§ MR. H. BERKELEY
said, that in bringing forward a Resolution upon the subject of the ballot he was afraid he must not expect any great favour from the present House of Commons, which had steadily opposed Reform, and had shown itself hostile to extending the privileges of the working classes. During the twenty-nine years over which his Parliamentary services had extended he had been painfully impressed with the evils which had crept into the electoral system of the country, and which, since the commencement of Her Majesty's reign, had been steadily on the increase. No doubt, the electoral system of England was one which, in its original state, was worthy of all praise, and was fully adapted to give the people that voice in the election of their representatives which free institutions demand. Of the electoral system in its original state the country had a right to be proud, but of the electoral system under its present state of abominable demoraliza- 972 tion the nation might well feel ashamed. Whatever might have been the practice of candidates seeking to enter those walls— some of them doubtless objectionable enough—there was not one hon. Member of that House who would dare to gainsay the great constitutional maxim that each elector ought to vote freely and indifferently — without fear of punishment and without hope of reward. He trusted that the House would excuse him for calling their attention to the strong opinions entertained upon this subject by a few great authorities who regarded with deep respect the functions of electors, and thought it of the first importance that care should be taken to preserve those functions unimpaired. Lord Russell, speaking of our electoral system, said that all our most ancient statutes, all our greatest constitutional lawyers, had established the maxim, and laid down the principle that the people of England ought to elect their representatives freely and indifferently. No doubt, the noble Lord referred to the opinion of Walpole, who spoke in eulogistic terms of the privilege of electing Members to serve in Parliament. He might also refer to the opinion of Burke and the language which that great man used touching the electoral franchise — when he said "his unbiased opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, the elector ought to sacrifice for no man living." Again, Lord Chief Justice Holt said that it was a great privilege to vote for those who make the laws which govern life and property — a privilege which should not be deputed to another. But if it was too delicate to be deputed to another, what could be said of the present state of things when this privilege was wrested from the rightful owner and used by those who had not the slightest possible claim to it, more especially by the noble class of non-electors, who were forbidden by the Standing Orders of the House to interfere in the election of Members of Parliament. The miserable state into which the electoral system of the country was plunged was admitted by all the world. For twenty years Parliament had been tinkering at the electoral laws until a state of things had been produced which rendered this country the laughing-stock of Europe. He now asked the House, since they could find no remedy for bribery, to try that which had been advocated by the most enlightened writers from Daniel Defoe down to Jeremy Bentham and James Mill. Those writers insisted that the ballot was the only 973 thing likely to secure purity at elections, and in fact its principle had been adopted by England's greatest Parliament in 1628 under the advocacy of Hampden, Pym, Elliot, and the other great men of that day. A Bill for the introduction of the ballot at elections passed the House of Commons in 1710, but was rejected by the House of Lords in consequence of the opposition of Lord Godolphin. During the present century it had had the brilliant advocacy of Grote, Macaulay, Durham, Sheil, Cobden, Molesworth, Bethell, and many others. Under these circumstances, he was justified in believing that he had some little sanction for pressing the matter forward, and he trusted that in asking the House to make this experiment, no young Member would imagine he was asking it to adopt a crotchet of his own. He wished to advert very briefly to some of the arguments against the ballot. In the first place, it was said that the ballot was unmanly; secondly, that it was un-English; thirdly, that it was not successful where it had been tried; and fourthly, that it was wrong in principle, because the franchise was a trust held for the advantage of the non-electors, and consequently, must be exercised openly, and the electors must bear the responsibility of the publicity with which they gave their votes. No doubt hon. Gentlemen opposite recognized the old and stale arguments, but they did not bear in mind the various answers that had been given to them. Now, the first objection to the ballot, on the ground of its being unmanly, was set aside by the fact that it was the mode of voting in our clubs in almost all their elections, more particularly in the mode of voting in our military clubs. Our military and naval men were not supposed to be very unmanly, and yet every year an Act of Parliament was passed to enable members of courts martial to vote in secret, and consequently he need not waste time in arguing that it was not unmanly. Then it was said that the ballot was un-English. That was complete nonsense, for nineteen out of twenty of our elections were carried on by ballot. The only answer needed to that argument was a simple contradiction. The next objection that the ballot was not successful where it had been practised was equally erroneous. The conditions of the ballot were different in different countries, but as a rule it might be assumed that wherever secresy of voting was compulsory, there the ballot was most successful. In the first place let him cite America. ["Hear, hear!" from the 974 Ministerial side.] He had felt sure that he should elicit that ironical cheer from hon. Gentlemen opposite. He had never held up America as possessing a mode of voting which this country ought to imitate, but as possessing, on the contrary, a mode of voting which they ought to shun. In America a man might stick his voting paper in his hat if he pleased—or he might go to the electoral urn with his voting paper open in his hand and declare his vote. He had seen thousands do that. Other men might fold up their papers, and vote with perfect secresy and security. Yet the disadvantage of the open ballot had been experienced in America; for in the Northern States, where there was a great accumulation of poor voters, from the existence of large corporate bodies and other causes, corruption had begun to creep in, and both bribery and intimidation began to be practised. The consequence was that in Massachusetts an attempt was made to have the ballot absolutely secret, but it was defeated by a small majority. He knew not whether that attempt had been again made there since then; but of this they might be assured—that no man in America would think those persons otherwise than madmen who should propose open voting to him in preference to ballot. The ballot protected from consequences all who did not choose to declare how they voted; it was a protection from violence, lynch law, bullying, drunken men, and demoralization, and