Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [28th May], "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair;" 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 the general subject of a Re-distribution of Seats, is of opinion that the system of grouping proposed by Her Majesty's Government is neither convenient nor equitable, and that the scheme is otherwise not sufficiently matured to form the basis of a satisfactory measure,"—(Captain Hayter,)
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
After the announcement just made by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the Government adhere to the determination which they formerly expressed to pass this Bill through every stage, however late into the autumn the House might be compelled to sit in order to accomplish that purpose, and that by this condition Her Majesty's Government intend to stand or fall, we have no alternative but to continue the debate, and endeavour to answer the arguments of the Government in support of the provisions of this remarkable measure. One thing has, I think, been made apparent in this debate. It is abundantly clear that while the Scotch system of grouping is endeared to the hearts of the Scotch borough Members—we have had no expressions of approbation from the Scotch county Members—it is likely to find very little favour either with English or Irish Members. Under these circumstances, I should have thought that the necessary result of the comity of nations would have been that the Scotch Members would have been as backward to press upon a reluctant majority of English and Irish 1799 Members their favourite system of grouping, as they undoubtedly would have been earnest in resenting any wish on the part of English and Irish Members to press upon them anything distasteful to their country. But on Friday night we heard from the learned Lord opposite as animated a vindication of the system which compels the Member for Ayr to go to Oban, and thence to Inverary, as if a hostile league existed among the English and Irish Members to break through the Scotch system, and force upon that part of the kingdom a change altogether distasteful to them. I entreat the learned Lord (the Lord Advocate) to conjecture from his own feelings upon this point what must be the reluctance and dislike experienced by English Members at the attempt made to subvert the English system, and by subverting it to transfer some seven seats from England to Scotland. The learned Lord endeavoured to point out the advantages which would accrue to us from the adoption of the Scotch system. He combated the arguments brought forward in the masterly speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Belfast (Sir Hugh Cairns)—after which I really feel that an apology is due to the House for occupying their time—and the learned Lord contended that the identity of boroughs was as much broken by grouping boroughs now existing with unrepresented as with represented towns. That, I should say, is an assumption of the whole question. No doubt if you take an unrepresented town in the North of England and affiliate to it a borough in the South of England, the borough in the South will lose its identity. If, as was said just now, Congleton be affiliated to Christchurch, Christchurch will lose its identity. But what man, sane or insane, ever made any proposal of the kind? The objection is to grouping boroughs which have no necessary or possible connection of identity with each other, and not to grouping a borough represented with a town unrepresented where the arrangement has local affinity and geographical convenience in its favour. But then the learned Lord went further, and said these grouped boroughs will not have less identity than is to be found in large counties. But a county, at any rate, has the geographical argument in its favour; it is under the administration of one lord-lieutenant, convened by one high sheriff, convoked at one quarter sessions, with immemorial traditions and long-established usages; it is a 1800 substantial integer. But the noble and learned Lord finding, I suppose, that his arguments were not making much way with the House, suddenly shifted his ground, and said, "Admitting that this system of grouping represented boroughs may not be satisfactory, it forms no necessary and essential element of the Bill. You may discard it or modify it, if you please, without detriment to the main principle and objects of the Bill." A few minutes before the House had heard a most ingenuous and ingenious speech from one who bears an honoured name—the hon. Member for Warwick (Mr. Arthur Peel), and who, unlike the noble Lord, was so enamoured of this principle of grouping that he declared it to be the principle of the measure. Disliking the inconsistencies, the anomalies, and in many respects the injustice of the Bill, so essential did he deem this provision of grouping that, in spite of his objection to nearly all the other provisions of the measure, he yet intends to vote for it on the present occasion. That being so I should really like the Members of the Government and their supporters to settle beforehand what really are and what are not the essential principles of this measure. The hon. Member for Warwick not only objected to the anomalies and inconsistencies of the Bill, but made use of a very strange phrase—be said the Bill absolutely bristled with anomalies. That is a very curious ground for supporting a measure, but, undoubtedly, it is a very true description of the Bill. And now I, in turn, will make an admission to Her Majesty's Government. I agree that this Bill does bristle with inconsistencies and anomalies; but I say, over and above all those anomalies and all those inconsistencies, I do recognize one main principle animating and directing the whole of this heterogeneous mass to the prosecution of one great and definite end. Distrust, dislike—shall I go too far if I say hatred?