the majority to be sufficiently intelligent to be aware that it is not for their advantage to weaken the security of property, and that it would be weakened by any act of arbitrary spoliation. But is there not a considerable danger that they should throw upon the possessors of what is called realized property, and upon the larger incomes an unfair share, or even the whole of the burden of taxation, and, having done so, add to the amount without scruple, expending the proceeds in modes supposed to conduce to the profit and advantage of the labouring classes. Suppose, again, a minority of skilled labourers, a majority of unskilled. The experience of many trade unions, unless they are greatly calumniated, justifies the apprehension that equality of earnings might be imposed as an obligation, and that piece work, payment by the hour, and all practices which enable superior industry or abilities to gain a superior reward, might be put down.These are the sentiments of the hon. Gentleman behind me, of whom I may say that since he has been a Member of this House he has shown that he can speak in his place in Parliament in language as clear, and in words as keen and cutting as any that come from his pen in the retirement of his study. I cannot but think, however, that he runs a little danger of having his judgment dimmed and warped by the heated atmosphere of Westminster. I have quoted the opinion of the hon. Gentleman expressed in the quiet of his study, and I think it ought to have very great weight with this House, and make us cautious in dealing with this subject. But there is another authority—the late Mr. Cobden—who, I am sure, will have weight with Gentlemen behind me. In 1848, when supporting Mr. Hume's Motion for Reform, he said he did so on this ground—that there was great necessity for alteration in the taxation of the country, and that if we had Reform the instinct of selfishness on the part of the working classes would induce them to place the taxation upon realized property rather than upon any other. Therefore, the danger you run is the selfish instinct of the classes which will induce them to act selfishly in legislating in this House. 1669 The question then is, will the Bill have, or will it not have, the effect of giving a preponderance to these classes? The right hon. Gentleman says that it purposes to place the working classes in the boroughs on an equality, or nearly so, with the other classes. That is in the year 1866—but how will it be in the year 1876: What will be the state of the representation at a later period? These are the points upon which we want information, and which we have a right to ask. But when we ask for information upon these points, how are we met? I ventured to put some questions to my right hon. Friend, in order to ascertain what would be the effect of his measure some twenty or thirty years hence, and I was met by laughter from hon. Gentlemen near me. Sow, the hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. J. Stuart Mill) made a speech on Tuesday last on the malt tax, in which he called the attention of the House to what would be the condition of this country if, in the course of three generations, our coal measures should become exhausted; but I am not aware that he was laughed tit when he asked that question. But if a Gentleman gets up in this House and asks it question for the purpose of knowing whether the Constitution will retain its present balance of classes twenty or thirty years hence—the period that has elapsed since the last Reform Bill, was passed being about thirty years—he is met with laughter, and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer absolutely refuses to give you any further information, and says you are treating the working classes us an "invading army." A Gentleman—I think it was the hon. Member for Staffordshire (Mr. Adderley)—referred to this, when my right hon. Friend denied that he had imputed this expression of an "invading army" to hon. Gentlemen opposite. Now, I may be allowed to explain—in order to save the right hon. Gentleman from making any further explanation—that he did not impute that expression to hon. Gentlemen opposite generally, but especially to myself. Before the recess, after remarking that the working classes had been treated as an "invading army," the Chancellor of the Exchequer said speaking of me—The noble Lord the Member for Haddington-shire has recently passed some few days of his life in a state of alarm at the prospects of the country, lie would not in the least tremble to meet a French invasion, but the idea of an invasion of his own fellow-citizens, desirous of obtaining the 1670 franchise, has entirely frightened him from his propriety.From this I hope hon. Gentlemen will see that this expression was not applied to hon. Gentlemen opposite; but that it is one of the little amenities of debate which my right hon. Friend keeps for a fraction on this side of the House, who do not humbly bow to his chastening rod and iron flail. Believing as I do, that we have not sufficient information on this question, and that we ought before we pass such a Bill as this, to be put in possession of more information respecting if, I feel it my duty to vole for the Amendment, and to oppose any such Bill till we get such information.
It may he said because I oppose the present Bill that I am an enemy to the working classes. Now, so far from that, I hope it will be distinctly understood that I do not oppose this Bill because I see in it a danger, a future danger, of a preponderance of the working classes, more than I would oppose it if I saw in it a danger of the preponderance of any other class. What I am opposed to is the unfair representation of classes. What I said to the working men I will repeat to this House—namely, that I am in favour of a due and proper balance of the representation of the land, trade, commerce, and industry. "Justice to all, preponderance to none," is my motto; whenever I see a Bill, such as that now before the House, which threatens the preponderance of any class, I shall feel it my duty to resist it. I believe such a preponderance would inevitably lead to the rule of numbers; and that our Constitution cannot safely rest upon the book of numbers, of which I have every reason to fear this Bill is only the first page.
I shall not enter into the details of the Amendment moved by my noble Friend, and the arguments which would be necessary to support it; he has in so straightforward and manly a manner shown distinctly how pure were his motives, that I believe all those who act with him, and intend to follow him, are under no necessity to justify the course which they are taking in reference to this Bill. Again, my noble Friend opposite (Lord Stanley), in that most able speech of his, which has not been answered, put the argument so clearly and so forcibly that I think he has saved all those who support this Amendment a great deal of trouble, and given an amount of trouble to hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House, which, it appears to me, 1671 they are very shy in undertaking. Let me recall to the recollection of the House what were the arguments used by my noble Friend. I have jotted them down on paper because I think it is desirable that they should be put before the House in the shortest possible form, in order that hon. Gentlemen who may be anxious to answer them may have all possible facilities for doing so. My noble Friend opposite supports the Amendment. On what ground? Because the Government bring in a Bill in halves, knowing that the whole cannot be carried. He further says that the schedules are elastic, and that they might be so made as to oblige a friend and punish an opponent; and that it is uncertain whether this would or would not be the case, as the Government may not live to carry the Bill. If a dissolution intervene, the appeal will be to condemned or provisional constituencies. These will decide the future destinies of the House. A guarantee is wanted that the same body shall decide both questions. There are three successive stages—enfranchisement, re-distribution—boundaries—but Reform should be treated like finance, as a whole. The Government begins at the wrong end. The franchise is extending itself. Anomalies of inequality are increasing. Government will have more influence with new constituencies. To judge of future balance of power it is necessary to know the effect of joint Bills. The powers intrusted to us we have to exercise not in ignorance, not by deputy, but by our own judgment. The same body must decide and be able to control, mould, pass, or reject as a whole. My hon. Friend the Tinder Secretary for Foreign Affairs said I would not allow him to answer that speech the other night. [Mr. LATARD: I said hon. Members on the other side of the House would not allow me to do so.] Well, be that as it may, I had the pleasure of hearing the speech of my hon. Friend, and he began by telling us with the utmost self-complacency that he intended to answer the arguments of my noble Friend the Member for King's Lynn. Those, however, who were in the House at the time, and who have since then read the debate, cannot have failed to have observed that he very soon left my noble Friend and betook himself to Smith, the plasterer. He gave us the whole history of that gentleman; and, adverting to the temptation to which he was exposed, said we should all pray to be delivered from 1672 temptation—and I am sure I and those who sat beside me most earnestly prayed that we might at length be delivered from Smith, the plasterer. I may add that the conclusion at which I arrived at the close of my hon. Friend's speech was that, however valuable and useful his services might have been in digging Assyrian antiquities out of the sand ["Oh, oh!"]—let me not be misunderstood; no man is more ready than I am to do honour to my hon. Friend for the signal service which he has done this country for his labours in this respect, but he is, nevertheless, not the person whom I should like to call to my aid to pick out of the mud a Bill which the Government have, as I think, so perversely introduced. Returning from that divergence to the point more immediately before the House, I wish to state that I intend to vote for the Amendment of my noble Friend the Member for Chester, because I not only dread this Bill itself on account of the provisions which it contains, but because it meets with support from persons who have hitherto been in favour of the very widest possible extension of the franchise. I hold in my hand a manifesto which was published in 1858, which was addressed "To the People of England," and the first paragraph of which states that—The extension of the borough franchise in England and Wales to 'every male person of full age and not subject to any legal incapacity' who shall occupy, as owner or tenant in part or whole, any premises within the boroughs which are rated for the relief of the poor.Now, this manifesto was signed by three hundred persons, and among other names I find attached to it those of Frank Crossley, John Bright, Charles Gilpin, John Arthur Roebuck, James Clay, F. H. Fitzhardinge Berkeley, and Thomas Milner Gibson. This manifesto was issued in 1858. Have things, I should like to know, become changed in 1866? But we have got a Reform League in this country which agitates and holds meetings wherever it can, and I find that this League supports while it denounces the Government Bill, with which, if I mistake not, the hon. Gentleman who spoke last (Mr. Graham) said the working classes were satisfied. In the concluding paragraph of the manifesto of the Reform League, however, they say—But while we give this recommendation [to support the Bill] we protest emphatically, for the reasons already assigned, against this Bill, should it become law, being regarded as a settlement of 1673 the Reform question. Whether it be passed or rejected, we urge you and our friends in every direction to aid us in maintaining with unabated zeal a peaceful and moral agitation 'for the extension of the elective franchise to every resident and registered adult male person of sound mind, and unconvicted of crime.'It is, therefore, quite clear that, while the Amendment of my noble Friend indicates a desire for the settlement of this question, it is very doubtful whether the measure of the Government, in its present shape, would effect that object. But, be that as it may, what I and those who support that Amendment wish for is a settlement of the question; but the mere passing the Bill in its present form will not do that. We emphatically protest against, dealing in this fragmentary way with a question which is one and indivisible, and ought to be dealt with only as a whole. There are three sorts of argument resorted to by those who wish us to take contrary course. I may class them under the heads of defamation of opponents; fear of constituents; and fealty to party. Those who oppose the Bill are said to be actuated by base and interested motives. That accusation has, for instance, been brought against my right hon. Friend the Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe). Now, 1 happened to be in the same Government with my right hon. Friend in 1854, when Lord Aberdeen was Prime Minister, and I am in a position to speak of the views which he then held on the subject of Reform. My right hon. Friend and I used at that time often to talk upon the subject in walking home from our respective office, and when the Bill of 1854, proposing a £6 franchise, was brought forward we both made up our minds that, if it went into Committee, we should resign office, and vote against it, because we feared that a £6 franchise would give a preponderance to one class in the community and upset the balance of the Constitution. Again, I met my right hon. Friend in the lobby on the division which took place on the Franchise Bill the year before last, when he came up to me and said, "You and I can vouch for each other's consistency." Last year also, on occasion of the Bill of the hon. Member for Leeds, I went up to him and asked him if he would help me to vote against the proposal for £6 franchise and get up a debate upon it, and his reply was, "It is contrary to my interest as a political man to quarrel with my party, but I feel so strongly on the question that I will do everything in my power to throw out this 1674 Bill." The only thing, indeed, that can be laid to the charge of my right hon. Friend in support of the accusations which hare been made against him in this matter is that he voted in 1859 for a Resolution which had the effect of turning out Lord Derby's Government; and having asked him what explanation he had to give of the course which he took on that occasion he said, "I gave a party vote to turn out the Government. I acted with my party." [Cries of "Hear, hear!"] Let those who cheer that statement and who find fault with my right hon. Friend for having acted with his party on this question—let them, I say, throw the first stone. Did not my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I would ask, then oppose a proposal to lower the borough franchise—a reduction of which he now supports. ["No, no!"] He voted against a Resolution the principle of which was to affirm the expediency of reducing the borough franchise, while he now brings forward a measure having that object in view. As far as the charge of want of consistency is concerned, therefore, both my right hon. Friends may very well, I think, pair off together. Now, the course which we who support the Amendment of my noble Friend the Member for Chester take is, I maintain a conscientious course; but then for taking this course we an; reproached with being "Adullamites;" and it is said that we have retired into this Cave of I Adullum because we are discontented Now, speaking for my own part—I have 'no right to speak for others—I believe we' are discontented; but not in the sense imputed to us by ray hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham. We are dissatisfied with the tyranny of our Saul sitting on the Treasury Benches, supported by his armour-bearer, who sits behind me. This it is, Sir, and no improper motive, which has driven us into this Cave, where we are, I can assure the House, a most happy family, daily, 1 may say hourly, increasing in number and in strength, and where we shall remain until we go forth to deliver Israel from oppression.
Another motive which has been brought to bear with great force on Members to induce them to vote for the Bill is the mean motive of the fear of their constituents. The screw has been put on by the Secretary to the Treasury and by others to induce recalcitrant Members to take a course contrary to their consciences. It has been applied in some cases with ex- 1675 trome vigour, but I do not know a more pitiable spectacle than that presented by my right hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead (Sir William Hutt) who, having been submitted to this torturing process, now lies on the floor of this House a crumpled mass, wrung and dislocated, and morally out of joint. I hold a seat in this House to be the highest honour so long as a man can act independently and follow his sincere convictions. When he can no longer do so, the two letters appended to his name then become only the symbols of his moral degradation. It is well on this occasion to recall the words of a great and illustrious statesman of the last century. Mr. Burke said in an address to the people of Bristol—But if I profess all this impolitic stubbornness, I may chance never to be elected to Parliament. It is certainly not very pleasing to be put out of the public service. But I wish to be a Member of Parliament to have my share of doing good and resisting evil. It would, therefore, be absurd to renounce my objects in order to retain my seat. I deceive myself, indeed, most grossly if I had not much rather pass the remainder of my life hidden in the recesses of the deepest obscurity, feeding my mind even with the visions and imaginations of such things, than to be placed on the most splendid Throne of the universe, tantalized with a denial of the practice of all which can make the greatest situation any other than the greatest curse.With respect to this question of the fear of constituencies, the choice seems to rest between one or two alternatives—the choice preferred by Burke and that made by the hon. Member for Gateshead; the choice between, as I have heard it is said, a cave and a hut; between Adullam and Gateshead—and I cannot doubt the alternative, which all independent men will prefer, if this screw is turned on them by any of those persons who are in the habit of manipulating that instrument. But is there really any fear with respect to constituents? If I were pledged up to my eyes on the question of Reform, or of lowering the franchise, I should not fear to meet my constituents and defend my vote after voting in favour of the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Chester. That Amendment is not an Amendment against Reform. ["Oh, oh!"] Why, it specially says that the question of Reform should be settled. It specially declares that those who vote for it are prepared to consider the question of Reform with a view to its settlement. I have told you what the Amendment is not, and I will now tell you what I believe it to be. 1676 I believe it to be a protest against the rash, hasty, and fragmentary legislation, in which the Government are dealing with the question of Reform. Nay, more—it is a protest on the part of some Members of this House against the course taken by the Government in asking for confidence from their followers when they show no confidence in them.
The other point on which I wish to touch is the question of fealty to party. I readily admit that representative Government requires as a rule fealty to party, and you must on the whole, as a general rule, be prepared to waive, perhaps, your own private opinion in deference to the necessity for a united action as a party, and in order that you may work together and have two generally opposing parties in this House. But I think that in the present instance the Government are dealing rather harshly with those who conscientiously differ from them in opinion. We are accused of breaking up our party and being hostile to the Government. Now, we have in Parliamentary history some great instances of the sacrifice of party from a high sense of duty. We have had the great instance of the late Sir Robert Peel, who thought it necessary to sacrifice his party for what he believed the public good, and we had in return his party sacrificing him for what they believed his desertion. Therefore, you have had a great and noble exception from the general rule; and when the Chancellor of the Exchequer said at Liverpool, in reference to the measure being fragmentary, that he knew the people he had to deal with, I think he made a great mistake in the matter. I believe that the way in which the Government have brought in this Bill, the language which has been used in the press and out of it, shows that my right hon. Friend does not know the sort of people he has to deal with. Some of us have felt this so strongly, that, in spite of all other considerations, we have thought it our duty to stand by our conscience and by our country, and at any risk to vote for the Amendment. But do not let my right hon. Friend suppose that it is a mere fraction of a party who hold the opinion which we profess. We say here openly what we say in private, and as fearlessly; and if the majority of men who sit on this side would do the same they would speak as I do. They may follow you into the lobby, but it will be a grudging, hesitating, and sulky allegiance with which they 1677 will follow you—and, rest assured of this, that they will not forget it, I know there are men who, when they have made all square, as they think, with their constituents by voting with the Government, will take every opportunity in Committee to trip you up, and in the name of the right of private judgment and the rights of conscience, I protest against this attempt to coerce us. There is nothing new in all this—this is not the only country which has had representative institutions—and there is a passage written, not by an Englishman, but by a distinguished foreign Minister and constitutional statesman, so apposite, that I will read it to the House—I recognize no greater danger to free institutions than that blind tyranny which the habitual fanaticism of partisanship, whether of a faction or a small segment, pretends to exercise in the name of Liberal ideas. Are you a staunch advocate for constitutional Government and political guarantees? Do you wish to live and act in co-operation with the party which hoists this standard? Renounce at once your judgment, and independence. In that party you will find on all questions and under all circumstances opinions ready formed and resolutions settled beforehand, which assume the right of your entire control. Self-evident facts are in open contradiction to these opinions; you are forbidden to see them. Powerful obstacles oppose these resolutions; you are not allowed to think of them. Equity and prudence suggest circumspection; you must east it aside. You are in the presence of superstitious Credo and a popular passion. Do not argue; you would no longer be a Liberal. Do not oppose; you would be looked upon as a mutineer. Obey, advance, no matter at what pace you are urged or in what road. If you cease to be a slave, you instantly become a deserter. My clear judgment and natural pride revolted invincibly against such a yoke.I cannot speak in the name of tractions, but I can speak in the name of one fraction, and I repeat the words of M. Guizot, who in this country as Minister had ample opportunity of studying our forms of representative Government, of which he was one of the most distinguished advocates abroad—I respond to those words, "My natural pride revolts invincibly against such a yoke."