so the Americans adopted it. An interesting circumstance was related by an able correspondent of The Times in his admirable chronicle of the tour of the Prince of Wales in America. His Royal Highness visited Philadelphia at the time when a fierce election contest was going on. People were seen at the corners of the streets talking in knots, but there was no more disorder than there was to be found in an English town on a market day. There were no drunkards, no roughs, "no lambs," and "no men from the moon." Let his Royal Highness compare his recollection of that election at Philadelphia with a recent proceeding at Nottingham, and who could venture to doubt which of the two elections the Prince would pronounce was most worthy of a civilized country? On a former occasion he had quoted the case of Belgium to the House, consequently he should not repeat his statement. There were certain gentlemen from that country now being entertained by our own Volunteers who 975 would, no doubt, be able to give hon. Members every information on that subject if they chose to inquire; but he felt sure there was not a man among those visitors who would not prefer the ballot to open voting. In France the ballot gave perfect content. ["Hear, hear!" and a laugh.] If hon. Gentlemen doubted that fact, he trusted they would answer him by argument by-and-bye. The frequent election of Deputies in Paris and throughout the provinces in the very teeth of the Government proved that no great coercion took place in France. A letter addressed by his friend Sir John Bowring, to the editor of The Examiner was worthy the attention of Gentlemen who derided the idea of the ballot being successful in France. Sir John Bowring said that the arts of corruption, bribery, and the menaces of power all failed in presence of that protection which secret voting gave to every man, and that he had personally witnessed a remarkable instance of that while in Paris during a late election. Sir John Bowring visited the Imprimerie Imperiale, where a large body of workmen had been solicited to vote for the Imperial candidates. Most of the group declared that they meant to vote against the Government, and when asked whether they would not be punished for disregarding the wishes of their employers, they said, "What care we? Our votes are our own, and the right to vote as we please is ours; the law protects us, and our masters know that although they might exact a promise they could not secure a vote." He would now turn to the case of our Australian Colonies. In 1862 certain distinguished gentlemen came from those colonies to this country as Commissioners for the great International Exhibition. To those gentlemen the Ballot Society, to which he then belonged, proposed certain questions which had previously been propounded by The Times newspaper. The Times, it should be stated, had likewise demanded that an example should be found of some country in which the English language was spoken and English manners prevailed. One of The Times questions was, "Does the ballot prevent a man's vote from being known?" The Commissioner from Queensland replied that the ballot made voting secret; the Commissioner from South Australia reported that it was utterly impossible a man's vote could become known unless he himself chose to say which way he voted; and the answer of the Tasmanian Commissioner was to the 976 like effect. Another of The Times' questions was—"Does the Ballot put a stop to drunkenness and disorder at elections; does it shield a man from bribery, persecution, and other abnormal practices?" The South Australian Commissioner answered, when open voting existed in his colony drunkenness, disorderly mobs, violence, treating, and complaints from tradesmen of the loss of custom on account of their votes prevailed at elections, but that the ballot put an end to those evils. The Tasmanian Commissioner bore exactly similar testimony. The third question put by The Times was "Does the ballot diminish the expense of elections?" On that point the Commissioner from the first colony reported that vote by ballot had, beyond all doubt, the effect of considerably reducing the expense of elections. His fellow Commissioner from South Australia said that the ballot had most decidedly diminished such expense; and another authority in a different colony, the Sydney Morning Herald, declared the success of the ballot, and stated that it gave every freedom to the electors. The Times had always coupled manhood suffrage and the ballot together, but the two things were quite distinct The Melbourne correspondent of The Times, a very able gentleman, whose communications always commanded a column or more in its pages, took The Times to task upon the question, for he stated in one of his letters that the ballot was valued by the Conservatives in Australia for the quiet decorum at elections which it produced, while it was valued by the lower orders because they believed it enabled a man to give his vote free from dictation. There was besides the authority of another gentleman who was well acquainted with the operation of the ballot in the colony of Victoria, and in answer to questions which were put to him, he said that since the introduction of the ballot into the colony not a single petition against the return of a Member had, within his knowledge, been presented, and that it was regarded in the other colonies with great favour. Such being the results which were produced under the influence of the ballot in Australia and elsewhere, what were the objections to its adoption in this country? He now came to the fourth objection, which was more of an ad captandum vulgus character, and which was more pompous and at the same time more unsound than any other. It was said that the franchise was a trust held by the 977 elector for the benefit of the non-electors, and that it ought to be exercised openly, in order that the non-electors might know how the trust was discharged. Now, he had no objection to call the elective franchise a trust, but then it was a trust under certain limits and with its functions clearly defined. That function consisted in the elector voting freely and indifferently, without fear of punishment or hope of reward; but it was true beyond the possibility of a doubt that if the elector voted openly he was very often unable properly to comply with those conditions. Why, then, should he not be allowed to give his vote in secret? That was a question which, so far as he was aware, had never received a satisfactory answer. The argument to which he had been just adverting was one which was used by a number of gentlemen who seemed to have imagined it in Utopia, and who sought to apply it to the case of England. They appeared to forget that in this country the electors were divided into different factions—Whigs, Tories, and Radicals—and the consequence of an elector voting openly was that if he voted for a Whig the Tory held him to be a faithless trustee; if he voted for a Tory the Whig entertained a similar opinion of him; and if he voted for Whig or Tory the Radical considered him a man unworthy to be intrusted with the franchise. The free exercise of the franchise by the poor voter involved in many cases financial ruin, personal violence, and notices to quit house and home. The man who had been evicted in consequence of his vote might