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.
rose to resume the debate. [An hon. MEMBER rose to Order. The noble Lord had already spoken on this Question.] A word has reached me from the other side, which I shall be happy to deal with first. The course I took last night was with the full conviction that I was acting in accordance with the rules of the House. But, however that may be, I shall be prepared to argue the point on a future occasion, and I believe it was agreed that at present no further action with respect to it should be taken. In dealing with the question before the House, the first feeling which must press on the mind of every person who advocates the Amendment to this Bill is that of a desire to rid himself from certain odious charges, which it has been the policy of the supporters of the Bill to bring against all those who oppose it. It was said very justly by the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire that defamation of opponents was one of the main engines by which the Bill was supported. I wish therefore, before I go into the Bill, to deal with these imputations which have been so freely made, especially by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Before entering into the discussion of this Bill, it appears to be necessary that we should make our confession of faith with respect to the working men. The Chancellor of 7 the Exchequer has thrown imputations of the gravest and most damaging character on all Members on this side of the House, and indeed upon all those who support the Amendment of the noble Earl. He was not content with throwing those imputations in the House itself where, indeed, they appeared in a milder and more modified form, but when the debate was adjourned, as has been said, from this House to another place, and when the right hon. Gentleman went down to Lancashire, where there were no opponents to answer him, and where he could make what statements he pleased without fear of being contradicted, he made accusations of a most damaging character against those who oppose this Bill. He told his audience that Members on this side of the House readily and earnestly accepted the imputation that they treated the working classes as an invading army. Now, I venture to say there is not the slightest foundation for the imputation which the Chancellor of the Exchequer threw upon us. When first he made it, I protested against it, because I, in common with my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke, were the only speakers who followed the right hon. Gentleman in the debate, and I concluded that by some strange misapprehension he had drawn from our words that we accepted that most damaging imputation. I have since ascertained, however, that it was not from our words that the right hon. Gentleman drew the imputation he made against us; but solely, it appears, from the interpretation he was pleased to put on a cheer which he thought he heard from this side of the House. The right hon. Gentleman had remarked in his speech that we looked on the working classes as an invading army. And if the right hon. Gentleman imagined at the time that he heard from this side of the House some inarticulate assent to that proposition—a fact which I believe is absolutely destitute of foundation, why did he not attempt to fix the odious charge at the moment when it could he contradicted and disproved? But he goes down to Liverpool, and there, before a select audience of his friends, admitted by tickets, tells them, in effect, that the Conservative party looked upon the working classes as an invading army. Now, it does not seem to me that such conduct is consistent with the obligations which a leader of the House of Commons ought to accept. If the leader of this House has occasion to impute to any of its Members 8 opinions which he deeply censures, it is on the floor of this House, and on the floor of this House alone, that he ought to impute these sentiments to them. I venture to say that the Chancellor of the Exchequer may search the annals of the House of Commons in vain to find a precedent for a leader of this House going down to a provincial audience and telling them that those who oppose him in debate are guilty of sentiments on which he casts the gravest censure. I followed the right hon. Gentleman in order to make my protest against the use of such weapons as he had resorted to with reference to the working classes. Sometimes we are told we distrust them, sometimes that we insult them, sometimes that we detest them, sometimes that we are anxious to exclude them from all share in the political government of the country. I can quite understand when you have nothing to say for your Bill, and nothing to say against the Amendment, it is very convenient to shower dirt on those who oppose the measure; but I will venture to say that the right hon. Gentleman cannot obtain from the words of any speaker on this side of the House anything to justify the odious charge he has made against us. For myself, I will venture to make my confession of faith on the subject of the working classes. I feel there are two tendencies to avoid. I have heard much on the subject of the working classes in this House which I confess has filled me with feelings of some apprehension. It is the belief of many hon. Gentlemen opposite that the working classes are to be our future Sovereign, that they are to be the great power in the State, against which no other power will be able to stand; and it is with feelings of no small horror and disgust that I have heard from many hon. Gentlemen phrases which sound, I hope unduly, like adulation of the Sovereign they expect to rule over them. Now, if there is one claim which the House of Commons has on the respect of the people of this country, it is the great historic fame it enjoys—if it has done anything to establish the present balance of power among all classes of the community, and prevent any single element of the Constitution from overpowering the rest, it is that in presence of all powers, however great and terrible they may have been, the House of Commons has always been free and independent in its language. It never in past times, when Kings were powerful, fawned upon them. It has al- 9 ways resisted their unjust pretences. It always refused to allow any courtierly instincts to suppress in it that solicitude for the freedom of the people of this country which it was instituted to cherish. I should deeply regret, if at a time when it is said we are practically about to change our Sovereign, and when some may think that new powers are about to rule over the country, a different spirit were to influence and inspire the House of Commons. Nothing could be more dangerous to the reputation of the House, nothing more fatal to its authority, than that it should be suspected of sycophancy to any power either from below or above, that is likely to become predominant in the State. My own feeling with respect to the working men is simply this—we have heard a great deal too much of them, as if they were different from other Englishmen, I do not understand why the nature of the poor or working men in this country should be different from that of any other Englishman, They spring from the same race, They live under the same climate. They are brought up under the same laws. They aspire after the same historical model which we admire ourselves; and I cannot understand why their nature is to be thought better or worse than that of other classes. I say their nature, but I say nothing about their temptations. If you apply to any class of the community special temptations, you will find that class addicted to special vices. And that is what I fear you are doing now. You are not recognizing the fact that, dealing with the working classes, you are dealing with men who are Englishmen in their nature, and who have every English virtue and vice; you are applying to them a special training, and yet refuse to look forward to the special result, which all who know human nature must inevitably expect. Those Members who have sat on Election Committees will, I think, agree with me, that the franchise is a convertible commodity. It has a value, indeed, in two ways. The franchise has a direct money value to those who do not care much about public affairs in the way of bribery. It has an indirect value to those who do care about public affairs in the way of encouraging unjust and special class legislation. If you give the franchise to those who may naturally be tempted to misuse it, you must expect that the larger proportion who are not deeply interested in public affairs will be liable to the temptation—I do not say they will always yield to it— 10 of treating it as a saleable commodity. The minority, more influential, more deeply interested in public affairs, will be liable to the temptation of treating it not as a saleable commodity, but as something to get for them laws with respect to taxation and property, specially favourable to them as a cla3s, and, therefore, dangerous to all other classes of the community. That is the temptation to which you are exposing the working man by giving him the franchise. I say further that you are exposing him to it more than other classes of the community for this simple reason, that he is poorer. It is perfectly true that the poor have their virtues as well as the rich, and that the rich have their vices as well as the poor. But the vices of the poor have, unfortunately, a special bearing on their fitness for the exercise of political rights. The poor are liable more than the rich to be tempted if you place in their hands anything that is pecuniarily convertible. A great deal of odium has been cast on some Members of this House because they have stated that the working classes are more venal than the rich. That is not true as to their nature, but it is true as to the temptations to which they are exposed. It is ridiculous to say that £50 will not tempt a man more of whose income it forms a third or a fourth than one of whose income it forms only the thirtieth or fortieth part; and therefore all bribes whether in the direct form of money value, or in the indirect form of class legislation, must be expected to operate more on the working classes than on any other class of the community. It is not a paradox, but a simple truism, that a man who is hungry will care more for a good dinner than one who has already dined. But, Sir, that seems to me to be the simple truth about—I will not say the working classes, for I dislike to treat any particular vocation as distinct and separate in this community—but as to those who have less property in the country. In proportion as the property is small, the danger of misusing the franchise will be great. You may cover that by sentiment, you may attempt to thrust it away by vague declamation, but as a matter of fact and as a matter of truth it will remain all the same. And now, Sir, having spoken in this way about the working classes, I shall sum up, as far as I can, what seems to me the result of the debate that we have had in respect to the Amendment of the noble Earl. I do not know whether the idea may have 11 been present to other Members on this side of the House, but it appears to me that there has been seemingly a kind of demon that has attended all the Members of the Government and speakers upon that side of the House, which has forced them, in spite of themselves, always to speak in such a way as virtually to support the Amendment of the noble Earl. Everything the supporters of the Bill have said has been really an argument in favour of the Amendment. Take the Government first. The Government began by holding very cavalier language on the subject of the Franchise Bill. They at first did not in the least care to deal with the re-distribution of seats. It is true the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not absolutely say so, but he used language which bore no other interpretation than that he intended to bring in the Seats Bill next year. Well, the right hon. Gentleman was driven from that position, and then he said the Seats Bill was to be brought in this year, but only formally, and then the right hon. Gentleman again gave way, and stated that that Bill should be made a matter of standing or falling by the Government; and now we are told that a yet further step is to be made, and that the Seats Bill is to be pressed pari passu with the Franchise Bill, in order to satisfy the scruples of some of the supporters of the Government. I feel a difficulty, however, in believing that statement, because as soon as I heard of it, I referred back to the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer on a former occasion, and it appeared to me that it was impossible for a statesman to give a stronger pledge that such a course should not be taken than was then given by the right hon. Gentleman; and in case the Chancellor of the Exchequer should, at a later period of the evening, make any such announcement—which I hope for his own sake he will not do—I should like to read to the House what he said at the beginning of this debate with reference to pushing forward the Seats Bill. In moving the second reading of this Bill, the right hon. Gentleman spoke as follows:—Allowing for full and free discussion regarding the subject, we could not expect that the two portions of it would be dealt with, and still less of the other portions of it, within the ordinary and usual duration of the Session. But, beyond that, I have stated, as is well known, that we for our parts, from motives of duty, decline to proceed with any other part of the subject until the fate of the Franchise Bill is determined. When 12 its fate is determined it will then be for us to review our position.Now, Sir, if the right hon. Gentleman, in spite of that declaration, should state that he will proceed with the Seats Bill pari passu with the Franchise Bill—that is to say, will proceed with it before the fate of this Bill is determined, he will in effect be admitting that he has departed from the motives of duty which originally actuated him—and the House will take notice that such a proceeding will entirely dispose of that question of time which the right hon. Gentleman made so much of when he introduced the Bill. He then insisted strongly that there were only twenty-four nights between the 12th of April and the practical close of the Session at the disposal of the Government, so far as the House of Commons was concerned, and out of these twenty-four nights twelve would be needed for the financial business of the Government, so that twelve only remained for the Reform Bill, and, therefore, he argued, and argued in an unanswerable way, if you once granted that he ought to have introduced the matter this Session at all, that it was impossible to proceed with the Franchise Bill, and also with the Seats Bill in the present Session. If, however, these rumours which are flying about are correct, and if the right hon. Gentleman does pledge himself to proceed with the Seats Bill pari passu with the Franchise Bill, it will follow that he did not use that argument about the time of the House with any personal conviction that it was correct. I suppose the Solicitor General for Scotland, or the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster would tell us that it was part of a Parliamentary manœuvre and that it was impossible to get a majority without it, and, according to the modern morality of Governments, I have no doubt the right hon. Gentleman and his friends will think that a perfectly satisfactory reason for having pressed upon the House of Commons an argument in which they themselves did not believe. But, to use an expression once used by a friend of the right hon. Gentleman's, I do not like to see "unnecessary humiliation," and I think that if the right hon. Gentleman makes any attempt to influence votes by such a concession he will be submitting himself to unnecessary humiliation. It is a very painful thing to see a man eat dirt at any time, but it is a much more painful thing to see a man eat dirt when you know he will not be paid for it, and my fear is 13 that the right hon. Gentleman will injure his own character and position by thus contradicting all his previous statements and falsifying all his previous arguments, without gaining a single vote in the division that is impending. For such a course would be founded on an entire misconception of the nature of the objection that we have to the proceedings of the Government, What we want is not that the Seats Bill and the Franchise Bill should proceed pari passu, that is to say one after the other, but what we want is that they should proceed together, that is to say in one and the same Bill. We wish indeed for information, but information is not our main object. What we wish for most is control. It is a small matter to be told what the Government will do, for the Government is not all-powerful; what we wish is, that the form of the Bill shall be such that from the first to the last, the House of Commons shall enjoy an undisputed and undiminished control over both branches of the subject; and I will venture to say that there is no hon. Gentleman in favour of the Amendment who would be satisfied as to the scruples which he entertains by the concession, which it is stated, upon good authority, but I trust upon authority that has been deceived, will be more fully explained in the course of the evening by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Well, Sir, I think I have a right to claim the Government as a witness in favour of the Amendment of the noble Earl. To what purpose did they make all these concessions? What do these concessions admit? They admit that the House of Commons has a right to have the whole subject before them. The right hon. Gentleman, however, in his course of concession, stops short of the second reading of this Franchise Bill. He will not admit that the House of Commons has a right to have all these matters before them before it reads the Bill a second time; but he has been compelled to admit that upon the further stages of the Bill that right is valid. What distinction he draws between the two, and how he can prove that we have no right to information on the second reading which we have a right to in Committee, it is for him hereafter to prove; but these concessions do show that the right hon. Gentleman now accepts that which he did not accept before the Amendment of the noble Earl was introduced, and that he now does admit our right to see the whole of the case before we decide upon a 14 part of it, But it is not merely the right hon. Gentleman or the Government that we may claim as our witnesses in this matter. This Bill has been argued, some people say, upon the other side of the House, with a signal want of ability. Now, I do not in the least agree in that opinion; for I think that, considering the case they had to deal with, the ability that has been displayed is wonderful, and I should be inclined to say, without wishing in the least to cast any imputations upon other speeches, that the speeches of the hon. and learned Member for Exeter (Mr. Coleridge), the hon. Member for Birmingham, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. J. Stuart Mill), are the three to which you may look, if you can look anywhere, for arguments in favour of the Bill. Now, if you examine those arguments what you find is this—they all, as you might expect from the ability of those who urged them, start upon a foundation which may be true, and no doubt in a great degree is true; they are established with admirable ability, and they go to a certain point with the ability with which they began; but these speakers all stop short, as before a chasm, at that point where they are required to prove the connection of this Bill with the arguments which they used. And the difficulty in each case arises from their not having got the link which would be furnished if the Government had enabled us to see what the re-distribution of seats is to be. Let me take the first—the arguments of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Exeter. He took the ground of fitness; he argued that the £7 householders were fit for political power, and that, therefore, in spite of all the difficulties of the subject which he fully acknowledged, in spite of the arguments of my noble Friend the Member for King's Lynn, whose validity he fully recognized, he contended that that fitness was so great that he was prepared to admit them to political power. Now, Sir, what does that fitness mean? Fitness for what? If you tell me it is fitness for that share in political power to which the working classes, from their stake in the country, have a right, I entirely concur with my hon. and learned Friend. But if you tell me that this fitness is to enable the working classes to lord it over all the other classes of the community, to be despots over the rest, then I say the argument of my hon. and learned Friend has not approached towards establishing the fitness which he claims for 15 them. And why cannot he approach it? If he had been dealing with the existing constituencies he might, no doubt, have instituted a searching investigation into the qualifications of the £7 and the £10 householders; but we are dealing with unknown quantities. We do not know the constituencies of the future; and though my hon. and learned Friend might be as zealous as he pleased in his investigations it is absolutely impossible for him to investigate the fitness of people whose names, localities, and habitations he does not know. Until it is known what the constituencies are out of which these fit men are to be taken, it is impossible to tell whether they are fit for the franchise or not; and I need hardly remind Members of this House who have from day to day received Reports at that Bar, that the question of fitness cannot he assumed without proof, and that a facility for receiving such things as "sugar" and "paint" is not an absolute impossibility in dealing with a constituency even in the large towns. There are two constituencies at present under trial—those of Huddersfield and Wakefield, and from all we have heard of their proceedings I am rather anxious to hear the result of them. [An hon. MEMBER: The Wakefield Committee have arrived at a decision.] What has it decided? That there was no bribery in that borough? But I say that it requires minute and careful investigation before you can accept the proposition that because people lie between certain strata of the population that, therefore, they are fit for the exercise of the elective franchise. I now come to the speech of the hon. Member for Westminster—certainly the most able and most convincing speech that has been made in the course of the debate. The hon. Gentleman argued in favour of the concentration of the franchise. He said it was true that the working classes were represented up to a certain point, but that their representation was valueless, because it was not sufficiently concentrated. Now, I entirely agree with the hon. Member to this extent, that the concentration of the franchise of the working classes would in many cases be highly desirable. I concur with him that the presence of a certain number of working men in this House would be no derogation to the dignity of this Assembly, but would be a positive addition to its power and its value in the estimation of the community. In fact, if I might go as far as to make a definite proposition, I 16 should say that I would readily sacrifice twenty or thirty seats of what the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer calls the "Mountain," with a very apt recollection of their political associations, and I would substitute in their place working men. I believe that the natural leaders of the working classes—the prominent men among them—would make better representatives than some persons of a higher class, who, for reasons best known to themselves, desire to identify themselves with those classes. But the whole argument of the hon. Member appears to be supported by this fallacy. He admitted distinctly that the preponderance of the working classes in this House was a thing to be avoided; he admitted that if the working classes returned a majority of the Members, that the possibility or the probability was that they would endeavour to place upon the statute book theories which he more than any other man objected to. Up to this point I began to think that the hon. Gentleman's speech was in favour of the Amendment. But, surely the hon. Member will require, before he votes in favour of the Bill, proof that what he fears will not result from it. I, at least, expected from him proof that the policy of the Government, as explained by their Bill, was not that the working classes should obtain a majority. But did he prove that? No, he never attempted to do so—he stopped short of the question altogether. He passed over to the cattle plague and to other general topics, and he never attempted to prove that the working classes would not have a preponderance of power under this Bill. That is the point I want to see proved; that is the point that this Amendment requires to be proved. The test by which a good Reform Bill may be distinguished from a bad one is, that under it the working classes shall not now, or at any proximate period, command a majority in this House. If the hon. Gentleman does not prove that, the keystone of his argument is wanting. It is not difficult to show danger or ruin in this direction. The hon. Member for Birmingham, in his speech the other night, pointed out to us that, as we arrange the re-distribution of seats so do we arrange the re-distribution of power.
Exactly so; and you would do the other thing. You 17 might produce Re-publican ism on the one hand and absolute despotism on the other. I think the hon. Gentleman was good enough to say that if the right hon. Member for Calne and myself had the redistribution of seats the popular power would be destroyed; but I rather think that if he and the hon. Member for Leicester had to re-distribute them we should have a precisely opposite result, and the popular, or, rather, the democratic party would be the only one left in the country. Look at the figures. According to the calculations of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer the Bill will give a majority to the working classes in 130 boroughs in England and Wales, and adding those which they will obtain in Scotland and Ireland, it will give them altogether 155 boroughs. Now, as to the distribution of seats, any person going through the statistics before us will see in a moment that if you remove the power from those boroughs most likely to be disfranchised, you will hand it over mainly from the middle to the working classes. The question, therefore, is what is likely to happen with regard to that re-distribution of seats? We are inevitably driven to the consideration of the influence of the hon. Member for Birmingham on the Cabinet. The hon. Gentleman made a speech the other night, and I thought it was very kind and good of him to make it in so temperate a tone, because we all know what he thinks of us—"that we are the offspring of landlord power in the counties; and of tumult and of corruption in the boroughs;" and therefore we must thank him for the enormous command of temper he exercised, although I am afraid he almost sacrificed his principles in addressing us in the kindly and almost patronizing tone he did. But I cannot draw any comfort from the hon. Gentleman's speech as to the apprehension we all entertain that he has controlled the Government too much in this matter. The hon. Gentleman informed us that he had had no consultation on this matter with Earl Russell during the last seven years. But has he had no consultation with the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade during that period? [Mr. BRIGHT: Very often.] I thought so. I gathered that from certain things I have seen in print. The Chancellor of the Exchequer in one of his recent speeches informed us that there was a theory of a subterranean communication between Lord Russell and the hon. Member for Bir- 18 mingham. We might well be struck with horror at the idea of the right hon. Member the President of the Board of Trade, dark lantern in hand, wearing that same imperturbable amiability of countenance he always preserves under the most perplexing circumstances, finding his way along the sewers leading from the house of Lord Russell to whatever house may be occupied by the hon. Member for Birmingham, whom I might call the Head Centre of this conspiracy. With that vision conjured up before my mind it was very gratifying to find that idea had no foundation, and that for the present, at all events, the right hon. Gentleman the Present of the Board of Trade walks above ground. But whether it is carried on above or below ground I am afraid the evidence is too strong to be resisted of there having been a direct communication between the hon. Member for Birmingham and the Cabinet. In human affairs for extraordinary actions we must look for extraordinary motives; and it is peculiarly inexplicable why Government, in determining to pursue a course which seems certain to lead them to destruction, should have selected that precise form of Bill which, while departing from all the traditions of Reformers of former days, appears framed so as to carry out the intentions of the hon. Gentleman. That certainly looks as though the hon. Gentleman has had something to do with the decisions of the Cabinet in the matter. Now, I have no objection whatever to the Cabinet availing themselves, if they think fit, of the able assistance of the hon. Gentleman; but in the present darkness in which we are left, I want to ascertain something about the Seats Bill, which is now either under the consideration or is in the pocket of the right hon. Gentleman. The hon. Member for Birmingham has given us several hints as to his notions of what a Re-distribution of Seats Bill should be. In 1858 he introduced a Bill for that purpose, in which he proposed to disfranchise 140 boroughs. But by disfranchising ninety boroughs only you would transfer the majority of the whole House, under the £7 Franchise, from the middle to the working classes. It is a matter of simple calculation, and we want information which will enable us to ascertain what is likely to happen. But the hon. Member did not stop there; he gave us another hint. He talked the other night of transferring thirty, forty, or fifty boroughs, and treated with the utmost contempt the moderate 19 proposal of Lord Derby's Bill, which at one time, in a better hour, obtained the approval of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The hon. Gentleman treated with contempt the idea that the transference of fifteen seats could be a sufficient transfer of power. He said he objected to the Bill, because the boroughs of Calne, Arundel, and Portarlington were not disfranchised. The hon. Gentleman, by giving us these hints, has raised rather formidable apprehensions in our minds. In all the other Bills, boroughs losing one Member have been placed in Schedule B, and the hon. Gentleman now wishes that all boroughs which have been placed in that schedule shall be inserted in Schedule A in the new Bill. The hon. Member for Birmingham does not propose anything, but he treats with derision any proposal which does not include Arundel, Calne, and Portarlington; and as the Bill of 1860 did not include these boroughs, we may reasonably assume that something very much larger than the schedules of that Bill will form a portion of any scheme which may emanate from him. I am anxious to raise the veil from the probable proceedings of the Government in this matter, because no evidence is given to us, because we are obliged to repose on very imperfect indications, and because we know nothing except what we can gather from the expressed opinion of the hon. Member for Birmingham. Now, it clearly appears to me that no information is given us which will enable us, even approximately, to discover what is the extent of the power which will be placed by this measure in the hands of the working and the lower classes. I wish to ask what reason there is to warrant our giving such implicit confidence to the Leader of this House, who, instead of demanding the confidence of a well-considered and fully-explained measure, presents himself and demands that we should, as it were, make obeisance to him upon the second reading before we are furnished with any information by which we can be guided? I ask whether, from what we know of his opinions, we have any ground to warrant our placing this implicit confidence in him, and in any measure which he may choose to bring forward? What is the ground upon which the right hon. Gentleman urges this appeal to the House? He does not argue the matter at all. He does not show us that there is any necessity for Reform, but bases his argument entirely upon the pledges which he says have been 20 given by the House upon this subject. Now, I think that a great deal too much has been said in this House upon the subject of pledges, and I wish to protest against the view which seems to be generally entertained upon the Treasury Bench, and which appears to find favour in some quarters even on this side of the House, that the House of Commons is pledged to Reform. I want to know what the pledge is. If such a pledge exists, it can surely be found recorded in some document; but there is nothing of the kind. And when we come to examine into the grounds upon which the right hon. Gentleman founds this appeal, we discover that they are contained in a certain number of Queen's Speeches. Now, I do not suppose that so constitutional a statesman as the Chancellor of the Exchequer will attempt to bind this House by what has been said in Queen's Speeches. Several Bills upon this subject have been introduced; but, so far from binding the House of Commons, they have been either invariably rejected or passed over. It is rather strange and alarming to be told that, although measures may be rejected or passed over by the House of Commons, the House of Commons is, notwithstanding, pledged to the principle of such measures. But then the right hon. Gentleman tells us that twelve years ago the House of Commons did vote for the first reading of a Bill for reducing the county franchise to £10. If the right hon. Gentleman chooses to regard that as a pledge there is, of course, no objection to his doing so; but I cannot see why the present House of Commons should be expected to endorse that opinion. We are now told that if we pass this Bill we shall hear no more of Reform for the next twenty or thirty years; but then those who passed the Reform Bill of 1832 were told that after its passing Reform would never again be heard of; that the Bill was a final measure. Now, finality in 1832 meant thirty years; and hon. Gentlemen, therefore, who are partial to rule of three sums may exercise their ingenuity upon something of this kind—As permanence is to the thirty-four years which have passed since the adoption of the Reform Bill in 1832, so are the thirty years of quietness which we are now promised to the delay which will really ensue after the passing of this measure. It is ridiculous to suppose that there is anything like finality in this measure. I shall be asked if I have no confidence in the right hon. Gen- 21 tleman who pledges himself to this measure, and to whom we must look for further measures on the subject. But I will ask what grounds have we for believing that the result of this measure will be such as the majority of the House of Commons can approve? In Lord Palmerston's time a measure supported by Lord Palmerston and his adherents was brought forward, and in Lord Palmerston we had an absolute faith, because we knew that, whatever course he might adopt he would take care not to do much harm to the British Constitution. The second reading of Lord Palmerston's Bill was, therefore, agreed to without a division. But what reason have we for entertaining the same opinions now? Who are they who support the present Bill? Are its supporters the moderate Liberals, or do they come from the ranks of those who have loudly announced their intention of destroying the House of Peers and the Established Church? Are they not those who delight in rendering homage to American institutions, and whose desire it is to see those institutions adopted as a pattern for this country? We have heard a great deal about certain meetings which have been held in various portions of the country in support of this measure, and we have been informed that the sentiments of its advocates, as expressed at these meetings, have been distinguished by their moderation. I should like the House to listen for a minute or two to some of those opinions, and to judge for themselves how far they accord with the description furnished by the hon. Member for Birmingham and by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Now, Sir, in many parts of the country these meetings were evidently carefully kept in order. They rather misconducted themselves last year, and those who took part in some of them gave expression to opinions which created alarm in the minds of some hon. Members in this House. Accordingly, the most watchful control has of late been, as far as possible, exercised over them. But still in some places they have escaped from this control, and in some portions of London, especially where those who have taken part in them have not been entirely under the power of the wire-pullers, no concealment of the objects desired has been attempted. Now, Sir, we heard the opinions of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Finsbury upon this subject, and I should like to call attention to what was said at an open-air meeting held at Clerkenwell, 22 in this borough. That meeting was pre-sided over by a Mr. Lucraft, a cabinet-maker, who said—For 800 years the Lordlings had ruled them, and had ruled them with a rod of iron. They had accumulated millions. The Marquess of Westminster and Lord Stanley had thousands of acres, while those who worked for their living could not get a foot of ground. Under the laws of Master and Servant, whilst they had doubled the income of the country the working men had not benefited in any fair proportion. Well, they were afraid that by this Bill the working men would get in, which he believed would be the case. Mr. Bligh seconded the resolution, maintaining that capital was the overplus of labour, and that as the working men had produced it they ought to have it shared amongst them; that they had created £800,000,000 in one year, and only got £200,000,000 for their share.Those gentlemen were all very enthusiastic in favour of the Reform Bill. That meeting was adjourned, and on its re-assembling some more opinions of the same kind were delivered—Mr. Finlen trusted they would never cease to insist on having a Reform Bill from the House of Commons which would enable every man un-convicted of crime to have a vote in the election of a Member of Parliament. He believed the Government could not have done a better thing than bring in a Bill pure and simple as they had done. It was true it did not go far, but it went as far as the House of Commons seemed likely to let it, for he believed the House of Commons would have gone stark staring mad if any clause had been introduced into that Bill for the re-distribution of seats. Mr. Bradlaugh, in seconding the resolution, said that was the second of a series of meetings which would have to be held in order to show the Houses of Parliament that the working classes of England, although they knew that that Bill by itself would be of very little good to them, were ready to support any Bill which would advance that Reform for which they were striving. He was of opinion that every man had a right to enjoy the franchise in the country where he was born. This Bill was only one step in the scale, and there would be very few Sessions allowed to pass without another Bill being introduced which would go a great deal further. Let them firmly make up their minds that the smaller measures contained in the present Bill should only be the stepping-stones to the grand staircase, and they would succeed.In the same way, at a gathering of the National Reform League, which, I believe, has held meetings throughout the country, the following Motion was submitted by a gentleman now well known to the House—Mr. Odger—That the council, while strictly adhering to the principle of manhood suffrage as the only just, sound, permanent, and satisfactory basis of representation for this country, deems it its duty to give its cordial support to the measure of Reform now before Government as tending to the object the League has in view.23 These expressions of opinion are important in my eyes as casting light upon the sentiments which have been enunciated by the hon. Member for Westminster during this debate. The hon. Gentleman had been asked what reforms he would introduce to the legislation of the country. He was told that it was illogical to ask for a change in the House of Commons unless he could point to a change in our legislation as likely to ensue on that Reform. The hon. Member for Westminster made a very pregnant reply. He said it would not be a practical proceeding to tell the present House of Commons what legislation would result from the adoption of this measure. Now, Sir, knowing the opinions entertained by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Westminster, as expressed in his writings, upon the subject of property and land—knowing that he regards the landowners as servants of the State, and as men who may be discarded at any moment, I confess that I regard with the greatest apprehension the concealment of the objects with which the new Parliament is to deal. But on whatever side you regard this measure, you find it beset with concealment. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not tell us of what constituencies this new Parliament is to be composed, and the hon. Member for Westminster will not tell us what measures this new Parliament is to pass. No, nor will he even tell us what measures he desires it should pass. There appears to be something extremely ingenious in the legerdemain of modern statemanship which, with a singular want of concealment and reticence, exposes the very machinery by which we are to be deceived. The Government asks us simply to vote for this Bill, and transfer our power to persons of whom it tells us nothing; and the hon. Member for Westminster tells us to transfer our power to a body which will pass measures of which he will tell us nothing. I feel certain that whenever there is this concealment there is something to conceal. I am quite sure that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer could tell us of schedules which would recommend his Bill to the House, he would have told us of them long ago; and I am quite sure that if the hon. Member for Westminster could have named any measures to be passed in a Reformed Parliament which would have recommended this Bill to the House, he would have named them long ago. But 24 the very fact that they have found it necessary to preserve silence as regards the particulars of those things which they look forward to with so much complaisance convinces me that, so far from being pleased, the majority of the House would recoil from what they anticipate. So far as my vote is concerned, I will not vote for this kind of legislation; I will not speculate in the dark; I will not follow a guide who tells me that he is going into an unexplored country, but declines to inform me at least as to its nature or the probable results of the expedition, and who will give me no other information than that he has destroyed bridges behind him and burnt his boats. We have been threatened alike by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer and by the hon. Member for Birmingham. We have been told that if we resist this Bill we shall discredit our party permanently, and the working classes will never vote for those who refused to give them the suffrage. I disdain to look upon such considerations at a juncture of this constitutional importance. We have been told to be wise, and wise in time. I know of only one thing that is truly wise at such a time as this, and that is to have courage to vote honestly. Whatever may happen to our party, it is clear that the Government is offering an indignity to the House of Commons by the course they are pursuing; it is attempting to break and bind down our independence; it is attempting to force us to vote for a Bill of the nature and effect of which we have no knowledge upon which we can depend, and therefore it seems to me that whatever the consequences may be, our first duty to our country and to ourselves is clear, and that is to resist the Bill to the utmost.