Now, Sir, one word in conclusion with reference to the position of the moderate Liberal party on this occasion. Last year I ventured in the discussion of the Bill of the hon. Member for Leeds to point out that I believed the time must come when the moderate men on this side of the House could no longer act cordially with the extreme section of the Liberal party. Hitherto there has been on these Benches a large, a ruling, a moderate liberal ma- 1678 jority, led by Lord Palmerston. There has been, on the other hand, a small section of most honest, most sincere, most able men, who honestly hold extreme views and opinions, which they have taken every opportunity of pressing on the attention of the House and the country. And when we talk of "conspiracy," why, the greatest rebel, the greatest conspirator I know since the days of Catiline is my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton (Mr. White) from whose place 1 now speak. These Gentlemen, for the purpose of promoting their views, would enter into what Lord Palmerston used to call a "fortuitous concourse of atoms." [Mr. WHITE: A fortuitous concord of atoms.] My hon. Friend corrects me in the quotation. He knows that he was one of those large atoms who used so fortuitously to concur with the atoms on the other side, whether great or small. Well, Lord Palmerston I died, and we have now this party under a; very different leader, who leads it not so; much by cold calculations of reason and I experience as by the warm impulses of his nature. Well, these Gentlemen hope to bring about a state of things which they have long wished to see established in this country, and if they succeed the fate of the moderate Liberals is pretty certain. Indeed, I hold in my hand a passage which; was written in 1858, which pretty well predicts the course of events, or, at least, what is hoped and expected, in regard to the fate of the moderate Liberals—The Liberal party has consisted over since the abrogation of the Corn Laws of a majority who make a loud profession and it minority who hold a great principle, and the profession is made to cover the principle, not for the purpose of nourishing, but of destroying it. Let. Lord John Russell remain where he is to carry his little Oaths Bill and to resist the abolition of church rates. Let Lord Palmerston move under his false colours, until his supporters are disgusted with his hollow pretentions. They have still to carry a Reform Bill. That done, separation from Church and State will then be ready as a basis for the party of progress, and once more we shall have earnest politicians, ennobling warfare, and in the end, we doubt not, glorious victories.That is taken from The Nonconformist newspaper, and is written, I believe, by Mr. Miall, who will be accepted by hon. Gentlemen behind me as a great authority on the question of separation between Church and State. Well, what are these "glorious victors" they are looking to? What is the policy of this extreme section? It is this—the establishment in this country of so powerful a House of Commons, 1679 so democratic in its nature that I believe the balance of the Constitution will be upset and other bodies in the State cannot co-exist with it. As regards the question of property the policy of this section is the abolition of the law of primogeniture, and the breaking up of large estates. I am not quoting on this point from the pamphlet containing the speech of the hon. Member for Birmingham, and published by his authority; although, I believe, he did not like the look of it when he saw it in print, and therefore he bought it up.
I do not know whether I am in order, but I may be allowed to say there is not a word of truth in what the noble Lord has uttered.
§ LORD ELCHO
I can only say this, that I have tried in vain to get a copy. [Mr. BRIGHT: So have I.] But if the pamphlet has been so popular that only shows the necessity of still greater caution. As regards the Church, the policy of that section is the severance of Church and State; and on questions of taxation—let capitalists as well as others mark this—it is the putting of taxation on realized property and relieving other classes of taxpayers. Well, if that is the programme of the extreme section of the Liberal party, I should like to know whether it is the programme of the large majority which have hitherto followed the leading of Lord Palmerston and Lord Russell in this House. I believe the policy of the Government leads in that direction. My noble Friend (Earl Grosvenor) has raised a standard in order to rally those who feel this is not the policy which will conduce to the eventual prosperity of this country, and that it is subversive of the present state of things. He has raised that standard. By so doing he has laid himself open to much obloquy and abuse; but, if he should succeed, as I conscientiously believe he will, in carrying his Amendment, I am certain of this—a very short time will elapse after his success before those very men who now give a faltering allegiance to the Government will thank him for what he has been doing, and say he has been the means of saving what is so necessary and desirable in this House—the existence of the moderate Liberal party. Therefore, in concluding, I would make an appeal to these Gentlemen, and in doing so I would slightly paraphrase words which I have heard in this House. I would appeal to them not to support a policy which tends to Americanize our institutions, and to 1680 change our kingly commonwealth with all its liberty into a democratic tyranny. Paraphrasing these words I would appeal to them not with their hands—for by their hands alone it can be done—not by their hands to help to unmoor the constitution of these islands from its strong fastenings in the past, from its safe anchorage in the present, and send it adrift at least 2,000 miles towards the west.
§ SIR WILLIAM HUTT
said, he did not complain of the acrimonious manner in which the noble Lord had stepped out of his way to attack him, nor of the lecture which the noble Lord, conscious of his own superior patriotism and virtue, had thought proper to read him on the authority of Mr. Burke. On the contrary, he could assure the noble Lord that he felt towards him nothing but thankfulness, because he had given him (Sir William Hutt) an opportunity of defending himself in the presence of the House from those injurious criticisms and gross misrepresentations to which he had been exposed. The noble Lord had indulged in all the license of what he called fanatical partizanship, and had assailed him in a spirit that he ought to be ashamed of. But he turned from him to the right hon. and gallant General (General Peel) who had also attacked him, though with better taste and feeling, and would give an explanation to the right hon. and gallant Member which he disdained to offer to the noble Lord. The right hon. and gallant General (General Peel) had on a former evening described him as taking up a hostile position in the rear of the Government. He could assure the right hon. and gallant General that he had never made a more incorrect statement. The position which he (Sir William Hutt) had taken up was in no sense whatever a hostile position; and he made that statement confidently in the presence of Members of the Government, the leader of which in that House could contradict him if he was stating what was erroneous. He appealed to his right hon. Friend whether he ever understood his position as a hostile one, as one of attack or obstruction? He had not dealt, to use the military phraseology of the right lion, and gallant Member, either with blank or with ball cartridge; his only object was to reconcile the Franchise Bill with the feelings of those who were anxious that a complete scheme of Parliamentary Reform should, be brought forward. That was the only object of the 1681 Amendment of which he had given notice. He had no design to make himself the associate of the noble Lord, nor the cats-paw of the anti-Reform party in that House. Neither had it ever been his intention to desert his opinions in favour of an extended franchise, which he had recorded by so many votes. But he would not trouble the House with any further reference to himself; he would discuss the question which was really before the House, and which had been a great deal lost sight of in the discursive observations of the noble Lord. The question was whether they were willing, by reading this Bill a second time, to sanction the principle of an extension of the franchise; or whether they would postpone that consideration until they had a complete scheme of Parliamentary Reform brought before them? To that question the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley), and he alone among the opponents of the Bill, had addressed himself in arguments of great weight and power. The right hon. and gallant Member for Huntingdon had forgotten it in his amusing speech which had added very little to their counsels in this debate, and which scarcely sustained his well-earned reputation. Then the right hon. Baronet the Member for Hertfordshire (Sir E. Bulwer Lytton), had given them an eloquent disquisition, but spoke on this occasion very little to the purpose. Almost all he said might, and with little ingenuity, as well have been spoken on the Church Rates Bill, or on a Bill relating to the Cattle Plague. Whether a £7 franchise would practically become a £6 franchise as the right hon. Gentleman stated, and whether a £6 franchise would give such a preponderance to democracy in this country, that it would be necessary for our safety to borrow a leaf from the charter of France or the United States, were matters of detail, not of principle. They were questions of great importance to be considered in Committee, but were singularly out of place in dealing with the principle of the Bill, He believed the principle of extension to be a salutary and a Conservative one, and that either in the House or out of it, most Members were pledged to it. The right hon. Member for Calne, indeed, had honestly avowed his opinion that it would be inexpedient to extend the franchise any further—he looked upon a £10 qualification as the perfection of human wisdom; but there was not half-a-dozen persons in or 1682 out of the House who shared his opinion. Even the right hon. and gallant General had volunteered on the hustings at Huntingdon the statement that a much larger number of the people ought to be admitted within the pale of the Constitution; the question was, were they disposed to act on those professions, or were they to wash their hands of those pledges because the Bill was not connected with something else which had never been named in their engagements? He believed that the working millions of this country would not understand these refinements. He hardly understood them himself. They were indeed hardly intelligible to anyone whose reasoning faculties were not disturbed by "fanatical partizanship" or the sophistries of Parliamentary logic. The view of the working classes would be that all the promises which had been made to them were to be broken. Now after all the panegyrics which had been lavished on them; after they had been so often told that such men as had formed the co-operative society of Rochdale, and the friendly society of Manchester were perfectly qualified for the franchise, if Members now rejected this Bill they would create a state of things in the country which every good and prudent man would have reason to regret. There had been growing up of late years in the hearts of the working classes of this country a feeling of confidence in the higher branches of the social hierarchy, which no one could have watched the progress of without the greatest gratification; for ill that more than anything else consisted the prosperity, happiness, and security of nations. Were hon. Gentlemen opposite prepared to see that kind and generous feeling destroyed for ever, and to see it replaced by festering animosity, jealousy, and distrust? There was nothing in this country they should more cultivate than affectionate interest in the working classes, in the laws and government of the country. A circumstance had occurred to him in his experience as a Member of Parliament which exhibited in a striking manner tin importance of uniting and knitting together the hearts of the working classes with those of the other portion of the community in contented allegiance to the laws, and which showed emphatically how ready the working classes were to constitute themselves the defenders and protectors of the laws. In 1843, when the present Chancellor of the Exchequer held the office of Vice President of the 1683 Board of Trade, he brought in a Bill for the purpose of releasing the coal-whippers of London from the cruel and grinding bondage in which they were held by the owners of beer shops and gin shops at the water side; he (Sir William Hutt) was disposed at first to think that it was a needless interference with the labour market, and voted against the second reading. He, however, went amongst the coal-whippers at their labour, and entered the gin shops and tasted the abominable liquor in which they were paid their wages; he visited them in their own homes, and he saw also the medical men who were in the habit of attending them, and from what he gathered from his inquiries he became satisfied that the right hon. Gentleman was right in the view he took of the matter, and he supported the Bill in its subsequent stages. That occurred in 1843. In 1848 came the French revolution, which desolated in turn almost every capital in Europe, and the agents of revolution boasted that they would soon visit this country, and that their visit would be felt in the wreck of laws and the destruction of social order. Everywhere special constables were sworn in for the protection of the country. A few days before the explosion of revolutionary violence was expected, he was waited upon by a deputation from the coal-whippers of London to communicate two resolutions which had been passed at a public meeting of their body, which was 1,200 strong. The first resolution expressed gratitude to Mr. Gladstone and the House of Commons for the kind interest which had been shown in their sufferings, and the remedies applied to their grievances; and the second announced their intention of showing their gratitude by being sworn in as special constables; and a deputation waited on him (Sir William Hutt) to acquaint him with their resolution, and their spokesman assured him that wherever else there might be disturbance he might depend upon it that peace and order should be preserved at Wapping. He wished the feeling which animated these poor men was more generally entertained by the working classes, and that they were brought to feel that they had a beneficial interest and property in the laws by which they were governed. He believed the Bill of the Government had a tendency to promote that object, and believing that it was a measure salutary, Bound, beneficial, and conservative, he 1684 should give his unhesitating support to the Motion that it be read a second time.
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
said, that he should studiously refrain from importing any personalities into the discussion, although there was no one who would have more—not excuse, but palliation—for doing so, as he was one of the two Members to whom his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his speech at Liverpool—it might have been unintentionally—had imputed that he regarded the working classes as an invading army. [The Chancellor of the Exchequer made a gesture of dissent.] The charge of the right hon. Gentleman was made in such a manner as to include himself in the natural and literal interpretation of the words.
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
accepted the disclaimer of his right hon. Friend, and would at once proceed to address himself to the question before the House. He had listened to this debate with great interest; he had heard able speeches on the other side which threw more or less light upon the question—he might particularly refer to the able and logical speech—though, as he would endeavour to show, questionable in its premises—of the hon. Member for Westminster; but there was one quarter from which he looked for light and found only dense darkness—the Treasury Bench. With the exception of what fell from the hon. Member for Bradford, who was a practical man and an employer of labour, and therefore made a practical speech, he had heard nothing but angry declamation, strong invective, and sentimental appeals. He must correct himself, however—he had heard from one Member of the Government (Mr. Layard) that he regarded the hon. Member for Birmingham as "Snug, the joiner." Now, in the fashionable language of the day, "joiner" was called "cabinetmaker," and, perhaps, the hon. Gentleman intended delicately to convey the idea that the Member for Birmingham was a maker of Cabinets. Whether the Under Secretary thought that the rest of the worshipful company, Flute, Quince, Snout, and Bottom were also present in the Cabinet he could not tell; but he thought that the country would perhaps be of the opinion of the wise King of Athens in the Midsummer Night's Dream, after seeing their performance, that they had left their dead to be buried 1685 by Lion and Moonshine—especially Moonshine. Leaving this attack in the rear upon it, however, he wished to discuss the principles of the Bill, and he would do so under two aspects. First, he would ask, was the Franchise Bill based, or was it not, on any sufficient appreciation of the conditions of the working man as he really showed himself in actual life; and secondly, he would further inquire whether this Bill must not, by the force of circumstances, effect a sudden displacement of political power, which, whether it intrinsically operated for good or evil, was an experiment which required to be acutely examined, well proved, and well tested previous to endorsement? This could not be done unless, before the proposal passed into a law, the parallel displacements of political power which would be caused by a re-distribution of seats and by a re-adjustment of boundaries were also before them. These were really the questions that required to be settled; and those who imputed ulterior motives to the persons who tried to make the inquiry, and who said that the object of the Amendment was to get rid of all Reform, simply showed that weakness of argument, that recklessness of tongue, that volubility of denunciation, which was sometimes rather pleasant and agreeable when coming from the mouth of an engaging woman, but which was exceedingly disagreeable, and not very dignified when it bubbled over from the Treasury Bench. He thought that the Amendment and not the Bill ought to be accepted by the House in the name of practical Reform. There were few Members in that House who had a better right to speak on behalf of the working men than he possessed. He represented a constituency of more than 100,000 inhabitants in Staffordshire, comprising a borough made up of several adjacent towns which were alike the head-quarters of our famous national manufacture of porcelain and also the seat of growing iron-works—a borough which stood in the first class of the Return moved for by the hon. Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. Hunt) in respect of the number of working men already on the register. He was also at the head of an organization in London (the "Architectural Museum") the very object of whose existence was to find out, instruct, and reward the working artist or art workman, and it had often been his pleasure and his pride to stand up and address meetings of working men, not, indeed, on political principles, except within his own consti- 1686 tuency, but on questions connected with their moral and social improvement. He was also a resident in a southern county, and he could therefore claim to discuss this question fairly and dispassionately, without prejudice, bias, or fear as a friend of the working classes, as a man whose residential associations were southern, and withal as the representative of a constituency which, though situated in a North Midland county, might, from the character of the soil, the habits of the people, and the nature of their employments, be regarded as belonging to the North of England. Now, let them look at the condition of the working man as he was—let them deal with him as a man, not pat him on the back as a political element, and patronize him. Whatever might be the merits or the demerits of the working man—and all classes had their merits and their demerits—he had one great merit—the honest stand-up, hearty English feeling, detested gammon, and hated to be patronized. Without question the party opposite had committed the one cardinal error against the working man of patronizing and patting him on the back. ["No, no!"] He said they had. ["No, no!"] But he said yes. They were always talking of him and of his friends, not as if so many fellow members of society, but as the "working classes"—namely, as a composite something made up of many wants, which had forfeited their individual identity, and out of which no component member was by his patrons assumed as ever likely to rise. They had refused to deal with him as one of many accidental incidents of our complicated society, with responsibilities to those above as well as to those below him—able to do good and to do harm right and left. They had preached from Liverpool to the Tower Hamlets, and from London to Edinburgh, upon the virtues and the excellencies of the working man, as if he were some species of exceptional Darwinian development of human nature. They had patted and patronized him just as if he were a converted African chief at a pious tea party. He predicted that such policy would be regarded by the working man as an insult rather than a compliment when he came calmly to look back at the events of this excited time. They were not dealing with him as a man with a many-sided character, with as many varieties in his natural, moral, physical, social, and financial organization as even the Members of that House. But 1687 it might be well to see who the working men of England really were. He would divide them roughly into three classes. The first consisted of those whom he would gladly, willingly, and even enthusiastically see possessed of the suffrage, and was composed of those workmen who were exceptionally engaged in some branch of production requiring a certain intellectual strain, a certain discriminating manipulation and artistic design. In this class would be included the higher section of carvers in stone and wood, painters, joiners, and workers in iron, and, although the House might think he was speaking in favour of his constituents, the higher branch of workmen at the potteries. These were the élite of the working classes, and nothing that the hon. Members for Bradford or Westminster had said of them was too much in their praise. These were the men whom he would admit not within the pale of the "Constitution"—he repudiated that current phrase, which he was sorry to hear the high authority of the leader of the House lately sanction; every man was within the pale of the Constitution who was within the pale of the law—but he would admit them within the pale of the franchise. Then there was a second class whom he supposed nobody on either side of the House desired to admit to the franchise. These were the agricultural labourers in country districts—honest fellows, sober, hardworking, bringing up their families well (for he assumed for the class the virtues which characterized the best specimens), but living apart in the country, away from the attrition of political life and from all those town influences which tended to form the character of the active as opposed to the passive citizen. He would assume that the admission to the franchise of these good people was not desirable. But then there was the large intermediate class, over whom the battle was really being fought. This meant the large masses of labouring men in towns, the workmen in the building trades, and the operatives in mills, where steam power was the great money-producing force, and whose labour was, perhaps, in itself as much mechanical as that of the digger and the delver; but who by their obtaining higher wages, and from their living under the sharpening influence of towns, within reach of mechanics' institutions, and newspapers, of political meetings, and dramatic representations, were better posted up—to use 1688 an American phrase—than their agricultural brethren. Now, if they looked at those men it would be found that, from no fault of their own, they were very much assimilated together. In the upper and middle classes persons could choose their own occupations, their own amusements, their own pursuits, and this produced that healthy and wide diversity of mind which really gave these classes their preponderating influence in the administration of the land. But these men, from the very nature of their occupations and circumstances, were more subject to the influence of class feelings, and more accustomed to surrender themselves to the guidance of the stronger minds of local leaders. The very nature of their employment involved their working in continuous grooves and in constant association with their fellow-workmen. They could not, as their richer neighbours did, take in their Times, Spectator, and so on, but must confine themselves to one paper, whether Reynolds, an illustrated, or a local journal. Their paper, whichever it may be, was probably taken in by joint subscription, and read and commented upon in turns by those engaged in the same workshops. Their refreshments were obtained in all probability from the same tavern, and even in their Sunday's recreation their companions were still their fellow-workmen. From all these influences there was a more powerful effect produced upon the weak, the ignorant, the dissipated among them by the stronger minds out of their order than could be found in any other class whose members had more physical means of getting out of the way when they liked, and of choosing their own companionship. Thus a class feeling was necessarily created in the minds of the working men, and so with equal talents, equal desire for knowledge and equal goodness, each single working man was a less unit in the composition of the great national mind and character than each individual of any other portion of the community. Enfranchising a number of working men would not, therefore, be enfranchising that great number of minds all independently turned upon the same questions from different points of view, which the widening of the franchise would be in other portions of the social polity, but merely performing a multiplication sum, and developing the same single instincts, single prejudices, and single desires. In such a state of things the very virtues of a man of that sort might become 1689 real dangers to the community. An intelligent man of that stamp would be ready to go to war for an idea—his mind would be full of generous impulses which it would be unsafe, if not impracticable, to carry out. Might not that condition of things become dangerous? Might not those people be frequently placed in wrong positions from their very generosity? Influenced by one newspaper and one set of ideas, these working men would move as one, and being prompted by their generous impulses, would assuredly make for war in such a case as Poland, already referred to by the hon. Member for Brighton, just as they would rescue a little boy from being bullied by a larger one, whom they would thrash despite the presence of the policeman, and without counting consequences. To act upon such impulses was the natural result of ready instinct, unguided by political experience. All who had been to public schools would remember what absurd, what preposterous notions and odd ruels of honour the boys set up amongst themselves. Would they think of giving the franchise to a schoolboy, fine fellow though he was? In the same way the franchise should not be rashly given to the schoolboys of the great commonwealth, who, though presumably earnest and capable, had not, like the typical wise man of Greece, seen the cities of many men and learnt their habits, which formed the true test of a political education. He would ask the House to listen to a sentence full of wisdom bearing upon that point—All trust in Constitutions is grounded on the assurance they may afford, not that the depositaries of power will not, but that they cannot, misemploy it. Democracy is not literally the best form of government unless this weak side of it can be strengthened, unless it can he so organized that no class, not even the most numerous"—(And they all knew that the working men formed the most numerous class in this country)—Shall be able to reduce all but itself to political insignificance, and direct the course of legislation and administration by its exclusive class interests.The strength of that sentence would not be weakened when the House heard that it was the deliberate opinion of the hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. J. Stuart Mill), whose speech was listened to with such great interest the other night, although not with perfect agreement by every one on that side of the House.