fairly say—You take my life, When you do take the means by which I live.Now, the responsibility of incurring such penalties was one to which he maintained the elector ought not to be exposed. He would also invite the attention of hon. Members to the fact that the House of Commons had, on the let of May, 1628, passed the following Resolution:—That the elective right is not a franchise in the nature of a possession or a privilege, but of a service pro bona publico."That wise Parliament, therefore, ordained that the electors might vote secretly, in order that they might perform that which they regarded as a service for the public good, in accordance with the dictates of their consciences. He wished, in the next place, briefly to advert to the demoralization which was produced by the existing system, but before he did so he should like to say 978 a word with respect to an election which had very recently taken place; he alluded to the late election for Guildford. He found that the successful candidate at that election was Mr. Bovill, Her Majesty's Solicitor General—and he was sure every one who heard him would agree with him in the opinion that the appointment of the hon. and learned Gentleman to that office was an act as graceful on the part of the Government as it was likely to be productive of advantage to the country. But when the hon. and learned Gentleman presented himself the other day to his constituents, whether owing to the excitement of the occasion or to the blushing honours which were showered upon him, he made some extraordinary remarks. He was about to quote from the account of the proceedings which was given in The Times, which he had no doubt was correct, but for the accuracy of which, of course, he could not be responsible. It appeared that some person upon the hustings asked the hon. and learned Gentleman some question about the ballot, to which he answered that the representation of the people was a great trust, adding, "What would you think of your representatives voting by ballot?" What would they think, indeed! He had heard of a man who, when asked whether he could speak the German language, replied that he did not know that he could, but that he had a brother who played divinely on the German flute. Now there was, in his opinion, quite as great an analogy between the German language and the German flute as between the functions of the elector and those of his representative in Parliament. The elector was answerable to no one for his vote. In voting freely and indifferently he discharged all the duties imposed on him by the law. He was neither to accept reward, nor suffer punishment for his vote. The case was altogether different with the Member of Parliament. He was answerable to his constituents for the fulfilment of his pledges. He might be rewarded or punished. He might be re-elected or rejected, according as his conduct might please or displease his constituents. He must consequently vote openly, or the representation of the people would be a mockery. But to return to the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General. It appeared he said that he hoped the time would never come when an honest Englishman would be afraid of recording his vote. Why the time had already come when thousands of English- 979 men were afraid to do so. It was all very well for a man occupying a high position like the Solicitor General, who probably had, by his great talents in his profession, realized a large property, to speak after that fashion. But take the case of a Mr. Bovill, a poor tallow-chandler, dependent on his customers, or a poor tenant dependent for his bread on his landlord, was such a person to be met by the taunt that it was to be hoped that the time would never come when an honest Englishman would be afraid to record his vote? There were too many of such cases; there were thousands and thousands of them, not confined to the working and trading classes, but extending to the educated classes. He would quote as an example the case of the medical profession. What young rising medical practitioner dared to record his vote? By birth and education, members of this profession were assuredly well qualified to exercise the franchise; but if they were to search the directory and find out the names of the medical men in any neighbourhood, and were then to turn to the register, and afterwards to the poll book, they would be able to estimate in some degree the need that existed for some efficient protection for electors. They would find that this and other classes of persons eminently fit for the exercise of the franchise were virtually excluded from it. It was all very well to say that an Englishman ought never to be ashamed to record his vote openly, but the plain, unanswerable facts of the case could not be gainsaid, that in too many cases Englishmen voted against their conscience to escape ruin. Was no intimidation ever exercised now? Was none put in force at Guildford? Was there no interference on that occasion by persons of high station with the freedom of voting? He held in his hand a letter from Lord Percy's steward, dated Albury Park, July 10, and it was in the following terms:—"Please make up my bill, as I may probably desire to close the account on Saturday next." He had another case, in which he could not give the name. It was that of a tradesman of Guildford who attended at Albury Park in consequence of receiving a message that a certain person in the establishment—he could not say whom, but it was one who certainly had the right to command—wished to see him. This person asked him how he intended to vote. He said that he had not made up his mind. An intimation was thereupon immediately conveyed to him that unless he voted for 980 the Solicitor General he would never do any more work in that house; and he was told likewise, that it was the intention of Lord Percy to send for the poll book, and he intended never more to employ those who voted against the Solicitor General. These statements, he was informed, could be fully borne out, and therefore he might fairly assert that the Solicitor General was a little too hasty in saying that an honest Englishman ought never to be afraid of voting openly. After the Reform Act of 1832, and when it was in full play, Mr. Grote, Mr. Macaulay, and others, came to the conclusion that the fatal defects of that measure were, that it left in existence close or nomination boroughs, and neglected to give to the electors the protection of the ballot. When Mr. Grote, brought the question before Parliament and obtained a Committee of Inquiry, the result was the production of a voluminous blue book, so interesting that extracts from it were published in every newspaper of importance throughout the kingdom. Every word that Mr. Grote had stated about the demoralization at elections was thoroughly proved; but things went on from that time growing worse and worse until the formation of Lord Aberdeen's Administration, and that nobleman, although he was certainly more than half a Tory, admitted that there were grave abuses in our electoral system which required amendment. A Committee was accordingly appointed, on which were an immense number of lawyers, who recommended the introduction of a Bill on the subject. Accordingly, a Bill was brought in; but the evident intention of that measure was to protect delinquent