Sir, the noble Lord who has just sat down has been eloquent and incisive, but he has not been persuasive—at least he has not persuaded me; for I do not feel able now, any more than I did before he rose, conscientiously to vote for the Amendment which is before the House; hut although I cannot do this, it would ill become me either to disparage the intentions of its author, or to impugn the motives of hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House whose view of their political obligations is at variance with mine; and although it will be difficult for me to refrain from adverting to that which has fallen from them, it is to hon. Gentlemen opposite in particular that I wish to ad- 25 dress myself. They for the most part have candidly pointed, by the arguments which they have used, to the fact that it is not wholly, that it is not chiefly, the importance of the Amendment which they uphold, hut the principles of the Bill which they oppose. Sir, the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn must be taken as a partial exception to that rule. He certainly did argue very comprehensively in favour of the Amendment, and I cannot help thinking that no happier thought ever struck the mind of his party than that which prompted them to place him in the van of the battle; for ever since he spoke hon. Gentlemen opposite, without attempting to enforce or to illustrate his reasoning, have been enabled either at the commencement, or at the close of their philippics against the Bill, to brandish those arguments victoriously in our faces written upon the original paper, tied up with the original string, and labeled "unanswerable." Sir, I am disposed to admit that the arguments of the noble Lord, in so far as they embrace a theory, have not been completely answered. I will go a step further, and admit that up to that point they are unanswerable. I believe there are very few Members in this House who would not have preferred to deal with redistribution in connection with an extension of the franchise. I believe the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself would have preferred that course if he could have seen his way to any practical result; but may I ask what reason the Government had to suppose that a comprehensive measure would be more successful now than it was in the year 1860? The hon. Gentleman the Member for Lambeth (Mr. Doulton) in a speech which he made a few days ago, from which I understood that he would vote for the Amendment, though I thought the arguments which he used ought to have induced him to vote for the Bill, referred to the fact that the Bill of 1860 was baffled, not so much by hon. Gentlemen opposite, as by the obstructiveness of hon. Gentlemen on this Bide of the House. Can he wonder, then, that the Government, deeply impressed with the importance of legislating immediately upon this subject, should have pursued that course which they deemed most likely to ensure them, not only against the hostility of their opponents, but also against the lukewarm-ness of their supporters. The hon. Gentleman proceeded to allude, with questionable 26 taste, as I thought, to the emotion exhibited by Earl Russell upon the compulsory withdrawal of that measure, and he said that although the Chancellor of the Exchequer could not be expected to weep—and I am sure I do not know why not—some other Member of the Administration might have been found to occupy that humiliating position. Sir, I have yet to learn that manly tears wrung forth by strong emotion are humiliating to him that shed them; but if the hon. Gentleman thinks so, can he wonder that the Government, having once witnessed that humiliation, are anxious by every means in their power to avoid its recurrence? There was one more remark in the hon. Gentleman's speech which I confess struck me as somewhat strange—he sneered at the virgin affection of new Members for Reform, attributing it to their political inexperience, and to their present immunity from sacrifice. But, Sir, I never heard before that virgin affection is less valuable than any other. I did not quite understand what he meant by our immunity from sacrifice; but I do think it rather hard he should have arrived at the conclusion that those of us who never had seats in Parliament before have necessarily spent our time in total ignorance, or in total blindness to the history of their country, or to the politics of the period; and I can only imagine, as he mentioned those two individuals, that it is in the antecedents of his colleague and of mine that he finds grounds for such a conclusion. Sir, upon a former occasion when I had the honour and the privilege of addressing this House this discussion was in an elementary, and perhaps I might say in a tentative state. It has now assumed the practical form of a good old-fashioned party contest, waged on the one side for a judicious extension, on the other for a monopoly of electoral rights; and, in saying this, I particularly wish not to be understood to impute selfish motives to hon. Gentlemen opposite. If I were so inclined, I might very fairly express my surprise that they are arrayed against us this afternoon in such a phalanx of compact hostility; for they have been assured upon the highest authority, upon authority no less than that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne, that if this Bill passes into law the effect of it will be to relieve the Liberal Benches of their accustomed occupants, and to oppress those opposite with an unwonted crowd. Perhaps they do not believe the right hon. 27 Gentleman because he sits on this side of the House; but I think I can venture to explain that to their satisfaction, for when he speaks be not unnaturally prefers, as a matter of prospect, the smiles of the new love to the frowns of the old. But, Sir, sound or unsound, I assume that hon. Gentlemen opposite would not be swayed by such an argument as this. I entirely disclaim any intention of imputing selfish motives to them; and in alluding to the nature of the contest I only wished to call attention to the fact, that whereas the object of the one side is to give, it is the object of the other to retain—and to retain what? I do not say a right, I will not say a trust, for these are debatable expressions, what I think I fairly may say, without any fear of contradiction, is a privilege which a portion of their fellow-countrymen have earned by patience, by culture, and by integrity, and why is this privilege to be retained? Is it because the constitution of this House is so perfect that more patience, culture, and integrity, brought to bear upon the election of its Members cannot hope to increase that perfection? Or is it because the present constituencies are so faultless that more of these qualities infused among them cannot hope to improve such an excellent state of things? Or is it because constitutional monarchy can only exist within certain limits traced in the year 1832 by men wise in their generation—but in what a generation? One that had never read a penny paper worth perusing; one that knew little or nothing of iron roads as a means of communication; one that had never dreamed of electricity as a vehicle for thought. Reasoning like this, Sir, would argue an amount of bigotry which I should be sorry to impute to hon. Gentlemen opposite. I have already assumed that they are not selfish; I now assume that they are not bigoted. Why, then, do they oppose this Bill? I suppose it is because they are patriotic; but I must add, with very erroneous notions of what patriotism is. I, for one, cannot call them patriots, because they entertain alarms which the only possible test—experience of the past—points out to be fallacious. I, for one, cannot call them patriots, because they think they see the spirit of democracy keeping guard while this Bill lies upon the table of the House. Surely, Sir, hon. Gentlemen are in the dark, and that is why they think they see a spirit. If they will but turn the light on a little stronger, that which they take 28 for a spirit will assume the honest, palpable, familiar form of the British artizan; and I, for one, cannot call them patriots if they think that the British Constitution, which of all Constitutions alone has stood the test of time, is so feeble in its nature, and so delicate in its fabric, as to crumble into pieces at his touch. But, Sir, the opposition of hon. Gentlemen to this Bill touches something more than their patriotism—it also touches their consistency. But of this I do not complain; and if further consideration induced them to think the promises they had made through their leader in this House unwise, I think they were quite right to retract them. But let it be for them to promise and to retract; let it be for us who have made the same promises, and who think their fulfilment both wise and expedient, to look to it as a matter of public honesty. Sir, this question of public honesty is one which I do not think ought to be lightly dealt with in this House; and yet I have heard it mentioned in these debates as if it had little signification, and still less importance. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Huntingdon, in a speech which he recently delivered, drew a distinction between the personal and the political honesty of Her Majesty's advisers, saying that for the one he had a very profound respect, for the other none at all. I confess this seemed to me a very unnatural severance; but granting that it could be made, was it not with their political rather than with their personal honour that the right hon. Gentleman was concerned, and if he really thought the Members of the Government were men of no political integrity, was he doing his duty in discussing this Amendment at all? Ought he not, as soon as he had formed that impression, to have risen in his place and cast a direct vote of censure in the teeth of those unworthy Ministers. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman proceeded at considerable length to discuss the point of honour as involved in this measure, and as affecting the Government; it is no business of mine to follow him through the course of argument which he used, and I am sure I can leave it to no more impartial person than himself, in his cooler moments, to decide whether the line which he then adopted was dignified, generous, or fair. I only wished to give the House an instance of the way in which public honour has been dealt with in connection with responsible Ministers; and now may I ask, hare pri- 29 vate Members fared any better? It has been repeatedly insinuated, it has sometimes been well-nigh asserted in the course of these debates, that hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House were going to vote for this Bill, in reckless indifference to the interests of their country on account of pledges which they had given upon the hustings; and upon this part of the subject the right hon. Member for Calne laid down a very curious proposition, that proposition has been referred to more than once in debate, and will hardly be necessary for me to repeat it now, but right hon. Gentlemen attempted to enforce it by quoting two lines from The Idylls of the King, and great I should think must have been the surprise of the poet, if he read the right hon. Gentleman's speech, to discover the moral those lines were called upon to point. Perhaps, however, being a man of imagination, he may have discovered some faint parallel between Launcelot and the right hon. Gentleman, for Launcelot, as we know, proved faithless to pledges which he had previously accepted—he did not however abandon them in the interest of his country, but in those which, under the misguidance of passion, he deemed to be his own. I said the parallel was faint, and so it is, for I venture to think that the right hon. Gentleman in deserting the cause of Reform has promoted neither the interests of his country nor his own. I do not propose, Sir, to enter upon the wide field of argument connected with the effect which a further infusion of the popular element into our Constitution might be supposed to have upon our foreign and financial policy; first, because as the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Exeter said, such arguments can only rest upon the merest conjecture; and secondly, because I have already trespassed too long upon the attention of this House; but I hope the House will bear with me for a few moments longer, because if I sat down now, I should be open to the accusation of having neglected a form, the constant observance of which by preceding speakers leads me to conclude that it is one of courtesy and etiquette. Hon. Gentlemen will understand what I mean, they will kindly correct me if I am wrong; but I have not as yet made any allusion to the hon. Member for Birmingham. That hon. Gentleman, in a speech which he made upon the first reading of this Bill, which, as a matter of course was able, and which also, though not, perhaps, so much as a 30 matter of course was temperate, alluded to the accident of violence as possible, nay probable, if hon. Gentlemen opposite did not moderate their tone and their views in regard to the working classes; and, Sir, I was sorry he should have introduced such a threat into debate, because as an argument, it is the very last in the world to have any effect upon hon. Gentlemen opposite. They are wedded partly by conviction, partly by inheritance, partly I venture to think by prejudice, to a domestic policy of timidity and alarm; but the very last thing from which they would recoil is personal inconvenience, or personal danger, however imminent; the very last thing to which they are likely to listen, is the trumpet of menace, however certain in its sound. One word more, Sir, and that also will have reference to a very distinguished Member of this House. It was my misfortune to be absent from the House when the right hon. Baronet the Member for Hertfordshire spoke in this debate; but in the year 1859, I had the eminent good fortune to hear upon this question, and from his lips, one of the most eloquent speeches I suppose that ever was delivered within these walls, and he concluded that speech with some very remarkable words which I think I shall quote correctly from memory, for they have ever since remained engraven on my mind. The right hon. Gentleman, after stating to the House that the working classes had in it no better friend than himself, that none was readier than he to invest them with such privileges as they were fitted to enjoy, asked "this House to hesitate before it placed the property and intelligence of this country at the mercy of impatient poverty and uninstructed numbers." Sir, those eloquent words were spoken in defence of Lord Derby's Reform Bill, a Bill which contained no provision for the extension of the Borough Franchise, and in which every one under the ten-pounder was included in one sweeping clause of impatient poverty and uninstructed numbers; but, Sir, since that time we have had an illustration such as never occurred before in any age or in any country, that poverty can be patient even amid cruel and bitter privations, that numbers are sufficiently instructed to appreciate the action of cause upon effect even in matters affecting their daily sustenance; and I, in my turn, honourably and respectfully ask this House to hesitate before it rejects the principle of this Bill 31 at the risk of throwing this people into a state of uneasiness, aye, and of discontent at the risk, too, of putting a stop for an indefinite period to that brilliant system of commerce and finance which in the recent past has proved of such unmeasureable advantage, and the continuance of which for the future is of such vital importance as regards the power, as regards the resources, as regards the happiness of this great country.
§ MR. BUTLER-JOHNSTONE
said, that he had listened with attention to the eloquent address of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who had just resumed his seat, and observed his strictures on the able and convincing address of the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley). When, however, he should have taken the trouble to cut out the speech of the hon. and gallant Member, and wrap it up and tie it round in paper, he confessed that he should docket it in a different manner from that in which the speech of the noble Lord was docketed. The hon. and gallant Member for Westminster had borrowed an argument from the speech of his hon. Colleague (Mr. J. Stuart Mill), who confessed that a great part of the speech of the noble Lord was unanswerable. Now the hon. and gallant Gentleman said the same thing—that a great deal of the speeeh was unanswerable. He further expressed himself somewhat to this effect:—"I am going to answer the rest; to show you how much the noble Lord has omitted, how much further he ought to have gone, and that though a large part of the noble Lord's speech was true, a larger part was untrue. You must not think I am a novice; I have studied the history of my country, I have studied the politics of the day, and, fortified with this historic knowledge, and the penny press so much read by the working classes, I shall point out to the noble Lord where his logical argument fails. But I am going to do more," said the hon. and gallant Gentleman, "I am going to make a confession of faith of a rather tender nature, for it is the confession of virgin affection; and you must not be surprised if it calls forth emotion in my mind. Even if I should shed tears there is nothing unmanly in that." He (Mr. Butler-Johnstone) had tried to turn a strong light on the object of this virgin affection, and what had he found it to be? Why, the hon. and gallant Gentleman had fallen in love with the working classes of the country. There need be no wonder at that, because the hon. and gal- 32 lant Gentleman had given the working classes such a character that a man should be made of stone who did not fall in love with them. He spoke of them as possessing culture, patience, and integrity. When, however, the gallant Member for Westminster said that the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn had omitted a great deal in his speech, he listened for an argument; but although he listened with great patience, he did not hear a single argument in favour of the second reading of the Bill, and against the Amendment of the noble Earl. What was the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman? It was full of denunciation and admonition to Members on the Opposition side of the House. They were told that they would not listen to menaces; that they were extremely good, that they were extremely honourable, that they were extremely thickheaded and stupid, and incapable of appreciating sound arguments—such, of course, as were offered by the hon. and gallant Gentleman himself. But when the House heard the hon. and gallant Gentleman, they must have felt that his arguments were impalpable as a spirit. The House had been told that the working classes ought to have a share in the representation, but that was a proposition which was not controverted by many Gentlemen in that House. There were very many Gentlemen on his side of the House who agreed that it would be very desirable to introduce a class of men who would fairly represent the working classes in the exercise of the franchise; but they wanted to know what share the working classes were to have? Now, the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer afforded no solution of that problem. The right hon. Gentleman gave them a problem to solve in which there was anx.—an unknown quantity, which the House had to make out for themselves. Let the right hon. Gentleman tell them what the unknown quantity was, and they could work the problem out; but the House of Commons was not to know what was the value of the x. They had been told that the object was to catch their votes, and the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade had avowed that the intention of the Government was to drive the House into a corner. But the House did not desire to be caught unawares, or to be driven into a corner. The House of Commons had a right to know the facts of the case and ought not to be told to take a leap in the dark. For his part he (Mr. Butler- 33 Johnstone) declined to discuss the merits of a Bill, which was no Bill at all. The measure before them was not a whole Bill: it was scarcely even part of a Bill. A man did not consist of legs only, or of even arms, legs, and a trunk. A man was a great deal more than that. It was impossible that a measure of Reform could be constructed out of the Franchise Bill during the present Session. That must be manifest. How was it, then, that this measure had been thrust upon them? They knew that Lord Russell was a Reformer. The noble Earl could not help it. He was born under a Reform star, and his mission was to spread Reform through the world. When in the Foreign Office he was a Reformer. How had he tried to conciliate other nations? He had undertaken to reform the Continent of Europe. He had introduced a Reform Bill for Poland, which was no doubt a most excellent Bill, but Russia was too strong for him. He had promulgated a Reform Bill for Schleswig and Holstein. Everybody said it was an excellent measure, but Count Bismarck smashed it. It appeared to be the province of Earl Russell not to carry Reform Bills, but to introduce them. And, indeed, if he succeeded in carrying a complete measure of Reform his occupation as well as office would be gone. The noble Lord could not have his cake and eat, it but he could cut it into a dozen slices, such as re-distribution, extension of franchise, the boundary question, &c.; and those who wished for it could eat a slice when their appetite was sharp-set. He was not going to advise the Government or Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House; but he would venture to express his conviction that no Reform Bill could be carried for this country till the Opposition side of the House was treated with confidence by the party who desired to carry a measure of Reform. Although there were on that side of the House some hon. Members who were opposed to all Reform, that feeling was by no means general, and any statesman really anxious to carry a Reform Bill would say, as the late Mr. Cobden did, "Get all the support you can for the measure you have in hand. Do not do all you can to irritate any party in that House." If the Government desired to pass a Reform Bill they must not only conciliate all the support of their own side of the House—which the Government had in this case failed to do—but they must also conciliate all the support they could among the mode- 34 rate men on the Opposition side of the House. If the Reform question was ever to be settled, it would not be by a conference, but by a tacit understanding amongst the heads of both parties in the House as to what was a satisfactory measure. But no measure could be satisfactory which was not upon the table of the House. The Government brought in their Reform Bill like a thief in the night; it was masked; half its features were disguised, and yet they were surprised that the House did not fall in love with the object. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster had said he had heard it stated that the Government were shuffling their cards under the table. Now that was precisely what the Government were doing. He (Mr. Butler-Johnstone) did not say they meant to cheat, but they did not mean to show the House what they were doing. That might be honourable warfare, but it was not a species of warfare likely to conciliate support. This was not a question of the merits of the working classes. Unfortunately for those classes, they were a very numerous family—so numerous that if they were admitted to the extent proposed their numbers would swamp the other classes of society in this country. The House did not want the rule of three to tell them that. Any baby could tell it. He thought that the portion of the Whig party who opposed this measure deserved well of that House and of their country. His conviction was that if that party allowed themselves to be dictated to by the extreme Liberals—between whom and them there was a greater difference than existed between the two sides of the House—the Government would become so democratic that those of their party who represented the real mind and feeling of the country would not only be banished from office, which was a comparatively small matter, but they would cease to exercise that beneficial influence of the legislation of the country, which he believed the moderate Liberal party now possessed upon the great questions of the day.
said, the right hon. Member for Calne had yesterday reminded the House that he had nothing to say to the arguments of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he (The O'Donoghue) would venture to tell the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne that the House had nothing to do with his arguments. The Royal word of the Sovereign had been several times pledged to the un- 35 dertaking entered into by both sides of the House of Commons, that Parliament would deal with the question of Reform; but the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne were against all Reform, and therefore he was justified in saying that the House had nothing to do with those arguments. But the speech of the right hon. Gentleman was not without its use. It was useful as indicating the bias of some hon. Members. It was useful, curious, and instructive, as showing how ardently Reformers on the Opposition side of the House could cheer a speech that was diametrically opposed to all Reform. The various constituencies were watching with interest and anxiety the issue of this debate. The intelligence of Parliament was ordinarily applied to the solution of questions of social well-being, or the material progress of the people, or questions of foreign and colonial policy affecting the national prosperity and honour. It was now performing a more serious duty; involving the solution of the question of the government of the country, and upon the result would depend the future legislation of the country. They were all aware that the object of Government was the promotion of the happiness of the people, and when they came to consider the various forms of Government, he owned his partiality for that form for which mankind always exhibited a preference commensurate with the growth of civilization and intelligence. It was unquestionably true that both absolute monarchy and the exclusive rule of an aristocracy became unbearable as the mind of a nation became intelligent; and men sought to relieve themselves from the annoyances and dangers of such a system by substituting either a system such as the Republic of America or a system such as the limited Monarchy of England, both of which provided against the monopoly of power by an individual or a class, and secured or admitted of the fair distribution of power among all classes. He could not understand how the right hon. Baronet the Member for Hertfordshire had been able to arrive at the conclusion that a democratic form of Government was best suited for the youth of a nation. For his part he ventured to think that the testimony of history pointed to a directly opposite conclusion, and that the youth of a nation was the period when it was most likely to submit to the concentration of power in the hands of one or a few, and that, as the nation grew older, wiser, and more educated, 36 it acquired the faculty of thinking for itself, and evinced a repugnance to yielding-blind obedience to the will of a monarch, or of an oligarchy, and manifested a desire to have a share in the conduct of public affairs. At the present time the most civilized nations of the Continent longed for a share of political power, and would not tolerate their despotic rulers for a moment if the power of those rulers were not sustained by huge standing armies. England was now in the prime of life, and if the position of the right hon. Baronet were tenable, the working men would not show that they wanted an extension of political power by exhibiting a desire to obtain it, but would, on the contrary, aim at contracting and narrowing the political power of the country. Successive Administrations had by introducing measures of Reform recognized this desire of the working men to obtain a share of political power, and those who now wished to deal fairly with the working men ought to take care that the measure of Reform to be passed, should be a reality and not a sham. Hon. Gentlemen ought to be careful in regard to this, from considerations which appealed to their sense of honour both as individuals and as a great national Assembly; because if the House failed to carry a substantial measure of Reform it would lay itself open to the imputation either of incapacity, or of trifling with a question which vast masses of the people regarded as one of the greatest importance. The way to guard against failure was to keep constantly in view what was really meant by a Reform of the Representation of the People, what such a Reform was intended to accomplish, who those were that asked for it, what it was that they stood in need of, and how their wants might be supplied. All parties in the House admitted the necessity of Reform, or, in other words, all parties recognized the existence of defects in our representative system injuriously affecting certain portions of the community. It was, therefore, necessary to ascertain what these defects were, and to devise a remedy for them. Was the representation of the higher and aristocratic class defective? Not unless the possession of a preponderating power were regarded as a defect. Then what was the position of the middle class which comprised so many different grades and occupations? All must admit that the Reform Bill of 1832 did great things for this class, by conferring upon it political advantages which 37 rendered its voice most potential in the counsels of the State. But what was the position of the great working population of the country compared with that of the classes to which he had referred? The Bill of 1832 had done little for the working class, and though now it was too intelligent to allow itself to he used as a tool in the hands of others, it still had no recognized standing within the portals of the State, and no representative political power of its own. Reform he understood to be the extension of political power to those who at the present time did not possess it at all, or who did not possess it in a sufficient degree, and he had no difficulty in discovering what section of our national community was without it. He had heard the demands of that section, and believed that those demands would be satisfied to a considerable degree by the Bill which had been introduced by the Government. That being the case, he as a Liberal, who believed that prevention was better than cure, and that the extension of political rights was the best guarantee for the public tranquillity, felt himself bound to do all he could to support the measure which in his judgment had been introduced by Her Majesty's Government in a spirit of sincere and earnest patriotism. To him it was plain that those who opposed the Bill were opposed to the principle of the extension of the franchise. He was led to that conclusion, in the first place, by contrasting the present measure with that introduced in 1859 by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire. The Conservative party had pledged themselves to the principle of that Bill, and had also pledged themselves to carry out Reform, so that if they were to come into office the Bill of 1859, or one just like it, would have to be introduced. And here he might remark, that in opposition to the opinion of the hon. Member for Birmingham, he held that the principle of our representative system was the representation of classes. Now all would agree that a Bill which merely had the effect of multiplying the representation of classes already adequately represented could not fairly be called a Bill for reforming the representation of the people. Yet this was exactly what would have happened if the Bill of 1859 bad been carried. The Conservative party had, in his opinion, made a great mistake in mixing themselves up with the question of Parliamentary Reform at all except as its avowed opponents. He thought 38 it would be admitted that the extension of the franchise was the essence of Parliamentary Reform, and that such questions as vote by ballot and the re-distribution of a few seats were of secondary importance. For the franchise was the motive power that kept the political machine in motion. A man might disapprove the ballot and entertain crotchets about the distribution of seats, and still be a sincere Reformer; but if he refused to enfranchise the working classes to an extent sufficient to give them a share in the management of public affairs, he could only be classed as an anti-Reformer. If the House were willing to give the franchise to the working classes to the extent proposed by the Government, and to the extent which they were willing to accept as an instalment of justice, there would be no danger of the re-distribution of seats being so managed as to defeat the object sought to be attained. Then the question arose—were they all desirous to extend the franchise to the working classes? He believed they were not; and in this fact was to be found the true cause of opposition to the Bill. Why did he say this? Because all the speeches delivered in support of the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Chester were in reality speeches against the lowering the franchise. If hon. Gentlemen were really in favour of an extension of the franchise in the direction proposed by the Government, what reasonable motive could there be for not announcing the fact? Would not the process be thereby greatly facilitated of arriving at a conclusion upon the innumerable details connected with the Reform Bill? The lowering of the franchise and the re-distribution of seats were two things wholly distinct, and nobody could pretend, with a show of reason, that a different measure of re-distribution would be required according as the franchise was fixed at £6, £7, £8, or £10. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire included both these branches in his Reform Bill; but on that occasion two Members of his own Cabinet, the Members for Oxfordshire and the University of Cambridge, while they approved of the re-distribution of seats, objected to that part of the scheme which dealt with the franchise. For hon. Members to declare that they would not support a Bill for the extension of the franchise till they were in possession of all that was intended as to the re-distribution of seats, would be as reasonable as if he were to say to a man 39 who was hungry, "I cannot think of satisfying your appetite till I know how you use your knife and fork." The Bill of the Government was founded upon intelligible principles; it had been accepted by large masses of our fellow-countrymen willing to share their privileges with others, and it was for those opposing the Bill to free themselves from the charge of distrusting their fellow-countrymen. Although of late there had been no field of action for the Tory, or, as they were now called by the modified title, of the Conservative party, in 1832 they carried resistance to Reform to the very verge of civil war. He trusted those tactics were not to be repeated; but, at all events, if this Bill did no other good, it would define more accurately the boundaries of party, and draw a sharp line between those who were advocates for the privileges of the people, and those who refused those privileges. There was no disguising the fact that the Conservative party were opposed both to the principle and the details of the Franchise Bill of the Government; and, looking to their present attitude as well as to the character of the Bill which they brought in in 1859, the only conclusion at which it was possible to arrive was that they were opposed to a bonâ fide representation of the people. And who were the opponents of the Bill? Was it opposed by the middle class, the great merchants and traders, the landed gentry, or the territorial aristocracy as a class? Most certainly not. It was prudent to dwell upon this fact. Could anybody persuade that House or the country that the Duke of Bedford, the Duke of Argyll, the Duke of Leinster, the noble Lord the Member for Kerry, or the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War were not as true aristocrats as the Earl of Derby; were not as anxious to maintain inviolate the privileges of their order, the rights of their station, the constitutional balance between the Queen, Lords, and Commons? But, on the other hand, there were Tories in every class—among the working classes, the middle classes, the landed gentry, and the great territorial aristocracy; and it was by Tories exclusively that the Bill was opposed; but, happily, for the peace of England, there was no class which as a class was anxious to refuse the working class its fair share of political power. He held it, in fact, to be impossible for any class to plot, combine, or conspire to frustrate the wants and wishes of another. It 40 was easy to account for the opposition of that (the opposite) side, but it was not so easy to account for the conduct of those Liberals who deserted their colours on the present occasion. They accounted for the course they took by the uneasiness which they felt as to the scheme of re-distribution. What was it they were afraid of? Was it that Her Majesty's Government would so manage the question of re-distribution as to give an increase of power to the Liberal party? He put that question distinctly to them, and to their constituents who had sent them to Parliament. There was one question involved in the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for Chester which could not be kept out of sight, and that was the question of confidence in the Government. There were many things the Government had not done that it ought to have done, and many things it ought to have done that it had left undone. Yet truth compelled him to acknowledge that its policy had been more liberal and conciliatory than that of any Government that had preceded it, and than would be that of any Government likely to succeed it. It had dealt with this question of Reform in a just and honest spirit, actuated by a high respect for those principles of Government which alone could be tolerated by the English nation. He was not without hope for the future, and he was disposed to place confidence in the Government, and to give it on this occasion his unqualified support. It was hardly necessary for him to remind the House that the Irish Liberal party had invariably assisted the English Liberal party to carry those measures which it deemed essential to the common cause. It helped to carry the first Reform Bill, to abolish tests, to reform municipal corporations, and to repeal the Corn Laws, and now, when another Reform Bill was to be carried, (said the hon. Member), "here we are again, acting in concert with and by the side of our English brethren, a united body, with one or two solitary and paltry exceptions." No matter what unhappy differences they might have had among themselves, no matter how sore some might feel as to the neglect of measures which they deemed essential to secure the happiness and welfare of their country, in the hour of trial and of action they had never failed, they had never sulked; they had always shown that they were animated by a common instinct and by unswerving devotion to a Liberal policy. O'Connell used to 41 boast that the majority of the Irish representatives voted for the Reform Bill of 1832, while the majority of the English and Scotch representatives voted against it. The hon. Member for Youghal (Mr. M'Kenna) had thought proper to remind the House that Her Majesty's Government had suspended the Habeas Corpus Act in Ireland, and had filled the gaols with prisoners; but the hon. Member neither spoke nor voted against the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act; indeed, he did not deem it necessary to be in the House at the time the repeal of the Act was under their consideration. Perhaps the hon. Member was not aware that the party with whom he was going to vote on the present occasion, and whom he wished to bring into office, censured the Government for not suspending the Act sooner, and for not acting with greater vigour. The hon. Member must know, that during the recent State trials in Ireland the Irish Law Officers of the Crown acted calmly and dispassionately; there was not the smallest manifestation of party or sectarian feeling; it was plain that they were acting in defence of the authority of the Crown, uninfluenced by any malevolent intentions, and it could not be said of them that they were holding a brief from one body of Irishmen against another; and the hon. Member must also know that when the Law Officers of the Tory party had to conduct similar trials the proceedings were characterized by a spirit of vindictiveness and partizanship. He would not have alluded at all to this distressing subject had it not been that the hon. Member for Youghal had most unnecessarily dragged it into the debate in order to make out of it political capital to which neither he nor his friends were entitled. He doubted much whether this Parliamentary exploit would encircle his brow with a crown of laurels; it might, perhaps, secure for him, at the hands of the hon. Members for the University of Dublin and Belfast, a chaplet of orange blossoms. The speeches delivered by Members of the Government during the Easter recess had furnished an inexhaustible theme to hon. Gentlemen on that (the Conservative) side of the House. They had been quite a god-send to Members on the Opposition side of the House. He read the speeches of the Chancellor of the Exchequer attentively; he found nothing objectionable in them, and he rejoiced to see that they were received with acclamation by thousands of intelligent 42 Englishmen. Never before did a statesman in the high position of the Chancellor of the Exchequer adopt towards Ireland a tone so wise and generous, so calculated to remove from the minds of the Irish people the impression that it is impossible for them to be united with England and at the same time be happy and prosperous. Having read the speeches of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he put down the paper and said, "Here at last is a great English Minister who has come to the conclusion that the Irish are neither to be laughed nor bullied out of their discontent." Towards such a Minister he owned he was irresistibly drawn, and he hoped that that Minister might be able to carry out those principles of government and that policy of wise and generous conciliation which could not fail to cement the friendship and to establish between England and Ireland a union of sympathy and interest which would be the commencement of a new era in the power, the glory, and the prosperity of the Empire.
§ MR. GRANT
desired to express his sentiments on this great question. This was a question that had been asked by almost every Member who had spoken in support of the Amendment—namely, why had Her Majesty's Government introduced this Bill? They had not had a satisfactory reply. An answer was given last evening by the hon. Member for Chatham, and it was vehemently cheered by the occupants of the Treasury Benches. He said the Bill was introduced in fulfilment of pledges made by Members of the Government. He asked himself, and he asked the House, to whom those pledges were given? The hon. Gentleman said the pledges were given by the Cabinet on coming into power after Lord Derby in 1859. He asked hon. Members if the Government had now fulfilled the pledges they had then given? On that subject he would bring before the House the authority of an hon. Gentleman who was now in the confidence of Her Majesty's Government, and the House could then form an opinion whether the only pledge that might really be pleaded was the pledge to which the hon. Member for Chatham referred. The passage he would call attention to was from the address of the hon. Member for Birmingham to his constituents in June last. The hon. Gentleman was then speaking of his present allies, and he said the Cabinet climbed into office under the pretence of their devotion to the question of Parliamentary Reform; 43 but it violated its solemn pledges, and it abandoned the cause it undertook to defend. That being the opinion of the hon. Member for Birmingham, that could not be the pledge to which the hon. Member for Chatham referred; so it must have been some other pledge. What could it he? After June, and during the Elections, he was not aware that any pledges were given by Her Majesty's Government that could give him a satisfactory clue to the pledge that was alluded to. There must, therefore, be some pledge made since Parliament was elected. The Government, in preparing the Address from the Throne, introduced a clause which must have referred to the Bill now on the table, and therefore the pledge must have been given since the expiration of the old Parliament and the assembling of the new. In his opinion, that pledge had been made to the hon. Member for Birmingham, and to the advanced section of the Radicals, and in considering the Bill he thought they were bound to consider it as emanating from that party. He did not, however, think there was any demerit in the Bill on that account, for he had no doubt of the honesty of purpose of the hon. Member. He admired the hon. Member's courage, his consistency, his ability of action in connection with the Reform Bill. He did not echo the parrot cry against the hon. Member simply because he had allied himself with the Government. His objection to the hon. Gentleman's doctrines was, that they were not safe for the country, and they were calculated to upset the established state of things as laid down by the Constitution. The hon. Member for Birmingham was dangerous because he was honest. His honesty served him most, his eloquence served him next, and both combined were calculated to put men off their guard, unless recalled by statesmen of more moderate opinions occupying the Benches on which he had the honour to sit. But whilst he opposed the doctrines of the hon. Member for Birmingham, he wished to be absolved from being supposed to belong to that party which the hon. Member for Pontefract called the George III. Tory party. He did not belong to it, if it existed, which he did not believe. The Secretary for the Treasury, who delivered one of the best speeches which had been made in favour of this Bill, had taunted hon. Members on that (the Opposition) side of the House with being opposed to all Reform; but in this he did them a great injustice, for the truth 44 was that Members on the Conservative side of the House did not yield in their aspirations for real liberty to hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House. If their aspirations for liberty were not to be tempered by the experience history afforded, he knew not what the word meant. His view of the word liberty was its use, and not its abuse; and if hon. Members thought that because he supported the Amendment he was opposed to all Reform, they had fallen into a very erroneous opinion. Although the hon. Member for Birmingham might he supposed to have much to do with this Bill, that was not the reason why he entered his protest against it. He hoped he acted on more statesmanlike principles. His objection was that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had coquetted with the hon. Member for Birmingham in the sense of getting strength and support to his Government, and he had consented to introduce this Bill against his own better judgment. In his younger days, he had been accustomed to look to the Chancellor of the Exchequer as the model of a public man which, if ever he got into Parliament, he resolved to imitate. He could not but admire the talent with which the right hon. Gentleman introduced the simplest measure to the consideration of the House; but he could not but feel now that his introduction of this Reform Bill was not so much his own act as the result of pressure from behind, in having yielded to which he (Mr. Grant) thought the right hon. Gentleman would before long find a matter for regret. He objected to the Bill, in the first place, because it had not been brought forward in a straightforward manner. It was not brought forward in a way to command the confidence of the great bulk of the Members of the House. It was not brought forward in a manner showing that that careful reflection had been bestowed upon it that they might reasonably have expected. It bore traces of hasty legislation, or rather of non-official and irresponsible legislation. It was introduced to the House in a mutilated form, with a' view to obtain support by a side-wind. Now, was that consistent with the position of the party that was said, and he believed correctly, to have at the commencement of the Session a majority of seventy votes? Was it statesmanlike to bring forward a measure that would disarrange the Constitution, and call forth the host of objections that had been made against it? Must there not have been 45 something in it essentially bad to have shaken confidence in it on the part of Members both in the front and in the rear? Those who asked them to disturb the existing state of things, were bound not only to prove that it was absolutely necessary to change the existing order of things, but they must show in what manner that which they proposed to substitute would alter the existing state of things. He contended that, according to the calculations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, this Bill would add 33 per cent to the electors belonging to the labouring population. But when we come to the re-distribution of seats, and the extent of the boundaries of boroughs, it would be clear that the extension of the boundaries must produce an increase of constituencies, almost all of which would belong to the labouring classes. In most places the growth of the town and the increase of rents inside had led to the extension outside, as the only place where rents could be low, and consequently the only places where the labourers could live. While, then, the House was asked to accept the second reading of the Franchise Bill, they were not told how far the 400,000 anticipated increase in the constituencies would be further augmented by the extension of the borough boundaries. He was quite sure that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not ignore in his Budget so large a number as 200,000, or even 100,000.