1690 He wished to deal fairly with the real material interests of the working man. They had heard a great deal of trades unions, strikes for wages, and the natural protectionist proclivities of the working classes. No one could deny those facts, and the question was, who created that state of mind among their fellow-workmen which led to those things—was it the best workmen or was it the worst? Was it those who had the heads to think, the time to read, and the study to devote to their reading, and who were something more than mere expert workers in a cotton or woollen mill? No—all these trades unions were in the first instance the inspiration of the bad workman, who had a natural interest in preventing the good workman from obtaining the legitimate advantages which his superior labour ought to command, and in forbidding the most expert from going fairly into the free trade labour market and earning the best wages in return for the most work—by extra hours, extra zeal and handiness—under the communistic regulations of some "rule of the trade," or whatever other cant name the system might bear. If the working classes were poured like a cataract into the franchise, might they not expect that some organization of the bad, the lazy, and the selfish to corrupt the good and industrious would be developed and receive a political significance? It was not in human nature to suppose that this sort of communistic system would not grow up among the young political constituencies of this country. They had witnessed such notions growing up to poison the political life of the young communities in Australia, and they had seen them settling down like a black cloud over the wide States of America. How, then, could England under a more democratic Constitution expect to continue free from the same dangerous influence? The hon. Member for Westminster had made much of the probability that the ideas of working men would be modified if their representatives were met by the older Members of the House in fair Parliamentary discussion. The hon. Member's anticipations could not, however, be fulfilled unless it happened that working men could return genuine working men as their representatives for special constituencies underlying the old electoral divisions (after the precedent of the Universities) and composed exclusively of working men. The argument was incomplete unless it accepted 1691 this development. He did not believe that boroughs, however largely made up of working men voters, would return real working men. He thought it much more probable that professional politicians would start up and be ready to take a working man's brief if working men's constituencies wore created. The result contemplated by the hon. Member for Westminster would not, in that case, come to pass, because the professional working man's representative would not be a disinterestedly honest man, standing forward to plead the working man's cause solely from his conscientious convictions, but a retained advocate who would, of course, be speaking to his brief with ears closed to conviction, and could not be trusted to bring back his genuine impression of Parliament to his constituents. Whether it were desirable to create such special constituencies of working men, was, no doubt, a question worthy of consideration, but he would not now commit himself upon that which would certainly be a great innovation. He only wished to note that it must be accepted by the hon. Member for "Westminster if he meant to give logical completeness to his argument.
Then arose the question, if they were to enfranchise the working man, and he desired to do so, how were they to deal with the question of his enfranchisement? How were they to enfranchise the intelligent, well-conducted man, and not enfranchise the drunken, worthless fellow who would pull him back and more than neutralize his vote? The plan proposed was the rudest and most clumsy of unworkmanlike methods that could be conceived. That old fiddle with one string, the house rental or rating, the ready way of cutting the Gordian knot twenty-five years ago, was a proposal which, in the present state of political education, a statesman ought to be ashamed of bringing forward. At the time of the first Reform Bill it was perhaps necessary to adopt some rough and ready criterion, for a great work had to be suddenly done. But this necessity no longer existed. The ten-pounder was now an institution of the country, but in the enlargement of the constituencies something more varied and elastic and worthy of political philosophy than this one single consideration of the bargain between landlord and tenant might have been thought of. It was indeed a curious feature of the present measure that it was the vulgarest scheme of Parliamentary Reform which 1692 had for many years been brought forward—the one which most completely abandoned any idea of regulating and compensating interests. Lord Aberdeen's Reform Bill, of which Lord John Russell was the mouthpiece, proposed, indeed, a very low franchise both in counties and boroughs, and it disfranchised recklessly. But the compensating provision was found in its proposal for the representation of minorities. Lord Derby's Reform Bill had its demerits, but it proposed to maintain the balance by transferring county votes in boroughs to those boroughs, and it was accordingly attacked by Lord John Russell, who had himself originally proposed the same thing in the great Reform Bill. Moreover, both those Bills proposed to give the franchise to intelligence as well as ignorance by what were contemptuously called the fancy franchises, franchises which for his part he thought most recommendable. One, and one only fancy franchise, they proposed to introduce into the present Bill—the savings bank one. That "bye" franchise, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer timidly called it, while apologizing for recommending anything which had been sneered down by the blatant eloquence of the Member for Birmingham showed some little attempt to be, at all events, the imitator of originality. Otherwise, the Reform Bill of the Government was of the rudest and roughest description. Evidence was abundant that the statistics had been handled in a very hasty, mechanical, tinkering manner. The Bill would not add a thousand more voters into all the metropolitan boroughs, while they would be admitted in a flood at Salford and other places. How would the Members of the Government have dealt with this question if they had been statesmen, and were not afraid of this or that side of the House, and had not contracted obligations with the Birmingham firm? He thought they would have attempted to enfranchise above and sideways, as well as below. In particular, they would have seen if something better than the house rent could not have been discovered as the basis on which to found the working man's claim to the franchise. He thought this might have been found in the possession on his part of some moderate amount of realized property or of income assured for some period, which, however short, was a fixed one. This property might be either in bonds, in the funds, or in private investments, and he would not be too nice about the nature of the 1693 investment if it had a bonâ fide character about it. He would take investments into which the Court of Chancery would hardly let parties put their trust money. A Commission might well exist to examine into and report on the classes of realized property to which it would be right to attach the possibility of the franchise. This method of increasing the constituencies would give the workman a personal stake in the country. There was something of that sort attempted in the £60 savings bank clause; and he would go so far as to say that if this proposal were workable, if would be a good thing in itself, only he did not suppose any one would deny the possibility of frauds when parties were running rather close at an election in a small borough. About two years before an election was imminent one side might expect to find itself in a minority of about thirty. Somehow or another fifty people would immediately become savings banks depositors, each in due time having £60 invested. No one would know whence that £3,000 came; no one would know to whom it would return after the polling day. There would be no authentic historical document to prove anything of its fate. The voters would have been made, and the money would be withdrawn. He did not see why they should not adopt the plan of transferring freeholders in boroughs under certain circumstances; the freeholders, for instance, under a certain value to the borough list, as proposed in Lord Derby's Bill. Public business and the due balance of orders in the State almost made this transfer necessary, for the system of freehold building societies had been invented since the Reform Bill, and was eagerly worked by the competing sides. So streets upon streets of houses inhabited and owned by working men were growing up in the outskirts of the large towns, and, of course, tended every day to swamp more and more the real county voters. This had created a relation between the property of the working classes and the Constitution of the country, which did not exist before, and which they could only deal with by giving the borough franchise in boroughs to the small freeholders who existed there. So placed, the small town freeholders would be an excellent element in the enfranchised community; while, if kept in the county, they would be antagonistic to the development of the coun- 1694 ty's action. This suggestion was no fantastical innovation, but a return to the old Constitution of the country. When in the Middle Ages a town became eminent for its commerce or its manufactures, the King gave it a charter and constituted it a "county of a city" or "county of a town." What was one of the effects of this privilege? Why, that the freeholders in that city or borough voted for the town and not for the county, as still is the case in such places as Exeter, Bristol, or Norwich, the Liverpools and Manchesters of the Middle Ages. It was consistent with the spirit of those times to effect those salutary reforms by special privilege which are now made by general enactment. In these counties of cities, therefore, they still found that expedient existing which was even more necessary now than in the days of the Plantagenets. Turning to another point, it was an insult to common sense to say that graduates and clergymen and dissenting ministers should not have the suffrage which was given to a £7 householder. The Government would disgrace themselves in the eyes of an impartial posterity by the arrant cowardice which was provoked by a sneer from Birmingham to omit provisions like these. There was another class whose position in society was not that of householders, and who had no votes because they were people of such especial trustworthiness and probity that they were put in other people's houses to take care of them. A clerk at a bank, and the trusted foreman of a shop, who were I given free quarters in their respective houses to see after them and take care of them, were people of this class. There was no provision to give them the franchise except the savings bank clause. A son who might take high honours at College and secure great distinction, who might be admitted; to partnership with his father, would yet have no vote if he lived in the paternal home. They might even imagine the case! of a young man of brilliant ability who might early rise to be a Cabinet Minister, but who, if he lived in a house of his father's, would have no vote unless he invested £60 of his salary in the savings bank, and even then he would have to wait two years before he gained his vote, by which time he might be turned out of office. This is what they called a Reform Bill! Turning to another class of the community, he found that the agricultural labourer had no place in the present Bill, and he was glad of it; for 1695 although he was a fine fellow, he had not the political education to make him a safe voter. But when it was once passed, and the House had told the workmen of the towns that they had some sort of right to the franchise, how long would they prevent the working men of the counties from coming forward with an ugly demand for the same advantage? If the agricultural labourers were enfranchised it would give a very preponderating influence in the counties to the landed interest, and so, as one belonging to that interest, he might be suspected of having a partizan desire to see the revolution effected, But for the good of the commonwealth he would resist it, and he was sure that other Members attached to the landed interest would also have the patriotism to resist the temptation of snatching at an illegitimate power by means so dangerous to the good government of the nation. But if the day did come when such a demand were made, the arguments—very difficult to resist except at the cost of no little inconsistency—which the Jack Straw of the future would wield would not be borrowed from this side of the House, they would be furbished up from the armoury of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and of the Member for Birmingham.
There was one important matter which lay at the bottom of this whole question of Reform, and which it was foolish to blink—namely, the vast change that had taken place in what might be termed the centre of gravity of our population and our political power by the rise of the great manufacturing towns in the North of England. The present scheme of Parliamentary Reform was a move on the part of the North of England to get more power in the body politic than it had hitherto possessed. Now, he was anxious to give the North its due share of power, but he was at the same time zealous to save the rights of the South. At the time when England settled down into our old Parliamentary system, the North was in a great measure a wild moorland, and all our manufactures were centred in the South. When they read in history of the risings in Kent of Wat Tyler in the days of Richard II. and of Sir Thomas Wyatt in that of Queen Mary, they should picture these events as identical with what would now be a vast émeute from Lancashire or Birmingham. "When they dwelt on the gallant adventures of those Devonshire worthies, whether a Raleigh or a Carew, they should recollect 1696 that Devonshire was in Tudor times a great seat of trade and manufactures. We all know the change in the external aspect of these two great sections of the land, but we are apt to forget that a subtil principle of compensation has also been at work. In proportion as the North grew in manufacturing power the South became the centre of residential interests. Its air was more genial, and it became, with London as its capital, the main scene of our social and political life. The North, on the other hand, had her three capitals—namely, Manchester, Leeds, and Liverpool—which became great centres of commercial activity and wealth. But still the manufacturer, when he made his money, usually retired to some southern seat, for the very prosperity of his great towns, showing itself in smoke and turmoil, made their vicinage little desirable for residence, and grouse was still found to be often the most profitable crop for his hill tops. So the South has become the potent centre of wealthy residence, and in it accordingly, especially in the metropolis, political life and social organization have culminated, under the influence of leaders of opinion and of action, who might be, and who often were, Northern, and not Southern born. All candid judges must own that it is well that it should be so, for this condition of I things indicated the true fusion of the interests of both sections, while at the same time it was an irresistible argument against the aggrandisement of one at the expense of the other. If the North were now enfranchised at the expense of the South, they would not only have a simple transfer of political power from one set of localities to another, but they would disorganize and unsettle all the old relations of the country viewed in its great sections, and they would place power in the hands of numbers without heads to direct them.
If they wished to make their suffrage suited to the times, they should not only have different franchises for the North and for the South, but they should go back to the good old constitutional system of having different franchises for different places according to their different circumstances, and they should supplement this variety by a liberal and enlightened creation of bye-franchises. He gladly recognized the truthfulness of the character of the northern workman given by the Member for Bradford; but in order to enfranchise the seven-pounders of Brad- 1697 ford—supposing that to be in itself desirable—was there, he would ask, the least justification for raising the number of voters in the immaculate borough of Reigate by the admission of its valuable seven-pounders, by which act of statesmanship 60 per cent of the constituency of that place would be composed of the working classes, under the present Bill, if the Government statistics spoke truth r But is the case even of the unenfranchised large towns of the North so preponderatingly strong against the South as their advocates pretend? By a digest of a table published the other day by the order of this House on the Motion of the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Sandford), it appeared that the unenfranchised towns in the North, that is in Northumberland, Cumberland, Durham, Yorkshire, Westmoreland, and Lancashire, with populations of upwards of 5,000 inhabitants, had an aggregate population of 456,626 persons, while the unenfranchised towns in the South, which came under the same category, showed a total population of 707,685, leaving a balance in favour of the latter of over 250,000. Was it, under these circumstances, right to pass a Reform Bill which would have the effect of transferring political power from the South to the North? Then, again, on the other hand, as to the re-distribution of seats between the counties themselves, matters could scarcely be considered all square in face of such a fact as that the great county of Derby, with its 340,000 inhabitants, only sent six Members to Parliament, and Dorsetshire, with less than 200,000 inhabitants, sent fourteen. These numbers were attained by lumping county and borough Members. But in proportion as the franchise was lowered; the distinction between the two classes of representatives was obliterated, and each county was justified in testing its percentage of Members—borough and county—by its full population, urban and rural. He did not in the least desire to punish Dorsetshire, but he thought that Derbyshire had a superior claim to many a comparatively unpopulous, unenfranchised town for an addition to its Members. He happened the other day, in looking at a Lancashire paper, to see the account of a public meeting held at a place called Darwen, at which a case which seemed primâ facie strong (all ex parte statements are primâ facie strong) was made out for constituting it a borough, and, of course, thereby enlarging the national sum total of seven-pounders. Darwen had, it was said, 1698 near 20,000 inhabitants, with all the institutions usually belonging to a growing and flourishing place. He felt rather ashamed of himself for never having heard of Darwen, and so he looked it up. He then discovered that Darwen lay within the parish and postal district of a much better known and more populous town, one which already sends two Members—Blackburn. So, then, with Darwen in the field bidding to be a borough, one of three things must take place, two at least of which would disturb the calculations upon which the Government based its Bill, and would very seriously affect the balance and composition of the electoral body of Lancashire. The prayer of Darwen might be rejected and the borough of Blackburn retain its present limits; this would, no doubt, create a vast number of £14 county voters within the limits of the Palatinate. Or, again, Blackburn might be enlarged so as to let in Darwen. This arrangement would alter, by largely increasing, the Chancellor of the Exchequer's estimated sum total of working men to be added to the constituencies of England; but so far as it went, it would not alter the member power of the boroughs; or, in the third place, the petition of Darwen might be granted, and it might be admitted as a new borough. This third expedient would not only make a large addition of working men to the conjoint constituencies of the kingdom, but it would also alter and increase the balance of working men's power in the whole Parliament, by creating a fresh borough of the workman class at the expense probably of some seat of a different description. How, then, could they fairly discuss the value of the Franchise Bill while such questions were left dark? Anybody must see how unfair it was to call upon a Member of the House, especially if he represented Lancashire—even if he were leader of the House and sponsor of the measure—unless be had agreed to subject himself to political penance for his soul's good, to support this Franchise Bill without the means of knowing whether such a town as Darwen, the population of which was over 20,000, was to be an element in the borough system, with its seven, or in the county system, with, its fourteen-pounders. Darwen was, of course, only one case out of others of a similar description. He would take another instance from the county in which lie himself resided to show the unstatesmanlike way in which the measure was conceived. By the Bill, West 1699 Kent, with its population of nearly half a million, would have its constituency enormously increased. He was not objecting to that; but the measure of this increase, and the character of the future electoral body, would be wholly different, according as the re-distribution of seats did or did not add to the number of borough constituencies in the country. No one could travel down the South Eastern or the Chatham and Dover line, and see the miles upon miles of new towns growing up about New Cross and Lewisham, Sydenham, Croydon, and Beckenham, and other places, without being impressed with a fear of the weight which so vast a concentration of inhabitants would bring to bear upon the county constituencies of East Surrey and West Kent under the proposed scheme—for it is plain to view that the vast majority of these genteel villas and semi-detached habitations (abodes of persons whose real occupation in life lay wholly in London) would send up their fourteen-pounders to swamp the genuine county voters. Again, in Lord Derby's Reform Bill, Gravesend, with its more than 20,000 inhabitants, was designated to be a new borough. Would it be so still? What also was to be done with Tunbridge Wells and Tun-bridge, likewise numbering some 20,000, of a population made up of lodging-house keepers, who would all be qualified to be county voters without county feeling or county interests? Would these lodging-house keepers, he asked, be kept in the county, or relegated to a new homogeneous borough? Take also-East Kent. Was the borough of Sandwich which, even with Deal and Walmer thrown in, now only counts 14,000 inhabitants—generally faithful it must be owned to the powers that be at the Admiralty—to be recruited by Margate with its 8,000 and Ramsgate with its 10,000 inhabitants? Ramsgate and Margate were also watering places, and therefore fruitful nests of fourteen-pounders, who would easily make up the amount of rental needed for the new county franchise by the lodgers they took in from town and the bathing machines which they let out. If these places were shut off into a borough—and he suggested Sandwich—well and good. If not, the bathing machines of Margate and Ramsgate might really return the Members for East Kent. In conclusion, he thought he had said enough to show that while Members on that side of the House were justi- 1700 fled in opposing the Bill, hon. Members on the other side equally showed themselves the best friends of real Reform by supporting the honest and statesmanlike call for inquiry, and for completeness of plan made by the noble Lord the Member for Chester (Earl Grosvenor), rather than the desperate party move of a baffled Ministry—this spurious and truncated Franchise Bill.