candidates, and the punishment which it proposed to inflict upon the voter was rendered nugatory because juries could never be found willing to convict. This Act Lord Derby described as being of no more use than waste paper. So here they now were, after the septennial saturnalia, smarting from their orgies, thoroughly helpless and hopeless, with that Act of Parliament alone for a guide, but which Act, instead of being a measure for the prevention of corrupt practices, was a measure for their encouragement, and was so viewed by the country. The investigations before the last Election Committees did not disclose a tithe part of the dreadful malady which was fast destroying the electoral system. If they doubted his word he would read an extract from the leading 981 Tory paper—unless, as he supposed, The Times was now to be looked upon in that light. It was stated by The Morning Herald that—Public morality forbids such a speedy recurrence of the disgraceful scenes of last summer, the fearfully demoralizing effects of unlimited beer and uncounted bank notes.That was pretty well for a Tory newspaper, and he would now quote from the speech of a Tory candidate. Sir George Jenkinson, who this year stood for Nottingham, declared in his farewell address that—He was told at two o'clock that he had the election in his own hands, and that he could win it by certain means not detailed, but which suggestion he refused to entertain, and the result was that he had lost the election, but had saved his honour. He thought, after the experience of the few hours before the final close of the poll, no one would question the truth of the remarks made by Mr. Osborne as to bribery, and he hoped that Gentleman would use his talents and his voice in Parliament to prevent such wholesale purchase of votes as took place between two and four o'clock. If the ballot would effect that end, he, for one, would vote for that measure, for no evil could equal the one of wholesale and open venality.He would now beg leave to quote the opinion of the late Chancellor of the Exchequer. Mr. Gladstone stated—There is no reason to believe that the present provisions of the laws as to corrupt practices at elections have been efficient for the purpose intended; the amendment of such laws is very urgent. It is the conviction of Her Majesty's Government that it is their duty to endeavour to frame a measure for that purpose.He wished it was in his power to read some address from the present Chancellor of the Exchequer to his constituents admitting that he recognized the evils of the present system, and stating that the Government would frame a measure to prevent them, but he had looked in vain for any reference to the subject in the speech either of the right hon. Gentleman or of Lord Derby. Therefore he said that they were now left helpless and hopeless, and that it was useless to ask the House to adopt the remedy recommended in so many quarters. He must now say a word to his hon. Friend the Member for Westminster. He was proud of both his Members, for he spoke as one of their constituents; but he now particularly referred to the senior Member, formerly a strong supporter of the ballot, but who had committed a little backsliding in that character. Still, he was encouraged to hope, from the strong evidence he had produced 982 of what occurred at some of the recent elections and—perhaps it might be vanity on his part to say so—from a few of the statements he had detailed, that his hon. Friend would support the Motion. There was this passage in a speech his hon. Friend lately made—If I thought that the electors of this country were in such a state of hopeless and slavish dependence on particular landlords, employers, and customers, I should be as I once was a supporter of the ballot.Now, could his hon. Friend continue to doubt this? Could he close his eyes to the state of the country, and did he believe that the upper class had become more virtuous, or that the lower and middle classes had become more independent, or would the hon. Gentleman at the eleventh hour state that his opinion was erroneous, and as he (Mr. Berkeley) hoped, give him his vote that night? In order that he might give the hon. Gentleman a little more evidence, he would state two or three events that had occurred. He would just give him two or three more facts to show how erroneous was such an opinion. There was a virtuous borough which was now the subject of inquiry by an appointed Commission, and which was under the political tuition and morality of the Duke of Somerset—he meant the borough of Totnes. He found in the columns of the local newspapers a charge made against the Duke of Somerset of having evicted his tenants without any other pretence than that they voted against him, and that none but those who voted for him should live in his houses. He hardly dare to trust himself in reading it, but it was so. [Cries of "Read, read!"] Well besides that, there was a statement in a newspaper that the Marquess of Bath had evicted twelve of his tenants at Frome without any other reason being assigned than that they had all voted for the Liberal candidate. These were statements publicly made, and he did not think that any man, however exalted his station, was too high to give a contradiction to them if they were untrue. At all events, if the aristocracy of England allowed such accusations to go forth without proof they did themselves a great injustice in not contradicting them. He had likewise the statement of a Mr. Whatmore, at one time mayor of Bridgnorth, but as he had presented a petition that night, and had it read at the table referring to the case of Whatmore and others, he would not further dilate on it except to 983 state that that gentleman was turned out of his house avowedly on account of the manner in which he voted. With these facts before him, he trusted he might be successful in his appeal to the hon. Gentleman; although he was afraid that with these philosophical characters when once they assumed a point it was difficult to make them let it go. If Mr. James Stuart Mill could have been present he would have advised the hon. Member differently, and have said, "My son, stick to the ballot and let the women alone." In conclusion, he would urge the House to dismiss all their unworthy fears of the people. The people were loyal and honest, and would repay the trust reposed in them. They were entitled to the protection of the ballot while discharging their political duty, but the Legislature was slow to give them that protection, because it was protection from themselves. That he had good reason to know was the feeling of the people. The ballot must come. Justice could not be denied for ever. It was better to give this boon graciously and at once, without waiting till it would be taken ungraciously. Let not their fears deny that which at no distant period their fears would compel them to grant. He had a firm conviction that the words of Bentham were true, that "secresy of suffrage is the Pole Star of Reform." He concluded by moving—That, having regard to the failure of all direct legislation against corrupt practices at Parliamentary Elections, it is expedient to make experiment of the system of taking the votes at such Elections anonymously, according to the Laws now in force in other parts of Her Majesty's Dominions."—(Mr. H. Berkeley.)