§ MR. GRANT
This estimate by some unhappy chance was now forthcoming. But could there be a valid reason for the Government, in proposing to legislate for the Amendment of the constitution, not placing their whole scheme before the consideration of the House? The present measure proposed to lower the franchise to £7 in boroughs, and to £14 in counties; it proposed all sorts of things as to rating and other details; and it said, "Commit yourself to that, and then we will show you what else we intend to do." He said, let them see the whole Bill at once. The right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department, said the second reading of the Bill was only the affirmation of a principle. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: Hear, hear!] The right hon. Gentleman said, "hear, hear!" He therefore re-echoed the sentiment. Why, then, 46 did he not come down to the House and say, "This is a new House of Parliament, the House is not pledged to any measure of Reform; and, for what I know to the contrary, this House may not be in favour of Reform." Certainly, in the majority of the addresses of the candidates at the late election, the topic of Reform was wholly omitted, and in some of them Reform was even openly opposed. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer had come to the House and said, "I want a declaration of the House that it is in favour of certain principles," that would have been asking the House to affirm the principles, and he would have taken from the noble Lord the Member for Chester the power of proposing his present Amendment, which, I confess, is embarrassing to both sides of the House. But the right hon. Gentleman did not do this. He came down with part of the Bill, and the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department said it was only the affirmation of a principle. Now, the Government had either proved too much or shown too little. The Government had shown by the details of the Bill a foregone conclusion. As he had already declared, he was not an anti Reformer. He was in favour of a Reform Bill, and a comprehensive Reform Bill, a Bill that should deal with the franchise in both boroughs and counties; and if such a Bill should be brought in it would have his strenuous support. But the right hon. Member had not brought in a comprehensive measure. He had brought in a £7 and a £14 franchise Bill. Did they want to discuss a Reform Bill every Session? Clearly not. Had it not been the avowed wish of hon. Members on both sides of the House to have a Bill that should settle the question—one hon. Member said for thirty years, and the hon. Member for Birmingham said for fifty years? But would this Bill settle the question for even thirty years? Was not the £7 a more arbitrary figure? Could they not make it £6, or £5, or £8, or £9? There was no reason against doing so. But was virtue all above a £7 rental, and vice all below it? It was a mere arbitrary figure chosen for making a change; and it would disturb the balance of power which the Constitution had so wisely established. In support of his position the hon. Member quoted from Warren's Blackstone. The right hon. Gentleman might ask why not vote for this Bill as an instalment per se of what he required? [The CHANCELLOR of 47 the EXCHEQUER: Hear, hear!] The right hon. Gentleman again said "Hear, hear!" He would tell him why he could not. When he solicited the suffrages of his constituents, he promised to consider any well-digested Reform Bill, but to oppose in toto any measure brought in by instalments, and which should not appear to him to be a settlement of the question for a long time. And the latter was the character of this Bill. The hon. Member for Westminster said the House ought to he a representation of all classes. He agreed with the hon. Member. But, said the hon. Member, there was something in every class which one of that class could represent better than any one of another class. He (Mr. Grant) would say, carry this out in practice and not in mere theory. Suppose a carpenter elected to represent his class, in all probability he would be totally unable to represent the wants of—say, the miners. And if so, this showed that the ad captandum theories of the philosophers were not such as to encourage the House to depart from its usual mode of proceeding. The hon. Member for Westminster had often been appealed to as an authority on Reform, but he found that that Gentleman was in favour of admitting females into that House. If that were done, he (Mr. Grant) should pity the Speaker who would have to maintain order; for he feared that hon. Members would pay far more attention to the feminine gender than to the business before the House. He wished to guard himself against one thing. A sort of terrorism had pervaded the speeches of hon. Members with regard to the working classes. Every man who had said one iota against their political qualification, had been represented as holding them up to detestation. He wished to guard himself against lauding the working classes for merits they did not possess, and also against charging them with offences they were not guilty of. He believed that hon. Members who knew them best respected them highly. Still he could not be blind to their shortcomings, which for want of education and want of leisure they would be unable to throw off. The working classes were neither better nor worse than other classes; but they were more exposed to temptation. He begged the working classes, when they were patted on the back and lauded by those more highly educated, to remember the words of the poet— 48Should man the open palm extend,Woo thee with words and call thee friend,Praise thee for merits not thine own—Condemn thy foes their faults unknown,Shrink from that man, avoid him, fly—Friendship like love can mask and lie.One word more relative to the Amendment which he had placed on the paper. What he had stated was this—that he was a Reformer, and objected to the Amendment of the noble Lord on the ground that it might be, and had been, imputed by the right hon. Gentleman himself and by the Secretary of State for the Home Department to mean, that whilst his side of the House objected to the Bill because it was not sufficiently comprehensive, they had taunted the Conservative side of the House with not wanting any Reform. That this was not his sentiment he had put on record; and he said that a comprehensive Bill for lowering the franchise, re-distributing seats, an extension of the boundaries of boroughs, and the prevention of corrupt practices at elections, should be brought in as a whole, and that then he should be prepared to give that measure his support.
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, the town he represented (Oldham) was a manufacturing town, which had gradually grown into importance during the last twenty or thirty years, and now possessed a population of about 107,000 people, comprising amongst them artizans of the highest intelligence. Out of that large population only 2,200 were on the electoral roll, and this he did not consider an adequate representation. But of these 2,200 electors there were only 315 returned as working men, and of these 315 many were not working men, for according to the Government instructions this number comprised men who kept shops, and public-houses and beer-shops; in fact, the working men of Oldham possessed only an infinitesimal share of the franchise; and speaking, generally, he was inclined to think that the Government had been far too liberal in their application of the term working men, not only at Oldham but throughout the country. On the question whether he should vote for the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Chester or for the reading of the Government measure, he would say that if he wished for delay he would vote for the Amendment; but wishing as he did that the representation of the working people should become a reality, that the measure should go forward, and that the working classes should be admitted into the Constitution, 49 he must give his cordial support for the second reading of the Bill. Judging from the past, he thought the Government had done wisely in bringing forward the Bill in its present shape. Three former Bills had been brought forward as comprehensive measures, but what had been their fate? They had disappeared from the House, and there had been disappointment in everything connected with them. Therefore he did not see that the Government would have had any better chance in carrying their measure, if they had added to the present enfranchising Bill clauses for regulating the distribution of seats. He believed the people of this country were not to be put off with an Amendment like that proposed. The people were now a reading people—they were a reflecting people—and they were, he might say, too wide awake to believe that the Amendment was meant to further the question of Reform He would detain the House a few minutes to show the proportion of working men who enjoyed the privilege of voting in five towns in Yorkshire, and five towns in Lancashire, where, if intelligent artizans were to be found at all, they were certainly to be found. In Huddersfield the working men were 12 per cent of the constituency; in Wakefield, 11 per cent; Halifax, 9 per cent; Bradford, 8 per cent; Leeds, 7 per cent. In Ashton the percentage was 19; in Blackburn it was 17; in Oldham, 13; Stockport, 9; and Rochdale, 5. This could not he said to be a very extreme percentage of working men in the possession of the franchise It had been said that within the last thirty years a great number of men had been admitted to the franchise. But although this assertion might be true to some small extent, it was far from being true generally. In comparing the increase of the population in the undermentioned towns between 1831 and 1865, and the increase of electors within the same period, he found that while the increase of population in Ashton had been 157 per cent, the increase of electors had been only 123 per cent; Oldham, population 113 per cent; voters 104 per cent; Rochdale, population 129 per cent; voters 109 per cent; Bury, population 115 per cent; voters 115 per cent; in the whole of England and Wales the increase of the population had been 78 per cent, the increase of voters 73 per cent. It was thus clear that while this increase had been going on, and while wealth had increased the wages of the working men, 50 it had not been such as to enable them to get possession of the franchise to the same extent as when the Reform Act was passed. Therefore, he contended they should do something to admit that class of the people. It had been said that if the working men were admitted to the franchise in the manner proposed by this Bill, they would obtain the preponderance and ruin the institutions of the country. But what was the present condition of things in towns with the largest proportion of working men in the constituencies? In Coventry, where the working men were 69 per cent of the constituency, what happened? Why, two Conservative Members were returned. At Stafford, where the working men were 57 per cent, one Conservative and one Liberal were returned. At Maldon, where the working men were 55 per cent, two Conservatives. At Neweastle-under-Lyne, where the working men were 55per cent, one Conservative and one Liberal. At Beverley, 53 per cent of working men, two Conservatives. At Pembroke, 54 per cent of working men, a Liberal Conservative, At St. Ives, 51 per cent of working men, a Conservative. Summing up, in the places named, where the working men were a large proportion of the voters, and twelve Members were returned, nine of them were Conservatives, one a Liberal-Conservative, and two were Liberals. So that, judging from experience, if the effect of the admission of the working men to the franchise was likely to ruin the Constitution, it would do so by handing the Government over to the hon. Gentlemen opposite. If this Bill should pass, the Conservatives would find it a measure in every way Conservative of the interests of their party, and he believed that it would prove greatly beneficial to the interests of the whole country. It had been said that the working men were likely to return men entertaining their own views. But what was the experience of the present system? Of 572,000 electors, there were 371,000 who were in possession of houses the rental of which varied from £10 to £30. The argument that if you gave a preponderating influence to any particular class that class would return men of their own views, was not borne out by present experience; for the small occupiers between £10 and £30 had never returned persons following their own trades, and he could not conceive why the working men should be more likely to return men of their own class. He denied that if working men were returned to that 51 House they would attempt to deal with questions between capital and labour. The question of wages, for instance, in which they were so greatly interested, was one that must be fought outside the House, between capital and labour, and not by political discussion. If, therefore, working men were returned, they could do no harm, even if they did no good; but he thought real representatives of the working classes would be productive of the greatest good on the deliberations of the House. It had been said that the fitness of the working classes to exercise the franchise ought to be shown before conferring the privilege upon them. And, on the other hand, it had been urged that during the last thirty years everything which Parliament could do had been done in the direction of educating and raising the position of the working men. But he did not agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that Parliament had raised up the working men. He believed they had been gradually raising themselves and fitting themselves to undertake the duties of electors and enable themselves to take a part in the Government of the country. In a publication entitled Facts of the Cotton Famine, published by Dr. Watts, the following reference was made to what the working men of Lancashire had done for themselves:—At the end of 1853 there were in the cotton districts 118 co-operative stores, with a paid up capital of £270,000, receiving for goods sold £1,171,000 per annum. There were also about fifty manufacturing companies, whose nominal capital amounted to about £2,000,000, a large proportion of the shares in which had been subscribed by working men. In 1861 the mortgages to building societies in Lancashire amounted to about £220,000. The bulk of this sum consists of deposits by the lower, middle, and the upper stratum of the working classes, and when taken in connection with the 14,068 owners of the £3,800,000 in the savings banks and about half a million sterling owned by about 1,250 friendly societies, and probably half as much more owned by trade societies, shows an amount of prudent forethought and practical frugality, for which few people give the working classes credit, and which must be productive of important results.Instead of weakening the State, therefore, he believed they would assist in governing it in a better manner than it was governed at present. It was impossible that the settlement of the question could be long delayed. The working classes were becoming more and more intelligent, and acquiring greater power, and it would be most unwise to dally with the question. In 52 his last speech at Rochdale, Mr. Cobden said—Do you suppose it possible, when the knowledge of the principles of political economy has elevated the working classes, and when that elevation is continually progressing, that you can permanently exclude the whole mass from the franchise? It is the interest of the Government to set about solving the problem, and to avoid any danger, they ought to do so without further delay,A great deal had been said with respect to finality. Now, he thought hon. Gentlemen ought not to hesitate to pass a measure merely because they were afraid of what might come hereafter. If our ancestors had not from time to time improved our Constitution, we should have enjoyed none of those liberties of which we could so justly boast. We ought to endeavour to adapt the institutions of the country to the wants of the times, and to build up the Constitution on still broader and surer grounds. The right hon. Member for Calne had read a quotation from Lord Macaulay, for the purpose of showing that the country ought to be satisfied with things as they are. But Lord Macaulay, during the Reform discussions of 1831, expressed quite different views on that point when he gave utterance to the following sentiments:—The great cause of revolutions is this, that while nations move onward Constitutions stand still. The peculiar happiness of England is that through many generations the Constitution has moved onward with the nation. … The English have long been a great and happy people. But they have been great and happy because their history has been the history of a succession of timely reforms. The Great Charter, the assembling of the first House of Commons, the Petition of Right, the Declaration of Right—the Bill which is now on our table, what are they all but steps in one great progress? To every one of those steps the same objections might have been made which we have heard to-night, 'You are better off than your neighbours are. You are better off than your fathers were. Why can you not leave well alone.'They could not be satisfied with things as they were. They might be blessed with great prosperity, but it must not be forgotten that that prosperity was built up by the bone and sinew of the very classes it was proposed to admit. Taking all these matters into consideration, he could not do otherwise than give his cordial assent to the second reading of the Bill, and he would conclude by asking the House, in the words of Mr. Burke, to allow "the Commons House of Parliament to be one and the same with the Commons at large."
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
could not hope to offer anything new on the subject under discussion, but desired to give his reasons for supporting the Amendment. In doing so he could not do better than quote the words of the hon. and gallant Member (Captain Grosvenor), who said, "he was in favour of a judicious extension of the suffrage, but opposed to a monopoly of political power." He contended, however, that it was the Conservatives who were in favour of a judicious extension of the suffrage, and that it was the other side of the House who were in favour of placing a monopoly of political power in the hands of the lower classes. The Members of the Conservative party had been twitted with having added nothing to the arguments of the noble Member for King's Lynn, but there was a very good reason for this, for those arguments had never been refuted. One of the strongest arguments which had been advanced was that the Government, in asking the House to assent to the second reading of the Bill without having before it a Bill for the redistribution of seats, were attempting to play off the representative body of the country against the constituent body. They professed their readiness to place on the table a Bill for the re-distribution of seats, and they held over the House the penalty that if after passing the Franchise Bill they did not assent to any of the subsequent parts of Reform they were liable to be dissolved, That was an unfair position in which to place Parliament. Hon. Members who had been elected as supporters of Lord Palmerston and now felt it their duty to vote for the Amendment, might thus be deprived of the opportunity of explaining their reasons to their constituents and justifying that political honour and consistency which in voting for the Amendment they would fully maintain. He did not believe there was a single Member unconnected with the Government who was prepared to accept the Bill as an entirety. Some objected to the disfranchisement of the dockyard men, others to the savings bank qualification, while that side of the House objected to the swamping of the county constituencies by borough leaseholders. Measures had been promised for the redistribution of seats and for the regulation of boundaries, and probably there would be some Bill extending the Corrupt Practices Act, so that the present Bill was only to be made useful by a succession of measures each of which would effect an important 54 alteration in the constitution of the country. Nothing could make a proposition like the present more doubtful than the admission of the Government that they were bringing forward a measure the anomalies of which it would be necessary to rectify by further measures. Hon. Members might justly complain, too, of the defiant language which had been applied by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the House, and of the manœuvre which had been resorted to. There were two minorities in the House, one opposed to the extension of the franchise, and one opposed to the redistribution of seats. The Government thought to get a majority by keeping their intentions secret, and thus preventing those two minorities from combining with each other. The Government were setting up their own judgment as to what was fit and proper, against the opinion of Parliament itself. In a matter of this kind it was for Ministers to yield to Parliament, and not Parliament to Ministers. The real reason for the introduction of this Bill was that which was also applicable to the Bill of 1852, "to keep the Government in office;" and to bring in a Bill for which the country were not anxious was a fault in any Government. As to any pressure from without, the thing was utterly ridiculous. He did not mean to say that the interest of towns should not be considered, but he believed he was stating the fact when he said that the whole agricultural population in the smaller towns were opposed to such a change as that proposed; and in the large constituency which he represented, he had no doubt that were they asked to choose, nine persons out of ten among those connected with agriculture would prefer the repeal of the malt tax to this Bill. At the time of the first Reform Bill great distress existed, and it was believed by the people that that Bill would relieve that distress. But at present there was no necessity for such a Bill. Since the Reform Act of 1832, the population of the country had increased 44 per cent, the electoral body 56 per cent, day scholars 146 per cent, and our imports and exports 250 and 350 per cent, while the deposits in savings banks had increased 36 fold, whereas crime and pauperism had diminished. It was surely a fair inference that that system was good which had produced such good fruits. No doubt there were many things in our Constitution, as in all old-established systems, which could not be defended on philosophical grounds, as, for instance, the small 55 boroughs; but such things must be judged by their practical workings, and he might mention a small and corrupt constituency which had recently come under his notice, and which had elected a Manchester gentleman and the relation of a neighbouring landowner, thus giving representatives to the commercial and agricultural interests. He had listened patiently to the arguments advanced against this Bill, as well as to those in favour of it. The argument of the Government was that the Bill would not increase the power of the working classes so as to swamp the other classes in the constituencies; but the contrary had, he thought, been conclusively demonstrated, and the estimate which had been given of the probable increase of voters could not be relied upon, for in thirty-one boroughs there had been no re-valuation, so that numbers of houses returned at £5 or £6 might really be worth £7, and the proportion of the working classes in every constituency would be annually augmented by the natural increase in the value of houses. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had told them that the working classes would not act together in political matters; but in the large constituencies of the metropolis the lower middle classes acted together in such a manner as to fairly drive the higher classes from the poll. The argument of hon. Gentlemen sitting below the gangway in favour of the Bill was that a large number of people who now had no votes were fit to be admitted into the franchise. He did not wish to say anything against the working classes, and he would without hesitation admit to the franchise the members of the co-operative societies of Rochdale, and the élite of the working men of Lancashire and the West Riding; but under this Bill agricultural labourers in many of the small boroughs would possess the vote, and he had as yet heard no one in or out of the House maintain that they were fit to exercise such a trust. He would take the case of eight boroughs in which the working population had at present 50 per cent of the representation. It appeared from a Return which had been presented to the House a short time since, that four out of the eight he referred to had been disgraced by the Reports of Election Committees as places where corruption had extensively prevailed. In two others there was a large proportion of dockyard labourers, whom it was proposed to disfranchise by the Bill, and in one of the two remaining, the elections had been conducted in a very noisy manner. 56 Now the result of extending the franchise in those boroughs would be to place the power practically in the hands of certain agents and public-house keepers, who would always be able to command a certain number of votes. With regard to the proposed franchise of £14 for counties, he admitted that persons who occupied £14 houses in county districts were quite worthy of the franchise, and were infinitely superior to many persons who paid a higher rent for worse houses in large towns. But he objected to increase the urban interest in a manner that would be detrimental to the agricultural interest. For instance, there were a large number of £14 houses in the suburbs of boroughs, the occupiers of which would, under the Bill, have votes for the counties, and the result would be that those people whose interest was more in the town than in the country would bear an unfair proportion to the residents in the agricultural districts. He objected to this Bill, but he did not wish it to be understood that he was opposed to any good measure of Reform. It was not because Government brought in a measure that they called a Reform Bill that it must of necessity be a good one. He should be perfectly ready to discuss the question whenever it was brought forward in a proper shape. He objected to the present measure, because he believed it would give a preponderance in boroughs to the lower classes, and that it would give a preponderance of town interest over rural interest in the counties. He did not believe that the country desired that the settlement of 1832, placing the power in the hands of the middle classes, should be not only disturbed, but that it should be entirely taken out of their hands and placed in those of the lower classes. The questions likely to arise under this Bill were not those between Whigs and Tories but between the rich and the poor. It was the beginning of a contest between the aristocracy and the democracy of the country. As he did not think that the country was anxious that the rich should be ruled over by the poor, and that the intelligence and education of the nation should be subjected to the dominion of an inferior order of civilization, he should give his vote for the Amendment.
§ MR. BAINES
said, he thought the hon. Baronet who had just spoken would regret having stated that the question was one between the rich and the poor—between the aristocracy and the democracy of the 57 country. [Sir MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH had said that the question would be that, not that it was so at present.] The only way in which the matter could be a question between those two interests would be by uniting them, and thus adding to the security of the State and of our institutions. A noble Lord opposite had spoken of Gentlemen on the Ministerial side of the House as desiring to give the democracy sovereign power in the country. He could only say that he knew of no person who had such a wish. He had himself always been attached to the mixed Government of this country, and he had defended the aristocracy when they were attacked. Still, he looked upon this Bill as one which would only do fair justice to the bulk of the people. At this advanced stage of the debate, and seeing also the great number of Members who were yet desirous of addressing the House, he felt the necessity of being extremely brief in his remarks; and he would therefore not avail himself of the opportunity he had to advert to many interesting topics in connection with this subject. He would content himself with bearing his personal testimony to the character and to the high qualifications of the class which the Bill would admit to the franchise. He was disposed to look upon the question of the admission of the working classes not merely as one of their personal fitness, but also as one involving the balance of power among the different classes of society. He had always thought that the mere fact of personal fitness was not sufficient to warrant the admission of large numbers of voters to the franchise. But he was prepared to defend the measure which had been introduced by the Government on both grounds—namely, first, on the ground of fitness; and secondly, upon that of the balance of power. He had for many years been intimately connected with the working classes; he had had an opportunity of observing their character and their conduct; and therefore he was a witness competent to speak on their behalf. In 1832 the working classes as a body, that is the great majority of the people, were excluded from the franchise on account of their want of education and general want of intelligence. Since that time the working classes had advanced so much in intelligence and education that large numbers of them might safely be admitted to the franchise. Take the increase of education. In 1832, when the last Reform Act was passed, there were 1,250,000 58 scholars in our day schools. In 1865 the number had increased to 3,100,000. Did not that prove an enormous increase in the education of the country? Of the 320,000 teachers in our Sunday schools who were giving gratuitous education to 2,500,000 children, one-half belonged to the working classes, and most of them were at present excluded from the enjoyment of the franchise. Yet they were men of piety, intelligence, and good conduct. The mechanics institutes had increased by hundreds and thousands since 1832. They included numbers of worthy and excellent men, and yet many of these members, who were the élite of the working classes, were excluded from the franchise. The vast increase in the cheap literature of the country implied a great increase of reading and mental improvement. In 1831 the number of newspapers circulating in England was 38,000,000 copies; in 1864 the number had increased to 546,000,000 copies. The circulation of the magazines and serials, weekly and monthly, literary, scientific, religious, and moral, had increased in the same time from 400,000 copies a month to 6,000,000 a month—an increase of 1,500 per cent. He might go on to illustrate the improvement in the character and condition of the working classes in regard to their habits of saving, their temperance, their modes of living, and many other particulars, but he must refrain. There was, however, one matter of great significance to which his attention had been drawn by a member of the corps of Leeds Engineers, himself an unenfranchised artizan, and he would read an extract from the letter he had received. His correspondent said—The War Office Returns just issued give the following results as to the merit and efficiency of the volunteers of Great Britain. Order of merit, No. I, Leeds Engineers.(Then follow other Yorkshire regiments, which Mr. Baines did not name.)The Leeds Engineers thus stand 6rst in merit even to all those crack corps which we have heard so much talk about: it is well know that the privates of this corps are all working artizans. It is likewise well known that the great body of the other regiments are composed of persons who have votes, or sons of those persons; they are gentlemen or sons of gentlemen. I say, then, that this is another reason that working men should have a vote, as they are able to stand their ground with the most aristocratic of the laud.He (Mr. Baines) also read an extract from the address of Lieutenant Colonel Child to his corps, congratulating them on the high 59 honour they had attained; in which he said—I heartily congratulate you and myself upon the attainment of this great and honourable national prize, earned in fair competition with the whole Volunteer force of the Empire, by labour in the drill-room, in the field, in the trench, in the battery, and at the bridge. We have been most successful in providing for the improved intellectual and physical education and training of the men of the corps. Your gymnasium is replete with every necessary appointment; your library is large and increasing; your chess and conversational rooms are well furnished and comfortable, and they are regularly and freely opened to you, and, as is proved by your constant and orderly attendance, duly appreciated. The greatest number of you are artizans, and it is an object of pride and pleasure to you, and justly so, that a corps so composed should be in merit at the head of the Volunteers of the Empire.He (Mr. Baines) adduced these things, not to show the honour gained by a particular regiment, but to show that working men were enrolled among the defenders of their country, acquiring distinction in that character, and receiving every advantage for the improvement of their minds. Yet they were not allowed to vote for their representatives in that House; and he thought this was a state of things not unattended with danger. The country had been blessed with a period of unparalleled prosperity, but if ever a period of distress should arise claims would be made for a large admission to the franchise. He rejoiced, therefore, that the present measure had been brought in by the Government, though it did not go so far as he had wished. He had the utmost confidence in the purity of their motives, and that this Bill, if it should pass, would be attended with nothing but good. Hon. Gentlemen opposite need entertain no fears in regard to the preponderance of the working classes; for, according to the calculation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which was considerably in excess of the actual number, there would be about 120 seats in the United Kingdom in which the working classes would have a majority, and 538 in which they would be in a minority. The number of adult males belonging to the working classes in England and Wales was 4,000,000. The number of adult males belonging to the upper and middle classes was 1,300,000. Of the latter three out of four were placed upon the register, while of the 4,000,000 only one in twelve would be placed on the register under this Bill. Would any one say that was giving a preponderance to the 60 working classes? He was quite certain that in those cases where the working classes had a positive majority the influence of education and property would remain as great as ever it was. He felt bound to bear his personal testimony to the excellent character, the great merits, and the independence of the working classes living in houses between £7 and £10, and to their fitness for the exercise of the franchise. He should, therefore, give his cordial support to this Bill, which he regarded as an eminently safe, moderate, and constitutional measure.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said: I am per-fectly aware that we are drawing near to the close of this protracted and important debate. I will therefore state what I have to say upon the question before the House in the fewest possible words. I join most heartily in the tribute which has been paid by the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Baines) to the merits, the virtues, and the progress of the working classes. It would, Sir, indeed, be most singular if, as a county Member, one of the 160 Members of this House who endeavour to represent the majority of the working classes in this country, I should fail in appreciating those high qualities which I have seen tried and tested in periods not only of prosperity, but of adversity. Sir, I have seen the working classes under the temptations of violence; I have seen them tried when they might have been misled by the arguments and incitements, not only of what may be termed Radical, but Chartist orators; and, in my humble capacity, I do most heartily bear my unfeigned testimony to the merits, to the virtues, to the common sense, and, in many cases, to the acquirements of the working classes. But I should be doing an injustice to the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Baines), and I should be doing an injustice to the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Locke King) who sit3 behind him, if I failed to object to the Bill now before the House in the form in which it has been presented to the House, because I have voted against the mere reduction of the county franchise when it has been proposed by the hon. Member for East Surrey, and I have voted against the mere reduction of the borough franchise when it has been proposed by the hon. Member for Leeds. And, as I am one of those who are not ashamed of being consistent, I feel it my duty, as a matter of consistency, to give my vote for the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Chester (Earl Gros- 61 venor). There are other grounds for my taking this course which, with the permission of the House, I will shortly state. Before I do so, however, I wish to take this opportunity of expressing my sense of the conduct of the noble Lord the Member for Chester. Sir, the noble Lord's conduct on this occasion is well worthy of his high position, and will be remembered for many years to come. If this debate has been unusually protracted, why has it been so? Because we are debating a portion of a measure of Reform, the whole of which is not before the House. And I say, Sir, in the words of Mr. Fox—That the duty of this House is vigilance in preference to secrecy, and deliberation in preference to dispatch.When a Government comes to this House, and produces a measure which it calls a Bill for the Improvement of the Representation of the People, but which is, in fact, only a measure for the reduction of the franchise, justifiable, perhaps, in that respect, but imperfect nevertheless, inasmuch I as it does nothing to adapt the representation to the extension of the franchise they propose—when such a measure as this is submitted to the House without any explanation in the first instance, but merely thrust upon our attention, I take it that the noble Lord the Member for Chester is performing a duty which Mr. Burke described as—Not yielding to the fear of differing with the authority of leaders on the one hand, and of contradicting the desires of the multitude on the other, which induces them (Members of Parliament) to give a careless and facile assent to measures as to which they have never been consulted; and thus things proceed by a sort of activity of inertness until whole bodies, leaders, middlemen, and followers, are all hurried with every appearance and with many of the effects of unanimity into schemes of politics in the substance of which no two of them are fully agreed, and the origin and authors of which, in this circular mode of communication, none of them find it possible to trace.Now, Sir, I believe that the noble Lord has performed a great duty, and I have quoted the language of Mr. Burke in order that my tribute to him may not rest upon my humble authority alone, but on the authority of one of the greatest political thinkers that ever left the legacy of his inquiries to the people of England. In paying this tribute to the noble Lord, I may be permitted to add that the circumstances of to-night, when a relative of his has opposed the course which he has taken, must convince the House that he has not 62 yielded to any feelings but those which have respect to the public good; and that he has discarded every feeling of family connection as well as party ties in order to perform a duty which, I say, this House will hereafter appreciate more fully than perhaps it does at present. Sir, we have been relieved from all doubt as to the origin of the conduct of Her Majesty's Government. The hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) has informed us that six years ago he recommended the noble Lord at the head of the Government to adopt the course of proposing merely a reduction of the franchise without any re-distribution of seats; that is, without providing for the adaption of the representation to the increased constituencies, trusting that he would thereby obtain a lever by which the representation might subsequently be adapted to his views. Sir, I have a distinct objection to this course. Much has been said in the course of this debate of the vices and the clangers of democracy, in all of which I concur; but you may have all the vices and the dangers of democracy, by the undue aggregation of those who form a minority of the electors; and that is precisely what will ensue if this measure passes, and a dissolution of Parliament takes places. This House will be elected with exaggerated constituencies, and without a representation adapted to the aggregation of the voters which you are now asked to create. The distribution of seats would, in that case, be left to the discretion of a Parliament elected by a body confessedly not accommodated with a representation that would secure the due and proper expression of public opinion. I object to this measure, then, upon the same grounds that I objected to the Bills of the hon. Member for East Surrey, and to the Bills of the hon. Member for Leeds. I hold that, if the Reform Bill of 1832 deserved its name, the present Bill is not a Reform Bill at all. The effect and intention of the measure of 1832 was actually to raise the qualification for the franchise, by providing for the gradual extinction of the scot and lot voters, and providing also for the gradual extinction of the freemen. It absolutely raised the qualification; nevertheless it has been justly called a Reform Bill, because it so re-distributed the representation, that the will of the people could be adequately expressed through their representatives by that redistribution. Although I felt the force and the beauty of the speech addressed to 63 this House by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe); although I rejoice that one of the small boroughs has vindicated its claim to the long period of existence they have enjoyed by sending to this House a Gentleman who is capable of calling up to the memory of the House the nature of the Constitution under which this country has risen to its present greatness, as well as of showing us how fallacious are some of the views which militate against the basis of that Constitution; my position is different as representing a constituency—which was created in its present dimensions by the Act of 1832, and is intimately connected by representation with the town of Birmingham, which is from hour to hour increasing in population at the rate of six thousand a year; and seeing that, in the case of Birmingham, and in the case of North Warwickshire, the electoral body increases in a greater ratio than the population by a natural process—I feel it my duty to enter my protest, as I shall do by voting for the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Chester, against any measure which proposes to extend the franchise without adapting the representation to the extended franchise that it creates, without granting increased representation to populous districts such as that of which I share the representation, in which the constituencies are increased by a natural process, through which the working classes have already a large share by occupation in the boroughs, and in the counties by the acquirement of freeholds, which I rejoice to say have been greatly extended. And here I beg to remind the House that I objected to the Bill of Lord Derby's Government in 1859, because I could not consent to the inhabitants of Birmingham or other towns who might hold or acquire freeholds in those towns being deprived of the right of sharing in the election of the Members for North Warwickshire, one of whom it has been my privilege to be for so many years. But to state the main grounds of my objection to this measure, I must refer to the figures which have been presented to the House. In 1862 I moved for a Return showing the population, the property, the number of houses, and the allocation of seats in boroughs and counties at that time. Well, what is now the state of things in England and Wales which this measure does nothing to meet? I find that the population of the counties, according to the Returns laid before the House, with the view of 64 inducing the House to adopt this measure, is 11,427,655; that the gross estimated rental of the counties is £67,010,983; that the number of electors for the counties is 542,633, and yet that they are represented by only 162 Members in this House. On the other hand, I find, with regard to the boroughs, that they have a population of only 9,326,709; that the gross estimated rental of the property in boroughs is only £41,068,325; that the number of electors is 514,026; and that they are represented in this House by not less than 334 Members. This is the position of the population, the property, the number of electors, and the number of representatives in England and Wales. Now take the houses. I find that in the counties—that is, outside the boroughs—there are 2,290,061 houses, whilst in the boroughs there are only 1,449,444 houses. I must say, therefore, that I cannot consent to any Bill for the reduction of the franchise, that I cannot consent to any step in the direction of Reform until Her Majesty's Government give proof that it is their serious intention in some degree to mitigate this gross anomaly—an anomaly which exists neither in the representation of Scotland nor that of Ireland—an anomaly which is confined to England and Wales alone. Until, Sir, I have some proof that Her Majesty's Government will consider this gross anomaly, I cannot consent to any Bill which assumes to be, though this measure does not deserve the title of being, a Reform Bill. The hon. Member for Birmingham once said that the proposal which I made to consider this gross anomaly was a most democratic proposal. Sir, I have no insane fear of democracy; the basis of this House is democratic; but does my anxiety to consider this gross anomaly deserve to be called democratic? Lord Chatham was not a democratic Minister, yet he proposed to disfranchise largely, and to transfer 100 seats to the counties. In 1783, Mr. Pitt introduced a proposal for Reform; and what did it propose? To add considerably to the number of Members for the counties, and to abolish a number of small and corrupt constituencies. But does the House consider that the noble Lord at the head of the Government, that the late Lord Palmerston, that the late Sir James Graham, and that the late Lord Aberdeen were democratic statesmen? Yet, when Lord Aberdeen was at the head of a Government, in which were associated the noble Earl the 65 present Prime Minister, the late Sir James Graham, and the late Lord Palmerston—three of the statesmen who passed the Reform Act of 1832—and when in 1854 that Government proposed a Reform Bill, they proposed to deal with more than sixty seats, to transfer more than sixty seats; and so sensible were they of the anomaly I have pointed out, that they proposed to give not less than forty-six additional Members to the majority of the people in counties. And the House itself has acted in a certain degree upon the same principle. For of the seats which have been taken from disfranchised boroughs, three have been given to Yorkshire and Lancashire. Sir, I am quite willing to consider the question of a reduction of the franchise. I was in favour of the plan of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire, and of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University in 1859. I thought they were right in proposing that the franchise in the boroughs should be reduced to £8, and that in counties should be reduced to £20. I say, then, that I am ready to consider the question of a reduction of the franchise; but, as one of the few Members in this House who represent the majority of the people, I will consent to no Bill purporting to be a Reform Bill which does not in some degree remove this gross anomaly—that the majority of the people in England and Wales are represented by a number of Members in this House which, if you subtract from the 162 county Members those who would properly fall to the share of the urban voters for the counties, does not exceed 100, or less than one-sixth of the whole House. Sir, I repeat, and with this observation I conclude what I have to say, that I never will give my consent to any measure of Reform that does not propose in some degree to mitigate this gross auomaly.