§ MR. THOMAS HUGHES
said, he rose to give the best support in his power to the Government on this Franchise Bill. Before proceeding to explain his reasons for giving them that support—which he tendered very heartily—he was sure he should not say an unpleasant thing to the House when he stated that it was not his intention to quote the opinions of any hon. Members and to show that they had in any way changed them on the great subject of Parliamentary Reform. He thought that in the times in which we lived—times in which the faith of men, whether religious, political, or social, was being winnowed in a manner which was evidence of a very remarkable crisis in the world's history—it was often not a proof of strength, but of weakness, for a man to hold on to the same opinions, or, as they might be called, prejudices; and to call it consistency. It was desirable that a man in early life should have fixed principles and should adhere to them; but to hold on to mere opinions on such subjects as Reform was, he repeated, frequently an indication of weakness. The strong man knew that he needed not to care about preserving one opinion, because he was aware that he had principles in his mind to go to from which he could get other opinions as good or better; but the weak man, if he lost one set of opinions, did not know, having no principle in his mind, where to go for another set. He gave his support to the Bill exactly and precisely for the same reasons that induced the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire to oppose it. The noble Lord opposed the Bill because it was merely a Franchise Bill, and the right hon. Member for North Staffordshire (Mr. Adderley) asked what was the meaning of the Government in bringing in the Bill at all? He (Mr. T. Hughes) apprehended the meaning of it was precisely this—that the advanced or extreme Liberal party, as it was called, of whom he was a humble member, had at last found a Government who said, "The really important question, the one import- 1701 ant question for the country at the present time, is Reform; and the important part of that question, the part without which all the other parts have no meaning for us at this moment, is the question of the suffrage." That was exactly the reason why he tendered his humble support to the Government on that occasion. He thought that the Liberals should be glad at having at length discovered a Government determined to look the question of Reform in the face, and with the wisdom to see what was the vital portion of Reform at the present time. At one time, and even since the Bill had been brought in, he had been inclined to think that even a lower borough franchise than that now proposed would have been better, and that the Liberal Members might perhaps be wise in still agitating for and endeavouring to obtain a yet lower borough franchise. An evening or two after the introduction of the measure he met an influential man among the trades union men and the artizans of London—an inhabitant of his borough, but not a voter; and on asking him what he thought of the Government Bill, the man replied, "Well, Sir, it will bring in a good bit of the best of us." Nothing stronger than that could be said in favour of the measure. It would just do that—it would bring in "a good bit of the best" of the artizans and mechanics of London and the northern cities; that was precisely the reason why it was a good Bill, and on that very ground it ought to be looked upon with favour by hon. Gentlemen opposite if they really desired a moderate measure. And this was a moderate measure, for, even in the estimates of hon. Gentlemen opposite, the utmost number whom it would enfranchise could not exceed some 200,000 of the best mechanics and artizans of the kingdom. It really seemed to him to be extremely insincere talk to say, as the hon. Member for Stoke (Mr. Beresford Hope) had done, that such a limited measure as that would open the floodgates to democracy, or, indeed, open them to anything except a great improvement in our representative system. He confessed he had been surprised at the manner in which some of the sentiments uttered on that side of the House had been received by hon. Gentlemen opposite. When he heard, he would not say the howls, but the noise, with which certain sentiments that he could not deem revolutionary were received on the other side of the House, he confessed that he had asked 1702 himself whether he was one of those who desired to upset that British Constitution which had lasted 700 years according to some Gentlemen, 600 years according to others, and only since 1832 according to one hon. Member on the Ministerial side. Did he, because he warmly supported that Bill, wish to marry two wives, or to partition the property of the noble Mover and Seconder of the Amendment? The noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire was perpetually saying that he conscientiously did this and conscientiously did that. Well, he (Mr. T. Hughes) could conscientiously say for himself that his earnest desire was to preserve that common England of theirs, in which the rich man had no greater stake than the poor man, and to hand it down to their children as good a country as they had themselves found it. It was for that reason that he supported the Bill; and he believed it would do much to accomplish that end. The resistance to the measure came from Gentlemen the uprightness of whose intentions he had no reason to doubt; but when they spoke of opposing that "political cataract," he could not help feeling that they were just the persons on whom that cataract would not fall. Those who would have to meet the first burst of its fury, when these floodgates of democracy were opened, were men like the hon. Baronet the Member for the West Riding (Sir Francis Crossley) and his hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. Forster), than whom no better friends of the artizans and mechanics of this country, and no men who knew them better or were more trusted by them, though they were both masters, existed in England. Surely, therefore, hon. Gentlemen opposite might think twice before they indulged such idle fears when they saw two such men, who ought to dread these mischiefs if they had any reality in them, coming forward, not only to support that Bill, but to say they would hail with pleasure a considerably larger measure of Reform in the same direction. The hon. Member for Northumberland (Mr. Liddell) had contended that the mechanic and artizan class were already well represented in that House; but the hon. Gentleman would never have made that assertion if he had been as intimately acquainted with that class as he and many other Members were. He (Mr. T. Hughes) entirely agreed with the statement of his hon. Friend the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, that neither his 1703 hon. Friend, nor himself, nor any other Member of that House could really and efficiently represent the working men of our great towns. No man could ever do so except one who had lived and was living with them, who was sharing their ideas and also their privations. If the House would allow so young a Member as himself to criticize it in one point, he would say its fault, as far as representing this class of the community went, was its excessive solvency. The House of Commons was sometimes spoken of as a body whose Members owned he knew not how many thousands a year each. Whether that was the fact or not he could not tell; but it was impossible that those who lived in the affluence and luxury which the majority of that House enjoyed could really represent that great class in the country who had no accumulated property except a fund which belonged not only to them but to all their fellow subscribers in common, such as the funds of the trades unions and the friendly societies, or some other joint funds; and who, unless they had some share in such a fund, had nothing beyond the small quantity of furniture in their humble dwellings which they could really call their own, and had to rely exclusively upon the labour of their hands from day to day for the support of themselves and their families. That, to anybody at all familiar with those classes, made a chasm which was utterly impossible to bridge over, so far as representation was concerned, however much they might wish to do it. The conditions of their lives, the way in which they endeavoured to meet those conditions, and also the principles of their lives, were all entirely different from those of hon. Gentlemen in that House. Let him as he was upon them say the plain truth on these subjects. Those who took an interest in social and political subjects had imbibed what were called sound notions of political economy. They had read the regular text-books; they had a certain number of faiths which they held to almost religiously. They believed entirely and absolutely in the law of supply and demand as a law of nature which nothing could really and permanently interfere with. They believed that to buy cheap and sell dear was the rule by which all trade must be conducted; and they believed that the commodity of labour was just as much an object of barter as a bale of cotton or a bar of iron. They had also read Darwin, 1704 and books of that kind. They knew that the big fish must always eat the little ones, and that small persons must disappear before the larger. These beliefs were almost all accepted by the persons who sent representatives to that House; but the beliefs of those men whose admission to that House was now questioned were far less sound. They would be called by the noble Lord the Member for Stamford (Viscount Cranbourne) "sentimental rant," and he was afraid many of them would throw a shade of sadness on the face of the hon. Member for Westminster, because those beliefs were, first and foremost, that such a thing was attainable as a fair price for labour. They did not believe in what was called the "higgling" of the market. They believed that labour—the work of living men—could not be subject to the same laws as a mere bale of goods or a bar of iron. They believed, further, that it was the duty of the strong man in their trades to support the weak to a great extent, and that was the foundation of the unions of which he would speak presently. They believed, again, in the organization of labour. These faiths might frighten some hon. Members, but they were not visionary. He was not saying they were right or wrong, but they were held by far the largest portion of society. And were they to say they would not admit them there and let these ideas come into fair collision with their own? Would it not much more conduce to the good of the country and make these artizans wiser men if they could have their representatives—men who really and heartily accepted those beliefs—to state them to that House? So they might become wiser men themselves, and perhaps make us wiser on many subjects in which their interests are concerned. If he had been speaking twenty years ago instead of now, it might have been said that he was raising mere chimeras or indulging in what the noble Lord the Member for Stamford might have called sentimental rant. But within these twenty years the working class have accomplished results of which any class might be proud. First, as to the organization of labour: what was the state of the trades unions? Up to this very time these trades unions were actually outside the law. They could not be fully registered as friendly societies, and therefore were not assisted as other combinations were by the law of the country. Yet, in the face of this fact, what had they done? He would mention one 1705 with which he had been familiar for many years—which had become one of the most extraordinary organizations that had ever been brought together by men in their position in the world. The Amalgamated Society of Engineers consisted of 32,000 members—all skilled mechanics. It had a reserve fund of £115,000, £30,000 of which was invested in Post Office savings banks. It paid within a few pounds of £1,000 a week in its different benefits. It had branches not only in every great town in England, but also in our colonies and in the United States. Now, when they considered that this organization had been worked out by men not only unen-franchised, but many of them illiterate, under every difficulty with which man could have to contend, he asked, could j such an organization have beer, carried j out by men of any other class in the country more successfully or brought to a more brilliant conclusion? Again, the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners, which had only been founded a few years, had already 150 branches, and during last year spent between £11,000 or £12,000 in benefits to its members. That was the society which had frightened exceedingly the leading journal in this country. It was said they wanted nine hours' wages for eight hours' work, and had many other nefarious projects of that kind. But, looking at the average of their earnings, who did not feel that it was not unnatural they should have made such efforts to obtain a small advance on their wages r The average weekly earnings of the men belonging to the building trades in London were from 27s. to 28s.; and when it was considered that within a few years they had doubled and trebled the property of this great town—when it was considered that they had doubled the property of the noble Lord who moved the present Amendment, he thought they need not grudge them their success in having been able to obtain some little advance—perhaps 1s. 6d. a week—in consideration of what they had done and the intelligence they had shown. The building trades were a highly-paid class of workmen, yet their wages did not throughout the country reach 27s. a week. They were told by those who opposed the Government Bill that these men could, with average prudence, gain for themselves the suffrage under the present £10 qualification. Suppose a workman had employment for forty-eight or forty-nine weeks in the year—for allowance must be made 1706 for sickness, travelling to find work, and other things—taking his average earnings at 27s. a week, to come in under the present franchise he would be spending an amount on his house which, proportionately, they themselves would not be justified in spending in housing their families. Unless, therefore, Parliament lowered the present suffrage, they were calling upon the greater portion of the mechanics to spend more upon their mere housing than they had a right, as honest men and with a due regard to the claims of their wives and families, to expend. This, then, was the first way in which the mechanics and artizans of England had endeavoured to work out their principles—whether false or true—first by trades unions, and secondly by their different co-operative societies. The amount of intelligence and self-sacrifice which they had brought to the solution of the problem of co-operative societies was sufficient to put to shame all the other classes of society. These societies were constituted and carried out upon sounder principles than trade was now usually conducted in this country. They as a rule absolutely prohibited credit; they restored the system of ready money, and they gave a healthy tone to trade, which it had too much lost of late years. These societies had at all events proved the sincerity and the honest belief of those who promoted them. They had proved that the working men were ready to make sacrifices for their principles, and that the strong were ready to come to the help of the weak. The best men among them had said that they would not leave their class but lift it, and this was the remarkable feature of their organization. Many hon. Members had read books like that written by Mr. Smiles, entitled Self Help, in which self-made men were held up to reverence and respect. Many of these were artizans who had risen to wealth and eminence from the humblest walks of life. He had nothing to say against such men. They were deserving of much credit, but they were not representative men of their class. The really representative men of that class were animated by quite other ideas. Their principle was to refuse to come out of their class, and to stay and live in it with the view, so far as they could, of lifting the whole bulk of their brethren. The more hon. Members examined what was going on throughout the country, the more reason they would have to wonder at the extraordinary success that had 1707 attended their efforts. And now, having touched upon the methods by which the working classes had sought to carry out their views and ideas, and the success that had attended their efforts, the House would, he hoped, permit him to inquire what it had done for the working men while they had been working out their salvation in the different ways he had described. He had heard it said since he had been a Member of that House that the working classes had no grievances of which to complain. It seemed to him, on the contrary, that they had many grievances of which they had good right to complain. While they were labouring for themselves, and working out their own ideas, how had the Legislature helped them? For instance, had it housed, fed, or educated them? The House had done nothing to improve the houses of the working men, and the artizans of this great town were at the present time worse housed than at any period within his memory. He said that they were worse housed, and what had the Legislature done to improve their dwellings? Great public bodies and companies came to that House with projects to pull down their houses, and no stress had been put upon them to provide accommodation for those whom they displaced from their dwellings, and the lower classes of the metropolis had become worse and worse lodged for the last ten or twelve years. Then came the question of food. [An hon. MEMBER: Question!] It was the question, and he would assert that the adulteration of the food of the labouring classes had been a great grievance with them. Then with regard to education, the people of this country were the worst educated of any free people on the face of the earth. As it was a test question upon this Bill whether they would admit the working man to a share in the making of laws, did the House suppose that if they had had any direct action upon the making of those laws, or any means of making their own opinions felt, these questions would have remained in their present condition? Then there was the question of arbitration courts, as connected with the labour question, which had been bandied backwards and forwards, sometimes in one House and sometimes in another. Nothing, however, had been done, and the question remained just as it was twenty years ago, although the opinion of the mechanics and artizans had 1708 come round to desire these courts and to believe in them. He very much feared that, notwithstanding the Bill of Lord St. Leonards, this question was likely to remain unsettled. Then, again, there was the question of the Master and Workmen's Acts. That was a flagrant case. If, in a case of contract between master and man, the workman was charged with breaking the agreement, the first step was personal, and the workman was put in prison; while if the master broke his part of the contract the first process against the master was to make him pay a fine. The working men believed that this state of things was very unjust, and that if they were properly represented the employers and employed would be put upon a more equitable footing. Then came the question of the workhouse infirmaries. Would the Members of that House be content with them in their present state—a crying disgrace to the metropolis—if their own flesh and blood—he would venture to use the term though it had been sneered at by the noble Lord the Member for Stamford—had any chance of going to them? Then came the question of dangerous and unwholesome trades. Twenty years ago a terrible disease called "necrosis of the jaws" was discovered in Vienna, which had since spread to this country, and was found chiefly among the makers of lucifer matches. That had now grown to be a very large trade, and not less than 1,800 children were employed in the manufacture. Necrosis of the jaws was one of the most awful diseases that ever afflicted humanity, and it was said to be increasing. There were not one or two but a dozen other trades in which the condition of the labourer was such as ought not to be suffered in any civilized country. Would any one who looked at this subject fairly and dispassionately say that if the class upon whom these evils pressed—who worked in these workshops and lived in these houses—had been fairly represented, their condition would not have been improved? As an instance of the want of sympathy on the part of the House with the working classes, he would instance the existing laws regulating the sale of alcoholic drinks; for though a very large majority of the working classes complained of them as throwing temptations to insobriety in their way, the only answer they got from Parliament was that they ought to have resolution enough to resist those temptations. The right hon. and gallant Member 1709 for Huntingdon (General Peel) said that though he would oppose the £7 franchise he had no distrust of those who would he voters under the £7 franchise, he distrusted their leaders, meaning, probably, the managers of the trades unions, who were usually denounced by the newspapers as noisy demagogues. Now he (Mr. T. Hughes) had for years known almost all the leaders of the Trade Protection Societies, and he could say that a better set of men, men more thoroughly anxious to keep those unions and those organizations straight, to stop strikes, to do what they considered best for the interests of their own class, but also for the best interests of the public generally, did not exist. It might be supposed that those leaders were the people who fostered strikes. From his own knowledge, the Amalgamated Engineers—a most powerful organization, with branches over the whole of the British Empire—had not had a strike for eighteen years. The younger and more impulsive members had been anxious to try the question of raising wages in the old way; but they were held back by the leaders on whom so much abuse had been lavished both in that House and in the press. It might be said that he had proved his case too much, that he had shown that this society was too powerful; but the assertion made the other night by the hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) was most probably the true one. He (Mr. T. Hughes) believed that the workmen would be as likely to go on different sides on all questions—even on social questions and the labour questions, in which they were the most interested—as any other class of society. In London the trades unions were split into two sections, quite as much opposed to each other as hon. Members in that House. In fact, one advocated, the other opposed strikes. In the same way, on the organization of the co-operative bodies the trades unions looked for years with the greatest possible jealousy, and even now regarded them without favour. He desired to see this Reform Bill of the Government passed. If it were not, he felt that the danger would certainly occur which had been touched on by no one but the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett), who was received at the time with considerable incredulity. Only a week ago he read a paragraph in a newspaper stating that from one part of Wales ninety families of skilled artizans had sailed for America. 1710 That was not a solitary instance; and he (Mr. T. Hughes) feared that unless Parliament met the people fairly, and gave them a direct share in the representation of the country—made them what were called "full citizens"—before long we might find the skilled artizans estranged from their country, England was on the brink of a precipice. He believed there was yet time to apply the remedy, and that would be their admission to the franchise. Unless we did this, their minds would get more and more unsettled: we should find that they no longer held on to England with the same feeling as their fathers; they would continue to leave us more and more, while we should feel that we could spare them less and less, and we should at last feel that we had lost the pith and marrow of the working classes, who contribute so largely to the wealth and prosperity of the country. He believed such a loss would be most disastrous, and that the only way to stop it would be to treat the working classes fairly, and introduce to the franchise such a portion of them as they fairly could. No one would say that a poor 200,000, scattered over the whole country would be too large a number to admit, or would be likely to swamp the present constituencies.