§ MR. MOWBRAY
said, in rising to offer a few observations in opposition to the Motion, he considered he had a right on the part of the House to complain of the attack with which the hon. Member for Bristol commenced his speech in describing that as a hostile House of Commons. He thought the House was not fairly liable to such a charge, and the hon. Member for Bristol was the last person who should have made it. [Mr. H. BERKELEY: I said hostile to Reform.] An Instruction had been passed by the House on the 28th of May last, before going into Committee on the Reform Bill, in the most general terms possible that the Committee should have power to make better provision for the prevention of bribery and corruption—not specifying any plan and not excluding the particular crotchet of the hon. Member for Bristol; but 984 against that general provision he found the vote recorded of the hon. Member for Bristol himself. Well, then, he thought he had a right to say that this House of Commons, whether he took its general feeling as expressed in that resolution, or its conduct as evinced by the inquiries which had taken place before Election Committees and the Commission issued for inquiry into boroughs where corrupt practices had been reported, had not shown itself hostile or indifferent to any measure for the prevention of bribery and corruption. The hon. Gentleman had taken them over very extended periods of history; he had carried them as far back as 240 years, and over every quarter of the globe; but he owned when he recollected the freshness of the illustrations with which the hon. Gentleman had been in the habit of pourtraying the orgies of these septennial saturnalias that he had not entertained the House with such amusing illustration with reference to the demoralization and bribery which prevailed on those occasions as he had been accustomed to do. The hon. Gentleman had detailed the arguments with which he said this Motion had hitherto been encountered, and with which he expected it might be encountered again. It was, no doubt, the difficulty which attended any hon. Gentleman who attempted to meet the arguments of the hon. Member for Bristol that while one drew his illustration from recent facts the other had to go back and bring down his weapons from the old armoury; but, nevertheless, they were found to answer, and he was quite sure they would answer on the present occasion. The hon. Member for Bristol had divided the argument into four classes, and the first argument against the ballot was that it was unmanly; in answer to which the hon. Gentleman said it was adopted in all their clubs, and especially in their military clubs. He must, however, remind the hon. Gentleman that there was no analogy at all to be drawn between voting at the election of a member for a club and voting for a Member of Parliament. The one was political, the other was social. When voting for a Member of Parliament the electors voted on public grounds, and with reference to the qualification of individuals to discharge a public duty; but with respect to club elections they were entitled to indulge any caprice or fancy they pleased, and say for any reason, or for no reason, that they did not choose to associate with a certain individual in a particular club. He thought, when the hon. Gentleman touched upon the 985 subject of clubs, that he was going to enlighten the House with respect to a club with the arcana of which he was acquainted —and to tell them what was the position of the Reform Club at the present moment with regard to the ballot. Three years since it was stated by the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston), who was then at the head of the Government, and the statement was unchallenged and uncontradicted, that, upon the Motion of the hon. Member for Birmingham, the ballot had been abolished in that club. ["No, no!" from several hon. Members.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite might say "No!" but on reference to Hansard it would be found stated by the noble Lord that in the Reform Club, on the Motion of the hon. Member for Birmingham, the election by ballot by the general members of the club had been abolished, and that the election had been referred, he believed, to a committee, but, at all events, to a limited number of members of the club. An hon. Member informed him that the ballot now prevailed there, but he was not sure, judging from recent occurrences, that it operated altogether satisfactorily to certain Gentlemen who might be adherents of the great Liberal party, but who had not been successful in getting admission into that club. The hon. Member for Bristol, proceeding next to deal with the argument that the ballot was un-English, met that point by simply remarking, "I say it is not so."
§ MR. H. BERKELEY
I said that nineteen out of twenty people were elected to offices by the ballot, and that therefore the practice must be English.
§ MR. MOWBRAY
said, he was merely taking the hon. Gentleman's speech and not anything that he might have thought of since. The hon. Gentleman's words were, "The second argument against the ballot is that it is un-English; and I meet that by saying it is not so." It was sufficient, however, to remark that the hon. Gentleman, in endeavouring to introduce a practice which was at variance with the feelings and habits of Englishmen, himself admitted the ballot to be un-English, for it certainly did not prevail here at the present moment. Moreover, it was un-English, as being opposed to the general public opinion of the country; and when the hon. Gentleman spoke of a hostile House of Commons, he was not speaking of the particular assembly he was addressing, but was thinking of the twenty-nine years during which he had been associated with the Liberal party; but he 986 must be well aware that during that time public opinion had been steadily and unequivocally pronouncing in favour of the old, open, and Constitutional mode of voting, and against the secret mode which he sought to introduce. No one knew better than the hon. Gentleman himself that he could no longer muster as numerous a band of adherents as that which was marshalled thirty years ago under the leadership of Mr. Grote. The next argument which the hon. Gentleman discussed was that the ballot was not successful. Well, he himself admitted that in America, except in the State of Massachusetts, the voting was by ticket, the ticket being exhibited in the hat, and that certainly was not secret voting. The example of America used to be stock argument in favour of the ballot, but this was now altogether exploded. The hon. Gentleman next instanced Belgium, and referred them to the gentlemen now on a visit from that country to the Volunteers at Wimbledon, but he gave no particulars as to the operation of the ballot in that country. He then took them to France; but what was his argument with reference to France? Why, he proved, by the statement which he read from a French elector, the very objection which the opponents of the ballot were in the habit of propounding in that House. Their argument was that the ballot would encourage fraud, dissimulation, treachery, and lying, and the hon. Gentleman quoted a French elector, who said, "They can enforce the promise, but they cannot secure the vote." This was exactly what the opponents of the ballot maintained, that men would tell a lie and promise their votes, and then would vote the other way. The hon. Gentleman afterwards came to what had prevailed in the Australian colonies for the last half-dozen years, and really if those colonies had not adopted the ballot and furnished a peg for the hon. Gentleman and his supporters, it was impossible to say where they could have gone for an argument, for America had failed them, Belgium had been merely mentioned without any illustration, and France had completely proved the case against them. The hon. Gentleman was therefore driven, as a last resource, to the experience of the last few years in the Australian colonies, and he put this forward as a