§ MR. P. A. TAYLOR
said, they had had many eloquent speeches from hon. Members against this Bill—but none of them were addressed to the plain issue before them. The real question which they had to consider was whether the House of Commons was prepared or not to accept the principle of the extension of the suffrage by reduction of the qualification. Many hon. Members who professed to be Reformers at heart, made speeches in favour of the Amendment. But their speeches showed that while it was not difficult to "dissemble their love," they had besides very 66 little objection to "kick it down stairs." The cry was for a large and comprehensive measure. They professed that "their pain was great because the Bill was small," but before their speeches were ended they contrived to show that it would not be greater "were there none at all." The advocates of a re-distribution of seats might be divided into two classes. The actual Reformers who were in favour of a reduction of the franchise, but who advocated a Redistribution Bill as additional and supplemental to the good they expected from it, and those who were afraid of the reduction and advocated re-distribution as a check and counterpoise and diminution of the good which Reformers expected from it. There might, however, be a very few opponents of the Bill who were in favour of reduction if accompanied with a restrictive Re-distribution Bill; but their idea of reduction must be of an infinitesimal character, as they would even hesitate to support a measure so inadequate as a £7franchise. The noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn was the only Member who had avoided committing himself against Reform, and yet before the conclusion of his speech, there slipped out two or three sentences which showed that even he was afraid of the measure, for he used the enormous exaggeration that the transference of political power under this measure would be as great as it was under the Reform Bill of 1832. As an illustration of the real character of the opposition to this Bill he might refer to the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Galway, who professed to be an ardent Reformer, and a warm friend of the Government. He said if this Amendment had not been proposed, and he had been called upon to meet this Motion with a direct negative, he must have voted with the Government, and yet at the close of his speech he spoke of the utter hopelessness of passing a Re-distribution of Seats Bill. What was this, then, but a suggestion to Her Majesty's Government to tie this millstone of re-distribution round the neck of their Reform baby, and then throw it into the water to drown? Then the right hon. Member for North Staffordshire was in favour of Reform, hut he regarded the re-distribution as the keystone of Reform, and he did not leave it doubtful that his idea of re-distribution was more Members for the counties and increased power to the landed interest. Then the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire was indignant that he was not con- 67 sidered as a Reformer. Yet he lamented the loss of Lord Palmerston mainly because, as he said, Lord Palmerston would never have brought in a Reform Bill. The noble Lord the Member for Chester had told them that the Government having been deprived of their Leader, and having no other resources, were compelled to come to the Members below the gangway and purchase their support by a Radical measure of Reform. But he, as a humble Member of the Radical party, repudiated the idea of such a measure as this coming from the Radical party. He believed that if the settlement of the Reform Question had been left to hon. Members below the gangway they would not have brought forward any extreme measure such as the Bill for Universal Suffrage proposed by the Duke of Richmond in the year 1780; but they would have submitted to the House some such measure as that introduced by the late Lord Grey, and by Mr. Fox in the year 1797, for the establishment of Household Suffrage, or such a measure as that which the late Lord Durham and other Members of the Cabinet were ready to advocate in the year 1831. The fact was that upon the present occasion the Government had not gone over to that party which sat below the gangway; but that party had gone over to support the Government, because they found in them the first Ministry that was really honest and in earnest in dealing with the question of Reform, and were prepared to stand or fall by the success of their measure. It had been said that what we meant by an honest Bill was a one-sided Bill. It was so, but it was right-sided. That was to say, that as far as it went it was a good Bill and an honest Bill. It would really confer the franchise on a number of members of the working classes, and in that respect it differed from the measure proposed by the Government of Lord Derby, which took away with one hand somewhat surreptitiously what it gave with the other somewhat ostentatiously. He remembered that a late Member of the party opposite had explained to him the grounds on which he believed that the party below the gangway had made a mistake in not accepting the measure of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. He had said, "Do you not see that if that measure had become law we should have handed over the counties to the Tories, and the boroughs to the Radicals, and should have left the Whigs out in the cold." Now he (Mr. P. A. Taylor) thought his friends 68 were justified in repudiating a measure brought in for such party purposes, and he could not but think that such conduct on their part deserved from the Whig magnates better treatment than that shown by the Motion of the noble Lord the Member for Chester. But it might be asked whether that Bill would be a settlement of the question. Now that was a point on which it would be idle to attempt to give any absolute assurance. No Parliament could limit the action of its successors; and all that could be said upon that subject was that the more largely and liberally they extended the franchise the longer was their measure likely to endure. The working classes had received the proposal in a spirit that reflected the greatest honour on their prudence and intelligence. They knew that under the operation of the Bill the great majority of their body would still be excluded from the franchise, but they nevertheless supported it as an honest and well-meant proposal on the part of Her Majesty's Government. The Government ought, on the other hand, not to forget that political magnanimity. They ought to stand firmly and honourably by the measure; they ought not to allow any of its main provisions, such as the reduction of the borough franchise to £7, and of the county franchise to £14, or the abolition of the ratepaying clauses, to be struck out in Committee; but they ought to stand or fall by the substantial success of the proposal. And if the House showed itself so little the representative of the people as to reject the present measure, then the Government should appeal from a "Palmerston and Peace" Parliament to one of national and reforming instincts. In such a case they ought not to limit themselves to the provisions of the present Bill, which were not such as they themselves approved, as all that the people might fairly ask for, or that they might safely give, but were tendered in a spirit of conciliation to hon. Members opposite, and to avoid, if possible, the turmoil of a general election. But in the event of making their appeal to the country, if they were compelled to adopt that course, they ought to put forward a measure more in harmony with the popular feeling, and with the circumstances of the time; and if this were done, he ventured to promise them favouring gales that would carry the good ship Reform to her desired haven in safety.
MR. R. J. HARVEY
said, that as an independent Member he had pledged him- 69 self to his constituents that he would advocate any measure, come from whatever source it might, which he believed would be for the good of the country. And, therefore, although sitting on the opposite side of the House, he felt he should not be doing wrong in giving his support to the proposal of the Government. But he was aware that on whatever side of the House a Member might sit, he was expected to make an apology whenever he acted in opposition to the general opinion of his party; and he now begged to make that apology, while he claimed for himself a right to pursue upon that, and upon all other matters, a perfectly independent course. But the Bill itself he regarded as a mild and moderate measure, requiring some Amendments in Committee, but still upon the whole a Bill rather leaning towards Conservative ideas, and such a measure as that (the Opposition) side of the House was fairly committed to support. He was perfectly certain that if hon. Members succeeded in carrying the Amendment they would find on appealing to their constituents that by delaying the passing of Reform for a whole year, they had not increased their claims to confidence, and that the demand for Reform had meanwhile acquired far larger proportions. With these views—Conservative in their way—he begged to say that he should give his support to the second reading of the Bill, although in Committee there would be many clauses which he thought might with advantage be amended.
§ MR. W. E. DUNCOMBE
said, that the stress laid by all advocates of the Bill upon Parliamentary pledges in favour of Reform had been effectually removed by the argument, so constantly in the mouths of hon. Gentlemen opposite, that no Parliament had power to pledge its successors to any particular line of action. If any instance were needed of the fallacy of pledges it might be supplied from the career of the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself, who in the year 1853 committed Parliament to a declaration that the income tax should be abolished in 1860, and afterwards, having the power in his hands, not only failed to carry out that pledge, but actually induced the House to double the amount. It was urged as a reason why Reform measures should be divided now, that complete schemes of Reform had failed on former occasions. But surely Ministers had not rightly interpreted the experience of the past. Because these measures had 70 failed—because they did not receive the support either of Parliament or of the Country, was that a ground for raising the question once more, gratuitously, and in the most obnoxious form? The noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown told his supporters that it was not desirable that Constitutional changes should be frequietly made. How came he, then, to advocate a one-sided, half-measure, avowedly supported as a step to further changes? The hon. Member for Leeds had brought forward a Bill for the reduction of the borough franchise to £6 but that Bill was rejected because it was a partial, or, as it was called, a one-barrel measure, and yet Her Majesty's Government were at present submitting to Parliament another one-barrel Bill, although it was loaded with a somewhat heavier charge; and then, as if bent on self-destruction, they levelled it against their own breasts. He could not agree that it was an honest mea-sure, since it was impossible to estimate the full scope and extent of the reduction of the franchise till the scheme for the re-distribution of the seats was presented. He maintained that this Bill was one of the most dishonest measures he had ever met with. He now desired to refer to a branch of the subject which had as yet been only lightly dealt with in that House—the county franchise. To his astonishment, on a recent occasion the noble Earl at the head of the Government had said the Chan-dos clause in the Bill of 1832 had detracted much from the usefulness of that measure, and coupling that statement with the pro-position to reduce the county franchise to £14, and to bring in the urban voters in the shape of leaseholders and copyholders, it would appear that the noble Earl was anxious virtually to disfranchise that large, independent, influential, and intelligent class of men—namely, the tenant farmers of England. Until the measure of re-distribution was before the House, it was impossible to know the effect of this Bill on the county franchise. Hon. Gentlemen opposite spoke as though the representatives of the counties did not represent the working classes; but it was a curious fact that of the county constituency the £50 occupiers were but 22½ per cent, and that one-half of the remainder in all probability belonged to the working classes. The county constituencies, therefore, comprised a very large portion of the working classes. Notwithstanding what had fallen from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford 71 (Mr. W. E. Forster) on a former evening, he was informed that houses which ten years ago let at 2s. 6d. a week were now let for 4s. a week, which was £10 a year, and the better class of working men occupied them. The ordinary house rent of this class in Leeds and other large towns in the West Riding of Yorkshire was about £6 a year, and if the Bill now before the House, giving a £7 franchise to boroughs, were to be passed, nothing would be easier than to raise the rental of those houses £1, and in that way enormously increase the number of voters. Besides, the working classes were receiving higher wages than formerly, and work, he was glad to learn, was abundant in the West Riding; and thus the rent of £6 houses being increased to £7, the great mass of the working men of that district would be admitted to the franchise. The hon. Member for Bradford had told the House that it was very difficult to get the working classes to combine in trade unions, because they ran a great risk of being thrown out of employment, and in that way causing themselves and their families to suffer great privation. Supposing that to be the case, the formation of political unions would not present this difficulty, as it would not involve loss of employment to the men; and he had no doubt they would combine for political objects. The Government never would persuade that House or the country that in this matter they had not followed the advice of the hon. Member for Birmingham. That hon. Member, however distinguished his ability, was undoubtedly the great political agitator of the country, and during the whole of his career up to the present time, he had been labouring to set class against class. He had pursued one continued system of vituperation and hostility towards the landed aristocracy of this country; he had consistently lauded the institutions of America, and had never concealed his dislike of ours. Yet this Gentleman was the adviser and counsellor of Her Majesty's Government; and such a fact did not inspire him, nor did he imagine it would inspire Parliament and the country with a disposition to place reliance on Her Majesty's Ministers. As he believed that this measure was an attempt to change the Constitution of England—that Constitution which had lasted so long, had brought such prosperity and happiness to the people of this country, and had given them an amount of public liberty such as never had been enjoyed by 72 any other nation in the world—he should give his support to the Amendment.
MR. LOCKE KING
said, that having frequently addressed the House on an important branch of the subject, he thought it right to say a few words on this occasion. He could not help expressing his regret that the opposition to this Bill had originated from his side of the House; for, in spite of what had been said to the contrary, he was of opinion that the measure was an honest, a straightforward, and a moderate one. He regretted, therefore, that a noble Earl, having a name which was well remembered in that House, and so highly respected by the whole Liberal party as having been borne by a relative of the noble Earl, who had represented the great county of Middlesex, should have consented to play the game of hon. Gentlemen opposite. He thought it would have been better for the noble Earl, if instead of leading those hon. Gentlemen, he had allowed them to play their own game. It was a matter they must all regret to find that the noble Earl had been the means of causing what he must call a split to a small extent on the Ministerial side of the House. The Amendment was very cunningly worded—it was worded with the view of catching the support of a large number of the Liberals, but by accident—he said "accident" advisedly, for they had been told that no Tory had had anything to do with its composition—the whole of the party opposite, with two or three exceptions, were ready to vote for it. He had had a great deal to do, from time to time, with this franchise question, and he must say that of all the expedients made use of in connection with that question the present was the most extraordinary one ever resorted to. When he brought forward his County Franchise Bill every excuse and—if he might use the word—dodges of all descriptions had been made use of to put off the question; but he had little expected to find that those who from all their antecedents might be supposed to be against Reform should oppose this measure on the ground that it was confined to a simple extension of the franchise. He, who had opposed Bills which only went to an extension of the franchise, could not now come and say that he wanted a more comprehensive measure, and refuse to support this Bill on that ground alone. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford had entered into a long argument to show that this House 73 was not pledged to Parliamentary Reform. Now, he would not enter the lists with the right hon. Gentleman, who probably might throw him over in the argument. But he would venture to assert that it was solely in consequence of the introduction of his measure for the extension of the franchise in counties that the Reform Bills were introduced, and that it was solely in consequence of that measure that Lord Derby's Government proposed the reduction of the county franchise to £10. He deeply regretted that his right hon. Friend the Member for Calne should be opposed to the present measure. Every one must respect the talents of the right hon. Gentleman, and he must candidly confess that he entertained the greatest respect for the right. hon. Gentleman's views and his thoroughly Liberal opinions on every question, with the exception of this solitary one as to the extension of the franchise and Reform generally. There could not be the least chance that the right hon. Gentleman, with his enlightened views, would ever coalesce with hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, and he hoped they would not for one moment delude themselves with such an idea. He thought, however, that his right hon. Friend had scarcely done justice to himself. In 1854, being then a Member of Lord Aberdeen's Government, the right hon. Gentleman had been a party to a measure of Reform which proposed a £6 borough franchise. Again, if he mistook not, the right hon. Gentleman supported the Reform Bill which was brought in during Lord Palmerston's Government in 1860, which proposed a similar reduction of the franchise, and how could he now with any consistency object to the reduction of the borough franchise to £7 The right hon. Gentleman had swallowed the camel and was now straining at the gnat. Since he first proposed to lower the franchise in counties the question of Reform had had to contend with the greatest possible difficulties. The opinion of the country on the question was more advanced in 1850 than it was just previously to the introduction of the measure now under discussion. At the former period there were loud cries for Reform, and his own little measure for extending the county franchise was, on its first introduction, positively ridiculed and laughed at as being too limited in its scope. Since then there had been many obstacles to Reform. There was the dissolution of Parliament by Lord Derby's 74 Government in 1852; then the Crimean war created difficulties; and a further obstacle was created by Lord Derby's Reform Bill in 1859. Again, Lord Palmerston had been a great impediment to a settlement, and he might even say that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself had unwittingly been an obstacle to Reform; for, by effecting such great reductions in the taxation of the country, he had caused the people to be less eager for the lowering of the franchise. He thought, too, there was reason to complain of a Liberal Government in respect to the manner in which they had placed different men in office. For the chief objectors to Reform on that side of the House had been trained by Liberal Governments. As instances, he might mention the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud. In conclusion, the hon. Gentleman intimated his intention to support the Bill, and appealed to the other side of the House not to refuse to the working classes of England a boon to which they were justly entitled.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Mr. Speaker—Before I address myself to the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Chester, I would make one remark upon the reasons put forth for the introduction of the Government measure. They are two-fold—Parliamentary pledges and Ministerial promises: the first must be fulfilled; the second have been violated. Now, Sir, the House should be cautious in accepting some views upon this head of the subject which have been advanced in the course of this debate. They are touching on very dangerous ground. Hitherto the freedom of Parliament has been the boast of our predecessors. But the freedom of Parliament did not mean merely freedom of discussion or freedom from arrest; it meant, above all other privileges, liberty of legislation. When we hear of Parliament being pledged, are we, then, to understand that the conduct of a preceding Parliament is to deprive us of the enjoyment of the highest and most exalted of our functions? Why, Sir, in this country great authorities upon this subject have been so jealous of any attempt upon the liberty of legislation enjoyed by Parliament, that they have even maintained that with such a Constitution as that of England no such thing as a fundamental law can be recognized, and that such muniments must be sought for only in Imperial chanceries. 75 I would not myself maintain such a proposition without great reserve; but I think we shall agree in this—that no Parliament can be bound by the acts of its predecessors, except so far as they take the forms of law; and such forms Parliament has the power to revise. No doubt the conduct of preceding Parliaments is for our example and instruction; and we should indeed be indifferent to the highest sources of political wisdom, in a country so practical in its politics as England, if we disregarded the precedents furnished by those who have gone before us in this House. But, Sir, I hold it cannot for a moment be maintained that we can be at all estopped in our course by any result which a vote of a single House of Parliament—for that is all that is alleged—can effect. Our course is free. Then let us look to the plea that is founded on the conduct of public men. It may be possible that a statesman may have entered into rash engagements upon a subject of vital importance; but I think no one will for a moment maintain that Parliament is bound to pursue a course of which they disapprove, because a Minister has entered into engagements which are precipitate. Such conduct on the part of a public man may be a very good reason for his leaving the public service or retiring from public life, but it never can be a ground for his appealing to the country to support him, for the sake of his honour and consistency, in a course which Parliament may deem to be unwise and inexpedient. I think there is only one ground on which he can rely for the support of Parliament, and that is that he has a policy which they believe is wise and expedient, and that he submits to their consideration a measure proposing means adequate to accomplish the object in view.
But, Sir, I will take the question out of the region of abstraction, in which, for convenience of argument, I have for a moment considered it. Is this Parliament pledged to deal with the subject of Parliamentary Reform? If ever there was a Parliament less pledged than any other to deal with the subject, it must be the present Parliament. It has been announced to us—or I would not have alluded to the fact—that before the dissolution of the late Parliament a Cabinet Council was held to consider the subject and to decide upon the course which the Ministry should pursue. We know that the chief organ of the Government in this House (Sir George 76 Grey), in the absence of the Prime Minister, informed us what the decision was at which the Cabinet had arrived on this subject. He told us that they had come to the conclusion that they would not go to the country on the question of Reform or in any way pledge themselves on that matter. We know that, under these circumstances, the Chief Minister issued an address to his constituents—which in this country is looked upon as the programme or manifesto of a political party—immediately afterwards, and that in that address even the word "Reform" did not appear. We know also that when the new Parliament assembled the Government, with great discretion, did not in the Address from the Crown call upon us for any expression of opinion on the question. Papers were promised, and it was announced that when those papers were produced the views of the Government would be laid before us. So far, therefore, as the present Parliament is concerned, every hon. Member will, I think, concur with me in saying that on both sides of the House we were perfectly free to act upon this subject in accordance with those convictions which should guide us to take whatever course we deemed to be best for the country.
Let us now see whether existing statesmen have broken their promises in reference to this question. The charge of having done so is a serious one, and it was made by a high authority, the noble Lord the Secretary for War (the Marquess of Hartington), who represents, as he informed us on one memorable occasion, just after he had entered public life, the educated portion of the Liberal party. He ought, therefore, to be cautious in speaking of broken promises in the case of persons among whom figures chiefly his own leader. But it becomes my duty to vindicate on this occasion, as I have done before, the conduct of Lord John Russell, and that I am prepared to do. Lord John Russell thought fit in 1852, for reasons to which the hon. Gentleman opposite has just referred, and to which I shall advert in due time, to introduce a Reform Bill. That Bill was in itself a very good one; it is indeed probable that a long time will elapse before we again see so good a measure. It had only one fault, and that was that nobody wanted it. Years elapsed, but Lord John Russell did not relinquish his policy. In 1859 he had an opportunity of asserting that policy, and, having in- 77 duced his party to support him, succeeded in effecting a change in the Government. He then became a leading Member of a Ministry which was pledged to introduce a Reform Bill. Did he break that pledge? No. He brought in a Reform Bill, and does any one, I would ask, doubt the sincerity of Lord John Russell with respect to that measure throughout? I need not allude to the emotion which he evinced when he withdrew the Bill. I saw in that emotion nothing to provoke the derision in which his conduct was spoken of by those who professed most to sympathize with him. But what I want to know is, where are those violated promises to be found? Lord John Russell felt some emotion when he withdrew his Bill—that is on record; but the circumstances led to the withdrawal of something more important than the Bill, for it clearly led to the withdrawal of Lord John Russell from this House. He therefore fulfilled his promises, and fulfilled them at a great sacrifice. So far as he was concerned, then, the charge of broken pledges on the part of public men in connection with this question has no foundation. Lord John Russell may, I think, be looked upon as a fair representative of the Whig party, and I may take it for granted that they, too, were not justly open to this charge. No pledge, therefore, has been broken by them. Lord John Russell left this House; and the only time when he afterwards expressed an opinion on the subject of Reform was when he recommended to the country a state of tranquil contentment. This Parliament, then, and the Whig-party as represented by Lord Russell, have broken no vows on the subject. How, then, stands the case with respect to another statesman who represents the Conservative party? Lord Derby was sent for by the Queen in 1858. There was in this House a majority against the friends of Lord Derby of more than 140; and under these circumstances Lord Derby thought it his duty to decline the honour which Her Majesty was pleased to offer him. But he gave a reason to Her Majesty, and that was, not only that he was in a great minority in the House of Commons, but that such was the position of the Parliamentary Reform question that he felt conscious that the minute he took office that question would be brought forward and he would be put in a minority. The House is aware that, after delibera- 78 tion, Her Majesty felt it her duty again to appeal to Lord Derby, and if the majority against him in the House of Commons had been 240, instead of 140, it would have been impossible for Lord Derby to refuse to obey Her Majesty's wishes. But that happened which he had anticipated. I do not think that we had been six weeks in office before the question of Reform was brought forward by the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Locke King), and we were placed in a minority. What was the course to pursue under these circumstances? It was quite impossible for Lord Derby to retire from office. The discord in the Liberal party which caused the break up of their Government still prevailed. It was absolutely necessary, therefore, for Lord Derby to consider his position. He did not consider it. He felt it his duty to deal with the question of Parliamentary Reform. He introduced a Bill on the subject, and he staked his administration on its fate. The measure was defeated, the Government ultimately resigned, but Lord Derby fulfilled his pledge, and at a sacrifice which proved his sincerity.
I now come to the real reason why Lord Russell in 1852 and Lord Derby in 1859 brought forward Reform Bills; and in reference to this matter an accurate recollection of facts is most necessary. If there was any subject of which a man was a master, Lord Russell was master of Parliamentary Reform. It was to him what currency was to Sir Robert Peel. No man knows its points more completely, or is more fully acquainted with all the bearings of the case, than the noble Lord. Lord Russell and Lord Derby are the only two existing statesmen who were concerned in passing the great Reform Bill of 1832, and it is well known that to their youthful energies the success of that measure was greatly, if not entirely, to be attributed. Therefore, neither of them could view the subject with any of that besotted prejudice which is imputed so frequently to both of those statesmen by differing sections of politicians. Lord Russell was naturally satisfied with the settlement of 1832, and he resisted all attempts, year after year, for general and comprehensive changes in our representative system; on the principle of finality he always successfully resisted them. But, having resisted them successfully, a new school of Reformers arose—piecemeal Reformers, or bit-by-bit Reformers—not an elegant, but a Parliamentary expression. These met with a different success. Persons 79 called moderate—generally men who do not take the trouble of thinking for themselves—took it into their head that bit-by-bit Reform was a harmless thing; that it could not do much harm, and might give a little satisfaction. But Lord Russell, knowing that the distribution of power is the real point, and that the interests of England depend on the whole question always being considered, and that if you deal with a single franchise for example, which moderate men might consider an affair of no great importance, and did not deal with other parts of the question, you might effect a complete change in the British Constitution felt in 1852, when pressed by piecemeal Reformers, that the only way to prevent them from proceeding was to devise a large and general measure of Reform, by which he might baffle their endeavours. You know the result. He went out of office. Lord Derby, too, was beaten by the piecemeal Reformers, and therefore he was obliged to resign, or to submit the question himself to Parliament, and so baffle the efforts of the piecemeal Reformers. Both Lord Russell and Lord Derby were influenced by the same cause, and had the same object. But the most singular thing is—and to this I call the attention of the House—Lord Russell is again Minister, and we have him now introducing a measure of piecemeal Reform.
Well, Sir, I have shown that Parliament has not been pledged on this subject, and I think I have shown that there have been no broken vows of the great parties in the State, as represented by their chief men, Lord Russell and Lord Derby. What, then, is the origin of this £7 franchise Bill? The origin of it is this—that some eighteen or nineteen months ago the Chancellor of the Exchequer came down to the House one fine summer morning appropriated to one of those dreary debates on the £6 franchise to which we all look back with a feeling of horror—made a most remarkable speech, in which he established the franchise on the rights of man, and at the same time announced his conviction that the working classes of the country, on whom he delivered a high panegyric, possessed no share, or only an infinitesimal share, of that franchise; the inevitable consequence being that a large measure should be brought forward, as an approximation to the rights of man, to confer the suffrage on the working classes. That speech was received with enthusiasm by a party in this House—not a numerous party, but repre- 80 sented by great talent—in one individual by commanding talent—while among his followers are men of activity, intelligence, and experience in organization. They have also a party in the country, not a contemptible party, though I think not a predominant party; and from that moment this party has been at work—working on the declaration of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; checked for a moment by the prudence of Lord Palmerston; but the moment he left us, instantly a new character was given to the Administration, and the consequence has been the measure we have now before us—a measure of piecemeal Reform; and I oppose it at once as a measure of piecemeal Reform, and support the Amendment of the noble Lord to which I am now going almost strictly to confine myself.
Sir, my great objection to the measure of the Government is this—that though others may, I cannot really understand it—I cannot calculate its consequences—I cannot fathom what may be the result of its provisions, unless I have those further measures upon the subject which are promised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But if I do consider the measure without reference to those further measures, I think I can show to the House that it must land us in a condition of such confusion, I believe little contemplated by the great body of the Ministers and of those who support them on this occasion, that I verily declare—and I will give the proofs why I have arrived at that conclusion—if this Bill pass and it should be the duty of Ministers to advise Her Majesty to recur to the sense of Her people—I do verily believe they would have to hold an autumn Session in order to revise and modify this Bill before really they could dissolve Parliament. I propose to show, in the first instance, the inconsistency, the inconvenience, the immense injury that may be produced by this Bill if it passes alone, and in the sense in which it is given us as a complete measure—for it was introduced as a complete measure, and as such we are asked to-night to give our assent to its principle. I do not think I can put it in a more convenient manner than by referring to the county franchise. I never have been a stickler for a contracted or exclusive county franchise. My opinions on the subject were taken from my earliest political friend, who preceded me in the representation of the county, and who was the author of the Chandos clause. I am satis- 81 fied that the principle of that clause was a right principle. It was supported by Mr. Hume and the leaders of the Liberal party. It was opposed by Lord Althorp upon what I cannot but conceive in the days in which we live an old-fashioned notion—namely, that you should confine your suffrage in counties entirely to the proprietor, and the suffrage in boroughs entirely to the occupier. But at a time when, in l832, you were ostentatiously and avowedly, and very properly, giving a large share in the government of the country to the middle classes, it was most monstrous and inconsistent that the most important section of the middle classes—I say most important because the largest employers of labour—the farmers of England, should have no share in the suffrage. Therefore, I think the measure proposed by Lord Chandos was a wise and proper measure. The Bill now before us proposes a very considerable reduction of the occupation franchise in counties. Now I want to show the House how that will act if this Bill which is brought in as an incomplete Bill is passed. And I would do that first, by showing the effect upon the proposed franchise in counties of the population of the Parliamentary boroughs. The House, perhaps, has not realized, as it ought to do, the increase in the population of the Parliamentary boroughs since the Act of 1832. It is very large. It is larger than the population of several European kingdoms. The increase of population in the Parliamentary boroughs is considerably over 4,000,000, and the greater part of it is located without the boundaries of those boroughs. I know it may be said that a considerable proportion of this increase is supplied by the metropolitan districts. I think it is likely that the greater part of the increase in the metropolitan districts may be comprised within the Parliamentary boroughs; although I have no doubt that the increase of the population in the metropolitan boroughs has materially affected the contiguous counties of Essex, Surrey, and Kent. But I think it will lead to more precise results if we deduct the population in the metropolitan districts; and then there will be an increase of upwards of 3,000,000 in the population of the Parliamentary boroughs, much the greater part of which is located without the boundaries. I do not know that I could give a happier instance of this than the borough from which I presented a petition to-day—the borough which the Chancellor of the Exchequer referred to in his opening speech 82 as a conclusive proof of the unsatisfactory position occupied by the working class in respect to the suffrage—the borough which was made the subject of comment in the admirable speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire (Sir E. Bulwer Lytton), and which also was made by the hon. Member for Birmingham the other night, the main ground upon which he urged the necessity of this Bill—I mean Rochdale. I admit that when you recall the general character of the artizans of Rochdale—a most flourishing part of the country—when you recall the high reputation they enjoy for some of the greatest virtues which men in their position can exhibit, and when you observe the nominal share of votes which they appear from the papers before us to possess in the constituency of their own borough, the case is very striking. But, Sir, when I come to examine the question, I find that the population of Rochdale without the Parliamentary borough is larger than the population within the boundary. The boundary of the borough of Rochdale happens to be peculiarly limited. There is only a radius of three-quarters of a mile from a central point, and beyond that radius the population spreads over seven valleys in a remarkable manner. It considerably exceeds the population of the town, and the great body of the workmen live in that part of Rochdale which is beyond the Parliamentary boundary. I observe that the mills belonging to the family of the hon. Member for Birmingham, and among the most distinguished establishments of that kind in the country, are all without the Parliamentary borough. They employ at this moment about 1,000 hands; and I believe those hands, almost without exception, live outside the boundary. [Mr. BRIGHT: No; the great bulk of them live within the borough.] Well, I have the names of most of them before me. But I will not now pursue this point with reference to the borough franchise, because that is of little importance to my present argument; but with reference to the county franchise it is a matter of much importance. Here is a population of 40,000, 50,000, or even 60,000 without the boundary of the borough of Rochdale; and this is the population which is to produce the county voters under this Bill. Remember that they will have only to live in £6 houses. If a man has a £6 house there—and a £14 house is, I believe, not a rare thing in that part of the world—but if he 83 has a £6 house, with an accommodation field of £8 annual value, he may he a county voter. No one would object to such persons having the suffrage; but is it not proper and just that they should vote where their capital exists and their industry is exercised? In the community of which they are members, and to which they are bound by every political and social tie? Ought they not to be electors of Rochdale, and ought they to be electors for Yorkshire or Lancashire? That is the question, and I put it to every candid man whether this is a state of things that ought to be allowed to exist? I believe the hon. Member for Birmingham was once Member for Rochdale—[Mr. BRIGHT: No !]; at all events he may be, or some of his friends—and I put it to him what he would say if, at three o'clock, when he was not much ahead on the poll, and was a little anxious, a stalwart body of Yorkshire or Lancashire farmers were to ride into the town, and, on the faith of some old-fashioned franchise, should give their votes in Rochdale borough, instead of voting for the county. Why, we should soon hear, I am sure, from the hon. Member, a new argument for Parliamentary Reform, to put an end to such injustice. Well, now, all the boroughs of the North, as a general rule, are in this condition; the boroughs of the two Lancashires, the boroughs of the West Riding, the boroughs of the county of Durham, the boroughs of Cheshire, are all in the same condition. It is not easy to get precise information upon this subject before the House, because we have not authentic Returns—but then that is the very thing of which I complain; but we have it every now and then in our power to illustrate the case. Now, I will take the case of the town of Halifax. The population within the Parliamentary borough of Halifax is 38,000; but there is, fortunately, a more recent political creation than the Parliamentary borough—there is the municipal borough—and we have a Return of the boundary of the municipal borough of Halifax, and of the population contained in it. The population within the Parliamentary boundary is, as I have said, 38,000; but the population within the municipal boundary is 60,000. It is this difference of 22,000 which is to feed the county constituency; and I want to know, is that a state of affairs which is to be tolerated when you have before you a scheme of Parliamentary Reform, which 84 certainly a fortnight ago was not a complete and conclusive one? But, Sir this is not peculiar to the North, I will take the borough which the hon. Gentleman certainly represents, the borough of Birmingham; and what is the state of affairs there? Why, much more monstrous even than in Rochdale, and most of the northern towns. The population beyond the Parliamentary boundary in Birmingham—and, mind you, when I say beyond the boundary, you would not if you were walking about the streets see the line of demarcation with respect to that boundary; it is like London and Westminster, a homogeneous community, having the same feelings and the same interests—the population beyond the Parliamentary boundary is immense. In the suburb of Aston alone, according to a statement which I have here from a person whose word cannot be questioned, and who has every opportunity of knowing the facts—in the suburb of Aston alone there are 2,000 persons who could qualify under a £10 franchise, but who do not vote for the borough of Birmingham, which they ought to vote for; but 1,400 of these will, he says, immediately qualify under this Bill, if it passes, as county voters. Now, I ask again, is this a state of affairs which ought to be permitted? If you pass this Bill with all these anomalies left unremedied, what, I ask, will be the condition of the county constituencies; I take it for granted—there may be individuals in this House who think otherwise, but I will not dwell upon their eccentric opinions—I take it for granted that the great body of the Members of the House of Commons wish to maintain the legitimate influence of the landed interest of England, as being one of the best securities, certainly, for public liberty, and the only security for our local government. I take it for granted, I say, that is the feeling of both sides of the House. Why, then, should you make these great changes, and make them in this imperfect manner, instead of having before you, as this Amendment asks you to have, a complete scheme? Well, Sir, I know it will be said by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, while he admits this condition of affairs, and that it ought to be remedied, that Lord Derby did not bring forward a Boundaries Bill. Well, now, in the first place, that is not an argument; it is only a captious remark. If there is a great evil, and if I have shown that there is a great evil, it is not the slightest argu- 85 ment on the part of the right hon. Gentleman to say that Lord Derby, when placed in a similar position, did not remedy it. If, indeed, the Cabinet take Lord Derby as their model, if they avow that their Government is established on the principle of imitating Lord Derby, then there would be something in the remark of the right hon. Gentleman. But that is not the case, and therefore, I say that it is no argument whatever. But is it true, on the other hand, that Lord Derby neglected this question? Is it not true that Lord Derby, when I, on his part, introduced into this House a former Reform Bill, wished that the very day the Bill passed there should have been a compulsory revision of all the boundaries of Parliamentary boroughs? Was not that plan of Reform combined with an arrangement which would have rendered such a revision morally certain to have taken place immediately? The great difficulty of passing a Boundary Bill was this:—Hon. Members recollect, or have heard, that when the Reform Bill of 1832 passed the question of settling the boundaries of the Parliamentary boroughs was the source of contention, of misrepresentation, of imputations of injustice and corruption. At that time the Boundary Commissioners were appointed by Government; but Lord Derby by his Bill, profiting by his experience, took the power of appointment from the Government and placed it in the hands of the Inclosure Commissioners. The late Mr. Ellice, who was a great partisan and greatly admired our Bill, though he voted against it, said that that portion of Lord Derby's Bill was perfect—that we had solved a great difficulty, and he defied any one to make a party question out of decisions of the Inclosure Commissioners—in fact, the plan met with general approval. But now nothing is done—nothing is even promised to be done—upon this subject. I ask the House to consider the effect which this immense population spread around the Parliamentary boroughs will have upon the county constituencies if some measure to regulate the borough boundaries is not brought in by the Ministry? What will be the effect if those who will be enfranchised by the Bill are admitted to the county constituencies having no sympathy with the county constituencies whatever? I do not pretend that there is any political principle in the figure £50 in the counties any more than there is in the figure £10 in the boroughs. The only ad- 86 vantage I see in those figures is that some degree of prescription has gathered round them. And as it has been determined to disturb the settlement of 1832, I am quite prepared to consider the revision of the county franchise. But I say there is a principle in the county franchise when you deal with it, and it is this—the franchise must be a county franchise. It must be a suffrage exercised by those who have a natural relation to the chief property and to the chief industry of the county. Those who are to exercise it ought to be members of the same community, and not strangers whose thoughts, feelings, interests, capital, and labour are employed and occupied in another place. That is the principle I contend for.