§ MR. DOULTON
said, he had found it somewhat difficult to bring himself to believe that his hon. Friend and Colleague (Mr. T. Hughes) had been speaking about the Reform Bill:—so far as he could see, the remarks of his hon. Friend had nothing whatever to do with what he conceived to be the main principle involved in this debate, and contained in the Resolution of the noble Lord the Member for Chester. He was glad that his hon. Colleague had not adopted the course pursued by preceding speakers throughout the debate, and especially by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Glasgow (Mr. Graham), by starting with the assumption that those who did not feel it their duty to support the Government by voting for the second reading of the Bill must necessarily be entirely opposed to all Reform. ["Hear!"] He would remind those who cheered this sentiment evening after evening that those to whom it was applied could afford to hear the insinuation, coming as it did from Gentlemen whose virgin enthusiasm for Reform had never yet borne the test either of experience or sacrifice. For himself he utterly denied the insinuation, and he should feel inclined to adopt in reference to those who uttered it the quotation so 1711 energetically given by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer a few nights ago, that—These lies are like the father that begot them—Gross as a mountain, open, palpable.He did not propose to discuss the clauses of the Bill that were termed the enfranchising clauses. He did not agree with those clauses; but he should not be inclined to oppose the second reading of the Bill, although there were many objections to which the Bill was fairly open, were it a complete measure. He attributed the faults in the Bill to the fact that the Bill had been drawn not so much with regard to the wants and requirements of the case as to satisfy the requirements of particular constituencies and to ensure the support of certain politicians. He thought it almost impossible to examine the clauses of the Bill without seeing that they were framed to apply especially to those districts that included the large northern towns, that they applied in a very small degree to the metropolitan districts, and still less to other districts. The reason assigned by the Chancellor of the Exchequer for not having brought forward a re-distribution Bill was that there would not be time to carry the two Bills during the Session. He (Mr. Doulton) could understand this as a sound reason for not proceeding with the two Bills at the same time; but he could not understand it as being any reason for not having given the information that was required as to the second Bill. But he imagined that the reason assigned by the Minister for not placing the Re-distribution Bill upon the table was not the real one. It had been plainly intimated during the last few nights, and during the recess, that the real reason why the Re-distribution Bill was withheld was that there were certain hon. Members who were now prepared to support the Government Bill, who would not support it if the Be-distribution Bill were before it- If the Government saw in that any sound argument, they must suppose Members who would be affected by the Re-distribution Bill the greatest simpletons on the face of the earth; for it appeared to him that hon. Members could form an idea of what the general character of the second Bill would be, and would be able to apply it to their own constituencies even now, although it had not been introduced. If he was asked to give a blindfold support to the Government, and accept the Franchise Bill before they had placed on the table the Re-distribution 1712 Bill, he would ask what had the Government done to inspire him, as a Liberal, with confidence in their Administration? He would not allude to the course taken by the recent Administration, because he should be told the present Government was not responsible for it; but he would ask, what had been the course taken by the Government during the few weeks they had been in office in relation to two or three important questions? There were two questions, for instance, in which the Liberal Members took the greatest interest—the question of church rates, and the question embodied in the Test Bill introduced by the hon. and learned Member for Exeter (Mr. Coleridge). With regard to the first of these questions, some persons were inclined to believe, on account of the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that they were now much nearer to a settlement of the question than they were before; but he (Mr. Doulton) did not share that opinion. The right hon. Gentleman first attacked hon. Members on that side of the House, and then attacked hon. Members on the opposite side of the House, and he concluded by voting precisely in the opposite direction to what was expected from his observations; and they found that some other Members of the Government took no part in the discussion and refrained from voting at all. With regard to the Oxford University Tests Bill, the right hon. Gentleman had not recorded his opinion upon that measure either by speaking or voting, and some other Members of the Government had followed a similar course. In fact, the present Government seemed inclined to adopt a like course to that pursued by the late Government when questions were introduced by hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House—that was to make them "open questions," and he was inclined to think they might make the question of the Re-distribution of seats an open one. As they could not get from the Government any distinct and clear notion of the Redistribution Bill, they had a right to inquire what had been the conduct of the Government with reference to other questions. They were told, during the recess, that the Government would sound a trumpet on this question which would speak with no uncertain sound. During the last four nights he had been listening for the sound of that trumpet. He had heard many sounds proceeding from the 1713 Treasury Benches that were more or less uncertain. He heard a few nights ago the still small voice of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), whose speech was remarkable for this, if for nothing else, that it showed them the soothing and hallowing influences of a short period of official life. They also had a speech from another hon. Gentleman—the piercing wild shriek almost of the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Layard)—but on the main question involved in the debate there had either been preserved, on the part of hon. Gentlemen who occupied those Benches, an undignified silence, or the sounds they had given to the House had been of the most uncertain and undecided character. If the Government, as a body, had done nothing to inspire him with confidence in their Administration, why should he blindly accept this Bill on the faith of another Bill, of which he knew nothing, being introduced? But let them look away from the Government as the Ministry, and ask what were the individual opinions of hon. Gentlemen on those Benches upon questions that would affect the re-distribution of seats. A remarkable speech was delivered a few years ago by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the virtues of small boroughs; and he (Mr. Doulton) would recommend that speech to the perusal of hon. Members. In it the right hon. Gentleman had said, in allusion to the Bill of Lord Derby, in which it was proposed to re-distribute fifteen seats, that the Bill was framed wisely with respect to the re-distribution of seats, and he frankly owned that the disfranchisement of small borough was a course that would tend to the deterioration of Parliament, for the small boroughs were the nursery ground in which our best statesmen were educated. It was also necessary to ascertain the opinions of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) on this question, because it was clear that the Re-distribution Bill would stand no chance of passing in the House unless it had his support. The hon. Member for Birmingham had said of the small boroughs, "They take in men who cannot get in anywhere else; they are a refuge for the political destitute, and all I have heard in their favour has been simply this, that the persons who have found shelter in them are what are called deserving objects." When he (Mr. Doulton) was asked to accept this Bill on the faith of a Be-distribution Bill that was to follow, he 1714 was justified in asking whether the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had gone to the hon. Member for Birmingham, or whether the hon. Member for Birmingham had gone to the Chancellor of the Exchequer r If the right hon. Gentleman had adopted the principles of the hon. Member for Birmingham in reference to this question, he would commend the fact to the attention of those who represented small boroughs; but if the hon. Member for Birmingham had gone to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and would be contented with the re-distribution of fifteen seats, he would commend this fact to hon. Gentlemen below the gangway. Supposing for a moment that, this Bill was carried, and that a He-distribution Bill was brought in, he wanted to know what was to prevent the Government from taking precisely the same course in reference to the Re-distribution Bill as they had taken in reference to the Reform Bill of 1860? He was amazed the other night to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department inform the House that it was the obstructions of the Opposition that had led to the withdrawel of that Bill. Why, he (Mr. Doulton) recollected that the obstructiveness came from the friends of the Ministers, and that obstructiveness reached its climax when an hon. Gentleman, who was not actually a Member of the Government, but who was deep in the councils and confidence of the Ministry, rose in his place and requested or advised the withdrawal of the Bill. He wanted to know, seeing that so many hon. Gentlemen who were Members of that Ministry were Members of the present Government, what could be expected but that a similar course should now be adopted? Although he did not expect that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would do as Lord Russell did when he came down to that House and shed tears over the withdrawal of the Bill then before it—he confessed he should not be surprised if there could be found some Member of the Administration who would be ready to place himself even in that humiliating position. But he would suppose that this Bill passed and the Re-distribution of Seats Bill did not—upon that point he would join issue with his hon. and learned Colleague; and his opinion was that without a measure for the protection of the voter and without some further check against corruption in small boroughs, this Bill would be a curse to small 1715 constituencies instead of a good. Would any one tell him that an addition of fifty or sixty to the voters of Totnes would improve the morality of that borough; or that an addition of 200 or 300 to those of Great Yarmouth, where he understood there were only thirty honest men, would abolish corrupt practices. He believed that this Bill, without any other measure, would make corrupt boroughs still more corrupt. He was not alone in opinion that a Re-distribution of Seats Bill was of more importance than this Bill, and that without that Bill this one ought to be rejected. He could not have a better authority on that point than the hon. Member for Birmingham, who, speaking of this question, uttered these words—Repudiate without mercy any Bill that any Government whatever may introduce, whatever its seeming concessions may be, if it does not redistribute the seats that are obtained from the extinction of small boroughs amongst the large towns. The question of re-distribution is the soul of the question of Reform, and unless you watch that you will be deceived.Well, that was precisely what he (Mr. Doulton) was doing. He was watching it—and it was because he did not wish to be deceived that he could not give his support to the Government before seeing what they were going to do. Then they were told that if they opposed this Bill they must not hold up their heads before their constituents again. [Mr. LAYARD: Hear!] The hon. Member for Southwark cheered that statement. He hoped it would not be un-Parliamentary to say to him that it was grossly ungenerous, and, in the next place, that it was untrue. He was not at all unmindful of the threatenings held out of that House, and in it, to those who ventured to oppose the Government upon this question. He begged to say that he did not enter the House as a slavish supporter of the Government. He entered it as an independent Member of the House, and he should continue to discharge those duties so long as they were consistent with the preservation of his own self-respect and honour. If the Government would lay upon the table a Re-distribution Bill, and would fairly grapple with that question, no Member would more warmly support the Government than himself; but as he believed that no greater calamity could befall this country than the passing a measure lowering the franchise without a re-distribution, that existing anomalies would be increased, and that present evils would be intensified, he could 1716 not in conscience support the second reading of the Bill.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
Sir, I cannot take exception to the vote which the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. Doulton) is about to give on the second reading of this Bill, If he could be sure there was to be a Re-distribution Bill laid on the table, he would have no objection to vote for the second reading of this Bill; but having no confidence whatever in the statements of the head of the Administration, and not believing that my noble Friend honourably intends to fulfil the promise he has made, of course the hon. Member for Lambeth is right with the views he entertains. But I am surprised with the difficulties the hon. Member now feels as to fragmentary legislation. If he thinks no Bill for the extension of the franchise, unaccompanied by protection to the voter—by which I suppose he meant the ballot—and unaccompanied by a great re-distribution of seats is worth acceptance by this House, I am surprised that the hon. Member voted last year for the Bill of the hon. Member for Leeds—which certainly deserved the title—if any measure ever did—of a fragmentary part of Reform. I was certainly one of those who believed it possible that when this measure was proposed by the Government it might pass the second reading without a division. I felt a conviction, after all that has passed on the question of Reform, that there does not exist that sort of mortal fear of the extension of popular rights which existed in 1832, when the great Reform Act was passed. I was well aware, from my own personal knowledge, that many of the Conservative party entertained Liberal views with regard to the extension of the franchise. I felt confident that the Conservatives of 1866 were not the same as the Tories of 1832; and I also had a strong impression that if ever there was a measure which would command the general support of the whole Liberal party it was a moderate extension of the borough and county franchises when proposed by the Government, and accompanied by a repeal of the ratepaying clauses. Well, Sir, that measure has been for years a sort of fundamental principle with, I believe, the great bulk of the Liberal Members, and I had a certain conviction that when a measure of this kind was proposed by the Government it would meet with the general acceptance of that party. But, Sir, I have been deceived. I was too 1717 sanguine. Exception is taken to the measure partly on the ground of the procedure of the Government, on the ground of the mode in which the Reform Bill has been introduced; and exception has also been taken to the extension of the franchise, especially in boroughs, as in itself being a measure injurious to the public interest. Now, the reason I think that as it was best to bring forward this Franchise Bill by itself is, that if there were doubts upon the question as to whether that principle of the reduction of the franchise in boroughs and counties should be adopted, they should be cleared up. It was right, in the first instance, to clear the ground as to the franchise question, and that the principle whether there should be any reduction of the franchise in boroughs should he tested in this House. And I contend that in case this Bill is read a second time Parliament will have lost none of its power over the other branches of the Reform question. Even should you pass the second reading of the Bill you will be as free to amend and to alter the Bill in Committee as you ever could be, and you will be as powerful as ever to amend the Distribution of Seats Bill as under any other circumstances. Although party feeling may for a moment permit Members to express a suspicion which they do not really entertain as to the promises of the Prime Minister, yet I feel assured that every Gentleman in this House knows that those promises, having been so emphatically given before the country, will be faithfully kept. [Mr. DISRAELL: What are those promises?] To lay upon the table of the House a Bill which will show the intentions of the Government in regard to the distribution of seats, and to proceed with that Bill with the view of making it a law as soon as circumstances will permit. I say that it is right to ascertain the sense of Parliament upon the question of the reduction of the franchise, which we regard as a sine, quâ non in any Reform Bill, before we proceed with the other branches of the measure. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) when he introduced the Bill of the Earl of Derby, in 1859, stated that he would oppose any lowering of the borough franchise. Subsequently, he stated that he was prepared to lower the borough franchise, and to do it effectively, so as—as I understood him—to give a full and adequate share of the representation to the working classes. But I have reason to believe that the right 1718 hon. Gentleman since then has relapsed into the opinions which he held when he introduced the Bill of 1859; and if I am right in that impression it becomes absolutely necessary for the speedy transaction of business in reference to Reform that we should have some understanding as to how we really stand in reference to this important principle. Now, the right hon. Gentleman just before the last election issued an address, which was called by some of the Conservative journals "a manifesto," and which certainly appeared to be an important declaration of the political sentiments of the leader of a great party. Well, what did the right hon. Gentleman say in that address as to the borough franchise? He described the proceedings of the Liberal party as so many attacks upon the institutions of the country, which had been successfully encountered and defeated by the Conservatives, and he proceeded to say—The attacks upon the State, never conducted with so much energy, have nevertheless been more prolonged, and it was only a few nights ago when the House of Commons, impatient of protracted mystification, reflected the candour of the community, and declared by a vast majority that the franchise in boroughs should not be lowered, and that the principle on which Lord Derby wished to extend it was the just one.Therefore, we see that this declaration lays down once more that the borough franchise is not to be lowered, and that the principle which Lord Derby attempted to introduce in 1859 of an identity of suffrage between counties and boroughs is the just one upon which Reform should be based. That is the question now before the House. Is the borough franchise to be reduced, or is it not to be reduced? We only ask you to answer that question one way or the other. We do not ask you upon the second reading to pledge yourselves to the £7 franchise, although we are in favour of it; all we ask you to do is to sanction the principle that the franchise should be reduced. It appears to me, independently of these considerations, that determining who are to be the persons who are to choose Members of Parliament is a totally different question from settling which places are to return Members. To ascertain what shall be the test of fitness to vote in boroughs and counties is a different and independent question from saying what places shall be represented in Parliament. In determining what places shall return Members to Parliament you have to take into conside- 1719 ration their population, and their wealth, and whether they represent any important industry or some great interest which has a peculiar claim to be represented in this House. None of these considerations will be touched by this Bill. But if you are also to take into consideration, among the other elements, the number of the electors, and are about to alter the franchise, I say you should do this first, in order that when you have settled this you may consider what places are entitled to return Members to Parliament. When you tell me that it is impossible to form an opinion as to whether the franchise should be reduced until you have determined how many Members are to be returned from this borough or from that county, I confess I am at a loss to understand such reasoning. I have never seen any grouping of boroughs nor any scheme for disfranchisement, or for the transfer of Members from some places to others, that would enable us to dispense with the extension of the franchise; there is nothing to prevent us from deciding whether the franchise is to be reduced without our having the details of a Distribution Bill before us; and therefore we thought it right to endeavour to obtain the genuine and unbiased opinion of Parliament upon this important question of the reduction of the franchise as soon as possible. I think it was the duty of Government to submit this question pure and simple to the House, in order that Members might be compelled to declare themselves upon it. [Cheers, Counter-cheers, and laughter.] I do not mean what I have said offensively. I am sure the duty, the object, and the desire of us all should be to ascertain the genuine feeling of Parliament upon this question, and we have taken the course most likely to accomplish that end. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Belfast (Sir Hugh Cairns) has told us that fitness was a secondary consideration in ascertaining those who should have a vote given them. Doubtless he said that he would not allow an unfit man to have a vote, but that it did not follow at all that a fit man was entitled to a vote. As I understood the hon. and learned Gentleman, he said that personal fitness constituted no claim to the exercise of the franchise, as you must rather regard the balance of power between the different classes. If Gentlemen take that view, of course I do not find fault with them, but I can only say that for myself I do not take that class view of the extension of 1720 the franchise. And although the hon. and learned Gentleman explained to us that the British Constitution is founded on a principle totally opposed to that which I have enunciated, he did not refer us to any great writer on the British Constitution who lays down such a doctrine. I know not of any authority who lays down the doctrine that persons whom you admit to be fit to exercise the franchise should not be permitted to do so. That certainly was not the doctrine of Blackstone, who laid it down that every man who was in such a condition of life as to be independent had a right to vote for those to whom the power was intrusted of making the laws that were to affect his life, his liberty, and his property. But that is a totally different principle from that of the hon. and learned Member for Belfast, who, in fact, is entirely opposed to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire on the question of fitness. For what said the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire when he introduced his Bill? He said—We have never, in any of the arrangements which we shall propose to Parliament to adopt, considered for a moment whether they would increase or whether they would diminish the constituent body. Our sole object has been to confer the franchise on all of those to whom we thought that privilege might be safely intrusted."—[3 Hansard, clii. 982.]Now that, I say, is our principle; and, taking into consideration the progress of education and the improvement of the people, I think we can go as far as to extend the franchise to the occupiers of houses in boroughs of the clear yearly value of £7. The hon. and learned Member for Belfast quoted the very fact that we have a rental qualification as a proof that fitness did not enter into our consideration; because he appealed to hon. Gentlemen below the gangway and said, "Will any one tell me that £7 constitutes fitness, and that £6 does not?" I must reply to him, with the permission of the House, by quoting from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, who I think put the point of fitness extremely well. In reply to an appeal made to him when he introduced his Bill in 1859, "Is £10 a test of fitness?" the right hon. Gentleman said—It is said why should a man who lives in a £10 house be more fitted for the suffrage than a man who lives in a £9 house? That appears to me to be no argument; it is a mere sophism and cavil. If it be an argument it is an argument against all tests and not in favour of a £9 qualification; but the £10 qualification was intended 1721 as a test, and the question is, Is it a test that is effective It is a test easily accessible. It is a test which, if adopted, is universal in its application, and it is a test which affords a fair presumption that the holder possesses those qualities which entitle him to perform acts of citizenship."'—[3 Hansard, clii. 984.]That explanation of the reason why we adopt a clear yearly value qualification to entitle persons to vote is a good and statesmanlike explanation. I am quite sure it is a more complete answer to the hon. and learned Member for Belfast's argument as to fitness than any I myself could make. Now, the great argument against the Bill appears to me to be founded on suspicion, You think that some net or trap is being laid, and that if you give any countenance to this suffrage Bill you will not be able to deal so well with other questions, or even that those other questions will be postponed. Now, I cannot argue against suspicion, but I maintain there is a very fair probability, as far as men can foretell human events, that the present Parliament will be able to deal with the Franchise Bill and also with the Re-distribution Bill. It is impossible in this question of Reform to deal with all branches of the question in one Bill. Has it ever been done? Can it be said that it was done in the case of the great Reform Act of 1832, when important branches of the question in reference to the settlement of the boundaries of boroughs were reserved to be disposed of? And what was the course taken by Lord Derby in 1859? Did he submit a complete measure; Why, Sir, he proposed that Parliament should sanction a £10 franchise in counties, but he said that the areas into which those counties were to be divided were not to be decided till a future Session. The hon. and learned Member for Belfast in his able speech, exclaimed, "What is the use of telling me about a £14 franchise in counties when you do not inform me what the area which will yield those voters is to be?" But neither did Lord Derby when he proposed to reduce the franchise to £10 in counties. Did he tell the House then and there what the area which was to yield those voters was to be? Nothing of the kind. I admit he stated fairly the general plans which he had in view; but he proposed to leave to a future Session of Parliament to pass an Act to settle those plans and define the boundaries of the new borough and county constituencies. What was the scheme which my Lord Derby at that time propounded? 1722 It was a most extensive one. He said, in effect, to the county gentlemen:—"Agree to the £10 voters in counties,; and I am going to send a Commission, composed of Inclosure Commissioners, to every borough which returns Members in the kingdom, and I will include within those boroughs what is called the extramural population." To what extent that would be done nobody then knew. Lord Derby said that when these Inclosure Commissioners had prepared their scheme, which was to create new constituencies in which the new £10 freeholders were to vote, the Secretary of State was to submit a Bill to Parliament for the purpose of sanctioning by law these new boundaries and creating the areas which wore to yield the new voters. Why, the Government of Lord Derby was open to precisely the same argument which is now used against us—it was only a promise. We might have said at the time, "How can we be sure that when the Commissioners have made their Report Parliament will confirm their recommendations? You ask us to extend most largely the franchise in counties, and to give it to a class of men who may overwhelm and counterbalance the power of the landed interest in those counties, and you tell us you will destroy the ill effects of this extension of the franchise in counties by some new areas which you propose to create in some future Session of Parliament, but no guarantee is given that the full scheme will ever be passed by the Legislature." Why, Sir, no such argument was used, because every reasonable man knew there must be Commissions to inquire into the question of boundaries, and that the inquiry would occupy some time; and accordingly we, honestly differing as we did from Lord Derby and the right hon. Gentleman in politics, did not for one instant presume to suspect that they did not honourably mean to carry out to the full the intentions which they had declared to the House of Commons. The question before the House is that this Bill be now read a second time. The question, therefore, on which we are now going to vote is whether there shall be a reduction of the franchise. If the noble Mover's Resolution were before us as a substantive Motion—which it is not—we might perhaps not then be understood. But I undertake to say that the community generally throughout the country will not have sufficient knowledge of our peculiar refinements in the way questions are put. They 1723 would all say, if the Amendment were carried, that the House of Commons had declared against the extension of the franchise. It may be very well, and I think it is satisfactory, to observe it, that Members take care to qualify the vote they are about to give by stating, "Don't suppose that we are against Reform; we have been Reformers for some time past;" and even the noble Lord who moves the Resolution for fear lest by accident he should be taken for an anti-Reformer, takes care to head his Resolution with a sentence which pledges the House once more to entertain and settle the question of Reform. But, Sir, the country will see that this is the time for action. They are tired of these theoretical statements and mere phrases about being in favour of Reform, and they will mark the men who have made those statements to their constituents and to the country in favour of Reform, and who, now that the time for action has come, draw back and attempt to get out of the question in this indirect and unsatisfactory manner. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Belfast, has thought it necessary to go into a very minute criticism upon the figures contained in the Returns, and has commented especially upon the celebrated rule of three sum to which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer drew the attention of the House upon the introduction of this measure. I was surprised to hear the hon. and learned Gentleman say that there was an error in that rule of three sum, because it appears to me to be a difficult thing to fall into any error at all in so simple a calculation. My right hon. Friend stated distinctly that in order to arrive at the fourth term he had taken the male occupiers contained in the columns. He said, if so many male occupiers of £10 and upwards give us so many registered electors of £10 and upwards, so many male occupiers of £7 and upwards will give so many registered electors of £7 and upwards. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Belfast said that the second term in the sum was wrong, because the number that would have been upon the register of £10 and upwards after the repeal of the ratepaying clauses had been omitted. But the hon. and learned Member for Belfast is in error in this respect; for when the estimate was given of the number of additional voters that would arise from the repeal of the rate-paying clauses and the arrangements with 1724 regard to compound householders, an additional number of 60,000 working men was estimated as likely to result from these causes. Now, this addition to the number of the working classes was far greater than need have been made, and was ample to compensate for the omission from the second term—which, indeed, was intentional and explained at the time—of the number that would be enfranchised by the repeal of the ratepaying clauses. The fact is, that the number of working men, if all between £7 and £10 are to be called working men, will be, according to the Government Estimates, which I believe to be as correct and as carefully made as it is possible for estimates to be, 144,000, and that number is increased to upwards of 200,000 by the addition of the whole of the 60,000 who are to be enfranchised by the repeal of the ratepaying clauses and the arrangement with regard to compound householders. Now, it is quite clear that a great number of those who would be put upon the register in consequence of the repeal of the ratepaying clauses are above the line of £10, and can scarcely be regarded as working men; and I think, therefore, that the number of those belonging to that class which the Bill will admit is not greater than that stated by my right hon. Friend. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Belfast then attempted to show that this £7 franchise would give the working classes the majority in a great many of the constituencies—I believe he said in the greater number of the constituencies; but, however that may be, he certainly said that they would be in a majority upon the whole of the borough voters. In this view I believe him to be mistaken; for the omission from the second term of the number to which I have alluded was, I think, amply compensated for by the fullest allowance being made for the accession to the strength of the working classes from other sources. But when the hon. and learned Gentleman says that the working classes would possess a majority of the seats, he arrives at that conclusion by supposing that a number of boroughs will be disfranchised and their Members given to places where the working classes are in the majority—a conclusion wholly attributable to his imagination, for no such proposal has been made. I was very glad, however, to hear the hon. and learned Gentleman say that the working classes would not combine. He said that they would act 1725 as a certain party—and I thought the analogy at the time a very peculiar one—sometimes acts in this House, and, as it is said, they are acting at the present moment-knowing that they hold the balance of parties, they would give their votes to that party which would be most likely to carry out their objects and give effect to their opinions. The illustration was a curious one, but I believe it to be a true and satisfactory refutation of the great alarm which has been expressed lest the whole of the working classes should act together, and avail themselves of the machinery of trades unions to coerce their Members to vote for particular candidates, and so forth. I believe, however, that nothing is viewed with so much jealousy by the working classes as the infusion of politics into trades unions and the same remark will, in my opinion, apply to the benefit societies, and other associations formed for objects peculiar to the working classes. Those associations have, indeed, always refused, and will continue to refuse, for very good reasons, to permit the introduction of any political action. But, as I have before contended, we have been arguing this matter too much as one referring to classes. We talk as if the working classes were a distinct caste—like the blacks of Jamaica, for instance. We enfranchise men, not classes. The figures laid before the House may be regarded merely in the nature of concessions made with the view of removing alarm and of showing hon. Gentlemen who may entertain misgivings upon the subject what increase of power would be granted to the working classes. What is the extent of that power after all? In the event of the passing of this Bill the number of electors in England and Wales will be 1,350,000, and of that number one-fourth only will belong to the working classes. Have hon. Gentlemen considered how many working men, even after the passing of this measure, will be excluded from all share in political representation f Have they considered what a large number of persons are still without the pale? and is it not a reasonable proposition, seeing the vast increase which has taken place in the intelligence of the working classes to move with the times, and when everything else is progressing, not to allow the franchise alone to stand still? The hon. Member for Wick (Mr. Laing) said that the franchise ought to be kept high, in order that it may, as it were, lift up the working 1726 classes with it. This is indeed a strange argument, because if a high standard of franchise is to improve the working classes you ought to raise it from time to time. If it has this elevating effect it is the logical consequence that instead of lowering we ought rather to look forward to raising it. Can any argument be more fallacious? Does the franchise enable a man to earn more wages? Does it enable him to avoid expenditure upon his family? It has, indeed, no effect at all upon his condition. You may, indeed, say that if there is such a strong and eager desire among the working men to possess the franchise, that they would make any sacrifice in order to arrive at it. But I cannot understand the principle of the hon. Member for Wick, who, in taking what he calls the moral view of the question, says that the franchise is calculated to elevate the working classes. Is there anything in the argument employed by the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley), and repeated by so many speakers, that the franchise is extending itself by degrees, and that in the course of time a very large proportion of working men will be placed upon the register of voters, even if the £10 franchise be continued: The noble Lord who addressed us to-night (Lord Elcho) wished to know something about the year 1896—whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer had calculated how many artizans there would be upon the register in 1896. This is looking forward for rather a long period. But, Sir, it appears to me, if this self-adjusting process has been going on, we should find that the electors bore a larger proportion to the whole number of male adults now than they did m 1832. It is not enough to say the franchise is enjoyed by a greater number of persons absolutely. It is not enough to say that there are more electors on the register. The question is, are there more in proportion to population? When the first register was made after 1832, it was found that the proportion of electors to male adults in England and Wales was one in five—that one out of every five male adults had a vote—and that proportion still continues in 1865. If that be true, and I believe it to be strictly so, what becomes of the argument that the extension of the franchise has been going on of itself? I say that if by the progress of education and intelligence among the people more persons were getting the franchise, you would see the proportion 1727 not one in five, but one in a smaller number. I believe if you take the boroughs by themselves—taking the total number of electors—you will find the same result. While the population of the boroughs has increased 82 per cent the voters have increased about 80 per cent, or something like that. I quite admit that in particular boroughs, where large numbers of persons are heaped together, and where a great number of artizans are occupying houses which give them a qualification, there, perhaps, you may find, but only there, a greater number of voters in proportion to the population. But in dealing with these questions we must look at the totals of the whole number of the electors in the constituencies of the kingdom. It is only in that way we can judge of what is going on in the way of a gradual enfranchisement of the people. I think there is every ground for at this time introducing the question of the extension of the franchise. What can be more striking than the statement which we have heard from hon. Members as to the extent to which friendly societies are now being established in this country? In his speech the other evening my hon. Friend the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs made some very interesting statements on that head, which have been fully confirmed by a letter which I have received from the Registrar, and which are quite in accordance with the Reports which he lays before Parliament. A great increase in the number of those benefit societies—a very large increase—has taken place within the last few years; and I ask the House what can be a greater proof of the improvement among the working classes than to find they are willing to make a present sacrifice of their income in order to secure a provision for themselves, and, therefore, for their families, in time of sickness? No other class, as my hon. Friend says, has done that to the same extent; and I may mention this remarkable evidence on the subject, that upon an examination of some 500 members of one of those benefit societies made in Manchester and Salford, it was found that the persons who are contributors and supporters of those valuable societies are the persons who do occupy houses of the clear yearly value of between £7 and £10. I see, too, from some evidence given before a Committee in the House of Lords in a former Session of Parliament by Mr. Chadwick he found that a very large percentage of the members of those friendly societies 1728 occupied houses of a value between £6 and £9. As you went up to £10, or far above that amount, there were no members, and as you went down and got to £5 and £4 the number of members became considerably less. Well, I think it is a fact well worthy of your consideration. I believe the extension of the franchise which has been proposed by the Government is a moderate and safe extension of the franchise, and that it will introduce some new blood into our electoral registries which will be of great benefit to the State. I even take the argument of my right hon. Friend the Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe), understood according to his most recent explanation. What I understand him to say is this—As you go down in the present constituencies you get to a more corrupt class; but he said the great body of the working class outside the present constituencies are remarkable for their prudence, perseverance, and other good qualities. What, then, can you do better than dilute this poison which you say exists in the lower grade of the constituencies by an infusion of the more respectable portion of the artizans? I believe you may confer very great benefit on all classes of this country by calling to your aid an increased number of the working classes. I believe you will find that they will be less corrupt. It has been said they will be more so; but I say I think, on the contrary, there are no set of persons so little likely to be corrupted as the independent artizans. I think they are the class of men who are most likely to give an honest vote; I believe they are the class of men who are most likely to give an independent vote; and even if the most extraordinary and unlikely contingency should occur that we should pass this Franchise Bill before we deal with the re-distribution—[Laughter.] If hon. Gentlemen will interrupt me I shall not be able to say what I intend. [Renewed laughter.] I mean to say that if a dissolution should occur—[Ironical cheers]—after the passing of this Franchise Bill, and before the passing of the Be-distribution Bill—an event extremely unlikely to occur—I cannot sec, any more than the hon. Member for Westminster, that we should have a worse Parliament because a moderate number of intelligent artizans has been added to the existing constituencies—a number which would not form any majority whatever, but only a fair infusion. I cannot see why a Parliament 1729 elected by constituencies so augmented should be a bad Parliament or one unable to deal with re-distribution or any other question. I remember that the late Sir Robert Peel said the Reform Act of 1832 was accepted by him as a final and irrevocable settlement of a great constitutional question. Well, Sir, irrevocable, I believe, that Reform Act to be; but final I do not believe it to be, certainly in the sense meant by that eminent statesman. It may, however, be said that the Reform Act did give a conclusive sanction to the policy of a gradual extension of popular rights and the enfranchisement of the people, I say the measures of Government are framed in the spirit of the Reform Act. They are but an attempt to give further application to those principles in accordance with the re- quirements of the time, and with due regard to the safety of the institutions of the country. ["Hear, hear!"] Hon. Members may seem surprised, but I believe, Sir, that this Bill is destined to become law; and I believe, further, that its provisions will, in the words contained in the Gracious Speech from the Throne, strengthen our free institutions, and conduce to the general welfare of the nation.