reason why the ballot should be introduced into this country. He had, however, completely failed to prove that the ballot had been so successful even in 987 Australia as to warrant its adoption in a country like this. The hon. Gentleman then came to the argument that the franchise was a trust, and that argument he always had an evident difficulty in encountering, because while the advocates of the ballot were obliged to admit that the franchise was a trust, they tried to define the trust in their own way. The hon. Gentleman contended that it was a trust which the voter was to execute freely and indifferently, but he then went on to read the Resolution of the Parliament of 1628, which stated that the service was to be rendered pro bono publico. Now, that was the very nature of the trust—namely, that the franchise conferred upon the elector should be exercised by him for the benefit of the whole community, both of those who had votes and those who had not, and of all who would be affected by taxation or legislation. It was for that purpose that the trust was confided to the voter, and he was bound to exercise it with all the responsibility that attached to an act openly done and amenable to public opinion. It was a trust, and not a property, for the hon. Gentleman surely would not contend that any one was entitled to sell his vote; and yet, if it was not a trust, there was no reason why he should not do so. The unanswerable argument which had been over and over again stated in that House, and which he shrank from repeating because he had heard it put with so much force by the noble Lord the late Leader of the House, was that the franchise was a sacred trust to be exercised publicly under the responsibility of public opinion, and that consequently persons should not be allowed to shelter themselves under secret voting. The hon. Gentleman ridiculed the analogy which was drawn by the Solicitor General in his Guildford speech between the position of the elector and that of the representative. His hon. and learned Friend, however, would no doubt have a word to say with respect to that election. What he contended was that publicity was the principle that pervaded all their transactions. Every public act which an Englishman had to discharge was performed publicly and in the face of day, and the solemn act of exercising the franchise in the election of a Member of Parliament should surely be discharged in the same manner. The proceedings of that House were public, the proceedings of the other House and of Parliamentary Committees, with very few exceptions, were public also. 988 Public opinion was brought to bear upon their debates and upon the speeches and actions of every individual Member. Publicity, moreover, attended the proceedings of our Courts of Justice, the debates in our municipal institutions, and even the details of every parish vestry. If they went from the highest tribunal in the land, from the House of Lords down to the smallest body, whether a municipal corporation, a parish vestry, a board of health, or whatever it might be, publicity they found to be the life and soul of all their proceedings. Everything in England was public. Well, then, if that was the case, he believed the House would agree with him that anything which would tend to destroy that publicity, and to substitute for it a system of secrecy, enabling men to skulk away and do something which they dared not avow and could not publicly justify—anything of that kind would be most unsatisfactory, and would, moreover, be altogether inoperative. He believed that the attempt to secure secrecy would be altogether futile. How could it be done? They must alter the whole course of an Englishman's life, all his thoughts and actions; they must not merely put down all election speeches, committees, and canvassing, and all the acts which proclaimed a man's opinions, but they must actually put a lock upon his tongue in the society of his friends and in the retirement of his own family circle. If, indeed, he might venture to trespass upon the House, he would quote a few words from the inimitable pamphlet of Sydney Smith. If this were not a new Parliament, and if he did not think there might be some younger Members to whom the passage was not so familiar, he would not trouble the House; but the argument was a most unanswerable one. Sydney Smith's words were as follows:—He must talk with the wrong people, subscribe to the wrong club, huzza at the wrong dinner, break the wrong head, lead a long life of lies between every election, and he must do this, not only eundo in his calm and prudential state, but redeundo from the market, warmed with beer and expanded with alcohol; and he must not only carry on his seven years of dissimulation before the world, but in the very bosom of his family, or he must expose himself to the dangerous garrulity of wife, children, and servants.He did not believe such a state of things would be possible, for the feelings of Englishmen were entirely repugnant to such systematic dissimulation. The continuous growth of English freedom had 989 been won by the open expression of public opinion. It was not by any of the secret and underhand expedients which the hon. Gentleman suggested, but by the open expression of opinion on the hustings, and by suffering, if necessary, in the cause that Englishmen had at heart, that they had won their liberties for centuries past, and by that means alone they would preserve them. He did not wish to draw any contrast between the position of affairs in France and in England, but we possessed an amount of individual liberty which could not be found in some of the other countries that had been cited by the hon. Gentleman. He opposed the Motion, therefore, because he believed that the ballot would tend to destroy that public spirit, that manliness, that courage, which had been the characteristic of English life, because he believed it would tend to endanger those institutions which had given us greater freedom and greater stability than any other nation in the world had enjoyed, and because he believed it was opposed to the enlightened public opinion of the country.
LORD HENRY PERCY
The hon. Member for Bristol has thought fit to bring three most unfounded charges against my brother. It is impossible for me to answer the last two, because this is the first time I have heard of them. My brother has, however, desired me to deny most fully and completely that he was guilty of any interference, through his steward, with the recent election at Guildford. This is a letter which my brother has received from his steward:—Albury Park, Guildford. "My Lord,—Referring to the letter your Lordship received this morning from Mr. Bovill, I had no interference whatever in the late election at Guildford. Mr. Dowlin has a branch establishment here as harness maker, and as such I have employed him for some time for my farm horses. I had occasion about a month since to complain of his charges, and inquired for what he would contract to do a certain work. He mentioned a sum, and finding I could get it done for considerably less, I wrote him last Monday as follows:—'Albury, July, 1866.'Mr. Dowlin,—Will you please make up my bill to Saturday next, in case I desire to close the accounts?—I am, your obedient servant, "'G. W. How.'My brother, Lord Percy, had nothing to do with his steward's farm horses; they did not belong to my brother, and they were employed upon the steward's farm. With regard to my brother sending for 990 the poll book and that backstairs statement about a certain person having told a tradesman that if he did not vote for the Solicitor General he would not be employed again, as I said before, this is the first time I have beard of these reports, and I can give no contradiction to them; but the hon. Member for Bristol may rely upon it that my brother will not allow them to pass uncontradicted, and will prove that the hon. Member has attempted to support the measure he proposes by unfounded statements picked up from the gossip of a country town.