Now, having shown what will be the effect upon county constituencies of admitting the thousands—perhaps the hundreds of thousands—who are to be enfranchised by this Bill into those constituencies, I will ask the House for a moment to consider what will be the effect upon the county constituencies of the admission into them of the population of those boroughs which are not Parliamentary boroughs. This is the next step in considering the effect of this Bill upon the county constituencies. The House knows very well that in almost every county in England there are towns whose population exceeds 5,000 which are not represented. Many of these are rural towns, and have a keen interest in the property and industry of the counties in which they are situate; and the admission of the population of these towns into the county constituencies would not make much difference, as they would have a community of interest and of feeling with the counties, and would doubtless vote for those men who would best represent the interests of the county. But in cases where large towns have sprung into sudden population in consequence of some particular and distinctive industry what would be the effect of permitting the population of such towns suddenly to exercise the franchise of the county, in which they have only a limited interest? Why, such a change must of necessity lead to the great inconvenience and injustice, and must sensibly operate in reducing the legitimate power—for we ask no more—of the landed interest. In the Bill of 1859, referred to by the hon. Member for Birmingham the other night, there was an allotment of seats of which he spoke with some contempt, 87 although he was obliged to admit that it was of such a character that there was not a single unrepresented town of 20,000 inhabitants, and scarcely one of 15,000, not provided for, and that the effect of admitting the population of the unrepresented towns into the county franchise was proportionately relieved. As to the effect of the unrepresented towns by the reduction of the franchise on the county constituencies the answer of Government now, no doubt, will be, "Wait until you see our Bill for the Redistribution of Seats." My first and principal reply to that would be, "If we consent to the second reading of this Bill to-night, what security have we that the subsequent measures which the Amendment calls for, and which we all know to be absolutely necessary for the proper understanding of this Bill, will be passed?" No speech that we have heard has met that argument. Even the new device, the pari passu device, which we have heard of to-night, does not in the slightest degree meet it, because by one step you may pass this measure; and by another step you may throw out the other. You may pass the Franchise Bill on Monday, and on Thursday the Seats Bill may be thrown out.
But I will not insist upon this primary objection, because it has been treated so amply; but it was necessary to my argument that I should refer to it. But there are other considerations which appear to me to be worthy of the grave attention of the House. The Government say, "We are going to produce a Seats Bill which will meet all these objections with reference to the population of the unrepresented towns by giving them Members." But what are you going to do for the counties? When you pursue that subject you will find that if you proceed with this Bill without having the scheme of the Government with regard to the distribution of seats before you it will be impossible for you, as I will prove, to come to any sensible and satisfactory decision of the amount of what your county franchise should be. It is absolutely necessary that the House should carry in their mind—I have no doubt they have it—the comparative claim to representation of the counties and the boroughs. I am sure the House will recollect it. It is in round numbers 9,350,000, the population of the boroughs, against 11,400,000, the population of the counties; 514,000 electors in the boroughs, against 501,000 electors of coun- 88 ties; and £33,000,000 of rateable property in boroughs, against £60,000,000 in counties. But the House must bear in mind—I will put it before them very briefly—the most pertinent and pregnant calculation which I think on a subject of this kind ever was made. I propose that the House should for a moment consider this proposition—to transfer to counties the representation of all boroughs under 500 electors. Let us see what that is. There are 87 seats, and see what the result would be. Transfer to counties all boroughs under 500 electors, being 87 seats. It would be necessary, of course, to deduct this population from the boroughs and add it to the counties. The population of boroughs would then be a little under 9,000,000, and the population of counties a little under 12,000,000. The electors of the boroughs would be 492,000 against 523,000 electors of the counties. The rateable value of the boroughs would be about £34,000,000, and the rateable value of the counties would be £59,500,000. None of these great quantities would be much affected; but, instead of the boroughs having 334 Members and the counties 162 Members, the boroughs would have 247 Members, and the counties 249. It is necessary that the House should bear in mind this striking and singular instance of inequality in the relative representation of counties and boroughs. Well, then, under those circumstances, I address to the Government these questions: What are you going to do for the counties? You are going to increase the representation of the boroughs, and are going, we will say, to transfer the representation of some of the small boroughs to larger boroughs, and thus so far to relieve the county constituencies from the possible danger of being to a great extent absorbed by the population of these towns; but, at the same time, what are you going to do for the counties? Are you, in the first instance, going to add some Members to the counties as well as to the large towns? Or are you going to add a great many Members to counties and some to large towns? On what principle are you going to act? Are you going to establish plurality of representation while you shrink from granting plurality of voting to the constituent body? Are Members to come here to represent numbers and not opinions? I ask these questions because upon your determination respecting them our decision with reference to the amount 89 of the county franchise entirely depends. Or have you found, as others have found before you, and as I have no doubt Lord Russell, in the course of his numerous studies and experiments, has discovered, that this would be a plan extremely inconvenient, if not impossible? It would not faithfully represent the country. Would you, therefore, have recourse to a system of further division of counties, and, perhaps, of the great boroughs and cities? We want your decision on these points, because upon your determination depends the judgment we can arrive at as to the amount of the county franchise. I will give you an instance in point—that of the county of Middlesex. The inhabitants of one portion of Middlesex are strictly rural, and the remaining portion are composed of a flourishing suburban residency. The county is not large, but is very populous, of great wealth, and possesses a very large constituency. If you give Middlesex four Members, the £14 franchise will return to this House four suburban representatives. If, however, you divide the county, and give two to the rural and two to the suburban districts, the £14 franchise may give two capital rural and two excellent suburban representatives. I therefore maintain that until we have the whole scheme before us it is absolutely impossible for us to arrive at any conclusion as to the amount of the county franchise. What, therefore, can be more rational than the Amendment proposed by the noble Lord? There have been rumours and even Ministerial statements concerning further measures—let us then have them all, for while we are without them we cannot arrive at any decision upon the subject. I cannot conceive what answer can be urged against the claim which I now make, speaking strictly, to the Amendment of the noble Lord. We have a right to ask the Government, generally speaking, what is the plan on which they mean to proceed with regard to the distribution of seats? At present, not a word has yet been said on the subject by the Government; but those who have avowedly a very great influence with the Government have made speeches and written on the subject, and if we are to take those speeches as intimations of what the Government intends to do, to my mind the course they are going to pursue is most unjust and injurious to the landed interest—that is to say, to England, because I say the legitimate interest of the land is the interest of England. Nothing can be more simple than the distribution of scats, 90 according to the last statement with which we have been favoured. I have always regarded the distribution of seats as one of the deepest, and most difficult subjects with which a statesman can have to deal. The general principles which he accepts for his guidance must be applied with great forbearance, with much regard to the various circumstances, and, as every man who has had anything to do with the subject knows, with as much temper as knowledge of the complicated interests. But these do not appear to be the opinions of those who would seem to exercise a directing influence in the decision of the Government upon this question. The last scheme to which I listened was propounded a few weeks ago before the commencement of the debate. That scheme is the simplest in the world. In the North of England we will say there is a flourishing borough containing 100,000 or 200,000 in habitants, and doing what is called a roaring trade. Well, it sends two Members to this House. On the other hand, there is a borough in the South of England with a small population—say of 5,000—of no great importance, merely a country market, which also sends two Members to Parliament. Now, can anything be more anomalous than that this great borough in the North, with its large population, teeming and increasing, should be represented in the House of Commons by only two Members, while this unknown place, which nobody has ever seen, should be represented by an equal number? It is indefensible, it is unjustifiable, and, if I were in the music-hall of Birmingham, and contrasted these two boroughs, it would not be difficult for mo to produce a great effect. Nothing so easy as to disfranchise such a borough in the South of England. Yes; but the moment you do so a new issue arises. The issue is no longer between the borough in the North and the borough in the South, but between the borough in the North and the district in the South, exceeding, perhaps, the northern borough both in population and property, and which is yet but very imperfectly and inadequately represented. Well, let me take another example—for examples are always better than arguments. I will take West Kent, the population of which at this moment is about 500,000. It has several flourishing boroughs and towns with an aggregate population which exceeds 100,000. They are represented by eight Members, 91 and the county of Kent by only two—capital Members, I admit; we have none better, but still only two. Well, a borough in the South of England is to be disfranchised, and its Members are to be given to a borough in the North, because it has a large population. But West Kent is a very wealthy, progressive, and proud county, and will naturally say, "If we are to have our borough disfranchised give more representatives to the county of Kent." Therefore, Sir, it is not such a simple issue, this distribution of seats, as those who are in favour of these sweeping changes allege; and I think the case I have put is perfectly unanswerable—it is not to be answered, at all events, by a statement which I read by a Member of this House at a public meeting the other day to this effect, that the superiority of the property and population of the North would no longer admit the system which now prevails. Now, I think it most unwise to have these constant comparisons between the North and the South. It is as bad as the Americans, and, if pursued, may lead, as Mr. Canning said, to the revival of the Heptarchy. I do not want to make such comparisons; but this I will say, whatever you do with your representation, if you be wise statesmen, you will take care that the representation on the whole shall be distributed over the country. But, notwithstanding all the statements that are made—notwithstanding this rantipole rhetoric—it is not true that the North of England is superior in population or property to the South. Take the traditional and acknowledged boundary line, the River Trent, and you will find that the population and property of the South are equal—nay, superior to the population and property of the North. And therefore those statements have nothing to do with the real issue; they do not touch it. I know the answer to that. The answer is that, fortunately for the South, the metropolis is there. [Mr. Bright: Hear, hear!] The hon. Gentleman says "hear, hear;" well, but is there any reason why the intelligence, the population, and the property of the metropolis should not prefer a claim before these new boroughs? Are they to be neglected? Suppose I was to say to the hon. Member for Birmingham, who cheers me—"You are always boasting of the great preponderance of population, property, and industry in the North of England; but if you take away the West Riding and South Lanca- 92 shire, you would not count for much." What would the hon. Gentleman say to that? He would not allow it. [Mr. BRIGHT: Hear, hear!] You agree, therefore, that the North is not superior to the South, and therefore that system of disfranchising boroughs in the South in order to enfranchise great towns in the North cannot stand for a moment. The problem is a difficult one, and must be approached with much calmer and more philosophic views.
Now, I have not the slightest doubt to what all these fine measures would lead. I have never believed that they would end in the destruction of the country. I have too much confidence in the country for that. I think there are sense and creative spirit enough in this country to form a Government. But what I think is that they will end in the destruction of Parliament, You may get rid of the House of Commons—I hope you will not destroy England. Now, suppose the present Government make up their minds—as for aught I know they have made up their minds to do—to meet the question on a great scale, and astonish the House with a great scheme founded on their own statistics. Suppose they say, "We are prepared to disfranchise eighty-seven boroughs which have not 500 electors. We cannot give them entirely to the land; it is not practicable. But we will endeavour to approach a fair balance in the Constitution, and will as far as possible represent population and property blended, and at the same time we will every now and then allot for representation some distinctive interest. "Suppose they do that, what would be the consequence? If the House will permit me I will tell them. This will probably occur first. I do not suppose you would have, as some think, a Parliament which would not have the confidence of the country. If you had electoral districts to-morrow you would have a very great Parliament, for the character of individuals and the representation of great interests command public respect in England. You would have every great landowner in this House, every great manufacturer, and some merchants. But in a short time you would find that you did not have that hold over the Executive which you had under the old system. The want of diversity of elements in this House would cause that. In proportion as your command over the Executive fades, your great proprietors and your great manufacturers will cease to belong to the House of which the influence and importance pro- 93 portionately diminish. Then the story will be that the House of Commons is not what it was. So you will extend the franchise again, and you may go to manhood or universal suffrage, but you will not advance your case. You will have a Parliament then that will entirely lose its command over the Executive, and it will meet with less consideration and possess less influence; because the moment you have universal suffrage it always happens that the man who elects despises the elected. He says, "I am as good as he is, and although I sent him to Parliament, I have not a better opinion of him than I have of myself." Then, when the House of Commons is entirely without command over the Executive, it will fall into the case of those Continental popular assemblies which we have seen rise up and disappear in our own days. There will be no charm of tradition; no prescriptive spell; no families of historic lineage; none of those great estates round which men rally when liberty is assailed; no stateman ship, no eloquence, no learning, no genius. Instead of these, you will have a horde of selfish and obscure mediocrities, incapable of anything but mischief, and that mischief devised and regulated by the raging demagogue of the hour.
Well, Sir, I think I have shown there is some reason in viewing the county franchise under the two heads—the influence, if we agree to this reduction, of the population in the Parliamentary boroughs, and the influence upon it of the population of the non-Parliamentary boroughs; and I think I have shown to the House that it is quite impossible for us to form any opinion as to the expediency of the change they propose, and of the appropriateness of the sum which they fix for the amount of the county franchise, unless we have before us further information. And what is the Amendment of the noble Lord but a request for that further information? What surprises me most is that the Amendment should have been resisted—or, I may say, that it should have been permitted to exist. Why should it not have been anticipated? I cannot understand, when such expressions of opinion were given in this House on the introduction of the Bill, why the Government should not have felt it had taken a false step. It is unfair to say that the Opposition was the cause of the Government taking this limited move. That is not only unfair and ungenerous, but I may 94 say it is not a well-founded charge, be-cause it is upon record that the measure of Lord Russell in 1860, although we disapproved many of its provisions, was permitted to be read a second time. That was so because it was a complete measure, and therefore the Opposition are not open to the charge; and I never can understand why the Chancellor of the Exchequer should have taken the view which he has of this case, and that he should have repeated with so much bitterness the Amendment of the noble Lord. It appears to me to be a rational Amendment, and not only that, but an Amendment expressed in language so clear, so simple, and so explicit that it cannot be misunderstood. I know that there is nothing so difficult as to draw up an Amendment; Lord Russell, in his time, was looked upon as a man who could devise as cunning an Amendment as any man in Parliament, and if the Amendment of the noble Lord, instead of being, as I really believe it to be, the reflex of his own candid mind, were the cunning device that some have pretended that it was, I can imagine Lord Russell, when it was brought to him, even though feeling that it might lead to awkward results, still entertaining something of the sympathy of a master hand and some of the envy of rival ability. But what is the Motion that would have suited the Chancellor of the Exchequer? The House is not satisfied with the course you have taken; and even if the noble Lord the Member for Chester had not come forward to oppose this Bill, somebody on these Benches must have done so; for while we were perfectly willing to consider a complete measure of Reform, and have shown our readiness to do so, we must still have opposed this measure for the reasons I have stated in connection with the county franchise, and which I could on many other points pursue. Assuming, therefore, opposition on our part to have been inevitable, what is the Motion that would have satisfied the Chancellor of the Exchequer? The other day I was looking over the records of a celebrated Assembly—I will not say as celebrated as the House of ! Commons, though unquestionably men as illustrious as any that ever figured in the House of Commons belonged to it—and the period was one similar to the present. The time was when the great Reform Bill was introduced in 1831. The country then was greatly agitated. On the 16th of May, 1831, at Wyatt's Rooms—I am 95 sure hon. Gentlemen opposite will remember Wyatt's Rooms and the Oxford Union—the Parliamentary Reform Bill was before the Union, and an ardent Member, Mr. Knatchbull, moved the following Resolution with regard to it:—"That the present Ministry is incompetent to carry on the Government of the country." It was supported—one remembers it almost with a sigh—by Mr. Sidney Herbert, and the debate was adjourned. But there was a Member of the Union who was not satisfied with the bald expression of opinion by Mr. Knatchbull, and who next day moved a rider to the Resolution, and that rider was in these terms—That the Ministry has unwisely introduced and most unscrupulously forwarded a measure which threatens not only to change the form of our Government, but ultimately to break up the very foundations of social order, as well as materially to forward the views of those who press these projects throughout the civilized world.I shall be perfectly willing to take that Amendment instead of the one now moved by the noble Lord. The Amendment as I have read it was moved by Mr. William Gladstone, of Christ Church. ["Oh, oh!"] The utterances of hon. Members prove what I say—how difficult it is to devise an Amendment that will please everybody. But that Amendment, as I have said, I should certainly be prepared to adopt, for I think the Ministry have "unwisely introduced, and unscrupulously forwarded" this measure.
Sir, I wish to confine myself strictly to the Amendment, and not to enter into a discussion of the Bill; but there is one point that I cannot pass over—the clause referring to leaseholds. That alone would prevent our assenting to this Bill; and I cannot help thinking that the suggestion was not made with a sufficient knowledge of the subject. It has always been considered a very great anomaly that freeholders in towns should vote for the counties on behalf of freeholds situate in towns. At the time when the Reform Bill was under consideration Lord Althorp was very favourable to a provision that freeholders should vote where their freeholds were situate. But the Cabinet, as a whole, found the arrangement difficult. It was desired, however, by many Whig Gentlemen, and the division on that subject was the only one by which Government was seriously inconvenienced. Indeed, Sir, you, yourself supported the Motion at that time as a county Member. A great deal, of course, 96 is to be said in favour of an old franchise; but when we were called on to deal with the question we determined to encounter it. We did so, because not merely was the anomaly in itself a great one, but because it had been terribly abused. A great number of split votes had been forged. I still think the anomaly cannot be defended, but prescription is in its favour. But the present Government have gone out of their way to aggravate the evil. I am sure they must have done so without a fair understanding of what the consequences will be, because my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire (Mr. Adderley) the other day showed what its operation would be like, in stating that in a district of his county one town alone would send forth 5,000 voters under this qualification. I am, however, now obliged to pass from that subject, because there are several topics on which I wish to touch. There is one which I have no wish to avoid, and that is the borough franchise. A reduction in the borough franchise is the real cause of the introduction of this Bill; and the real cause of the reduction of the borough franchise is a wish to introduce the working classes to their fair share in the constituent body. Upon this subject I shall speak without reserve; I think it is not becoming in a public man to speak on such a subject with reserve. I shall divest the question entirely from all sentiment; and I think, after the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire (Sir E. Bulwer Lytton), and the speech of the right hon. Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe), yesterday, the Chancellor of the Exchequer must have had quite enough of the sentimental view of the case. The Chancellor of the Exchequer asked us whether we were afraid of the working men; but I do not think that is the question before the House. I take it for granted that Gentlemen on this side of the House, as well as Gentlemen on the other side, are not afraid of anything which, as rational men in the exercise of their duty, they are bound to encounter. The question before us is not whether we are afraid of the working man, but whether we can improve the English Constitution. Now, I hold the English Constitution not to be a phrase, but to be a fact. I hold it to be a polity founded on distinct principles, and aiming at definite ends. I hold our Constitution to be a monarchy, limited by the co-ordinate authority of bodies of the subjects which are invested with privileges and with du- 97 ties, for their own defence and for the common good; the so-called Estates of the Realm. One of these Estates of the Realm is the Estate of the Commons, of which we are the representatives. Now, of course, the elements of the Commons vary, and must be modified according to the vicissitudes and circumstances of a country like England. Nevertheless, the original scheme of the Plantagenets may always guide us. The Commons consisted of the proprietors of the land after the Barons, the citizens and burgesses, and the skilled artizans. Well, these are elements I wish to see in them, which I wish to preserve, and if necessary to increase; but I wish also to retain the original character of the Constitution. I wish to legislate in the spirit of our Constitution, not departing from the genius of the original scheme. The elements of the Estate of the Commons must be numerous, and they must be ample, in an age like this, but they must be choice. Our constituent body should be numerous enough to be independent, and select enough to be responsible. We, who are the representatives of the Commons do not represent an indiscriminate multitude, but a body of men endowed with privileges which they enjoy, but also intrusted with duties which they must perform. When we had to consider this question in 1858–9 we had to discover what was the proportion which these skilled artizans, these handicraftsmen of the Plantagenets, possessed in this great scheme. After the best computation that we could make we arrived at the result that they were about one-eighth of the constituent body. That did not seem to us to be enough; and therefore we had to consider how they could be increased to that amount which we deemed was a sufficient proportion. We had first to consider whether that should be done by a reduction of the borough franchise. We acknowledged no political principle in the existing borough franchise; but we believed it a convenient arrangement, a satisfactory, a successful, and a popular arrangement, which every year grew stronger, and which it was most unwise unnecessarily to disturb. But we, should never have hesitated for a moment between the questions whether we should reduce the borough franchise, or whether we should exclude the working classes of the country from a fair share in the Estate of the Commons. We believed it was dangerous to reduce the borough franchise. We 98 did not see where it would end if we once commenced to reduce that franchise; and we were of opinion that to reduce it a little would not open an entry into the Estate of the Commons for those whom we desired to see admitted. We, therefore, endeavoured by other means to obtain that result; and by careful calculation we thought we had arrived at those means. We calculated that by the means we proposed, but on which I shall not dwell now further than to observe that some of them have been adopted by the present Government, we should have doubled the number of the constituent body. Well, Sir, the House knows what was the fortune of those efforts, and I do not for a moment wish to impugn the decision. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary of State for the Home Department taunted me because in 1859 I expressed a willingness on the part of the Government of Lord Derby to reduce, if necessary, the borough franchise. Why, there was no inconsistency in that. Sir, in our appeal to the country we had to deal with a majority of 140 against us, and though we received much support, there was not eventually an absolute majority in favour of our policy. But we felt bound not to desert the subject, and after this appeal to the country we were obliged to consider it in reference to the result of the general election. But has nothing happened since 1859 with regard to this question? Have not the seven years which have elapsed since that time been some of the most remarkable that have ever passed in the history of England? Though the working classes have been occupied, prosperous, and contented, though they have not been studying the principles on which the representation ought to be founded; on the contrary, during these seven years, the intellect of England, the thought of the most intelligent, and cultivated, and most enlightened men in the country, have intently been studying the principles of representation, and considering those questions which hitherto have baffled statesmen. Sir, I do not give it as my opinion, but I give it as my observation of what I believe to be the opinion of the country—I mean that impartial and intelligent opinion which really regulates the country—is this—that though they are desirous that the choicest members of the working classes should form a part—and no unimportant portion—of the Estate of the Commons, they recoil from and 99 reject a gross and indiscriminate reduction of the franchise. That, I believe, is the real opinion of the country, and, Sir, no one has contributed more to that opinion than the hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. J. Stuart Mill) himself. I listened with surprise to the speech which he made the other night, because it appeared to me to be not at all consistent with his writings, and with those opinions of his which have very much influenced the convictions of society. I am not going to taunt the hon. Gentleman with writings which he published twenty or twenty-five years ago—I speak only of his recent writings, with which we are all acquainted, and particularly of his last edition of his latest book, written after the failure of 1859, and after the other experiment of Lord John Russell, when the mind of the hon. Gentleman was full of those considerable political events, and after he had given all his thought to the subject. All that I have read in that work is inconsistent with the recent language of the hon. Gentleman, because, as I understand the purport of the speeches here, he is in favour of an indiscriminate reduction of the franchise, and—as far as I understood him—of an illimitable reduction. Now, that was not the opinion which I gathered from the most recent writings of the hon. Gentleman. He was certainly always in favour of a general, not to say universal suffrage, but qualified by conditions of a character which probably might induce almost every Gentleman on this side of the House to accept his proposition. There was certainly to have been the representation of minorities. The principle of plurality of voting was also strongly enforced; but certainly we did not hear anything about the representation of minorities or plurality of voting in the speech of the hon. Gentleman the other night. The conditions on which he upheld universal suffrage might recommend its adoption to us to-morrow. The first is—that the suffrage should not be confined to the male sex. Now, I have always been of opinion that if there is to be universal suffrage, women have as much right to vote as men. And more than that—a woman having property now ought to have a vote in a country, in which 3he may hold manorial courts and sometimes acts as churchwarden. But there is another condition of the universal suffrage of the hon. Member for Westminster to which I must really call the attention of the House and of the Chancellor of the Ex- 100 chequer, It is that, though the suffrage is to be universal, no man is to exercise the franchise who does not pay taxes. That is an excellent condition. I know what hon. Gentlemen below the gangway will say. They will say that everybody pays taxes—on sugar, tea, tobacco, and so forth. But that does not satisfy the hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. J. Stuart Mill). He says, "I do not mean indirect taxes. Indirect taxes are no security whatever for the prudence of an individual, or the fitness of a man to have a vote. I must have direct taxes." Well, that seemed to me rather a difficulty, but I have confidence in philosophers, and I felt that the difficulty would be solved. Statesmen and politicians are a narrow-minded race of men. They live within a limited sphere of experience, and you do not get much out of them if they leave it. But a philosopher is an exuberant and imaginative being, and the hon. Gentleman was ready with an admirable expedient which somewhat surprises me, though it is rather simple than original. He said, "We must have universal suffrage and every man must pay direct taxation, and what I would propose would be that there should be a poll tax." It is a very great thing to have a future. We know now what will be the future of this country when that philosophical Cabinet, which I understand is intended, shall take its place upon that Bench. A poll tax for England! Such is the basis of your future finance; and we know that there are some other measures preparing in the same armoury. A poll tax for England, combined with a compulsory measure of education and compulsory cleanliness—it will be the admiration of cosmopolitan Europe; but I fear before nine months are passed the whole country will be in a state of insurrection.