§ MR. GATHORNE HARDY
The right hon. Gentleman who has just concluded his animated and eloquent speech has shown that he is a man of very sanguine temperament. He believes that the Bill which he has been enforcing on our attention is one that will become law. The right hon. Gentleman said also that when the Bill was introduced he was confident it would not be opposed on the second reading. I think his prediction as to the final result in this case will be found very much in the same category as his confidence in respect to no opposition at the present stage. But the right hon. Gentleman who expected that this Bill would be received without opposition said my right hon. Friend in a manifesto which he sent forth to the country last year announced his intention of standing by the £10 franchise. Therefore, how are the two things reconcilable? How could the right hon. Gentleman suppose that a Bill lowering the franchise to the extent which that of the Government does would receive the cordial support of the whole House, when he knew my right hon. Friend had issued a manifesto in which he said that our support would not be given to such a proposition? The right hon. Gentleman has, no doubt unintentionally, misrepresented in 1730 every respect the Reform Bill brought in by the Government of Lord Derby. He said, "We did not treat Lord Derby as you would treat Lord Russell. We placed reliance in what he said; we did not offer the same insults to Lord Derby as you are offering to Lord Russell, by presuming that he would not carry out what he had promised to perform." The Bill introduced by the Government of Lord Derby was a complete measure of Reform, and dealt with the franchise and with the redistribution of seats in boroughs and counties. So far from Lord Derby taking upon himself, as the right hon. Gentleman has alleged, to say that in a future Session he would make a proposition to Parliament for a revision of the borough boundaries, there was a clause in the Bill which made it. compulsory on the Inclosure Commissioners, immediately on the passing of the Act, to go forth through the country and revise those boundaries. They are an independent body, unconnected with party, not carried away by any factious feelings, not prompted by this side or by that, and they were nominated, under the 57th section of the Bill, to go through the country and revise the boundaries. Where are the provisions in the present Bill for the redistribution of seats and the revision of boundaries? You have no Bills for these objects, and I venture to say that until the Amendment was laid upon the table the Government had not considered far less prepared any such measures, and until then we had no definite pledge upon the subject. The right hon. Gentleman has said something about the progress of the franchise in proportion to the population, and like the Chancellor of the Exchequer has assumed that the £10 householders have scarcely increased more rapidly than the population, but the truth is that their number has swelled in a far greater degree than either the right hon. Gentleman or the Chancellor of the Exchequer has told us. The latter told us that in 1833, when the first registration after the Reform Bill took place, the £10 voters were 174,000, the freemen and scot and lot voters were 107,000, making 281,000; and, comparing these figures with the number of voters on the register last year, he inferred that whereas the population had increased 79 percent, the £10 voters have only increased 82 per cent. The right hon. Gentleman omitted to exclude from his calculation the scot and lot and freemen voters, who are dying out; for if the £10 householders 1731 now number 463,000, the increase, above 174,000, was not 82 per cent, but more than 150 per cent. He forgot that the Reform Bill was a disfranchising as well as an enfranchising measure. The right hon. Gentleman quoted with respect to the Bill of 1832 the memorable words of Sir Robert Peel, that he accepted the Reform Bill as a final settlement; but assigns as a reason for again interfering with the question, the long time which has elapsed since the passing of the Reform Bill; but what are thirty years in the life of a nation? The hon. Member for Montrose told us the other night that the Act of 1832 has saved us for thirty years from an unintelligent class of voters, but the right hon. Gentleman gives no period for the duration of this Bill; we are, according to his view, to be continually going on. The right hon. Gentleman in calling attention to the Amendment has asserted that the House is not about to vote upon the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Chester, but on the second reading of the Bill. In 1859 the noble Lord at the head of the Government moved an Amendment to the Reform Bill of that day, and immediately afterwards explained to his constituents its meaning. He then said that he had moved it because a great number of his friends objected to vote against the second reading of the Bill, and that he did not think voting for that Resolution at all involved voting against the Bill. That was the view taken by the noble Lord at that time, but now that the Amendment is moved against the right hon. Gentleman, to vote for it is to be construed into voting against the second reading. A great deal has been said by hon. Gentlemen on the Ministerial side of the House which could only be interpreted as meaning that they alone had confidence in the working classes; the Chancellor of the Exchequer, indeed, had said that while the Liberals viewed them with trust, modified by prudence, the Conservatives looked upon them with mistrust, tempered only by fear. That right hon. Gentleman for a long time acted with the party to whom he imputes those principles; and it may be proper to ask him whether those were the grounds upon which he then acted. And, taking this Bill upon its merits, I would ask, what is the trust on the one side and the mistrust on the other? The trust on the one side is £3 more than was offered by the other. But you stop at £7, and all 1732 the writers upon this subject, such as the hon. Members for Westminster and Brighton, who have written on Mr. Hare's plan, have a limitation; and none seem willing to give absolute trust. They say we are anxious to extend the power of the working classes, but are not prepared to give them a preponderance of power. Why should not that limitation be looked upon as an insult to the class if other limitations are so regarded? The hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. J. Stuart Mill) has written against the policy of giving the franchise to "the poorest and lowest" class, and maintains their use as a non-electoral body exercising a beneficial influence, though it would be highly mischievous in the present state of their morals and intelligence to bestow votes upon them. He thus expresses the opinion that some classes are not only wanting in intelligence, but that their moral state does not fit them for the full exercise of the franchise. I do not quote this in disparagement of the hon. Gentleman. I simply point out the fact to show that the position he takes up is perfectly consistent with that upon which we take our stand, the only difference being that the limitation in the one case is more extended than the other. But some have used violent language with respect to those who are acting against them on this question. We have imputed to us not only great ignorance as a party, but we are told that we are acting upon the present occasion with even unusual depravity. Those charges, in my opinion, only recoil upon those who make them. Is it not an insult to the middle classes to tell them the Parliament which they have returned never passes any measures because they are good in themselves, but only because it is induced to do so from some corrupt influence or terrorism? This assertion amounts to little less than telling the electors that the only way to get really good measures passed is to admit the least intelligent people to the privilege of the franchise. The object we ought to have in view in forming the governing body is to represent all, and give no class a preponderating influence. That, indeed, is the opinion, I believe, of all the philosophers who have written upon the subject. But we should have more than that; we should have a system which would permit all to gain an interest in the Government. There are many ways by which these conditions may be fulfilled besides a 1733 direct lowering of the franchise. The right hon. Gentleman who has last spoken has told us that a great deal too much has been said about classes: that the working classes have been set apart as if they were the blacks of Jamaica. But who has introduced the working classes into this debate? Either the statistics put before us were something, or they were nothing. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman who introduced the measures to the House was founded on the statistics put before us. These not only go into questions as to the working classes, but do so very minutely, professing to give the numbers of the working classes in every one of the boroughs of the country. For what purpose? Why, the purpose was obvious from the mode in which they were used in the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He told us that though he himself was not much afraid, yet that there were persons who might be afraid of giving too great power to the working classes, and, therefore, an accurate estimate of their numbers had been made. The Government, it was asserted, were indisposed to give a preponderating influence to the working classes, and consequently, having on former occasions been advocates of a £6 franchise, they now on account of those statistics brought the franchise up to £7. What is the meaning of that? Surely, the only meaning can be that we are to consider the statistics on which the Government acted, and see how far the working classes will be brought within the limits of the franchise by this Bill. The right hon. Gentleman told us that Parliament was bound by many considerations to enfranchise the working classes, and reminded us of the promises that had often been made, and the number of Bills that successive Governments had introduced. But those Bills were all Reform Bills. This is merely a Franchise Bill; and the right hon. Gentleman probably can remember how many Franchise Bills were introduced by private Members and as constantly rejected by the House. Both the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleague the Home Secretary charge us with inconsistency, because having voted in 1860 for the second reading of the Reform Bill we now turn round and reject this measure. Why, in 1860 there was a Reform Bill before the House, based on the same principle as the previous Reform Bills which had been introduced. The com- 1734 plaint of the right hon. Gentleman reminds me of what was said to Sir Charles Napier in Scinde—"You are punishing the Ameers of Scinde for taking your own advice, "No," replied the general, "I gave them certain advice, and they have taken only half of it." And he compared their case to that of a man, who being directed to take a Seidlitz powder, separated the ingredients and swallowed only one of them—"If he chooses to take only the acid powder," said Sir Charles, "I am not to blame if the result should be disagreeable." The right hon. Gentleman acts in this spirit, he wishes to keep apart the ingredients while we, though we admit that a whole measure of Reform may be medicinal and beneficial, decline the separate portions, for if we take this one separately, and the other powder is to follow, what may be the consequence upon the body politic I really do not know. The right hon. Gentleman put before us other considerations. He called attention to the income of the working classes, and said he could not be confuted on that point. Of course, when he himself professes to speak from no accurate information, and tells us there is no accurate information on the subject, it is no doubt impossible that he should be confuted. But, with respect to this income of the working classes, let it be remembered how large a portion of that belongs to agricultural labourers, upon whom it is no part of the present scheme to confer the franchise. As to amount of taxation, I believe that has been very much over-estimated. Mr. Leone Levi, in his very carefully compiled work, estimates this at much less than the right hon. Gentleman—namely, at about one-fourth, and the foundation of the figures of the Chancellor of the Exchequer has also been satisfactorily disposed of by the hon. Member for Wick (Mr. Laing). A Return obtained by my hon. Friend the Member for Lincolnshire (Mr. Banks Stanhope) showing the relative proportions of property in boroughs is highly instructive. Without wearying the House with figures, I will state the general results. Under £7 in boroughs the gross estimated rental is £2,058,846, between £7 and £10 it is £1,692,516; and above £10—that is to say, the present constituency—it is £25,888,248. That is fifteen times as much as the gross estimated rental on which you propose to admit to the franchise, and six times as much as all the others put together, both those who 1735 would be admitted under this Bill and those below £7. But if questions of income and taxation are to be now introduced, be it remembered that in the speech in which the right hon. Gentleman introduced this question no mention whatever was made of property. He never alluded to it. In that speech numbers alone were dwelt upon, and he dealt with the subject as it might have been dealt with in a Bill for establishing universal suffrage. The right hon. Gentleman told us elsewhere that the friends of the Bill have been called on to prove the grievances and defects of the existing system. Well, that has been attempted to-night by the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. T. Hughes) in a speech which carried me in imagination to a social science meeting, which I have never personally attended, enumerating different topics which he appeared to suppose would be dealt with by the next Reformed Parliament—questions which certainly appeared to me to have very little to do with the present Bill. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) in one of his speeches supposed the case of a merchant carrying on a thriving business, and asked, "Does the merchant Bay, 'I will not improve my business because I cannot prove it to be bad?' No, he lays out more capital." But what are you asked to do in the present case? You are doing a good and thriving business, you are legislating effectually for the country, and what is suggested to you is, not that you should lay out more capital, but that you should take in a number of partners with no capital to speak of, and with comparatively little intelligence. I cannot understand how the Chancellor of the Exchequer came to employ that argument. Probably being at Liverpool, he was led by association of ideas to talk about merchants, but he never could have thought out the results of his own comparison. On various occasions the hon. Gentleman has spoken of the great decrease which has taken place in the working classes upon the register since the passing of the Reform Bill. I am unable to ascertain on what data he founds that statement, and therefore, though we may contradict, we cannot, as he says, confute it. But, supposing the facts to be as he states, what follows directly from them? The Reform Bill was a disfranchising as well as an enfranchising measure, and if it had been carried out in the spirit in which Lord John Russell desired, it 1736 would have been a disfranchising measure to a still greater extent. Since then the scot and lot voters have been gradually dying out, and therefore when you talk of the voters of the working class having decreased upon the register, you are only stating one of the necessary results of the passing of the Reform Bill. And mind you are now endeavouring to put again upon the register those whom your fathers by the Reform Bill of that day carefully struck off, so that you cannot say that you are carrying out the principles of that measure. The right hon. Gentleman said there are no working men in counties, that there is but one here and there. I complain, and not without cause, of the miserable statistics which have been furnished on that point. In the first place, though the franchise is fixed by the Bill at £14, in the whole volume of statistics there is not a single reference to that figure, while £12 and £15 are mentioned over and over again. I may be mistaken, but an examination of the figures suggests to me that £12 was the figure originally in the Bill, and that this was afterwards altered to £14. In saying that there are no working men in the counties the right hon. Gentleman shows, I must say, an extraordinary ignorance of the facts. The other day I took the opportunity of speaking on this point to a gentleman well acquainted with local affairs, and for many years connected with the registration of the county, and he told me there were vast numbers of workmen on the register for West Kent, and that in one parish alone he knew of 100 genuine voters of the artizan class. I believe that taking into account the operation of freehold building societies in Lancashire, Yorkshire, the northern districts, and, to a great extent, in the southern districts also, you must add to the working classes said to be enfranchised by this Bill a number which will make the total greater by many thousands than the limit beyond which the right hon. Gentleman thought it would not be safe to go. The abolition of the ratepaying clauses will add to their number, and I cannot advert to the ratepaying clauses without remarking that ratepaying is the oldest franchise known to this country. Whenever there were a large number of voters "scot and lot" was the usual qualification. Of these some paid scot, or rates, while others were liable to be drawn by lot for juries. At one period obviously these must have been proper persons to be 1737 upon the register, though now they had all been done away with. Payment of rates for three years previously to registration was considered essential by the noble Premier at the time when he first sketched out the Reform Bill of 1832 on the celebrated piece of notepaper; and by the Municipal Franchise Bill, when, first brought in, two and a half years' payment of rates was required. Both the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) and the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer grounded their arguments for this Bill on the Municipal Reform Bill. I am not going to say much against the corporations of this country, but I am bound to say that, in my opinion, there has not been that great success in the municipal corporations of this country which has been attributed to them by some persons. After the careful inquiries conducted in the House of Lords, when the question us to what sort of a constituency you had got in the municipal boroughs was examined, they found that under the Small Tenements Act, and by landlords compounding for rates, persons got on the register who paid no rates, and they reported that they considered it an indispensable thing, in order that you might have an uncorrupt and pure class of voters, that you should have men who regularly paid their rates, and who paid them not indirectly through their landlord, but directly to the tax collector himself. Therefore I say that by this Bill you are in effect forcing the franchise upon the people who might take it themselves, but will not. Those living in houses compounded for, if they are anxious for the franchise, can now claim to be rated, and on paying their rates they can be enfranchised. A gentleman has furnished me with a return of the number of compound householders in London, which he tells me is correct, and according to it there are in London, excluding the City, 74,051, but on the register there are only 16,778. We thus see how much the franchise is valued by this class of persons. They will not claim to be rated; they will not take the trouble to have their names put upon the rate books in order that they may obtain this franchise, for which we are told they are sighing so much. According to the hon. Member for Westminster—A man who does not care whether he votes is not likely to care which way he votes, and he who is in that state of mind has no moral right to vote at all,1738 Yet upon such persons this Bill proposes compulsorily to thrust the franchise. It seems to me that though there has been an agitation in the country, there has been no enthusiasm for this Bill. When I look back to the Bill which was brought in by the present Government, with Lord Palmerston at its head, in the year 1860, providing a £6 and a £10 franchise, I want to know what was the reason that at that time all was apathy and stillness? There seemed to be no difficulty in getting rid of the Bill either in this House or with the people. Why is it that at every meeting now they say they want something more than this Bill, and when you offered them more on that occasion they would not stretch out their hand to take it? It is a great tribute to the power, the wisdom, and the decision of Lord Palmerston that he was able for six years to sit upon the safety-valve of this steam boiler which is below us, and which, we are told, will explode if we do not carry out the plan the Government has put before us to let off the steam. The noble Viscount, it appears, was able to control it; but the moment he is gone everything is changed, and we are told that we are pledged on this side and on that to pass the Bill the Government have brought in, and yet the right hon. Gentlemen who occupy that Bench, and the noble Lord (Earl Russell) who sits in the other House, have been content with these pledges round their necks, with these heavy weights upon their consciences, and have submitted for six years to go on under the guidance of Lord Palmerston, holding office which they obtained by a promise to reduce the franchise, not thinking their honour was the least impugned; and now they bring in this miserable, not Reform Bill, but fraction of one, and say that unless we pass it we are violating our pledges. The right hon. Gentleman has alluded to an argument of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Belfast (Sir Hugh Cairns) as to what he thought constituted personal fitness; and he has endeavoured to show the distinction between what was said by my right hon. I Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) and the Member for Belfast the other night. My hon. and learned Friend said, "You could not by mere money payment test personal fitness." Arguments have been adduced to-night to show that there are thousands of persons; of high education and considerable property, having every qualification which 1739 would fit them to become not only members of the electoral body, but members of the elected body, who are excluded from the franchise because they live in lodgings or in houses with their parents. All these persons are fitted for the franchise, and the mere £10 qualification does not enable you to arrive at their fitness. No doubt a person possessing a certain amount of property is more likely to obtain education and become intelligent; but in no other way can it be a test of personal fitness. The hon. Member for Southwark the other night told us that he did not ask for any confidence on our side of the House, but he thought they had a right to ask for confidence on that side of the House, and that he was very much surprised at the course hon. Members had taken there. Great exception has been taken to the Resolution which has been moved; the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has called it a Resolution which meant something different from what it expressed, and others have given it a variety of nicknames; but nobody, it seems to me, has addressed himself boldly to controvert the point of objection made by it, though I will admit that in the speech which the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade has made he has to a certain extent addressed himself to it. The right hon. Gentleman, not unskilled in drawing and defending Resolutions, objects to the present one, so that it is rather important to know the course which has been taken by a great authority on this subject. If it is so very reprehensible to move a Resolution, and to combine persons and parties of different opinions in this House in support of it, why was it wise, and prudent, and good to move a similar Resolution in 1859? Lord John Russell told his constituents that he could not have combined his party against the second reading, and, therefore, he moved the Resolution in order to combine the greatest number against the Reform Bill of the then Government. If that was a legitimate mode of dealing with the question adopted by Lord John Russell, I do not see that we are taking a very unfair or very unconstitutional step in imitating one who has been a writer on constitutional history, and who is so great an authority on that subject. But the noble Lord further told his constituents that he moved the