§ MR. ONSLOW
said, he did not wish to enter into the general question, but to state to the House certain facts which had come to his knowledge within the last few days, and which had transpired in the borough which he had the honour to represent. If hon. Members would only state facts which came within their own knowledge of intimidation they would do more to carry the Motion of the hon. Member than all the convincing and able speeches of the hon. Member could do. At the same time, he admitted that Gentlemen on his side of the House were as guilty of those mal-practices as certain Gentlemen were on the other. The Liberals were, however, very clumsy imitators of those masters of the art, the Conservatives. The great landowners were bitter enemies of the ballot—and why? Because the last thing in the world they would give up was that political influence which they most unjustly and unfairly exercised over their dependents. There was an election at Guildford last week, when the Solicitor General was one of the candidates. The hon. and learned Member was opposed by a gentleman who came forward, not because he had any particular ambition to sit in Parliament—but because the occasion was the first and most fitting opportunity that was afforded of protesting against a Government which he with many other persons believed did not enjoy the full confidence of the country, and also of protesting against the unfair methods that had been adopted for the purpose of defeating the most modest proposal of Reform ever offered to the country. This gentleman accordingly came forward, and he (Mr. Onslow) did his best to help him. They, the Liberals, secured at least half the promises in the borough. There were 647 voters, and the Solicitor General polled 316, but the intimidation that was used was so extreme that it threatened to ruin the trade and prosperity of the borough, 991 and so the Liberals withdrew their man. They had a right to assume that those electors who had promised them their votes would have appeared at the poll if they had dared. For forty years the Liberals had always stood at the head of the poll in that borough; and why did they not on the late occasion? How was it that at this election the Solicitor General should have polled 316 votes, and the Liberals only twelve? Such a thing was unparalleled in the annals of Parliament. The fact was that if the Liberal party had persevered the town would have been half ruined: the tailors would have had to close their shops, the shoemakers would have made no shoes, the laundresses would have been unemployed, the butter would have been unchurned, and the whole borough would have been ruined. The noble Lord asserted that the letter which had been referred to had nothing whatever to do with the matter; but he (Mr. Onslow) had it in his hand. It was dated Albury Park, July 10, and it was written to the saddler—"Mr. Dowlin: Please make out your bill, as I may probably desire to close the account on Saturday next"—the day after the poll. He (Mr. Onslow) would make no comment on that letter. It was written by Mr. G. W. How, the steward of Lord Percy. He would mention another case. There was a tradesman in Guildford who went to Albury Park on the morning before the election. He was shown into the drawing room and was doing his business there, when the nearest relation of Lord Percy came into the room, and that party said, "Well, how are you going to vote?" The tradesman replied, "I have not made up my mind." The party then said, "If you vote against the Solicitor General, you must not come to this house again; it is the intention of Lord Percy to send for the poll book, and those who vote the wrong way shall no longer come near this house in the way of trade." He (Mr. Onslow) had the greatest possible faith in his information, and, if the noble Lord wished, he would give it to him in a private interview. He considered that the Liberals of Guildford had only polled so few votes at the late election in consequence of the bribery, corruption, and intimidation which were employed on the other side.
THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
said, that he had not heard to-night for the first time of the letter to Mr. Dowlin, it was made to do duty in the most ample manner during the election at Guildford on the 992 strength of the representation that it proceeded from a Peer of the Realm, there being one nobleman to whom, from his connection with the borough, suspicion would naturally be attached; and the same representation appeared to have been made to the hon. Member for Bristol. His hon. Colleague now alluded to another nobleman not of the same politics as himself, and exerted himself to make the greatest use he could of the letter, which it seemed that he still believed, despite the assertion of the noble Lord, had some reference to the election and was intended to intimidate Mr. Dowlin. He hoped it would not be thought that any elector had hesitated to give his vote openly. He stated that on the hustings at Guildford, and he now repeated the statement, and he thought the best proof that could be given in favour of open voting was the conduct of this very Mr. Dowlin, to whom the letter in question was written, and also of Mr. How. That letter had no more reference to the election than any other letter which might be written on the subject of a disputed account. Mr. Dowlin was a saddler carrying on business at Guildford, but he also had a shop close to Albury Park. He was in the habit of repairing the harness belonging to the farmers there, and Mr. How had a trifling dispute with him. When Mr. Dowlin received this letter it happened to be at the time of the election, and he immediately put his own construction upon it and handed it over to the hon. Gentleman who last addressed the House. After all, what did this case of intimidation amount to? Why, from first to last he had been opposed by Mr. Dowlin, who throughout frankly avowed his intention of doing so. That was the way in which every Englishman ought to act. Even if the letter had been written with reference to the election, it would have had no effect on the tradesmen of Guildford, who like his opponent, Mr. Dowlin, were honourable and independent men. His Colleague (Mr. Onslow), however, said that somebody, whose name be declined to mention, went to Albury Park and was there told by somebody that he was not to go to the house again unless he voted for the Solicitor General. He had never heard of this before, and consequently could not say what really occurred, though he could easily understand that something of the kind might have taken place. He had been told, for instance, that one of his own housemaids, in his own house, had said to a working man, "If you do not vote for 993 Bovill, don't show your face here again." He had no doubt that a good many housemaids had made similar statements. In this case the housemaid was an old servant of his, and the man to whom she addressed the remark was a decided Radical, who had promised to vote against him. Of course, nothing that any servant might say would at all alter the opinions or the vote of that working man. For his