There is one point of primary importance which ought not to be evaded in this debate. I have stated my view as to what ought to be the position of the working classes in reference to their share in the constituency. I wish them to take their position in the Estate of the Commons, and have an adequate share of that great and privileged order. What is the number of the working classes now enfranchised? That is a subject upon which the greatest mystery exists. Information has been given to the House which seems to have startled everybody, and Ministers more than anybody else. Yet it appears to me that the subject is one on which we ought to 101 have accurate information before we can give any opinion upon this Bill; and I want further information. There is one startling fact. We always used to be told, when we were discussing questions of this kind, that before the Reform Bill all the freemen and scot and lot voters were working men. It turns out that at no period before the Reform Bill were the majority of the freemen and the scot and lot voters working men. On the contrary, they were to be found in quite different classes of society; and many of them were among the gentry. We have a Return showing that the number of freemen and scot and lot voters now is 50,478, of whom 28,000 belong to the working classes, so that 45 percent of the whole are working men. We may take that proportion as a good guide to the relative proportions at the time of the Reform Bill, when there were 108,000 freemen and scot and lot voters, of whom we may take it 48,000 were working men. When the Reform Bill was passed there were 174,000 ten-pounder householders; and we want to know now how many of them were working men. There is an estimate of the time of Lord Althorp, which set them down at one-twelfth; but I think that an under-estimate. I would calculate that they formed one-ninth of the whole, and put them down at 19,000. These figures give a total of 68,000 freemen, scot and lot voters, and ten-pounders at the time of the Reform Bill belonging to the working classes, compared with 128,603 now; so that they have increased 90 per cent, and the proportion is 27 or 28 per cent now compared with 23 per cent then. These figures show that the House ought to hesitate a little before it comes to a decision upon this subject, because at the present rate of increase 10,140 a year are added to the borough constituency, and, giving to the working classes 60 per cent of this increase in ten years, that increase would make the working classes one third of the whole borough constituency. One-third of the borough constituency seems to me to be rather a fair proportion. But, says the Chancellor of the Exchequer, "the working classes have, I admit, one-fourth of the borough constituency; but as regards the borough and county constituencies taken together they have only one-seventh." Now that, I think, is a fallacy. If you want to estimate the amount of the working classes which ought to be in the borough constituencies, you must make your calculation 102 in connection with the borough constituency alone. If you desire to calculate the position in this respect occupied by the working classes generally, then you must make your estimate having regard not only to the borough, but to the county constituencies. That, however, is an estimate, in making which we have no official information to guide us. I must not exactly go so far, because I have something here at which the House will perhaps be startled. The Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed to doubt what I said on this subject the other night, when he said that the working classes had no share in the county constituencies, and spoke of the working man in a county constituency as "the fly in the pot of ointment." But I was not satisfied with his view. I recollected that the number of land societies in the rural districts was very considerable, and I had observed that in villages in Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire, in which when I first knew them there was not a single working man in the constituencies, working men now composed one-sixth of those constituencies. But let me turn to the North. I have by me a statement which I will put before the House briefly, but which I regard as of great importance. I have received it from a Yorkshireman who is known to every Yorkshire gentleman in the House, and who is high authority on the point to which he refers. He analyses the county constituency in his township of the West Riding, ranking those who compose it under four different heads—the upper class, the middle class, the lower middle, and the working men receiving weekly wages under 30s.; he gives me these lists in detail, and he adds that he is as well acquainted with the whole Riding as he is with his township, and that he is confident there are at this moment upwards of 15,000 working men living by weekly wages who possess the suffrage in the West Riding. ["No, no!"] An hon. Gentleman says "No," but I leave him to digest this statement at his leisure. Such information comes to hand every day. Here is a land agent who states that he is Conservative agent for South Derbyshire—I do not know him—and he assures me that he believes he is correct in stating that there are more 40s. freeholders in South Derbyshire than all the other freeholders and £50 occupiers put together. I think I have shown, then, that the condition of the working classes in this respect is not such as has been stated. The question is, have they or have they 103 not a fair proportion of that Estate of the Commons of which they are entitled to be members? I do not say they have. I say that you should inquire—that you should pause—that you should obtain sufficient information, before you make a change; but, above all, that you should act in the spirit of the English Constitution. I think that this House should remain a House of Commons, and not become a House of the People, the House of a mere indiscriminate multitude, devoid of any definite character, and not responsible to society, and having no duties and no privileges under the Constitution. Are we to consider this subject in the spirit of the English Constitution, or are we to meet it in the spirit of the American Constitution? I prefer to consider the question in the spirit of our own Constitution. In what I say I do not intend to undervalue American institutions, quite the reverse. I approve of American institutions, for they are adopted in the country in which they exist. The point I would always consider is, whether the institutions of a country are adapted to the country where they are established. But I say none of the conditions exist in England which exist in America, and make those institutions flourish so eminently there. If I see a great body of educated men in possession of a vast expanse of cultivated land, and behind them an illimitable region where the landless might become landowners, then I should recognize a race to whom might be intrusted the responsibility of sovereign power. The blot of the American political system is not essential to it, but accidental: it is those turbulent and demoralized mobs which exist in the cities of the sea coast which constitute so great a reproach to American institutions. If, however, you introduce those institutions into England, I believe the effect would be disastrous. You would not gain that which is excellent in the American system, but that which is not an essential quality, but a most disgraceful and demoralizing accident. You would have the rule of mobs in great towns, and the sway of turbulent multitudes. If a dominant multitude were to succeed in bringing the land of England into the condition of the land in America, they would after all get but a limited area, and that only after a long struggle, in the course of which the great elements of our civilization would disappear, and England, from being a first-rate Kingdom, would become a third-rate Re- 104 public. I regret to hear principles which must pull down the prosperity of an old country like this advocated in this House by men of ability. The hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) deprecated any allusion to speeches elsewhere. That is very convenient. It is very convenient to make speeches in two places, and not to be answered in either. I am not one of those who depreciate the talents or character of the Member for Birmingham. I admire his great abilities, I listen to his eloquence often with delight, and I recognize his unexampled energy. I regret, however, that such gifts should be exercised—I doubt not conscientiously—in favour of principles which, if successful, I believe would be fatal to this country. Sir, it is very disagreeable to me, as it must be to any Gentleman in our debates in this House, to be constantly commenting on the language and conduct of any individual Member. I feel the embarrassment and pain of it all; but, Sir, it is not my fault. If the Member for Birmingham were in his right place this would not occur. I have to make remarks on Gentlemen opposite, and they in turn make remarks on us. It is the policy of a Government that we oppose, it is the manœuvres of an Opposition that they impugn; and the knowledge that we are dealing with corporations softens the asperity which must sometimes occur in the heat of our political conflicts. If the Member for Birmingham were seated on that (the Treasury) Bench, where he ought to be seated, we should fear him no longer. We should only fear Her Majesty's Minister. And, therefore, if the Member for Birmingham, who really, though not avowedly, dictates the policy of the country, is not in the position in which he ought to be, I must, disagreeable as it is to me, comment on the conduct of so eminent an individual. Some of my friends have spoken with indignation of the manifesto which the Member for Birmingham has thought fit to publish. My feeling, when I read that letter, was not a feeling of indignation, nor was it one of contempt—nothing of the kind—it was a feeling of mortification, I felt I had totally misunderstood the character of the individual with whom we had been so long in communion, which I thought was at least dignified. I thought, for example, that the Member for Birmingham was proud of being a Member of the House of Commons, and I confess I saw with satisfaction that 105 the House of Commons sometimes seemed not disinclined to be proud of him. But that he should leave us only to hold us up to public obloquy, was to me a cause not of indignation, but of disappointment that he should speak of us in a manner utterly deficient in feeling and candour, wanting alike in truth and taste, was—I speak it unfeignedly—most painful. He was the last man, knowing what I know of him in this House, that I should have supposed would hold up the House of Commons to public reprobation, almost with the truculence of a Danton. Sir, it is not for me to vindicate the House of Commons—that is not my proud position—that is the privilege of another; and I must say it was a source to me of astonishment that the leader of the House of Commons, who must have been in that part of the country at the time—I know not whether at the same meetings—with no lack of opportunity, attending theatres and making speeches after dinner should not have noticed that address—should not have vindicated the character and the honour of that Assembly of whose privileges and honour it ought to be his greatest pride to be the champion. They were no hurried words—they had not the excuse of oratorical excitement—they were penned, and penned with malice prepense. The right hon. Gentleman could not find time to notice them at one of his dinners given to him by the Financial Reformers of Liverpool, or at least attended by some of the most distinguished of those provincial fanatics; though he could find time to criticize the comparatively insignificant letter of the right hon. Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe), which was the staple of one of his speeches. He could not find time to comment on the letter of the hon. Member for Birmingham, although it was an attack upon the character of those of whom he is the leader, and upon the honour of the House of which he ought to feel proud to be the chief and champion. But, Sir, although I have not the honour to be the leader of the House of Commons—although that proud position is not mine—I am here at least, by the favour and indulgence of my friends, the leader of the Tory party. And I take this the earliest opportunity of telling the hon. Member for Birmingham that the attack which he has made upon the Tory party is one which he cannot substantiate. He has said that the Tory party are only anxious to plunge the country into war, in order to divert it from that domestic pro- 106 gress and that beneficent course of policy to which he has devoted all his energies. Sir, I want to know from the hon. Member what grounds he has for making that assertion. We have heard from the Chancellor of the Exchequer enough during the recess about the last thirty years. I have been in this House with the right hon. Gentleman for nearly these last thirty years, of which we have lately been told so much; and the hon. Member for Birmingham himself has sat here for more than two-thirds of that time. He has therefore had some experience in our public affairs, and has taken a part in our deliberations upon them. What war, then, I ask, have we plunged the country into? There was the Crimean war. Were the Tories the authors of that? They certainly might have carried that war on in a different way, but they were not its authors. Why, Sir, when the hon. Gentleman charges us with these great offences against the prosperity and the fortunes of the realm, has he forgotten that the man whom he especially ought to reverence rose in his place in this House and declared solemnly that in his opinion if Lord Derby's Government had not been turned out of office in 1852 the Crimean war would never have happened? These were the words uttered in this House by Mr. Cobden. Well then, Sir, there was another war. Did we take advantage of the Italian war to plunge this country into it? Is it not upon record—although the record was not published till after the delusive Amendment, which drove us from office, was passed—is it not upon record that every fair means was used by this country to prevent that war, and that nothing but the headstrong conduct of Austria occasioned it? But whether that occasioned it or not, this is quite clear, that the moment that fatal step | was taken we would not in any way sanction any of those proceedings, and withdrew this country entirely from it. Then, I say, what reason has the hon. Gentleman to say that the Tories are always anxious to plunge the country into war in order to divert the people from civil progress? Well, Sir, there has been another war in Europe during these last thirty years—the war between Denmark and Germany. Did we want to plunge the country into war upon that subject? Is it not notorious—has it not been proved by documents laid on this table—that the late Prime Minister of England and the present Prime Minister of England did wish to plunge this country into that war? Are not the despatches in 107 existence and in the possession of every Member, inviting France to join with England in going to war with Germany on behalf of Denmark? And, indeed, nothing but such a policy could justify the promises they held out to Denmark, who was betrayed. And what prevented that war? They resolved to wait until the meeting of Parliament to decide on their policy and to control rebellious colleagues; but the conduct of the Opposition, the declarations that I made with the full consent and by the advice of those with whom 1 act, prevented that war. ["No, no!"and Cheers.] It was notorious, and I believe the hon. Gentleman himself has admitted it, that we prevented that war about Denmark. Well, then, how can he justify these statements, made by a man of his influence in the country, calumniating, I will say, a great political party? But, says the hon. Gentleman in the same manifesto, it is not in Europe alone that they are desirous to engage us in war; the Tories want to involve us in war with America; it is America they hate, it is America to which they are directing all their attention, and if that party were to come into power a war with America is certain. These, Sir, are the representations he makes to the people of England, and I want to know upon what grounds he makes them? Why, Sir, it is upon record that during that painful struggle I did all that I could, assisted by my colleagues, and especially by my noble Friend the Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley), to moderate the councils of this House, and to avert that which I believe would have been the greatest evil that could possibly occur—a war between this country and the United States; and I hope, I sometimes hope, that I contributed to that result. No doubt there were Gentlemen, not confined to one side of the House, who expressed different opinions on that subject, and who wished for the recognition of the Southern States; but, Sir, have we come to this pass in England that high-spirited men, on whichever side of the House they sit, are not to give expression to their views on public affairs? No—I confess it there were Members on this side of the House—more than one man of considerable ability—who took a very decided view, and believed it to be for the honour and interest of England that the Southern States should be recognized. They did me the honour of consulting me upon the subject, and I endeavoured to moderate their feelings. And what was 108 their reply? They said, "We have every encouragement from a portion of the Cabinet, and it is your holding back that prevents a great result for the benefit of the country." And had they no cause for their belief? Is it not the fact, and can the hon. Member for Birmingham—who has accused me personally of endeavouring to bring about a war with America; he has accused me in common with the great Tory party—can he deny that those who were desirous of effecting the recognition of the Southern Confederacy had every encouragement from the Government? Is it not notorious that one of the leading Members of the Government—one who is its chief organ in this House—made one of those pilgrimages of passion of which we have lately had a specimen, and not content with speaking in this House, made in another place an inflammatory harangue, which, if it meant anything, meant that the Cabinet of the Queen was on the point of recognizing the Confederate States. Did not that speech disturb every market in Europe? Did it not affect the price of public securities and create confusion throughout the world? And yet this Minister is the tried friend of the hon. Member, who goes down into the country and says that I and my friends are those who are always anxious to plunge the country into war. But, Sir, the hon. Gentleman is not content with imputing to us an anxiety to involve the country in external calamities; he says the Tory party have been the cause of all the abject misery and wretchedness which the people of England have endured. Now, I will take the last thirty years—they have been dinned into our ears often enough at these Liverpool banquets—and I ask any man, whether he sits on this or that side of the House, what has been the conduct of the Tory party in this respect? During the last thirty years there have been twenty-eight measures introduced into this House, the object of which has been to ameliorate the condition of the people—to reduce their hours of labour, to secure for them the payment of their wages, in coin of the realm, to save them from torture and oppression in the mine and in the colliery, to extend to all engaged in their ingenious arts, in lacework, in the bleaching-ground, in the printing works, and the benefits of that successful amelioration which had been introduced into the cotton and woollen factories. Sir, all these measures were passed with im- 109 mense difficulty. Never was an opposition exercised stronger, more resolute, more pitiless than that which was organized against these measures. But they passed. And who passed them? Not one of those measures but was proposed by a Gentleman sitting upon these Benches. Not one of those measures was passed but by the united energies of the Tory party. And who opposed them? The Liberal Government of that day generally opposed them; but they were opposed mainly and chiefly by the influence of one individual, who offered, as he does on all occasions when he opposes anything, an opposition that is formidable because it is able—who threw all his energy and eloquence into the resistance of those claims, and who for a time retarded their advancement; but, notwithstanding his power of organization—notwithstanding his energy and eloquence—he was ultimately defeated, and that was the hon. Member for Birmingham. Shall I be told that these were merely the schemes of dreamy philanthropists, that they were part of the maudlin humanitarianism that has been referred to in this debate? I appeal to the last thirty years. The hon. Member for Westminster says we know nothing of the working classes, and the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. T. Hughes) in his freakish speech, claimed a monopoly of knowledge and interest in them. But all I know is that years ago, when this struggle took place, my home was full day after day, and year after year, of these men. They raised a large fund in the manufacturing districts in order to pay for deputations to be constantly in the metropolis, and communicating with Members of Parliament. They communicated with me, they were always under my roof. I made their acquaintance to this degree, that when a great calamity occurred a few years ago they wrote to recall their names to my recollection. I think then I know them, and I think my noble Friend near me, to whom they are more deeply indebted than to myself, knows something of these working classes. I remember when we passed through the lobby of the old House, which many of you will recollect, there they were, sometimes with their wives and children, and they would cling to you with their petitions when you entered the House of Commons. These, then, were not measures of a pseudo-philanthropy; these men were persons in earnest, and they 110 felt that their interests and their future happiness and prosperity depended on the success of those measures. They felt in them an interest which, perhaps, we cannot experience on any subject. They felt that their all was at stake, and that we were their only friends. But they feared the opposition of those who are now the peculiar friends of the working classes.
Well, Sir, I hope I am justified in vindicating the great party on this side of the House from these elaborate attacks made to the people of England by one who is the representative of new opinions, who influences the policy of the Government, but whose opinions, I confess, in themselves, I do not believe the people of England would rally round. His unrivalled eloquence and his great abilities may enable him to place them before the country in a captivating manner, but they are in my mind opposed to the instincts and to the character of the English people. I believe that English and not American principles will predominate in this country. But I am willing to confess that, though the opinions of the hon. Member for Birmingham may be dangerous, the hon. Gentleman has at least one excellent quality—that of candour. He never conceals his opinions. He states them with frankness which is not observable in the measures of the Government. We all know what the hon. Member wishes to do; and, though his principles are often dangerous, and, if not baffled, might prove fatal in their consequences, we are always able to guard against them. But I think the peril is here, that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham has, to use a phrase borrowed from the practice of our noblest pastime, a "confederate," and that confederate sits upon the Treasury Bench.
Now, Sir, I ventured to put before the House to-night the principles upon which Parliament ought to proceed with this question of Reform, if it proceed at all. Those principles are English, and not American. It ought to proceed upon the principle that we are the House of Commons, and not the House of the People; and that we represent a great political order in the State, and not an indiscriminate multitude. And in estimating what share the working classes should possess in the power of the State—a share which I do not at all begrudge them—we ought to act and to form that estimate according 111 to the spirit of the English Constitution. The hon. Member for Birmingham takes an opposite view, and states it very candidly. But the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the leader of this House, and the counsellor of the Sovereign, goes to Liverpool and confesses to American principles in their widest sense. ["No, no !"and Cheers.'] Well, I would make no statement to this House that I am not prepared to substantiate. I have expressed pretty clearly my views upon the English Constitution, and confidently assert that they are correct. I say that the right hon. Gentleman, following as he always does the example of the hon. Member for Birmingham, went through the country on a tour of agitation, and I say that he propounded a policy founded upon American and not upon English principles. And I am here to prove what I state. What did he do? He went to a well-arranged meeting, and had, of course, well considered what he intended to say. And what did he say? He made some observations about the general policy of the Government, and then referred to the real business of the Session. He said, "We have brought forward a Reform Bill. It is a very moderate measure. It will introduce 400,000 additional voters into the constituencies." Well, there may or there may not be good reasons for introducing 400,000 additional voters, but we have never yet argued that matter. We can do that, indeed, in Committee if we ever get there. But if your views of the English Constitution are the same as mine, it is a very great addition to the Estate of the Commons. The right hon. Gentleman said," We have brought in a very moderate measure, and we propose by this measure to add 400,000 voters to the present constituency. "The right hon. Gentleman treats with great obloquy and contempt all opposed to him. The noble Lord (Earl Grosvenor) proposes this Amendment, the common sense of which is recognized by the country. And what does the right hon. Gentleman say? He says, "He does this, notwithstanding the moderation of our measure—only 400,000 introduced, while there are 4,500,000 of living and breathing men, citizens like ourselves, payers of taxes like ourselves, bound to every civil duty like ourselves, having an interest in the peace and order of the country like ourselves." Very well, but the object of discussion is to elicit 112 truth. What is the interpretation to be put upon this? I say—every man of candour must say—there is only one interpretation—that the 4,500,000 have as much right to be added to the constituent body and to exercise the franchise, although it may be prudent for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to propose that only 400,000 shall at present "be brought within the pale of the Constitution." But if you admit the principle that the 4,500,000 behind them have an equal right to enter the English Constitution, you are introducing American principles which must be fatal to this country, though they may be adapted to America. I say, therefore, that no other interpretation can be put on the language of the right hon. Gentleman; but if there was any doubt, that doubt can remain no longer. Remember the speech he made a year and a half ago, which confounded his Colleagues, confused the House, and perplexed and agitated the country, when he based the title of admission to the suffrage on the rights of man. Well, he published his speech—he published an explanatory preface which nobody understood. He did a good many other things, and the matter passed off. But there was no mistake on the part of the right hon. Gentleman when he made that speech. He published his preface to pacify his Colleagues, but he never changed his opinion; and in Liverpool on this occasion—a formal occasion, not one when a man speaks in heat, when a Minister, above all, considers well what he says—again expressed the opinion that the suffrage was a moral right, and ought to be so considered. Speaking of the change in the condition and means of the mass of the community, these were his words—This change and that growing and constantly increasing capacity which we see constitute not only a fitness, but in a moral sense constitute a right.There it is—"constitute in a moral sense a right." The right, we know, does not exist in a legal sense; in what other sense than a moral sense can it exist? That completely vindicates the statement I have made. Now, Sir, I have a passage here which I am sure the House will listen to with attention, for it contains the words of one of the wisest men that ever sat in this House. Although I was in no political connection with him, but the reverse, I took the liberty, and I remember it not without solace when we lost him, of spontaneously offering my tribute to his cha- 113 racier and his services. These are the words of Sir George Lewis—You may talk of the rudeness of Monarchical Government, but I defy you to point out anything in Monarchy so irrational as counting votes, instead of weighing them, as making a decision depend not on the knowledge, ability, experience, or fitness of the judges, but upon their number.Now, Sir, these are wise words to be remembered. Sir George Lewis was a great loss to this country; he was a greater loss to the House of Commons; but he was the greatest loss to the Gentlemen opposite. Sir George Lewis would not have built up the constituent body on the rights of man; he would not have intrusted the destiny of this country to the judgment of a numerical majority; he would not have counselled the Whig party to re-construct their famous institutions on the American model and to profit in time by the wisdom of the children of their loins. Sir, it is because I wish to avert from this country such calamities and disasters that I shall vote for the Amendment of the noble Lord.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
At last, Sir, we have obtained a clear declaration from an authoritative source; and we now know that a Bill which in a country with five millions of adult males—["Oh, oh!" "Hear, hear!"and cries of "Order!"] Am I to be permitted to proceed? ["Hear, hear!"and renewed cries of "Order!"]—and we now know that a Bill which in a country with five millions of adult males proposes to add to its present limited constituency 200,000 of the middle class, and 200,000 of the working class is, in the judgment of the leader of the Tory party, a Bill to re-construct the Constitution on American principles.
Sir, I rise after one o'clock in the morning to review, as well as I am able with the aid of this declaration, a debate which has continued through eight nights. And first, Sir, I would gladly have passed by the defence, as he calls it, and as I must presume he thinks it, which the right hon. Gentleman has made for himself and for his friends with reference to the history of the past twenty or thirty years. I have no desire to interfere in that controversy. I will not attempt to follow him through its details; it will require from me only the briefest notice as to its general scope. I have too much respect for the time of the House to weary it, at this hour, with matters which it is in my power to avoid; and I must say that I have too much 114 respect for the judgment of the House, and for the judgment of those elsewhere who will become acquainted with our proceedings, to have the slightest apprehension that any one of the mistakes, or any one of the misrepresentations consequent on the mistakes, which have proceeded from the right hon. Gentleman, will have an influence on the House or on the people.
Now, Sir, I am afraid that I must begin by owning that I have much to say. I will endeavour, however, to consult the convenience of the House by clearing out of the way at the outset some misapprehensions which the right hon. Gentleman has assisted to propagate, and which have prevailed on the other side during this debate; to these I will refer exceptionally, because I think they have considerably obscured the general issue.
In the first place, I must presume to say a word upon the subject of the references which have been made to a great name among us in this House and in the country—I mean the name of Lord Palmerston. It has been assumed by Gentlemen who are supporters of the Amendment that they honour the memory of Lord Palmerston by describing him either generally as the enemy of Reforms, or specially as the enemy of Parliamentary Reform. Or again, and yet more specifically, by describing him especially as the enemy of that which constitutes the essential point and the very hinge of the whole framework of this Bill; namely, a reduction of the borough franchise. Now, Sir, to throw light upon this subject, I will read but a few words which Lord Palmerston used in supporting his own Bill in 1860. He said, that the provisions of that Bill were open, as without doubt the provisions of our Bill, and of every other Bill are open, to consideration in Committee; but he went on to use these words, "there are certain fundamental principles in the Bill which we could not consent to have infringed, because that would destroy the measure altogether." One main principle of the Bill is, the reduction of the borough franchise. It has been assumed by some speakers, that the life of Lord Palmerston was a security against the introduction of a measure of Reform. I think it no less due to Lord Palmerston than to his colleagues to say that, as far as I am aware—and I presume the right hon. Gentleman will admit that if mischief of any kind had been brewing in the Cabinet I probably should have known it—there never was a difference of 115 opinion between Lord Palmerston and his colleagues on the question of Reform. In my own judgment, we underwent a great responsibility in regard to the measure of 1860. The introduction of that measure was an important step in redemption of a very solemn pledge; of a pledge which might almost have been termed the basis of our official existence at the time. The abandonment of that measure probably must have taken place at some period of the Session in the stale of affairs in which we stood; yet it was a matter difficult to determine as to the precise time and circumstances. I admit that in that abandonment we underwent a great responsibility. Differences of opinion there might have been with regard to it; but I know of no Member of the Cabinet of Lord Palmerston who ever thought that, after the abandonment of that measure, and considering the circumstances which prevailed from the year 1860, down to the dissolution of last year, it would have been wise or warrantable for the Cabinet to have revived the subject of Reform. The right hon. Gentleman quotes, and grossly, I must say, misquotes, a speech of mine on the subject of the suffrage: no, Sir, I will not say he misquotes it, for he did not refer to my actual words, but I will only say he misstates the effect. The right hon. Gentleman, however, if he recollected that speech at all, might have recollected that in that speech I declared that in my opinion it would be wrong for the Government to introduce or take up the question of Parliamentary Reform, till there should have arrived such a state of public opinion as might seem to afford a prospect of success. That, I believe, was all along the unanimous opinion of the Cabinet. It has been observed, indeed, that my right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Home Department declared last year that we did not make our appeal to the country as the patrons of a great measure of Reform. Certainly not; we tendered no such profession. We left the country to pronounce its own impartial judgment; and we waited, in the state of things I have referred to, for spontaneous indications of the public mind with regard to the representation of the people in Parliament. But my right hon. Friend himself has stated that when the elections had taken place he individually formed the opinion, which, as far as I know, was the opinion formed by the other Members of the Cabinet, that the manifestations which had been given by the coun- 116 try, and by candidates when appealing to the constituencies, in respect to Parliamentary Reform, had brought again before us the very occasion on which it was our duty to become responsible for another measure of Reform. Nor have we the smallest right, the smallest ground, to suppose that Lord Palmerston differed from that opinion. We cannot, indeed, say that he agreed in it; and why? Because, at the moment of his lamented death, no single Cabinet had been held for the purpose of considering the measures to be adopted during the coming Session. But I do chance to know, and it is a posthumous record of some interest, that Lord Palmerston had a conversation with one, at least, of his colleagues at no very long period before his death—it may have been a twelvemonth, or even more; I cannot further define the time—on this very subject. I have not the smallest doubt in my mind, though I cannot state it as a matter of fact, that he was looking forward to the dissolution as the critical period when a fresh decision would have to be taken. In that consideration he stated his opinion that within a limited time it would be right for the Government again to introduce the subject of Reform. So much, Sir, for the honour of Lord Palmerston, which I confess I think has not been in the most judicious hands during the chief part of this debate. That opinion, I hope, may be expressed without offence, and without trangressing in letter or in spirit the rules of Parliament.
Now, I come to another subject again of a personal character, and one with which the House has been made perhaps sufficiently familiar during our long discussion. I refer to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham. It has been made a charge against the Government that they are identified with my hon. Friend. It is admitted that we are the nominal Ministers of the Crown, but it is confidently or boldly declared that he is its irresponsible, yet its real adviser. To such a charge, couched in such terms, I shall make no reply whatever. Such persons as are disposed to admit it must have minds in a position entirely inaccessible, I will not say to deliberative reason or justice, but, at any rate, to any observations I can offer. In truth, such things are said not to convince, nor to persuade, but if not to bewilder, at least to sting. But more specific charges have been made, and these it is right that, as Her Ma- 117 jesty's servants, we should notice. It has been stated that my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham has been the adviser of this Bill. On that subject, inasmuch as it raises an issue of facts, and is therefore one which admits of being dealt with, let us consider what has really taken place. And I may preface my statement with this remark, that in my opinion, as well as in the opinion so gracefully, as well as manfully expressed by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Coleridge), it would have been no disgrace to the Government, if policy had appeared to recommend it, that they should have consulted the great organs of opinion in the different sections of their party with respect to the best method of framing a plan of Parliamentary Reform. Had that method been pursued, it would have been impossible to overlook—it would have been culpable if, through cowardice, they had refrained from consulting—my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham. But Her Majesty's Government felt no such necessity; and, as far as I am aware, did not in any manner or degree pursue that course of consultation. They did feel that, responsible as they had been for the formation and the introduction of previous Reform Bills, and being, most of them, not wholly inexperienced in conducting the affairs of a Government, they had sufficient confidence in themselves, sufficient knowledge of the state of the public mind, and sufficient sense of their own responsibility to form their own opinion on the leading provisions fit to be embodied in a measure of Reform. We were, indeed, aware of the opinions of the hon. Member for Birmingham just as much, I believe, as, and no more, than the Gentlemen opposite were aware of them. And I apprehend that we were aware of them through the same unfailing channels—namely, the public journals of the country. What we understood to be his opinions he stated in some speech delivered by him, I rather think at Rochdale, during the autumn, we conceived them to be as I will now state them, and my hon. Friend himself will, I doubt not, hare the kindness to correct me if I am wrong. There were, I think, four points principally put forward. Firstly, that there was a certain franchise which must be considered to be the maximum for counties, and that this was £10; secondly, that there was also a certain franchise which must be considered to be the maximum for boroughs, and that to make this satisfactory it should on no ac- 118 count be above £6; thirdly, he considered that the extension of the franchise ought to be separated from the re-distribution of seats; and fourthly—he will forgive me if I do not quote him with sufficient precision—he thought that separation of the two subjects ought to take place in order that the interval of time between the two might mature and ripen the public mind after the passing of the Franchise Bill, so as to obtain, if a later, yet a more full and conclusive settlement of the question. These, as far as my memory servo me, were the four points of opinion delivered by my hon. Friend. And what have we done? We agreed with my hon. Friend in one of them—we agreed with him in the policy of the separating the franchise from the re-distribution of seats. And should we not have been the most contemptible of all the poltroons ever misnamed Ministers, if, having that opinion, we had shrunk from acting on it because we might know well enough, without any gift of divination, that the leader, forsooth, of the Tory party would found on that circumstance a charge of subserviency which he himself knows to be thoroughly unfounded just as well as we do? If subserviency exists, why has it not appeared in our conduct with reference to the other opinions of my hon. Friend? Why were we to differ with him in everything? Why have we not proposed the £10 franchise recommended by my hon. Friend, and by the right hon. Gentleman himself in the Bill of 1859? Why have we not proposed the £6 franchise introduced in 1860 under the express sanction of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne, and declared by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham to be the highest figure that could be allowed to stand in any satisfactory Reform Bill? If this subserviency exists, how is it that these opinions have not been followed? It is true that my hon. Friend, with, I think, great moderation and great wisdom, accepts the Bill as it stands, and his acceptance of it is converted into a charge against the Bill itself. Strange position, indeed, if we have arrived at a state of things in which the very fact that my hon. Friend gives his support to this Bill—a Bill proposing a far less popular franchise than was recommended by Lord Palmerston, whose political calmness and deliberative temper have been so justly commended in this debate; by Sir George Lewis, and by the right hon. Gentle-man the Member for Calne—the very fact 119 that the hon. Gentleman supports this Bill is to taint and, as it were, to poison the measure itself. Is it credible that there are such extremes of party and personal animosity in this House, and that the very essence of facts and objects is to change its nature from its relations to particular individuals? And are these the encouragements to political moderation which my hon. Friend is to receive? Such, Sir, is the state of the facts, so far as we are concerned, with regard to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham. Yet I must still say one more word about him. I am sorry to have to do that, but I can not help doing it. I do sincerely think he is a great deal more obliged to hon. Gentlemen opposite than he is to us. It is my firm opinion—though it may be erroneous—that the Gentlemen who adopt the line of argument which has been adopted by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, with regard to what he terms Americanizing the institutions of the country, are doing their utmost, against their will and against their knowledge—for much of what they have been doing for a long period of time has been not only against their will, but likewise against their knowledge—to magnify and increase the influence of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham; and if my hon. Friend be the dangerous man he is supposed to be, and if he nurses in his breast such wicked schemes against the institutions of the country, it is not through Her Majesty's Government, nor through the agency of those who are now thinking and voting with them, that he will ever obtain the means of giving effect to his wicked intentions, but through the line of argument and statement which has been adopted by his and our opponents, and which invests him with powers and attributes which not even his abilities, aided as they are by his known integrity, have ever enabled him to obtain.
And now, Sir, I must bestow two minutes on a question touching several expressions of my own. Perhaps my best apology for troubling the House on such a matter will be that they are expressions which have furnished material in the mouths of others for some hours of this debate. The noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn, in his very clear, very forcible, very argumentative, and I must say, as it seemed to me—though it has been criticized to a contrary effect—by no means uncandid speech, complimented me on not having used any of those expressions which 120 may perhaps be best and most briefly summed up in a single phrase that will be sufficiently understood by the House—namely, the "flesh and blood" arguments. Now, Sir, I wish that the noble Lord, the right hon. Baronet, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne had a little more considered what really took place with regard to the use of that and of other more or less kindred expressions. The right hon. Member for Calne for I think half an hour, the right hon. Baronet the Member for Hertfordshire for perhaps half an hour more, not having themselves heard me use the phrase which became for them so copious a theme, founded detailed declamation, argument, denunciation, and I know not what, upon an assumption. They assumed, and doubtless they believed I had used the fact, that the working classes are of our own flesh and blood as a reason why the Bill now before the House should be passed. And my right hon. Friend the Member for Calne, in a part of his speech which I admit was quite unanswerable, showed that thus to make use of such a consideration would be the greatest imaginable absurdity. Undoubtedly! But then it so happens I never did use any argument of the kind. There are limits to human folly; and neither here nor elsewhere should I have dreamed of so eccentric a proceeding. I used the expression as a reply—nay, I will presume to go one step further and say, if it be not presumptuous to say it—I used it as a reproof to the language of some of the opponents of the Bill. Sir, in my opinion there are times in debate when extraordinary errors are best met by the declaration of I elementary truths. When I heard it stated by a Gentleman of ability that to touch the question of enfranchising any portion of the working class was domestic revolution, I thought it time to remind him that the performance of the duties of citizenship does give some presumption of the capacity for civil rights, and that the burden of proof, that exclusion from such rights is warrantable or wise or (as it may be) necessary, lies upon those who exclude. That: as I think very simple declaration was magnified into revolutionary doctrine, and great service has it once more done to-night to the leader of the Tory party. On the same grounds, when I heard my right hon. Friend describing these working men at from £7 to £10, not once only it must now be said, as an invading army, and as something more, as an invading ambush, as 121 a band of enemies, which was to bring ruin and conflagration as the purpose of its mission, into a city all fore-doomed; and when I heard these opinions and this illustration once and again repeated, I thought it was time to fall back upon elementary truths as the proper antagonists to these extraordinary errors, and to say, these men whom you are denouncing, not by argument and reason, but beyond the bounds of all argument and reason, are your own flesh and blood. And now, Sir, having stated thus much, I must so far notice the speech of the noble Lord (Viscount Cranbourne) who commenced this debate to-night as emphatically to deny that in any one point or particular—speaking elsewhere, as he said, and, as has been said by others, in the provinces, but as I should say, addressing my own constituents—have I gone in one jot or little beyond the statements made by me on the floor of this House. I do not know really whether I am to look to the principles or to the practice of the noble Lord the Member for Stamford as establishing the rule with regard to what is to be done out of the House by its Members in the use of tongue or pen. I am quite willing, however, to say, without further examination of his practice, that I abide by his precepts; and this I promise him, I will freely submit to any censure he can bestow, and if censure is to be bestowed he is a good hand at it, when on any occasion he can show that I have said elsewhere of Members of this House, or of any proceeding in this House, that which I have not said here, or am not ready to say upon this floor, where in my judgment it is that all our battles may best be fought. I have a more agreeable admission to make. What I have said in the nature of platitudes, or of truisms, or of revolutionary maxims—and the condemned dicta have passed under all these designations alternately as might suit the tastes of the different critics has been said with reference to declarations made by persons of the greatest weight in this House—made, too, amid a tumult and tempest of cheers—and therefore to be taken as setting forth the sentiments not of one but of many. Yet, I am glad and thankful to admit that those cheers and tumult, overpowering as they were, did not represent the universal sentiment on the other side of the House from which they proceeded. The hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lincolnshire explained that certain cheers, which had led me to suppose he might be one of those who enter- 122 tained opinions of the working class, such as I endeavoured to protest against, had been incorrectly interpreted, and really referred to another subject. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Suffolk (Sir Fitz-Roy Kelly), although he has not taken part in this debate, spoke in another discussion upon the malt duty the other evening on the merits of the working class in a spirit which proves that he, at least, entertains none of those ungenerous sentiments in regard to them, and that tone, I feel assured, notwithstanding some instances leading to a contrary conclusion, largely pervades the Benches opposite. But I now pass on from the brief explanation which I have given of the particular epithets and expressions used by myself with reference to the sentiments of others, and I think I may appeal to hon. Members to support me when I say that it was not I who first introduced into these discussions observations of this colour and description. It was not in my opening speech that they had their rise, and so long as our debates are conducted in the manner of which the speech of the noble Lord opposite (Lord Stanley) has furnished us with so good an example I may, I hope, venture to promise that the House will never hear from me any more of such expressions, be they platitudes, be they the truth, or be they fairly characterized as revolutionary and subversive paradoxes.
And now, Sir, I proceed. Now, I come to take a retrospect of this debate. It is natural, it is unavoidable, that my attention should first, and in a principal degree, rest on the remarkable speech which we heard yesterday from my right hon. Friend the Member for Calne. With that speech I shall not attempt to deal in detail, and that for many reasons. One of these reasons, perhaps, is a disinclination to measure swords with such a man. ["Hear, hear!"] That cheer, complimentary as it is, does not, at any rate, precede but follows my own admission. A second reason is in my recollection, and a third lies in my hopes with respect to my right hon. Friend. I cannot forget—although e may—his connection with the men who sit on these Benches. I cannot forget the services which, as a public man, he has rendered, and while I know of no language strong enough to express the grief—nay, astonishment with which I regard his present extraordinary opinions on the question of Reform, passing, as they seemed to do, beyond those entertained, or at least those avowed by other Members, 123 yet I think the evident framework of his mind, as well as his recent conduct on other questions, entitles him to this admission at the hands of his party—that he is pursuing the dictates of his conscience, and that upon general subjects his judgments are frankly liberal. I only hope that when he is again doing battle in the ranks and for the political objects of those among whom he sits, he may display a little more moderation than he has done in the course of the present struggle. With respect to his speech, I may be permitted to observe upon it in either of two aspects. When I look upon it in the light of a great Parliamentary display; when I consider the force of the weapons which he used, the keenness of their edge, and the skill and rapidity of the hand by which they were wielded, I am lost, indeed I was at the time lost, in admiration, though I was myself the object of a fair proportion of the cuts and thrusts which he delivered. But, Sir, when I take another view of that remarkable discourse; when I think of the end and aim to which it was applied—when I think how shallow, unworthy, was the exhibition which he gave us of this great and noble Constitution of England, which I, for one, really thought had struck deep roots into our soil, and was fixed there in a manner to defy the puny efforts of my Lord Russell and his Colleagues—when I recollect how my right hon. Friend, exaggerating more and more as he went on his fears and apprehensions, and colouring every object more and more highly in the phantom visions he raised up—when I found him travelling back to Australia, his old abode, and on discovering there that the public men of that country had, after all, been prosecuting in his absence the career they commenced under his auspices, and when he ended with this portentous discovery—that what he called anarchy must be arrested in the colonies by the paramount power of Parliamentary interference from this country for the purpose of taking away from our fellow-countrymen at the antipodes the powers of self-government which they enjoy, then I confess that the admiration I had felt was lost and swallowed up—I will not say in shame but in grief. Will my right hon. Friend permit me to apply to him the story which is told of the mother of the Regent Duke of Orleans, Elizabeth the Princess Palatine of Bavaria. She said of her son, what I will venture to apply to my right hon. Friend. Her story was, that at his birth 124 the fairies were invited to attend. Each came, and each brought the infant the gift of a talent. But in sending the invitations one fairy had unhappily been forgotten. She came unasked, and said for her revenge, "Yes, he shall have all the talents except one, that of knowing how and for what end to apply them."