Resolution because, if a Bill were allowed to pass the second reading and to go into Committee, very little alteration could 1740 be made by opponents, because the Government could more easily keep together their supporters, and get through the clauses in the early hours of the evening, so that Members coming later to support their Amendments would find the clauses to which they objected already passed. Lord John Russell continued—These, therefore, were the reasons upon which I determined, not without advice and concurrence, to proceed with a Resolution. I looked to my old Friend Sir James Graham, who had been united with me in preparing the Bill of 1831. I consulted Lord Palmerston, to whom that respect was due, and whose opinion is of the utmost value. I consulted Mr. Sidney Herbert, who wished to see a good Reform Bill, and at the same time did not like to appear in opposition to the Government upon other than fair and reasonable grounds. I consulted Mr. Bright, a politician of another class, whose opinions in many respects differed from mine, but who is as hearty and sincere a Reformer, and who agreed with me as to the defects of Lord Derby's Bill, and as to the manner in which it ought to be rejected—treated I would rather say, because if the Government had accepted the spirit of the Resolution, the Bill need not finally have been rejected. I thought it right in my position to get as much concurrence of opinion as possible. I have been charged with combination and intrigue, and my conduct has been characterized by other hard names; but I think concert among men for a great public object, having nothing in view but what is for the public good, is honourable to all those who can concur in such agreement.I venture to say that the noble Lord the Member for Chester (Earl Grosvenor) does not need any vindication of his character and position. I venture to say that he and others who have supported him on that side of the House as well as on this have concurred for a great public object—namely, that this question should be dealt with in a statesmanlike manner, as a whole, and that this Parliament should deal with it not from year to year, but in one Bill, and at once. This is due to our own characters and to our own position. He went on to say—It was not difficult to frame a measure which would have been supported by a great majority of the present House of Commons, and which would not have been the subject of differences when it went into Committee. That would have insured the passing of a Reform Bill in the present year; and mind, when you say a 'Reform Bill,' I am not speaking in the sense of many Members of the House of Commons, who said, 'The essential thing is to pass a Bill,' and who went no further. Those Gentlemen said, 'Let us pass a Bill,' without inquiring whether it should be a good Bill or a bad Bill—a Bill that would last twenty years, or five years, or only one year. I think that was a most irrational proposition. What I wish is to see a Bill upon which the people of this country can rest.1741 That was the noble Lord's opinion expressed to his constituents when he went before them in 1859, and yet for wishes such as his the noble Lord the Member for Chester and those who support his Amendment are held up to obloquy and indignation. The hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. J. Stuart Mill) made a remarkable speech in this debate which bad many merits. It did not, however, relate specially to this Bill, but went a long way beyond it. He talked about working men being admitted to this House. I deny that it is necessary for working men to be represented by working men, any more than it is necessary for clergymen to be represented by clergymen. The hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. T. Hughes) professed to know all about their wants and desires (and very strange some of them seemed to be), yet for some inscrutable reason professed that he could not properly represent them. Many who have sat here have passed through the workshop, and must have possessed an intimate knowledge of the working classes. Mr. Brother-ton was a conspicuous instance of a self-raised man, having risen from the condition of a factory boy to be a Member of this House, as he used to avow (and all honour to him for it), and there are other Members who have similarly elevated themselves. Is it to be said because they have so raised themselves out of the working classes they have ceased to remember what they were and to represent them? But the hon. Member for Westminster says we ought not to be satisfied until we have working men here, and I, for one, should be delighted to see some of them within these walls. It might be a great advantage to them and to us that such should be the case. We must, however, go a long way beyond this Bill before we attain that object. We may have men sitting in the House of Commons who live on the earnings of the working men as managers of their trades unions, but how the real working man who lives by his own labour can sit here unless you provide him with the means to do so I am at a loss to understand. The Bill as it stands would not, it seems to me, except in certain towns, throw the whole electoral power into the hands of the working classes, nor do I think it would enable them to be represented in Parliament by-working men. They would, on the contrary, I am afraid, be represented by agitators, if not, as has been said by many 1742 great philosophers, by millionaires. The hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett), who is an authority on this subject, wrote a pamphlet in 1860 on the scheme of Mr. Hare, in which he condemned, I venture to say, any measure based upon the principle on which the present Bill is founded. I The Bill of 1860, be it remembered, was one of a more extended character, because: it proposed a re-distribution, but not withstanding that was the case, the hon. Gentleman wrote as follows:—If the suffrage is extended on the principles hitherto received, access to the House will be rendered more difficult than ever to intelligence and independence, and Members will more and more become the delegates of petty local interests, and of temporary popular feeling; but under Mr. Hare's plan, every opinion would be represented.Now, far be it from me to complain of that statement, but I am, at the same time, I must confess, somewhat surprised that the hon. Gentleman should have taken so strong a course as he has done in addressing his constituents on the present measure. He must, I think, regret some of the language which he used on that occasion when he spoke of hon. Members on this side of the House as being prepared to take a step little short of murder in order to get rid of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. The hon. Member said the Tories objected to a middle-class man being at the head of affairs in this country, and that they would therefore be glad to hunt the Chancellor of the Exchequer to death. Such expressions were, however, it appears to me, hardly justifiable. The Tory party I ought, in my opinion, to be the last to complain of the selection of a middle-class man for high office, seeing that they selected the late Sir Robert Peel as their leader; and I, who belong to the middle class, am proud to say that neither in past records of the party, nor in their present conduct, have I ever seen on their part the slightest indication of so discreditable a feeling. But the hon. Member for Brighton went further, and while considering the extension of the suffrage on the plan proposed by the present Bill, proceeded to say—The little interest taken even by sincere Reformers in the approaching (1860) Reform Bill is a matter of general remark, while many Liberals, in addition to the whole body of Conservatives, regard it with more or less alarm. Why is then this listless indifference chequered with dread? Not surely because it is supposed our representative system cannot be improved. Its serious defects are manifest to the most careless observer, but Reform is little cared for by the Re- 1743 former, and is dreaded by the Conservative because it is felt that the Reform Bill we are to expect will, in some cases, only trifle with, and in others exaggerate the worst defect of our representative institutions.That was the calm and deliberate opinion of the hon. Gentleman, and I regret that the hon. Member for Westminster is not in his place, for he also has written much on the subject. Speaking in this debate of the Bill before the House, he said—I think it is a good Bill in itself, and is calculated to do so much good that I am prepared to accept it as it stands, and leave the question of the re-distribution of seats to be dealt with by a future Parliament.In his writings, however, he adopts a different view, for I find he says—In a good half measure of Reform"—I suppose this would be considered such a measure—"there are at least two essential requisites. In the first place, it should be aimed at the really worst features of the existing system. Secondly, it should be conceived with an eye to the future changes which may be expected hereafter. The first condition will be in a considerable degree fulfilled by any measure which clears away the small constituencies. The most peccant element in the present state of the representation is not the small number of electors taken in the aggregate.Now, from that, and other writings of the hon. Member, I gather the views of the hon. Gentleman to be that you should in the first place provide for the re-distribution of seats, and in the next place deal with the franchise, not simply by lowering it so as to give power to the majority, but either as proposed by Mr. Marshall, or in the manner advocated by Mr. Hare to give a representation to minorities. It is thus evident that neither the hon. Member for Westminster nor the hon. Member for Brighton is, or at least was, content with a Bill for the lowering of the franchise and the re-distribution of seats, unless accompanied by certain checks which would direct and control the further progress of Reform. With this imperfect Bill, so condemned by these writers by anticipation before us, we are called upon to give our confidence to the Government on this great question. Now, I frankly own that for my part I never had less confidence in any Government which has set upon those Benches. What I should like to know is the ground on which that confidence ought to be based? We have been told by their friends and supporters that this Bill is to be measured by the statistics which they have laid before the House; but those statistics are put before us, not only in general terms, but as we are to find them 1744 in each of the existing boroughs; and this makes me confident that when this measure was introduced no steps had been taken by the Government with a view to framing a Bill for the re-distribution of seats. Indeed, this is absolutely certain, for no hon. or right hon. Gentleman speaking on their behalf has ventured to assert that such a Bill was then ready, or even in course of preparation. That such is the case has, indeed, been proved by the quotation which was made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Belfast (Sir Hugh Cairns) from the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in which he stated that he left that question entirely to the future. But the Government tells us that we shall be perfectly safe in admitting the working classes under this Bill—assuming that some of us have a dread of them—because it will only admit a minority to the exercise of the franchise. Now how, I should like to know, are we to ascertain that to be the fact, unless we have before us some statistics with reference to the new as well as the old constituency? I do not believe, I may add, that the promised Re-distribution of Seats Bill is ready now, for I am perfectly certain that in the vehement speech which we have just heard from the right hon. Gentleman opposite he would have told us that it was shut in a box in the office of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, ready to be produced as soon as the second reading of the Franchise Bill was agreed to, if he could have said so with truth. He knows, however, that no step towards framing a Bill for the re-distribution of seats was taken until the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Chester (Earl Grosvenor) was placed on the Notice Paper; and is it, I would ask, improper upon our part, to say that we are not disposed to accept a promise to introduce a measure which it may not be in their power to fulfil; upon which, indeed, the Government may never agree? The right hon. Gentleman, in 1857, was not himself ashamed to bring forward a Resolution against the Government of a noble Lord under whom he afterwards served, or to invite support for that Resolution from all sides of the House. That Resolution was successful. The right hon. Gentleman upset the Government by means of a combination—a means which he seems now to view with so much apprehension. I was myself a party to that result, and the vote which I then gave I believe still to have been right. The defeat of the Government was, at the 1745 same time, effected by a combination to which not only the right hon. Gentleman but the noble Lord now at the head of the Government was not ashamed to be a party. The right hon. Gentleman says that we shall have before us the measure for the re-distribution of seats, and we can then deal with it as we like in Committee. It is very doubtful whether we shall arrive at that position, and, therefore, I prefer dealing with the question now. Parliament has a character of its own to support, and it does not do for the Government to tell Parliament to accept a partial measure on the condition that something is hereafter to be brought forward to make the measure perfect. Parliament is a Legislature not for temporary purposes, but for posterity, and with a due regard to its own honour and dignity, it is not reasonable to ask Parliament to pass a Bill on the ground that something else is in contemplation, which, in fact, may never come before it. If Parliament, under these circumstances, passed the Bill, the measure might cause effects which Parliament never contemplated, because it was intended to be coupled with something-else to moderate and control it. The principle of this Bill is not the admission of the working classes, but the extent to which that admission shall be carried, for they are largely within the pale already, Now, this extent must be measured by the effect of the Bill on the constituencies, and we cannot judge of that effect without further statistics, and knowing what are the constituencies to be represented; and, as Earl Russell said, we ought to have a Bill (not a succession of Bills) on which people may rest—a Bill which settles the question, and settles it by this Parliament. We cannot control future Parliaments; but to pass an imperfect scheme is tempting them to new action, so do not let us put into their hands that which is only part of a Bill, but which may, by keeping-questions open, induce them to do some thing quite different from what we intend If we pass this Reform Bill, we leave the door open to agitation, and bring the House into a state in which it will be unfit to carry on the business of the nation, so that we must put off those measures of amelioration to which attention was called by the hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. J. Stuart Mill). Instead of settling the question of Reform, we shall only place before the country a measure which will lead to constant agitation, and 1746 enable those who are in favour of ulterior measures to agitate for a re-distribution of seats and for a new Bill giving the working classes a really preponderating power in Parliament, We feel deeply that this question is of no little importance. It is one which affects the destinies of this country most materially, because this proposition for the extension of the franchise is simply a rule of thumb change, a lowering without modification or check; it is a placing the franchise on an incline, and once on the incline it has an inevitable tendency to reach the bottom. I will not state this as a, Conservative opinion, but will assume, as the hon. Member for Westminster does, that De Tocqueville was a democrat rather than one who felt bound to prepare for democracy; and what does he say?—Where a nation modifies the electoral qualification, it may easily he foreseen that sooner or later that qualification will he entirely abolished, There is no more invariable rule in the history of society.A distinguished Frenchman, who has been a long time in this country—M. Louis Blanc—and who has written two volumes of letters on England, may be taken as an authority on this question, as he has lived in communication with advanced Liberals, and has been intimately connected with leaders in trades unions, and with the active portion of the working classes. He says—The country, once on the incline of gradual extension of the suffrage, will soon have descended that incline to the end—that is to say, to universal suffrage. That is what those who hold to the past thoroughly understand, and what alarms them. It is certain that universal suffrage in England would displace so much more surely and earnestly the present power, as it would introduce into the political arena a class which, independently of the strength resulting from numbers, would bring to it that of a ready-made organization. The trades unions have given the working class such habits of discipline that it could in given circumstances move as one man, and one may conceive that the partisans of things as they are grow pale at the notion of an election conducted like a strike.Let it not be said, then, that it is only by bigoted Tories that this view of trades unions is taken, when it is seen that this writer looks to the trades unions as a political organization which might be made to work as one man for political purposes. I now come to another point adverted to by the hon. Members for Westminster (Mr. J. Stuart Mill) and Lambeth (Mr. T. Hughes), and by others, who tell us that 1747 we will not deal with questions relating to education, pauperism, the criminal classes, and sanitary measures, and that a reformed Parliament is needed for these great questions. The hon. Member for Birmingham has said very much the same thing. That hon. Member has sat in the House for twenty-two years, but when has he proposed a Motion in respect to education? If this House was remiss in the discharge of its functions, why, then, did he not call it to a sense of its duty? I say it was the duty of those declaimers against Parliament to have placed before Parliament measures, and to have asked Parliament to deal with them. The hon. Member for Lambeth has the power to bring his measures before the House. Let him do so, and do not let him abuse the House for neglecting measures which have never been submitted to it. The hon. Member for Birmingham said that the lower classes were left uneducated, but that with an extension of the franchise they would not be long without a common school education. I believe that if the House were influenced by them it would not provide schools for them. I know of good schools, perfectly free, which there is found a difficulty to fill. Unless it were made compulsory for children to attend school, they would be taken away, as they are at present, at an early age, to take part in that education for the work of after life which tends to the support of the family. But if you proposed to have compulsory education, would the toiling masses be satisfied at having their children taken from them when their labour aided in maintaining the family? On these grounds, then, this measure cannot be supported. The present Parliament has not failed to do its duty upon such questions. I say, besides, that inasmuch as this is a partial measure the Resolution is a proper one to move—I say that the division will be taken upon that Resolution—I say that as in 1859, so now, the Resolution is the tangible thing on which we are to vote. When hon. Gentlemen opposite argue in favour of the Bill we are prepared to meet them, and to contend that, looked at in itself, as the hon. Member for Westminster looks at it, it is objectionable, because it will override the counties with an urban population. I object to it because we do not know what is to follow it. I object to it because we do not know who these leaseholders are who are to be brought from the 1748 boroughs to vote in the counties. It is remarkable that it should now be proposed so to bring them in, because in 1859 the whole argument of Lord Russell in this House was that the great distinction as between the freeholders in the counties and the leaseholders and occupiers in boroughs should be maintained. But now all that is to be changed. As to the copyholders, they are of no great importance, because they are a continually diminishing class, and in some respects are like the freeholders. Further as to the £14 occupation, we have no Returns whatever, and no data as to the kind of constituents between the higher class of voters and those whom this Bill will introduce into the counties. With regard to the suffrage in the boroughs, I object to a simple uniform lowering of the franchise to £7 throughout the country in the manner proposed by this Bill. In one place it will create large unwieldy constituencies, and in another it will swamp the existing constituencies by entirely new elements. It will give to the working classes, who have now an enormous influence beyond their own body, and especially over the small shopkeepers, an undue preponderance of political power. I believe also that the representatives who would be returned would, to a certain extent, be deteriorated. Millionaires would find a readier access to this House by modes which men of intelligence and moderate means would be unable or might be unwilling to adopt. I say further, that no rest is promised to us by this Bill; but, on the contrary, we are to enfranchise constituencies which may be immediately afterwards disfranchised, and to mock people with the franchise, who will no sooner have it given them than it will be taken away from them again. It is impossible to tell, until we know what boundaries you are to adopt, whether large masses of voters will be turned over from the boroughs to the counties, or vice versâ; and in that way the balance may be very materially affected. We ought not, then, to be called upon to pass a measure alike so imperfect and partial. Very few hon. Gentlemen on the other side have addressed themselves to the Resolution before us or to the arguments of my noble Friend the Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley), and when reasons have failed them, they have resorted to menace and invective. The right hon. Gentleman opposite tells us that certain men will be marked men. Another 1749 hon. Gentleman opposite writes a letter, and says that certain things should be done to make us more civil. We were, I suppose, to be taught civility by a mob with bludgeons. It has been assumed that the hon. Member could not have been serious, and must have meant that as a mere jest; but his language stands on record nevertheless; and I think it is a matter to be noted that an hon. Member of this Assembly has not thought it beneath his dignity to invoke the aid of a mob to overawe the deliberations of the legislative body to which he himself belongs. He may, perhaps, be so enamoured of the banquet of Reform which he has set before us that he wishes to make us partake of the splendid feast in spite of ourselves. Dryden relates an old fable, "the Cock and the Fox," in which the fox carries away the cock, and professes to have acted for his good. Reynard says—To hear you from your palace yard by might,And put your noble person in a fright;This, since you take it ill, I must repent,The' Heaven can witness with no bad intent,I practised it to make you taste your cheer,With double pleasure, first prepared by fear.The hon. Member simply meant, by alarming us a little at first, to prepare us to pass this Bill with additional pleasure and zest. I say, Sir, that if we assent to this Bill we shall abdicate our functions, and when it is passed we shall be a mere Parliament on sufferance, without the requisite moral weight or authority to deal with the other questions which we are told are to come afterwards. For all these reasons, Sir, and believing that we have before us a means of settling this great question, and that it is due to ourselves, to the honour of Parliament, and to the best interests of the nation that we should not accept this partial, dangerous, and, I think, most insidious Bill, I shall cordially vote for the Resolution.
§ On Motion of Mr. LEVESON GOWER, De-bate further adjourned till To-morrow.
§ The Clerk, at the Table, informed the House that Mr. Speaker had been obliged, by the state of his health, to retire from the House for the remainder of the night:—Whereupon Mr. Dodson, the Chairman of the committee of Ways and Means, took the Chair as Deputy Speaker, pursuant to the Standing Order of the 20th day of July 1855.