own part he might remark that he had lived for a long time in the neighbourhood, and had associated with persons of all shades of opinion, but he had never heard that any members of his household, the housemaid included, had at any time endeavoured to deter any one from exercising his privilege of voting. He had also heard his hon. Colleague testify to the independent feeling of the electors of the borough of Guildford. That was at a time when he happened to be in the ascendancy at one election, and when certain persons had good reason, according to the argument of hon. Gentlemen opposite, to call for the protection of the ballot. But the Conservative electors of Guildford, and of many other boroughs in the kingdom, did not desire to be protected by the ballot. He ought, perhaps, to apologize to the House for having referred to the Guildford election. He should not have done so had it not been attempted to make political capital out of the letter which was written by the farmer who happened to be the steward of Lord Percy. That letter had been referred to in that House as furnishing an argument in favour of the ballot, but for his part he did not see that it proved anything except the extreme independence of the person to whom it was addressed. After the great pains which were taken to select a candidate to contest the borough of Guildford at the last election, it was somewhat strange to be now told that that candidate did not desire to have a seat in that House. He, at all events, should have been ashamed to resort to the means which that gentleman had adopted. On arriving in Guildford he found that his opponent had opened a number of public-houses. Was that done with a view to promote freedom of election and the independence of the voters? Public-houses had been engaged by a friend of his hon. Colleague, and he had been pressed to follow that example, but had naturally declined to do so. He believed that the contest had been got up solely for the purpose of putting 994 him to expense and trouble; but he should not trespass on the time of the House any further with reference to so merely personal an incident as his own election for the borough of Guildford. What took place then did not give the slightest ground for supporting the Motion of the hon. Member for Bristol, but only showed the independence and integrity of the electors, who had resisted, and would resist, all attempts to owerawe them.
said, he should not refer to the Guildford election, nor descend to any personal attacks. He did not suppose that the hands of hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House were much cleaner than those of hon. Gentlemen on the other. He would remark with reference to the speech of the Judge Advocate General, that the right hon. Gentleman had acted as Chairman of the Great Yarmouth Election Committee, which reported that at the late election for that borough corrupt practices had prevailed, into which a Royal Commission had since been appointed to inquire. He could not understand why this had been made a party question, as it only referred to the manner in which votes should be recorded, and not to the votes themselves. With regard to a favourite argument against the ballot, he might point out that the decisions of jurymen were given in public, though the votes of individual jurymen remained a secret. In his opinion the only argument of any weight against the ballot was that made use of by Lord Palmerston—that the franchise was a trust to be exercised for the benefit of the non-electors. On the day of nomination the returning officer first put it to the crowd in front of the hustings to say who the candidate should be, and when the show of hands was taken at least three-fourths of the persons present were non-electors. He would suggest that power might be given to the returning officer to put it to the assembly at the hustings whether the polling should be taken by secret instead of public voting, and to declare the mode of election in conformity with that decision of the non-electors.
§ MR. LOCKE
said, the House had had a discussion not on the ballot, but on the Guildford election. His right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Mowbray) made use of the reference which had been made by his hon. Friend (Mr. Berkeley) to the Frenchman, who told him that under the ballot he could make a promise, but that it could not be enforced as an argument against the ballot. 995 Now he (Mr. Locke) contended that that was a strong argument in favour of the ballot, because he denied the right of a man first to exact a promise, and then to enforce it. What right had any man to enforce that which they all admitted was a secret in the bosom of the person who had the right to exercise it? It was amusing to find how hon. Gentlemen on the Ministerial side of the House shielded themselves under the name of Lord Palmerston—the men who had traduced Lord Palmerston while he was living. He had never heard those hon. Members say anything in that noble Lord's favour while he was alive, except on the hustings when it suited their purpose. He agreed in what had been said by Lord Palmerston—that the franchise was a trust, and that the voter should have full opportunity of performing that trust, but under the present system you get a promise, which is used as a means of preventing the voter from performing that trust according to his conscience. The ballot was the only mode in which a voter could exercise his trust as an honest and conscientious man. In the Reform Club they had returned to the system of having the election of members by a general ballot. For some time that practice had been in suspense, and the election rested with a council of forty, who sometimes were called "the Forty Thieves." There was not, he believed, any particular reason for that appellation. He knew as a fact that they conducted their business very well, having had the honour himself to be one of them. But they had recently at a general meeting determined to return to their first-love, and now the old system of general voting was adopted. He sincerely hoped that hon. Members would vote that night, as if they were voting by ballot; and if they did they would carry the Motion of his hon. Friend.
§ MR. H. BERKELEY
said, he wished, in replying, to remove the impression from the minds of hon. Members that he had complained of the hostility of the House to his Motion, as on the contrary he felt he was under an obligation to hon. Members for the great kindness and patience which they had always accorded him, and he owed a debt of gratitude to the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, who on several occasions had kindly permitted him to bring forward his Motion from the Opposition side of the table.
Motion made, and Question put,
That, having regard to the failure of all direct legislation against corrupt practices at Parliamentary Elections, it is expedient to make experiment of the system of taking the votes at such Elections anonymously, according to the Laws now in force in other parts of Her Majesty's Dominions."—(Mr. H. Berkeley.)
§ The House divided:—Ayes 110; Noes 197: Majority 87.