The argument of my right hon. Friend depended entirely on a series of unsound and what I may call enormous assumptions. The first which I shall deal with is the assumption that the Government has insulted the House of Commons. Insult, vilification, degradation, harshness, tyranny, despotism—these are some of the flowers of speech which have been applied in the course of this debate by my noble Friend the Member for Haddington, on the part of those whom he calls moderate Liberals, and by others to the conduct of the Government. But, to do him justice, my right hon. Friend never deals in generalities, so he fastened on a phrase. He thinks he substantiated his charge by saying that I had used these words, "We know with whom we have to deal." The right hon. Gentleman says that phrase means the House of Commons; and, consequently, that the House of Commons is insulted. But did it mean the House of Commons? It did not. There is no more common political artifice, as far as my experience goes, than this—when a gentleman finds himself stung or fastened down, or aptly described by some particular phrase or sentiment, he shifts the application of it from himself, and he complains that it has been applied, and, of course, disrespectfully applied to the House of Commons. Sir, I did not apply my phrase to the House of Commons. I will explicitly tell my right hon. Friend to whom I did not apply it, and, if it be any satisfaction to him, I will tell him also to whom I did apply it. I did not apply it to my right hon, Friend the Member for Cambridge University, or to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire, both of whom, as we perfectly well know, are friendly to a reduction of the borough franchise. We may, indeed, have a battle with my right hon. Friend (Mr. Walpole) at the proper time, for he declares, although I own myself unable to perceive it, that a principle is involved in the difference between the rates of £10 and £14 as applied to the counties, and between the amounts £7 and £8 as applied to the boroughs. But he is friendly to the reduction of the franchise in boroughs. He has declared 125 his opinions, and no doubt he will be ready at the proper time to vote in conformity with them. His whole conduct has been open and direct. If I had applied such an expression to him I should have been guilty of the grossest injustice. I had in my mind very different persons. Does my right hon. Friend the Member for Calne recollect how, in one of his plays, that prince of comedians, Aristophanes conveys, through the medium of some character or other, a rebuke to some prevailing tendency or sentiment of the time—I cannot recollect now what it was—too many are the years that have slipped away since I read it—but that character, addressing the audience, says, "But now, my good Athenians, pray recollect I am not speaking of the city, I am not speaking of the public, I am only speaking of certain depraved and crooked little men." And if I may be permitted to make a metaphorical application of these epithets—confining myself most strictly to the metaphorical use, speaking only in a political sense, and with exclusive reference to this question of Reform, I would say it was not of the House of Commons, but of "certain depraved and crooked little men" that I used these words, and I frankly own now in candour my right hon. Friend is, according to my judgment and intention, first and foremost among them. "We know with whom we have to deal," because we know we have to deal with him. My right hon. Friend is opposed to the lowering of the borough franchise. He knows that is the object of this Bill. If I understood his speech aright, and he is so perspicuous that it is hardly possible to be mistaken, he is opposed to Reform in every shape and form; yet, though he is opposed to the measure as a whole, he does not oppose the second reading of the Bill, but has been content to vote for an Amendment which, in effect, says no more than this, "We think that a bad Bill which is already on the table, but you must lay another bad Bill on the table, and then we will consider it." I think, therefore, that I am justified in using the words, significant as I admit them to be, "we know with whom we have to deal." We have to deal with Gentlemen who are opposed to the reduction of the franchise, but who do not think proper to express the ground of their opposition by their vote. The course we have taken is a course that we have taken avowedly upon a principle. We do not deny, we do not dispute, that we are contending for the re- 126 duction of the franchise. We are not now contending for a particular amount. We may mean to propose, and we may mean to adhere to a particular amount; but what we are now contending for is a reduction of the franchise. But we are opposed by open antagonists, and we are also opposed by concealed antagonists. We wish to strip away the disguise from this latter class of antagonists. We wish that they should speak audibly, and in the face of day that which they think, that which they mean; and no effort, Sir, on our part, no amount of endurance, no amount of labour than we can give, shall be wanting to attain that object, and to take care that the people of England, as well as we, the Government, shall know with whom we have to deal.
Then the second head of my right hon. Friend's indictment against us as to insulting this House was that after we had produced a certain quantity of statistics, we declared it should not, with our good will, have any more. Sir, I never said anything of the kind. What I said was, that when questions respecting the social anatomy of class, and the conditions and the numbers in particular of the working class reached a point, which, I say frankly, appeared to me to threaten to assume an invidious and offensive character—I mean justly offensive to them—what I did say was that it was time such inquiries should stop, and that as far as the Government was concerned, we would be no party to their being carried to that point. As to further statistics, Members know the reverse; for example, the hon. Member for Northamptonshire knows well that on the very same night when this matter was under discussion, the Government made not the smallest objection to the production of the statistics which he desired.
But my right hon. Friend says—and I think this was the third proof he gave that we were insulting the House—he says that the information on the subject of the redistribution of seats, that is, the measure which we intend to propose on that subject, is kept back out of mere wantonness. And the task he commends to me is this—I have to show, he conceives, that that measure is so entirely detached from the considerations applicable to the second reading of our present Bill, that it ought upon no account to be given to the House before such second reading, and yet that it is so intimately intertwined with the considerations applicable to the Motion for going 127 into Committee that it must of necessity be given to the House before it is about to go into Committee. Sir, I am bound to prove, and I shall prove no such thing. It is not we who have ever held that the measure for re-distribution was so intertwined with the second reading of this Bill that it must necessarily be given before? we could go into Committee. On the contrary, Sir, we have frankly declared, knowing, as I said before, with whom we have to deal, that the great apprehension which possessed us was not one merely respecting the course that would on that night be taken by the representatives of the small boroughs, naturally and not unwarrantably alarmed on behalf of their constituents. That is a comparatively small matter. But our main dread was that the covert enemies of the reduction of the franchise would make use of that whole wilderness of multitudinous particulars which belongs to the subject, a re-distribution of seats, to perplex and entangle the whole question so as to render progress with it virtually impracticable within the time likely to be at our command. That was the fear we entertained. But as time went on we found that many differed from us as to our mode of procedure, with respect to whom it would have been insolence on our part to doubt that they at the same time concurred with us in a common object—namely, in desiring a reduction of the franchise. Without the smallest reserve, therefore, and in deference to those wishes, we departed from the method of action which our own judgment recommended, and we incurred what we thought real hazard and inconvenience as far as the progress of the measure is concerned. We have, however, adhered all along to the opinion we originally expressed—that the safest course, could we have persuaded the House to pursue it, would have been a complete separation for the moment of the two subjects. I say for the moment, because I am now reminded that I omitted to notice, I believe at the proper time, one point in regard to the opinions of the hon. Member for Birmingham. That particular opinion of my hon. Friend that the re-distribution of seats was a question to be reserved with a view to an intermediate ripening of the public mind on the subject was an opinion that we have never entertained. It was an opinion that my hon. Friend might entertain with perfect honour; but for us—who had formerly combined the two subjects, and for those who now professed to 128 disunite them exclusively upon grounds of convenience and advantage in point of procedure—for us to entertain such a latent purpose would have been a base device, would have been conduct unworthy either of a Government or of any gentleman or any reputable man in whatever capacity or station. And I must confess it is with pain that I can with difficulty allow myself to believe that any such opinion can have been entertained of the Government by any Gentleman who numbers himself among its supporters. I cannot complain or wonder at its being ascribed to us by Gentlemen opposite, for the distinction which the hon. and gallant Member for Huntingdon has made between personal and political honour is a distinction which has been at least conventionally established to a sufficient degree to warrant charges of that kind; but I must say that for Gentlemen who have general confidence in the Government, to think the Government capable of any such act is a thing I am at a loss to understand, and the advice I would respectfully presume to give them is, that they withdraw that general confidence immediately, and make it their first business not to carry an indirect Motion like the Amendment now under consideration, but to put the Government out of office by the most direct and summary means they can discover. Thus much, Sir, as to insulting the House by withholding information.
And now, Sir, I hope I may say a few words as to the general charge of an attempt to domineer or tyrannize over this House. The right hon. Gentleman opposite has given me a favourable opportunity of explaining my position to the Liberal party on that subject. If, Sir, I had been the man who at the very outset of his career, well nigh half a century ago, had with an almost prophetic foresight fastened upon two great groups of questions—the great historic questions of the day, of which the right hon. Gentleman opposite, from the last portion of his speech, seems never to have heard; I mean the questions relating to the removal of civil disabilities for religious opinions, and to Parliamentary Reform—if I had been the man who halting thus in early youth, in the first stage of his political career, fixed upon those questions and made them his own, then went on and prosecuted them with sure and unflagging instinct until the triumph in both cases was achieved; if I had been the man whose name has been associated for forty years, and often in the very first 129 place of eminence, with every measure of beneficent legislation—in other words, had I been Earl Russell, there might have been some temptation to pass into excess in the exercise of authority, and to apply a pressure to this House in itself unjustifiable. But, Sir, I am not Earl Russell. The right hon. Gentleman, secure I suppose in the recollection of his own consistency, has taunted me with the political errors of my boyhood. The right hon. Gentleman when he addressed the hon. Member for Westminster, took occasion to show his magnanimity, for he declared that he would not take the philosopher to task for what he wrote twenty-five years ago. But when he caught one who thirty-five years ago, who, just emerged from boyhood, and still an undergraduate at Oxford, had expressed an opinion adverse to the Reform Bill of 1832, of which he had so long and bitterly repented, then the right hon. Gentleman could not resist the temptation that offered itself to his appetite for effect. He, a Parliamentary champion of twenty years' standing, and the leader, as he informs us to-night of the Tory party, is so ignorant of the House of Commons, or so simple in the structure of his mind, that he positively thought he would obtain a Parliamentary advantage by exhibiting me to the public view for reprobation as an opponent of the Reform Bill of 1832. Sir, as the right hon. Gentleman has done me the honour thus to exhibit me, let me for a moment trespass on the patience of the House to exhibit myself. What he has stated is true. I deeply regret it. But I was bred under the shadow of the great name of Canning; every influence connected with that name governed the first political impressions of my childhood and my youth; with Mr. Canning I rejoiced in the removal of religious disabilities from the Roman Catholic body, and in the free and truly British tone which he gave to our policy abroad; with Mr. Canning I rejoiced in the opening he made towards the establishment of free commercial interchanges between nations; with Mr. Canning and under the shadow of that great name, and under the shadow of the yet more venerable name of Burke, I grant my youthful mind and imagination were impressed with the same idle and futile fears which still bewilder and distract the mature mind of the right hon. Gentleman. I had conceived that very same fear, that ungovernable alarm at the first Reform Bill in the days of my undergraduate career at Oxford which the right 130 hon. Gentleman now feels; and the only difference between us is this—I thank him for bringing it into view by his quotation—that, having those views, I, as it would appear, moved the Oxford Union Debating Society to express them clearly, plainly, forcibly, in downright English, while the right hon. Gentleman does not dare to tell the nation what it is that he really thinks, and is content to skulk under the shelter of the meaningless Amendment which is proposed by the noble Lord. And now, Sir, I quit the right hon. Gentleman; I leave him to his reflections, and I envy him not one particle of the polemical advantage which he has gained by his discreet reference to the proceedings of the Oxford Union Debating Society in the year of grace 1831.
My position then, Sir, in regard to the Liberal party is in all points the opposite of Earl Russell's. Earl Russell might have been misled possibly, had he been in this place, into using language which would have been unfit coming from another person. But it could not be the same with me. I am too well aware of the relations which subsist between the party and myself. I have none of the claims he possesses. I came among you an outcast from those with whom I associated, driven from them, I admit, by no arbitrary act, but by the slow and resistless forces of conviction. I came among you, to make use of the legal phraseology, in pauperis formâ. I had nothing to offer you but faithful and honourable service. You received me, as Dido received the shipwrecked Eneas—Ejectum littore egentem Accepi—And I only trust you may not hereafter at any time have to complete the sentence in regard to me—Et regni demons in parte locavi.You received me with kindness, indulgence, generosity, and I may even say with some measure of confidence. And the relation between us has assumed such a form that you never can be my debtors, but that I must for ever be in your debt. It is not for me, under such circumstances, that any word will proceed that can savour of the character which the right hon. Gentleman imputes to the conduct of the Government with respect to the present Bill. Now, Sir let me state what I take to be the actual condition of the question that is to be decided to-night. For this is not 131 only a protracted debate—it is not only one upon which the House of Commons has freely lavished from every one of its quarters or its sections the choicest treasures of its wit, its argument, its rhetorical, and its persuasive powers—it is also an historical debate. We are now about the process what is called "making History." We are now laying the foundations of much that is to come. This occasion is a starting-point from which I presume to think the career we have to run as individuals and parties will in many respects take its character and colour. Now, Sir, the main charge brought against us is this—that we have introduced a Franchise Bill alone. Is that, then, a very grave offence? There were two reasons that might, surely, without reproach have moved us to take such a course. One was the reason of policy—the desire to avoid inviting unnecessarily an independent combination of persons, and causing them to join on different grounds for the common and momentary purpose of rejecting the Bill. If we were influenced by that motive, I do not know in confessing the fact we need in any way be ashamed of it. But the conclusive reason which swayed us was that which I mentioned in introducing the Bill—the feeling that the passing of a combined Bill must be regarded as impossible; that under the circumstances which then existed it was not possible for us to ask the House to continue its sittings through the autumn, that the time which we must reckon as likely to be consumed in debate upon the double measure would be more than we could make sure, within the ordinary limits of the Session, we should be able to devote to it, and that, consequently, it we introduced a measure which we knew could not in the ordinary course of things pass the House in the time available for its discussion—not only would there be another failure to be added to the already long list of failures, but one attended on our part with gross dishonour. We should have met with all and more than all the opposition which has encountered us, although not, perhaps, from the same quarters. And we should have had to boot the reproach from within, that we had adopted an indirect method of proceeding, and had claimed credit for being the friends of Reform, while we had laid upon the table a measure which we ourselves knew it was impossible to dispose of. This second and conclusive reason was, then, the question of time. It was the twelve- 132 day or twenty-four day argument which has attained such considerable celebrity, and on which my mind dwells with peculiar satisfaction, because it seems to have been the only point of all those mooted in this debate on which everybody has been agreed. No one, at least, has challenged it. That argument of time was also for us, under the circumstances, an argument of honour; and the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn owned that the alternative to our method of proceeding was the postponement of the whole question to next Session. Now, after what has passed, let the noble Lord place himself in our position. I ask the noble Lord, for I have confidence in his fairness, to place himself in our position. We were the authors, most of us, of measures which had resulted in two or three former failures. We had taken part, most of us, in the strong and decisive measure which resulted in the ejection of the Government of Lord Derby upon a Bill relating to this very same subject. We had postponed for several years after that resolution the resumption of the subject which was dropped in 1860. We found upon inquiry last autumn that we could obtain in time to legislate all the information which appeared to us to be needed in order to enable Parliament to deal with the franchise. Was it, then, so great an offence, one which deserved to be visited with such severity, that we thought it more honourable to ourselves and more honourable to our party to do at once that which we found we could do at once, and to postpone to a later stage that which absolutely required to be postponed? Was it so strange a thing that after four Reform Bills had failed, and failed egregiously, we should think of varying their form, of removing some of the cargo from the ship? Was not that, indeed, the natural course to pursue when it had been found impossible to navigate her with the whole of it aboard?
And again, Sir, had the House of Commons evinced a deliberate determination on former occasions only to deal with the extension of the franchise and the re-distribution of seats as one measure the case would have been different. But no such determination had been announced, nor can any such opinion be found upon the records or inferred from the acts of the House. In the many debates which have taken place upon the Bill with respect to the county franchise, introduced by the hon. Member for West Surrey, it was never 133 urged that that measure must of necessity be combined with a proposal for the re-distribution of seats, nor have suggestions of this kind been ordinarily made, if my memory serves me right, in the debates which have taken place upon the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Leeds to effect a reduction of the borough franchise. Again, Sir, is not Ireland a case eminently in point? Does not Ireland present to us the smallest borough constituencies in the Kingdom? And yet we proceeded without scruple in the case of Ireland in the very same manner we have adopted. We added 100,000 or 150,000, or, as I have seen it stated, a yet larger number of voters to the constituencies of Ireland, and still we hate never touched the question of re-distribution at all. And yet, because we have adopted a similar course, our conduct is regarded as something monstrous, and as justifying every kind of strange and dishonouring suspicion.
And now, Sir, I will turn to another head of evidence. Let us see what hon. Gentlemen say when they go to their constituents. That is a description of evidence to which, in my opinion, much weight should be attached, because the sentiments of hon. Gentlemen on such occasions are dictated not only by reason but by instinct—by that instinct which as an inward monitor teaches them what to say when they go before the arbiters of their fate. I have been rather curious in examining the addresses of hon. Gentlemen, and I find that there were 117 borough Members who entered into particulars on the subject of Reform, and did not refer to it simply on general terms. Out of these, no more than sixteen referred to the question of the re-distribution of seats; and I believe that every one of those sixteen members who have testified in this unequivocal manner to their belief in the importance of re-distribution of seats, is going to vote with the Government in favour of the present Bill. The remaining 101 declared themselves at the election upon the franchise alone. Whether some of them may since have become conscious of the great importance of the re-distribution of Beats I do not know; but on referring to the names, I find that the vast' majority of those who think the subject of Reform is worth introducing at all refer to it in making their profession of a political creed, simply in connection with and for its most important branch—the extension of the franchise. Therefore, Sir, I must say I do not think 134 it can be shown that any great reproach attaches to the Government for the course which it has adopted.
Now, Sir, I come to the language that has been held about the inconvenience of the separation? The noble Lord opposite (Lord Stanley) has argued this part of the question very high. I do not blame the noble Lord for what I certainly thought a strain of great exaggeration. I will only say this, I doubt whether it was altogether consistent in the speaker of the speech. For what was the noble Lord's course in 1859? The noble Lord objects to anything lying in prospect only; he wants to have everything in hand. Is that so? There are two heads under which this objection arises; one is with respect to boundaries, and the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) has shown to-night that is much the greater of the two in his opinion. The other has reference to the re-distribution of seats. How did the noble Lord stand with respect to the question of boundaries? Though the Government of which he was a Member had been twelve months in office when they brought in their Bill, though they had ample time for ascertaining all the facts, and for proposing an exact system of delimitation to Parliament, they made no such proposal—all they did was to insert a clause directing that inquiries should be made, which inquiries were to be made after the Bill should have passed, and to be followed by a Bill for fixing boundaries. So that as to this head the noble Lord did the very thing which he charges us with doing. And what did he do with respect to re-distribution? He put in fifteen seats in his Bill; it was not much, but it was the best part of the measure; the other provisions of the Bill of 1859 were such as I would rather not now describe. Well, the noble Lord put in fifteen seats, and having thus satisfied himself, he also proposed to fix a certain rate for the borough and county franchise, and then said, "Though we give you only fifteen seats now, it is because we cannot do more at present; but if you look at the borough and county franchise, you will see that as they are now to be identified bye-and-bye you can re-distribute seats as much as you like." Thus, having by the Bill thrown the entire question of boundaries bodily into the future, and having left the question of redistribution, in a great measure, to stand over for its real settlement at some time perfectly undetermined, the noble Lord now comes down and delivers this admirable 135 speech—admirable except for the speaker—on the intolerable inconvenience of making any separation at all, between the question of the franchise and the determination of the constituencies among which the seats are to be divided. And now, Sir, I wish to say one word on an illustration used by the noble Lord. Not the figure of the House, for that was well answered by my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General for Scotland, who reminded him that we were not going to build a house, for we have got a very good one. But I refer to the illustration which the noble Lord drew from the subject of finance. "But," said the noble Lord, "In finance you would never do this, for in finance the House always has the whole scheme before it." But does the noble Lord forget that controversy of historic fame which closed about four or five years ago, when, for the special purpose of the protection of its privileges, the House thought fit to unite all its taxes and all its chief financial measures for the year in one Bill? Until that year the practice had been to pass all the financial proposals as independent Bills, subject to all the risks which the noble Lord described, and all the dangers and inconveniences which he conjured up, and presented to our view as attendant upon severances of this kind. But who were the defenders of that separate legislation? Why, all it defenders came from behind the noble Lord; they were the very same men who to-night I suppose will crowd one of the lobbies of the House to sustain a vote in flat contrariety to the rule laid down by the noble Lord.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge made what I must frankly call a commendable and in intention a helpful suggestion. Why do not you proceed by Resolution? he asked. I thank him for it, because I am certain of the spirit in which that suggestion was offered. But had my right hon. Friend thought of the meaning of proceeding by Resolution? We could easily conceive I think, how our first Resolution would be framed; it might be very short, for it would not require much explanation. It would be easy to put into a few Resolutions so much of the Bill as related to the franchise; but I want to know how he would have put the re-distribution of seats into the form of a Resolution? Would he have a Resolution declaring that it is expedient to take away so many Members from thirty or forty boroughs; and would 136 he name those boroughs? If he did not name them the Resolution would be meaningless; and if he did name them, what, I ask, would be the difference between the Resolution and a Bill for re-distribution, so far as regards the main point in issue—namely, the gaining time by avoiding multiplied topics of debate. Nothing would be gained by that course. I fully appreciate the suggestion, but I am bound to say I do not think we have incurred an evil result or deserved any blame for not adopting it.
Now, Sir, what is the real state of the case with regard to distribution? This is very much at the root of our present difficulty. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham has said truly that it is conceivable that you may have a scheme of re-distribution such as altogether to frustrate and to intercept the effect of your reduction of the franchise. If we were to introduce a scheme of that kind I admit that everything that has been said against us would be just. But, Sir, we are not persons who have given no indication in former times of our views of re-distribution. My belief is that re-distribution, though an exceedingly important subject, is secondary altogether to the franchise, because it is limited by and regulated upon principles which I think afford little room for difference of opinion among fair-minded and moderate men. The re-distributions of the Bill of 1854, of the Bill of 1859, and of the Bill of 1860 have proceeded upon one and the same set of principles—namely to abridge the representation in one portion of our system, by taking Members from the boroughs of small populations, and to give the seats thus obtained in such proportion as might be thought fair between the new towns and such of the counties and large towns already represented as might appear to have just claims to an increase of representation. Such are the principles; but of course there must be some variety in the mode of applying them. In that view of the subject I think any reasonable man will see that there is nothing at all that can vitally affect in any manner a Bill which extends the franchise. The Bill I think of the right hon. Gentleman and Lord Derby proposed to enfranchise seven towns. Birkenhead has since been enfranchised; but six of those boroughs still remain, and their population averages 20,000, so that altogether the population numbers 120,000. Take 120,000 people out of the counties; 137 what is the number of £7 voters which would by such a measure be brought into existence? It is not worth considering for a moment. The right hon. Gentleman did, indeed, I think, state that there were 2,000,000 or 3,000,000 of people in the counties that might properly be withdrawn from them and included within the towns. I grant that if you approach the subject of re-distribution with the intention of what is commonly called "cooking the constituency," you will, by seeking to destroy the effects of the reduction of the franchise by the re-distribution of seats, make re-distribution a most dangerous engine. We disclaim all such intentions. I think our former conduct ought to acquit us of any such intentions. But if such intentions be imputed to us, it ought to be by our enemies, for such intentions are not to be imputed compatibly with political friendship. We consider it to be the proper purpose of redistribution by moderate and reasonable changes to second the provisions of the law touching the franchise, not covertly to neutralize and overturn them. Now, Sir, we have been asked to do some things, and we have done them. But let us just consider what they are and what they are not. It has been stated, and stated assiduously, that we have said that re-distribution must be postponed for another year, and that nothing could be done on that subject until the Franchise Bill became law. We have said neither one nor the other. We have never refused any request or suggestion to proceed with re-distribution during the present year. We said that we should not proceed with the plan of re-distribution until in our judgment the fate of the Franchise Bill had been secured. But that is a very different thing. That security may become apparent at different stages of the progress, according as circumstances happen, which can only be judged of at the moment. But as to the postponement of the Re-distribution Bill for another year, we have not said anything of the sort. I myself, in the name of the Government, distinctly pointed out that if it were the pleasure of the House, in its anxiety for a prompt settlement of the whole subject of Reform, to prolong its sittings during the autumn the Government would not be the parties to object. But, strange to say, although that offer was intelligibly given, not a single one of the Gentlemen who are so keen for considering re-distribution with the question of the franchise has let fall a syllable showing a disposition to agree to 138 that proposal. We said that in our opinion the re-distribution of seats formed an essential part of Reform; we said the political engagement on which we stake our existence as a Government is not confined to the Franchise Bill, but extends to the subject of re-distribution; and we said the process of re-distribution, if there were a mind to undertake it with despatch, should not be interrupted by any tardiness or laziness of ours. We are taunted, and not altogether unjustly, by the right hon. Gentleman opposite with having changed our front, because we have made this further concession in order to meet the views of Gentlemen whom we believe to be united with ourselves in the object that we have in view—that we will lay the Bill for the re-distribution of seats upon the table before asking the House to go into Committee upon the Bill relating to the franchise. And now, Sir, I may fairly ask, what more is desired? Let us hear what is asked, that we may consider whether, compatibly with the main design we have in view, we can give our assent to the demand? The noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn, says, "Give us a guarantee that if the Franchise Bill passes, the Re-distribution Bill shall also pass." Is the noble Lord so much afraid of the consequences of failure as to forget that if our plan of re-distribution fails the Government must fail with it, and consequently that if he is so keen for re-distribution, that he can come in himself and carry his own. The noble Lord is afraid of a dissolution. But there can, I think, be nothing more obvious than this, that the Government having produced these two Bills will have every conceivable motive of a selfish kind for avoiding a dissolution until both the one and the other shall have passed. We shall have conciliated a few, while—proceed as cautiously as we may—we shall have offended many. If you think we may have some favour and interest with the constituencies likely to be enfranchised, it is in your power to gain as great an interest in them, should you but have the wisdom and forethought to desist from the course that you are now pursuing, and to show a little less mistrust of them—that portion of your fellow-countrymen—should you for example henceforward refrain from insisting that to allow them to possess the franchise is to Americanize our institutions.
I wish to be clearly understood upon the question connected with the form and manner of proceeding with the measure, 139 especially after it has been repeatedly stated in debate that there are various rumours circulating in the House. I believe there are Gentlemen who desire of us more than we have promised to do, who are not satisfied with our having said that the Re-distribution Bill should be placed in their possession immediately after the second reading of the measure that is now before them. Let me endeavour, then, to be clear upon this subject. Our object is to draw a separation broadly and unequivocally between those who really desire a reduction of the franchise in counties, and, above all, in boroughs, and those who do not, but who are apparently disposed to make use of the question of the re-distribution of seats, and of every other topic, for the purpose of concealing their hostility and yet effectively prosecuting their opposition to the reduction of the franchise. Now, Sir, I have to say that the Government will be l0th to quarrel upon any mere question of procedure with any Gentleman in whom we recognize a community of object and purpose with ourselves. If Gentlemen have the same end in view, we shall have every disposition, as far as we can contrive it, to adopt the same means. We hold every subject of procedure to be wholly secondary to the purpose for which it is intended. What we cannot do, however, is this—we cannot undertake to abandon the ground we have gained, for, in my opinion, we have gained ground. We will not undertake to forego the fruit of the labours which the House has bestowed on that part of the Session which is past; and we cannot undertake to waste that portion of the Session which is yet to come. We will not, as far as depends upon us, either encourage or endure procrastination. I must in the plainest manner convey to my noble Friend the Member for Chester that we will be no parties to procrastination; and that no concealment shall subsist if we have the power to pierce it, and to unveil to the public whatever is beneath. That, Sir, is the state of the case with regard to our intentions upon what may happen after the second reading of this Bill. Now, Sir, in a great question like this, it is well understood what is really involved in the second reading. Let it be clearly understood that we are not now debating the rejection or acceptance of clauses secondary with reference to the main purpose of the Bill. It is no question of savings banks, it is no question of dockyard enfranchise- 140 ment; nor is it even a question concerning the votes of leaseholders in counties. And here I will, in passing, make an admission to my right hon. Friend the Member for North Staffordshire. He has certainly surprised me by the number of votes which he states would be added to the register of a particular division of a county under the operation of this clause. I do not know that his estimate is precisely correct; I may have occasion to question it. We have proposed the clause I am referring to under the belief that, as a general and almost universal rule, the number of those leaseholding votes are comparatively few. If that be not so, it is a question undoubtedly open to re-consideration.
Nor, of course, are we at this moment asking of any Gentleman to pledge himself as to the particular figure at which he will fix the reduced franchise in counties, nor even in boroughs. We do not conceal our intentions. We do not hold out the smallest expectation that we shall deviate from our position in this respect; we cannot depart from it. But that is not the point to be decided to-night. The point we are to decide to-night is whether the House will, by a majority, vote for the second rending of this Bill—that is to say, for a measure affirming the reduction of the franchise in counties, and especially in towns. That is the question. ["No, no !"and Cheers.] It may not be the question in the estimation of the hon. Gentleman; but it seems not improper that those who move the second reading of a Bill should at any rate put the House in possession of what they know to be the intention of the movers, and what they believe to be, and so far as depends on them intend should be, the true significance of the vote for which they ask. Have we, then, good reason for asking that this Bill should be read a second time in lieu of adopting the Motion of the noble Earl? I think we have very sound reasons for asking it. They are these. We gave notice that we would introduce a measure of Reform, and we produced the Bill. We were saluted by my noble Friend with a hostile Motion, and a Motion framed in concert with the party in Opposition. ["No, no !"and" Hear, hear !"] On a former occasion I endeavoured to do justice to the moderation of my noble Friend's character. I wish now to bear testimony to the moderation and mildness of his language. But the moderation and mildness of his language cannot blind the Government to the seve- 141 rity of his act. He spoke of his being a follower of Earl Russell, but the Amendment coming from my noble Friend has been concerted with the party opposite. [An hon. MEMBER: I do not believe it was.] [Much laughter.] I am bound to say that I am unable to recognize the hon. Member as the leader of the party opposite. I recognize the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks as filling that position, and no one else. But, returning to the Amendment; I am not aware of any case, within our Parliamentary experience, or of any case whatever, in which a Government has consented to accept such an Amendment, so prepared and so produced. I frankly own that if I were to be dragged at the chariot-wheels of any man, I would be as willing to be dragged at the chariot-wheels of my noble Friend as at those of any one whom I have the honour to know. But that is a process to which a Government cannot and must not submit. I marked the words of my noble Friend, looking back at his conduct in 1859. He was then so zealous for a reduction of the borough franchise, that he would not hear of the proposal to read the Bill of that day a second time, because it did not propose such reduction. My noble Friend now repents of that refusal. He says it was a very unwise proceeding. He holds that, having then before them a Government which had introduced a Reform Bill, and which were pledged to stand or fall by it, to stop the Government in its career was not the way to promote the cause of Reform. But, strange inconsistency of human nature—not peculiar to my noble Friend, but only too common in the annals of casuistry ! For a moment, and with evident sincerity, he repents; but at the same moment the temptation again presents itself, and again he falls. In the very act of making the confession he repeats and revives the offence. My noble Friend now in truth asks the House to do over again what he laments that it did in 1859. We ask that our Bill may be read a second time. Is our request an unfair one? My right hon. Friend the Member for Calne quoted yesterday, and with great effect, a phrase which has been used by Mr. Hallam. Mr. Hallam says very truly that Ministers have a double allegiance—an allegiance to the Crown, and an allegiance to this House. It is their business, in submitting their measures to the judgment of the House, to consider what their own honour requires; but it is also their duty 142 in deciding as they best can what is expedient for the public interests to consider what may be required for the honour, dignity, and efficiency of the House. Well, Sir, after all that has happened—after the many Bills which have been brought in—after the many unforeseen obstacles ending in miscarriage—after the equivocal and questionable proceedings that have at times been taken with reference to these measures, and the jealousies and reproaches which the public do not understand, but of which they see the effect in the total stoppage of the movement of Reform—we have deliberately thought we were entitled, nay that we were bound, to ask the House for an answer on the question of the reduction of the franchise in counties and boroughs—a question which cannot be affected in its substance by any course which we can pursue with regard to the redistribution of seats. That is what we have thought, and I think I may ask my noble Friend whether we are not perfectly entitled to ask for that answer.
Sir, there was a wish expressed by one of the heroes of that ancient war to which my right hon. Friend and myself have so often referred, a wish eminently suitable to the present position of Her Majesty's Government. It is this—Let us die in the daylight.Now, I ask it of my noble Friend that we may die in the daylight. My noble Friend's hostility to this Bill—and the fact of such hostility is notorious, for it was declared in his address to his constituents—is not founded upon the circumstance of its not containing clauses for re-distribution, but on the fact of its being a Bill for the reduction of the franchise in boroughs. My noble Friend differs vitally from the Government on that subject. I do not complain of that difference of opinion. On the contrary, I honour him for acting according to his own opinion; but I do not think it too much to ask that he should state it in plain words. He asks, however, for a Re-distribution Bill with the Franchise Bill. But suppose a Re-distribution Bill of an unobjectionable character were introduced, would my noble Friend then support the Franchise Bill? I think that is a fair challenge. I think that upon the answer to that challenge, or upon the non-answer to it,' which will mean pretty much the same thing, the judgment of the House and of the country may very well be taken. The right hon. Gentleman the Member 143 for Calne has said that we hare given no reasons for our Bill; and he likewise said that we know nothing of those 204,000 persons, whom it is proposed to enfranchise in boroughs; indeed, as I think, he repeated the assertion several times. What, Sir, do we know nothing of those 204,000? Does my right hon. Friend know nothing of them? We were taught to think he knew a good deal about them. We have not yet wholly forgotten his own significant words so loudly cheered: "we know what sort of men live in these houses." My right hon. Friend will recollect the words well enough. They were used in his first speech. They formed part of his declamatory denunciation against the admission of any class below the &10 voters to the franchise. Nor was this all. Who were those Hyperboreans of the speech of my right hon. Friend? And what was the wind that got colder as the traveller went further north? Was not the comparison this—that as on the earth's surface the cold increases as we move in that direction, so in the downward figures of the franchise the voters became progressively more drunken, or more venal, or, to refrain from recalling those words, I would say simply more and more unfit? Now, Sir, we too know something of those men, but what we know is very different from the supposed knowledge of my right hon. Friend. The right hon. Gentleman asked, "Do you think the franchise is good in itself, or do you wish to improve the institutions of the country?" Sir, I find here no dilemma. My answer is, we want to do both. The extension of the franchise within safe and proper limits is good. It will array more persons in support of the institutions of the country, and that is another good. The composition and the working of this House is admirable, and its performances have long since placed it at the head of all the legislative assemblies of the world. It does not follow, however, that it cannot be improved. I will not say with my right hon. Friend that it is perfect. I am not sure, indeed, that he said so, but he seemed to mean if not to say it. I am not prepared to pay the worship of idolatry even to this House. I will mention a point in which I think it might be improved. It is this. I need not say I am scarcely speaking of the present House, which has but just entered upon its labours. I am speaking of the reformed Parliament in general. There is a saying which has been ascribed to a very eminent person, still 144 alive—whose name I will not mention because I have no means of knowing whether it has been truly ascribed to him or not, but I will quote it for its own sake. It is to the effect that the unreformed Parliament used to job for individuals, while the reformed Parliament jobs for classes. I do not adopt the rudeness of the phrase, but the substance of the observation is in my opinion just. I think that the influence of separate classes is too strong, and that the influence of the public interest properly so called, as distinguished from the interest of sets, groups, and classes of men, is too weak. I fully admit I am not perhaps altogether an impartial judge; I speak much from my own experience during a lengthened period as Chancellor of the Exchequer, and as in a special degree and sense the guardian of the public purse. Undoubtedly, if there be a weak point in the composition of the House this is the department in which it would most readily and most clearly show itself. I believe that the composition of the House might be greatly improved; and that the increased representation of the working classes would supply us more largely with that description of Members whom we want, who would look not to the interests of classes, hut to the public interest. In presuming to say so much as this, I hope I do not convey any reproach to any party or person; but my right hon. Friend (Mr. Lowe) challenged us so sharply, as if we admitted that no improvement whatever was possible, that I felt bound to state my belief.
Again, Sir, I return to the broad proposition of my right hon. Friend. He says we have no reasons. Perhaps he does not admit as a reason what was stated the other day by the hon. Member for Birmingham, that there have been a hundred meetings—public meetings held in favour of this Bill. I observed, when those words were spoken, that loud murmurs arose on the other side of the House at the mention of the number, and I have not the least doubt of their good faith. I, however, was persuaded that the hon. Member for Birmingham was right, and turning to the Report of the Committee on Public Petitions, I counted the meetings. [An Opposition MEMBER: Got up!] The meetings are "got up!" are they? Then you have your remedy. Do you get up meetings against the measure? It will then be seen whether it is or is not an easy matter to get an expression of public senti- 145 ment on which to found your operations. I know not whether they are "got up" or not; if Gentlemen think they are, it is open to them who think so to try the experiment the other way. But this I know, that I counted the petitions presented from public meetings, and signed by the chairmen of these meetings individually, and I found that between the 11th and the 17th of April there were 187 such petitions, besides 500,000 or 600,000 signatures from individuals in favour of this Bill. So much then, Sir, I say as respects that description of argument which may with fairness be drawn within certain bounds, from the evident and expressed opinion of the country.
But now I have to grapple with the principal argument, if such it be, of my right hon. Friend the Member for Calne, and to confront all the dismal pictures he draws of the destruction of the British Constitution. My answer is, that it is not going to be destroyed. We are not going to import American principles. It is not an American principle to reduce the borough franchise. It is a return to old English principles—it is a restoration of the state and course of things that subsisted before, and ought to subsist again, What has happened since 1832? I am now going to state a part of the case on the authority of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley)—The working people have been having a less and less share in the representation. They had a considerable representation before 1832, through the scot-and-lot voters and the freemen. I am not going to say anything either for or against the freemen; but through them the working class had their voice in the representation. They are gradually dying out."—[3 Hansard, clii. 1066.]That was the emphatic statement of the right hon. Gentleman in 1859; and has it been counteracted since? No; it has not been counteracted, not even, as I believe, in the least degree, certainly not to any considerable extent. I will now state the growth of electors in boroughs, and not generally since 1832; for when I stated what it had been from 1832 to 1865, I gave an unjust advantage to my opponents—but since 1851. Now, I pray the House to observe these figures which I am about to give. In 1851 the total number of the electors in boroughs was 410,000; in 1865–6 it was 509,000, showing an increase of 99,000: that is to say, an increase of 24 per cent in fourteen years. That, then, has been the increase in the number of the electors. I come next to the increase of population in boroughs. In the year 146 1851 it was 7,186,000; in 1866 it was 9,266,000, giving an increase of 2,079,000, or, in other words, of 28.9 per cent in the population. That being so, I ask those Gentlemen who speak of the gradual absorption of the working classes into the constituencies and the franchise as being within their reach, to consider these figures. We now see that we have actually a slower growth of the electors in boroughs than of the population. Well, but while the population and the electors have been moving on as I have described, the wealth of the country among the middle and upper classes has, according to the best estimate which I can make, been advancing as follows:—The income tax in 1851, making due allowance for the changes which have been since introduced into the law, may be taken with sufficient approach to accuracy, for the purpose of comparison, as having been worth £850,000 per penny; this year I am enabled to state that it is worth £1,400,000 per penny: that is to say, there has been an increase of 65 per cent in the wealth of the country liable to income tax, or at the rate of 4 per cent per annum. But when I tell you that this vast increase of wealth has been going on almost entirely in the upper and middle classes, and yet that the total number of electors in the towns does not keep pace with the population, I hope we shall hear no more of this supposed absorption of the working classes into the enfranchised body. I am justified, then, in stating that the working classes are not adequately represented in this House. They are not, it is admitted, represented in any proportion to their numbers; and without holding that it would be fit for us to do more than lessen the disproportion, we contend it is right to do as much. They are not represented, as I have previously shown, in accordance with their share of the income of the country. Especially after the events of the last few years, I may boldly proceed to say they are not represented in proportion to their intelligence, their virtue, or their loyalty. Finally, they are less represented now than they were thirty-six years ago, when they were less competent to exercise the franchise. A greater amount of representation with a less amount of fitness was not found to be injurious, but wholesome, for the State; and now, when, as you admit, there is a greater amount of fitness, and, as you must grant, a less amount of representation, you are not disposed to accede to a further measure of enfranchise- 147 ment. If these are not good reasons for extending the suffrage at the present, I know not what reasons can be good. But if hon. Members think they can hold their ground in a policy of resistance and refusal for the present, I have to ask them, how do they regard the future? My right hon. Friend the Member for Calne has prophesied to us, in the most emphatic terms, the ruin of the British Constitution. His prophecies were beautiful so far as his masterly use of the English language is concerned. But many prophecies quite as good may be found in the pages of Mr. Burke and Mr. Canning, and other almost equally distinguished men. What has been the fate of those prophecies? What use do they now serve? They form admirable material of declamations for schoolboys, and capital exercises to be translated into Greek. The prophecies of my right hon. Friend, like those of even greater men than he, may some thirty years hence serve a similar purpose. They may, for the beauty and force of their language, be selected by teachers at colleges and schools as exercises for their pupils, and my right hon. Friend will have his reward, as others have had theirs, Ut pueris placeas et declamatio fias. My hon. Friend says we know nothing about the labouring classes. Is not one single word a sufficient reply? That word is Lancashire; Lancashire, associated with the sufferings of the last four years, so painful and bitter in themselves to contemplate, but so nobly and gloriously borne? The qualities then exhibited were the qualities not of select men here and there among a depraved multitude, but of the mass of a working community. The sufferings were sufferings of the mass. The heroism was heroism of the mass. For my own part, I cannot believe that the men who exhibited those qualities were only a sample of the people of England, and that the rest would have wholly failed in exhibiting the same great qualities had occasion arisen. I cannot see what argument could be found for some wise and temperate experiment of the extension of civil rights among such people, if the experience of the past few years does not sufficiently afford it.
And now, Sir, let us for a moment consider the enormous and silent changes which have been going forward among the labouring population. May I use the words to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen once used by way of exhortation by Sir 148 Robert Peel to his opponents, "elevate your vision?" Let us try and raise our views above the fears, the suspicions, the jealousies, the reproaches, and the recriminations of this place and this occasion. Let us look onward to the time of our children and of our children's children. Let us know what preparation it behoves us should be made for that coming time. Is there or is there not, I ask, a steady movement of the labouring classes, and is or is not that movement a movement onwards, and upwards? I do not say that it falls beneath the eye, for, like all great processes, it is unobservable in detail, but as solid and undeniable as it is resistless in its essential character. It is like those movements of the crust of the earth which science tells us are even now going on in certain portions of the globe. The sailor courses over them in his vessel, and the traveller by land treads them without being conscious of these changes; but from day to day, from hour to hour, the heaving forces are at work, and after a season we discern from actual experience that things are not as they were. Has my right hon. Friend, in whom mistrust rises to its utmost height, ever really considered the astonishing phenomena connected with some portion of the conduct of the labouring classes, especially in the Lancashire distress? Has he considered what an amount of self-denial was exhibited by these men in respect to the American war? They knew that the source of their distress lay in the war; yet they never uttered or entertained the wish that any effort should be made to put an end to it, as they held it to be a war for justice, and for freedom. Could any man have believed that a conviction so still, so calm, so firm, so energetic, could have planted itself in the minds of a population without becoming a known patent fact throughout the whole country? But we knew nothing of it. And yet when the day of trial came we saw that noble sympathy on their part with the people of the North; that determination that, be their sufferings what they might, no word should proceed from them that would hurt a cause which they so firmly believed to be just. On one side there was a magnificent moral spectacle; on the other side was there not also a great lesson to us all, to teach us that in those little tutored, but yet reflective minds, by a process of quiet instillation, opinions and sentiments gradually form themselves of which we for a long time remain unaware, 149 but which, when at last they make their appearance, are found to be deep-rooted, mature, and ineradicable? And now, Sir, J ask my noble Friend how he proposes to administer the government of that singularly associated family of persons who adopt this Amendment? There ought to be some unity of purpose among those friends and associates who have linked themselves together on a question such as this; among those who design to overturn Governments, or to destroy Reform Bills. I will state a portion of the contradictions that are to be gathered out of this debate on one side only. My noble Friend says we ought to have referred this question to the Committee of Privy Council. But the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole) tells him, and tells him truly, that it would be totally useless; firstly, it would do no good, and secondly, it would be entirely unconstitutional. That is the first specimen I give. Next, my right hon. Friend (Mr. Walpole) says we ought to have introduced a measure of re-distribution; but the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud and the hon. Member for Galway say they would have been content, the one to support our Franchise Bill, and both to entertain and discuss it, if we had said nothing about re-distribution. Again, my hon. Friend the Member for Wick says we ought to proceed with the two Bills pari passu, but my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University says, and supports his -opinion with reasoning to show, that such a course of proceeding would only involve increased delay. The right hon. Member for Calne says that would remove none of his objections. The right hon. Member for Bucks, I think, says the same, and yet the hon. Member for Wick says that if only we will adopt his advice he will ensure for our obtaining every vote on the Liberal side of the House. The hon. and learned Member for Belfast says representation is founded on classes. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Walpole) says, "No, it is not founded on classes, but on communities." The hon. and learned Member for Belfast says fitness is not aground for enfranchisement; and the right hon. Baronet the Member for Herts says not merely that he would be satisfied, but with emphatic and expressive gesture that he would be delighted if every artizan who is fit for the franchise could be admitted to it. The noble Lord the Member for Galway (Lord Dunkellin) not only 150 declares his adhesion to Reform, but states that it is in the capacity of an ardent Reformer that he objects to our measure; while the right hon. and gallant General the Member for Huntingdon (General Peel) frames a catalogue of the mischief we have had to endure during the Reforming era, and seems to consider that we have had not only enough of Reform in Parliament, but even a little more than enough. The hon. Member for Cambridge says, I think very truly, that Parliament is pledged in this matter, not, of course, to do what they think wrong; nobody ever said anything so absurd; but what is meant is this—that those pledges of Parliament are pledges which, if they are not observed, will cause discredit to Parliament and will tend to the disparagement of Parliamentary Government with the country. But while my right hon. Friend says that Parliament is pledged, the hon. Member for Dublin and the right hon. Member for Bucks have laboured to demonstrate that it is under no pledge whatever. Lastly, Sir, the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire says he is an ardent friend of Reform. I will not contradict him—that would not he good manners, neither will I cite against him the words of any other Gentleman. But I will cite his own words or opinions. I conceive that in his judgment—a most untrue and injurious judgment as I think—he has contradicted himself; because he avowedly and pointedly glories in Lord Palmerston as being a man whose life, if it had only been prolonged, would have effectually kept at bay any new Reform Bill. That Sir, which I have represented in these references, is the state of self-contradiction among this party, a party gathered together for a chance purpose, with no bond of cohesion and no declared principle, with no avowed intention—meaning as I must repeat, one thing and saying another thing—saying that which is comparatively small account—not saying but suppressing the thing which the most important persons in it deeply feel, and which they would wish to say. Such is the state of things among our present opponents, such is their harmony of language, their unity of view, upon this the first and only occasion on which they have been able to co-operate.
Sir, the hour has arrived when this protracted debate must come to an end. [Cheers.] I cannot resent the warmth with which that last expression of mine 151 has been re-echoed. My apologies to the House are sincere. I feel deeply indebted, not to Gentlemen sitting on this side of the House only, but also and not less to hon. Gentlemen opposite, for the patience with which they have heard me. But a very few words more, and I have done. May I speak briefly to hon. Gentlemen opposite, as some of them have addressed advice to Gentlemen on this side of the House. I would ask them, "Will you not consider, before you embark in this new crusade, whether the results of those other crusades in which you have heretofore engaged have been so satisfactory to you as to encourage you to repeat the operation?" Great battles you have fought, and fought them manfully. The battle of maintaining civil disabilities on account of religious belief, the battle of resisting the first Reform Act, the obstinate and long-continued battle of Protection, all these great battles have been fought by the great party that I see opposite; and, as to some portion of those conflicts I admit my own share of the responsibility. But I ask, again, have their results—have their results towards yourselves—been such as that you should be disposed to renew struggles such as these? Certainly those who compose the Liberal party here, at least in that capacity have no reason or title to find fault. The effect of your course has been to give them for five out of every six, or for six out of every seven years since the epoch of the Reform Act the conduct and management of public affairs. The effect has been to lower, to reduce, and contract your just influence in the country, and to abridge your legitimate share in the administration of the Government. It is good for the public interest that you should be strong; but if you are to be strong, you can only be so by showing, in addition to the kindness and the personal generosity which I am sure you feel towards the people, a public, a political trust and confidence in them. What I now say can hardly be said with an evil motive. I am conscious of no such sentiment towards any man or party. But, Sir, we are assailed; this Bill is in a state of crisis and of peril, and the Government along with it. We stand or fall with it, as has been declared by my noble Friend Lord Russell. We stand with it now; we may fall with it a short time hence. If we do so fall, we, or others in our places, shall rise with it hereafter. I shall not attempt to measure with precision the forces that are to be arrayed 152 against us in the coming issue. Perhaps the great division of to-night is not the last that must take place in the struggle. At some point of the contest you may possibly succeed. You may drive us from our seats. You may bury the Bill that we have introduced, but we will write upon its gravestone for an epitaph this line, with certain confidence in its fulfilment—Exoriare aliquis nostris ex ossibus ultor.You cannot fight against the future. Time is on our side. The great social forces which move onwards in their might and majesty, and which the tumult of our debates does not for a moment impede or disturb—those great social forces are against you; they are marshalled on our side; and the banner which we now carry in this fight, though perhaps at some moment it may droop over our sinking heads, yet it soon again will float in the eye of heaven, and it will be borne by the firm hands of the united people of the three kingdoms, perhaps not to an easy, but to a certain and to a not distant victory.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 318; Noes 313: Majority 5.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday next.156
|Acland, T. D.||Bright, Sir C. T.|
|Adair, H. E.||Bright, J.|
|Agnew, Sir A.||Briscoe, J. I.|
|Akroyd, E.||Brocklehurst, J.|
|Allen, W. S.||Brown, J.|
|Anstruther, Sir R.||Browne, Lord J. T.|
|Antrobus, E.||Bruce, Lord C.|
|Armstrong, R.||Bruce, rt. hon. H. A.|
|Ayrton, A. S.||Bryan, G. L.|
|Aytoun, R. S.||Buller, Sir A. W.|
|Bagwell, J.||Buller, Sir E. M.|
|Baines, E.||Butler, C. S.|
|Barclay, A. C.||Buxton, C.|
|Baring, T. G.||Buxton, Sir T. F.|
|Barnes, T.||Calcraft, J. H. M.|
|Barron, Sir H. W.||Calthorpe, hn. F. H. W. G.|
|Barry, C. R.||Candlish, J.|
|Barry, G. R.||Cardwell, rt. hon. E.|
|Bass, A.||Carnegie, hon. C.|
|Bass, M. T.||Castlerosse, Viscount|
|Baxter, W. E.||Cave, T.|
|Bazley, T.||Cavendish, Lord E.|
|Beaumont, H. F.||Cavendish, Lord F. C.|
|Berkeley, hon. H. F.||Cavendish, Lord G.|
|Biddulph, Col. R. M.||Chambers, T.|
|Biddulph, M.||Cheetham, J.|
|Blake, J. A.||Childers, H. C. E.|
|Blennerhassett, Sir R.||Cholmeley, Sir M. J.|
|Bonham-Carter, J.||Clay, J.|
|Bouverie, rt. hon. E. P.||Clement, W. J.|
|Bowyer, Sir G.||Clinton, Lord E. P.|
|Brady, J.||Clive, G.|
|Cogan, W. H. F.||Hanmer, Sir J.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Hardcastle, J. A.|
|Coleridge, J. D.||Harris, J. D.|
|Collier, Sir R. P.||Hartington, Marquess of|
|Colthurst, Sir. G. C.||Harvey, R. J. H.|
|Colvile, C. R.||Hay, Lord J.|
|Cowen, J.||Hay, Lord W. M.|
|Cowper, hon. H. F.||Hayter, Captain A. D.|
|Cowper, rt. hon. W. F.||Headlam, rt. hon. T. E.|
|Craufurd, E. H. J.||Henderson, J.|
|Crawford, R. W.||Heneage, E.|
|Crossley, Sir F.||Henley, Lord|
|Dalglish, R.||Herbert, H. A.|
|Davey, R.||Hibbert, J. T.|
|Davie, Sir H. R. F.||Hodgkinson, G.|
|Dawson, hon. Capt. V.||Hodgson, K. D.|
|Denman, hon. G,||Holden, I.|
|Dent, J. D.||Holland, E.|
|Dering, Sir E. C.||Howard, hon. C. W. G.|
|Devereux, R. J.||Howard, Lord E.|
|Dilke, Sir W.||Hughes, T.|
|Dillon, J. B.||Hughes, W. B.|
|Dillwyn, L. L.||Hurst, R. H.|
|Dodson, J. G.||Hutt, rt. hon. Sir W.|
|Duff, M. E. G.||Ingham, R.|
|Dundas, F.||Jackson, W.|
|Dundas, rt. hon. Sir D.||James, E.|
|Dunlop, A. M.||Jardine, R.|
|Ellice, E.||Jervoise, Sir J. C.|
|Enfield, Viscount||Johnstone, Sir J.|
|Erskine, Vice-Adm. J. E.||Kearsley, Captain R.|
|Esmonde, J.||Kennedy, T.|
|Evans, T. W.||King, hon. P. J. L.|
|Ewart, W.||Kinglake, A. W.|
|Ewing, H. E. Crum-||Kinglake, J. A.|
|Fawcett, H.||Kingscote, Colonel|
|Fildes, J.||Kinnaird, hon. A. F.|
|FitzGerald, Lord O. A.||Knatchbull-Hugessen, E|
|Fitz Patrick, rt. hon. J. W.||Layard, A. H.|
|Foley, H. W.||Lamont, J.|
|Foljambe, F. J. S.||Lawrence, W.|
|Forster, C.||Lawson, rt. hon. J. A.|
|Forster. W. E.||Leatham, W, H.|
|Foster, W. O.||Lee, W.|
|Fort, R.||Leeman, G.|
|Fortescue, rt. hon. C. P.||Lefevre, G. J. S.|
|Fortescue, hon. D. F.||Lewis, H.|
|French, Colonel||Locke, J.|
|Gaselee, Serjeant S.||Lusk, A.|
|Gavin, Major||MacEvoy, E.|
|Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.||Mackinnon, Capt. L. B.|
|Gilpin, C.||Mackinnon, W. A.|
|Gladstone, rt. hon. W. E.||M'Laren, D.|
|Gladstone, W. H.||Maguire, J. F.|
|Glyn, G. C.||Marjoribanks, D. C.|
|Glyn, G. G.||Marshall, W.|
|Goldsmid, Sir F. H.||Martin, C. W.|
|Goldsmid, J.||Martin, P. W.|
|Goschen, rt. hon. G. J.||Matheson, Sir J.|
|Gower, hon. F. L.||Merry, J.|
|Graham, W.||Milbank, F. A.|
|Grenfell, H. R.||Mill, J. S.|
|Greville, Colonel F.||Miller, W.|
|Gray, Sir J.||Mills, J. R.|
|Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.||Milton, Viscount|
|Gridley, Captain H, G.||Mitchell, A.|
|Grosvenor, Capt. R. W.||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Grove, T. F.||Moffatt, G.|
|Gurney, S.||Moncrieff, rt. hon. J.|
|Hadfield, G.||Monk, C. J.|
|Hamilton, E. W. T.||Monsell, rt. hon. W.|
|Hanbury, R. C.||Moore, C.|
|Hankey, T.||More, R. J.|
|Morris, M.||Scott, Sir W.|
|Morris, W.||Scrope, G. P.|
|Morrison, W.||Seely, C.|
|Murphy, N. D.||Seymour, A.|
|Neate, C.||Seymour, H. D.|
|Nicol, J. D.||Shafto, R. D.|
|Norwood, C. M.||Sheridan, H. B.|
|O'Beirne, J. L.||Sheridan, R. B.|
|O'Brien, Sir P.||Sherriff, A. C.|
|O'Conor Don, The||Simeon, Sir J.|
|O'Donoghue, The||Smith, J. A.|
|Ogilvy, Sir J.||Smith, J. B.|
|Oliphant, L.||Speirs, A. A.|
|O'Loghlen, Sir C. M.||Stacpoole, W.|
|Onslow, G.||Staniland, M.|
|O'Reilly, M. W.||Stanley, hon. W. O.|
|Otway, A. J.||Stansfeld, J.|
|Owen, Sir H. O.||Steel, J.|
|Padmore, R.||Stone, W. H.|
|Paget, Lord C.||Stuart, Colonel C.|
|Palmer, Sir R.||Sullivan, E.|
|Pease, J. W.||Sykes, Colonel W. H.|
|Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.||Synan, E. J.|
|Peel, A. W.||Talbot, C. R. M.|
|Peel, J.||Taylor, P. A.|
|Pelham, Lord||Tite, W.|
|Peto, Sir S. M.||Torrens, W. T. M'C.|
|Philips, R. N,||Trevelyan, G. O.|
|Platt, J.||Verney, Sir H.|
|Pollard-Urquhart, W.||Vernon, H. F.|
|Portman, hon. W. H. B.||Villiers, rt. hon. C. P.|
|Potter, E.||Vivian, H. H.|
|Potter, T. B.||Vivian, Capt. hn. J. C. W.|
|Power, Sir J,||Waldegrave-Leslie. hn. G|
|Price, R. G.||Waring, C.|
|Price, W. P.||Warner, E.|
|Pryse, E. L.||Watkin, E. W.|
|Pritchard, J.||Weguelin, T. M.|
|Proby, Lord||Western, Sir T. B.|
|Rawlinson, Sir H.||Whalley, G. H.|
|Rearden, D. J.||Whatman, J.|
|Rebow, J. G.||Whitbread, S.|
|Robartes, T. J. A.||White, J.|
|Robertson, D.||Whitworth, B.|
|Rothschild, Baron L. de||Wickham, H. W.|
|Rothschild, Baron M. de||Williamson, Sir H.|
|Rothschild, N. M. de||Winnington, Sir T. E.|
|Russell, A.||Woods, H.|
|Russell, H.||Wyld, J.|
|Russell, F. W.||Wyvill, M.|
|Russell, Sir W.||Young, G.|
|St. Aubyn, J.||Young, R.|
|Salomons, Mr. Ald.|
|Samuda, J. D'A.||TELLERS.|
|Samuelson, B.||Brand, hon. H. B. W.|
|Scholefield, W.||Adam, W. P.|
|Adderley, rt. hn. C. B.||Baring, H. B.|
|Agar-Ellis, hon. L. G. F.||Baring, T.|
|Andover, Viscount||Barnett, H.|
|Annesley, hon. Col. H.||Barrow, W. H.|
|Anson, hon. Major||Barttelot, Colonel|
|Archdall, Captain M.||Bateson, Sir T.|
|Arkwright, R.||Bathurst, A. A.|
|Baggallay, R.||Beach, Sir M. Hicks-|
|Bagge, W.||Beach, W. W. B.|
|Bagnall, C.||Beaumont, W. B.|
|Bailey, C.||Bective, Earl of|
|Bailey, Sir J. R.||Beecroft, G. S.|
|Baillie, H. J.||Bentinck, G: C.|
|Baring, hon. A. H.||Benyon, R.|
|Beresford, Capt. D. W. P.||Ferrand, W.|
|Bernard, hon. Col. H. B.||Fitzwilliam, hn. C. W. W.|
|Bingham, Lord||Fleming, J.|
|Booth, Sir R. G.||Floyer, J.|
|Bourne, Colonel||Forde, Colonel|
|Bovill, W.||Forester, rt. hon. Gen,|
|Brecknock, Earl of||Freshfield, C. K.|
|Bridges, Sir B. W.||Gallwey, Sir W. P.|
|Bromley, W. D.||Galway, Viscount|
|Brooks, R.||Gaskell, J. M.|
|Bruce, Lord E.||George, J.|
|Bruce, Major C.||Getty, S. G.|
|Bruce, Sir H. H.||Gilpin, Colonel|
|Bruen, H.||Goddard, A. L.|
|Buckley, E.||Goldney, G.|
|Bulkeley, Sir R.||Gooch, D.|
|Burghley, Lord||Goodson, J.|
|Burrell, Sir P.||Gore, B. R. O.|
|Butler-Johnstone, H. A.||Gore, W. R. O.|
|Cairns, Sir H. M'C.||Gorst, J. E.|
|Campbell, A. H.||Grant, A.|
|Carrington, hon. C. R.||Graves, S. R.|
|Cartwright, Colonel||Greenall, G.|
|Cave, S.||Greene, E.|
|Cecil, Lord E. H. B. G.||Gregory, W. H.|
|Clinton, Lord A. P.||Gray, Lieut.-Colonel|
|Clive, Capt. hon. G. W.||Grey, hon. T. de|
|Cobbold, J. C.||Griffith, C. D.|
|Cochrane, A. D. R. W. B.||Grosvenor, Lord R.|
|Cole, hon. H,||Guinness, B. L.|
|Cole, hon. J. L.||Hamilton, Lord C.|
|Conolly, T.||Hamilton Lord C. J.|
|Corry, rt. hon. H. L.||Hamilton, I. T.|
|Courtenay, Lord||Hamilton, Viscount|
|Cooper, E. H.||Hardy, G.|
|Cox, W. T.||Hardy, J.|
|Cranbourne, Viscount||Hartley, J.|
|Crosland, Colonel T. P.||Hartopp, E. B.|
|Cubitt, G.||Harvey, R. B.|
|Curzon, Viscount||Hervey, Lord A. H. C.|
|Cust, hon. C. H.||Heathcote, hon. G. H.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Heathcote, Sir W.|
|Dawson, R. P.||Henley, rt. hon. J. W.|
|Dick, F.||Henniker, Lord|
|Dickson, Major A. G.||Herbert, hon. P. E.|
|Disraeli, rt. hon. B.||Hesketh, Sir T. G.|
|Doulton, F.||Heygate, Sir F. W.|
|Dowdeswell, W. E.||Hodgson, W. N.|
|Du Cane, C.||Hogg, Lt.-Col. J. M.|
|Duff, R. W.||Holford, R. S.|
|Duncombe, hon. A.||Holmesdale, Viscount|
|Duncombe, hon. W. E.||Hood, Sir A. A.|
|Dunkellin, Lord||Hope, A. J. B. B.|
|Dunne, General||Hornby, W. H.|
|Du Pre, C. G.||Horsfall, T. B.|
|Dutton, hon. R. H.||Horsman, rt. hon. E.|
|Dyke, W. H.||Howes, E.|
|Dyott, Colonel R.||Hubbard, J. G.|
|Earle, R. A.||Huddleston, J. W.|
|Eaton, H. W.||Humphery, W. H.|
|Eckersley, N.||Hunt, G. W.|
|Edwards, Colonel||Innes, A. C.|
|Egerton, Sir P. G.||Jervis, Captain|
|Egerton, hon. A. F.||Jolliffe, rt. hn. Sir W. G. H.|
|Egerton, E. C.||Jolliffe, H. H.|
|Egerton, hon. W.||Jones, D.|
|Elcho, Lord||Kekewich, S. T.|
|Fane, Lt.-Col. H. H.||Kelk, J.|
|Fane, Colonel J. W.||Kelly, Sir F.|
|Farquhar, Sir M.||Kendall, N.|
|Feilden, J.||Kennard, R. W.|
|Fellowes, E.||Ker, D. S.|
|Fergusson, Sir J.||Kerrison, Sir E. C.|
|King, J. K.||Robertson, P. F.|
|King, J. G.||Rolt, J.|
|Knight, F. W.||Royston, Viscount|
|Knightley, Sir R.||Russell, Sir C.|
|Knox, Colonel||Sandford, G. M. W.|
|Knox, hon. Major S.||Saunderson, E.|
|Lacon, Sir E.||Schreiber, C.|
|Laing, S.||Sclater-Booth, G.|
|Laird, J.||Scott, Lord H.|
|Langton, W. G.||Scourfield, J. H.|
|Leader, N. P.||Selwin, H. J.|
|Lechmere, Sir E. A. H.||Selwyn, C. J.|
|Legh, Major C.||Severne, J. E.|
|Lefroy, A.||Seymour, G. H.|
|Lennox, Lord G. G.||Simonds, W. B.|
|Lennox, Lord H. G.||Smith, S. G.|
|Leslie, C. P.||Smollet, P. B.|
|Leslie, W.||Somerset, Colonel|
|Liddell, hon. H. G.||Stanhope, J. B.|
|Lindsay, hon. Colonel C.||Stanhope, Lord|
|Lindsay, Colonel R. L.||Stanley, hon. F.|
|Long, R. P.||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir W.|
|Lopes, Sir M.||Stock, O.|
|Lowe, rt. hon. R.||Stronge, Sir J. M.|
|Lowther, hon. Colonel||Stuart, Lt.-Colonel W.|
|Lowther, Captain||Stucley, Sir G. S.|
|Lowther, J.||Sturt, H. G.|
|Lytton, rt. hn. Sir E. L. B.||Sturt; Lieut.-Col. N.|
|M'Kenna, J. N.||Surtees, F.|
|Mackie, J.||Surtees, H. E.|
|M'Lagan, P.||Sykes, C.|
|Mainwaring, T.||Taylor, Colonel|
|Malcolm, J. W.||Thorold, J. H.|
|Manners, rt. hn. Lord J.||Thynne, Lord H. F.|
|Manners, Lord G. J.||Tollemache, J.|
|Marsh, M. H,||Tomline, G.|
|Meller, W.||Torrens, R.|
|Miller, S. B.||Tottenham, Lt.-Col. C. G.|
|Miller, T. J:||Tracy, hon. C. R. D. H.|
|Mitford, W. T.||Treeby, J. W.|
|Montagu, Lord R.||Trevor, Lord A. E. Hill-|
|Montgomery, Sir G.||Trollope, rt. hon. Sir J.|
|Mordaunt, Sir C.||Turner, C.|
|Morgan, O.||Tyrone, Earl of|
|Morgan, hon. Major||Vandeleur, Colonel|
|Mowbray, rt. hon. J. R.||Verner, E.W.|
|Naas, Lord||Verner, Sir W.|
|Neeld, Sir J.||Walcott, Admiral|
|Neville-Grenville, R.||Walker, Major G. G.|
|Newdegate, C. N.||Walpole, rt. hon. S. H.|
|Noel, hon. G. J.||Walrond, J. W.|
|North, Colonel||Walsh, A.|
|Northcote, Sir S. H.||Walsh, Sir J.|
|O'Neill, E.||Waterhouse, S.|
|Packe, C. W.||Welby, W. E.|
|Packe, Colonel||Whiteside, rt. hon. J.|
|Paget, R. H.||Whitmore, H.|
|Pakington, rt. hon. Sir J.||Williams, Colonel|
|Palk, Sir L.||Williams, F. M.|
|Parker, Major W.||Wise, H. C.|
|Patten, Colonel W.||Woodd, B. T.|
|Paull, H.||Wyndham, hon. H.|
|Peel, rt. hon. General||Wyndham, hon. P.|
|Pennant, hon. Colonel||Wynn, Sir W. W.|
|Percy, Mjr-Gen. Lord H.||Wynn, C. W. W.|
|Phillips, G. L.||Wynne, W. W. E.|
|Pim, J.||Torke, J. R.|
|Powell, F. S.|
|Read, C. S.||Grosvenor, Earl|
|Repton, G. W. J.||Stanley, Lord|
|Ridley, Sir M. W.|