—of the land, the desire to take away from the landed interest in that House all influence in their decisions, and the transfer of all political power from the rural to the urban population, seem to be the principle upon which the measure was founded. Now what was the real state of the case as affected the representation of the counties? The figures had been read before, but as the observations which he should have to make would depend on those figures, he trusted the House would excuse him if he repeated them. The population of the counties amounted to 11,427,000; 1801 the number of the county electors to 542,000; the rated property in the counties to £59,695,000; and the number of county Members in that House to 162. The population of the boroughs was 9,326,000; the rated property £33,900,000; the number of electors 488,000; and the number of borough Members 334. But great and astounding as was the injustice disclosed by those figures, it did not represent the whole case; because, in 1861, of the 542,000 county electors no less than 86,000 were borough freeholders. The result was that in some instances the borough freeholders were sufficiently numerous to wrest counties from the county constituencies, as ordinarily understood by that term, and to turn those counties into great urban electoral districts. I will admit the truth of what is alleged by Gentlemen on the other side—that certain of the small boroughs send to Parliament men who may be regarded as additional representatives of the county constituencies; but the balance is not adjusted by that addition, for the counties are still inadequately represented in point of numbers. Yet so averse are the country Members to agitation of those matters that, if no Reform Bill had been introduced, no doubt they would have submitted to that anomaly and injustice. The case was, however, widely different when, with wide professions of impartiality and liberality, a measure was introduced the whole purpose of which was to convert the counties into vast urban electoral districts. When introducing this measure the right hon. Gentleman said the effect of the Bill, so far as it related to counties, would be to give them 171,000 additional voters, with a £14 franchise. He might just observe that he thought it would be fairer to describe what were called £14 county voters as £6, £7, or £8 voters possessing an acre or two of land. The right hon. Gentleman bad characterized those new electors as an independent addition to the county constituencies; but he would ask the House to recollect that, while the 86,000 borough freeholders were an increasing quantity, the number of farmers who had votes under the Chandos clause, if not positively retrograding, at best was only stationary. He presumed that, with all his dislike to the land, the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not mean to say that the great mass of the county electors were not independent in the ordinary sense of the term; what, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman meant no doubt 1802 was, that they would be liberal in their politics, and in that sense he admitted that the new £14 electors would be independent. Undoubtedly they would exhibit their independence of the county constituencies in their desire to subserve the interests of the urban, and not those of the rural, populations. The hon. Member for North Devonshire (Mr. Acland)—he believed pretty nearly the only Member representing a large county who was so pleased with the Bill that he supported it—had told the House that it would tend to liberalize the counties. He supposed the hon. Member did not mean to say that at present the counties did not contain any elements of true liberality, but meant that the measure would transfer the whole of the political power from the rural community to the towns. He agreed with the hon. Member that such would be the effect of the Bill; but as if that was not enough—as if the other proposals did not sufficiently swamp the county representation—the crafty device of the borough leaseholders and the borough copyholders was brought into operation. He did not know which to admire most—the audacity of the proposal or the extraordinary character of the reason assigned for it. At the time of the discussion of the Reform Bill of 1832, the right hon. Gentleman who now occupied the Speaker's Chair and some other Liberal Members endeavoured to prevent the creation of these borough freeholders; but the efforts of these Gentlemen were unavailing, and from that time to the present the anomaly and injustice had gone on increasing until 1859, when Lord Derby's Government introduced a Reform Bill. It seemed to them to be absolutely necessary to take some step to check the evil; but the House all knew how that proposal was defeated He, however, believed the sound sense of the country approved the principle laid down by Lord Derby's Government, which was that property should give a vote for the locality in which it was situated, and not for the locality in which it was not situated. The least the counties had a right to expect from the Government was that no borough freeholder hereafter to be created should have a right by reason of that freehold to vote in a county. But the reason assigned by the right hon. Gentleman for his proposal was a curious one—if it could be called a reason. He told the House that he had no notion as to the number which it would add to the county constituency—it 1803 might be great or it might be small; but he said it would give a body of electors most germane to the count)' constituencies. He (Lord John Manners) took leave to differ from the right hon. Gentleman; but, admitting for argument's sake that those borough leaseholders and copyholders would be germane to the county constituencies, then the converse also would hold, and owners and occupiers in counties ought to get votes in the boroughs; and so struck was the hon. Member for North Devon with the fairness of this principle, that when he made his second speech he said, that while he still adhered to his proposition to liberalize counties by an infusion of the urban element, he should, in Committee on the Bill, suggest that rural voters should be introduced into boroughs. Whether the hon. Member meant this to be done for the purpose of illiberalizing the boroughs it was difficult to say. The plan of the Government was a kind of approximation to electoral districts; but, for his own part, if they were to have electoral districts, he should infinitely prefer the clear, unmistakable propositions contained ill the Chapter, to the manipulated urban electoral districts of the right hon. Gentleman. They first had the addition of 171,000 by the reduction of the qualification to £14; but when the infusion of the borough leaseholders and copyholders and that which was to result from the fancy franchise and the lodger franchise were taken into consideration, the addition to the county constituency would not be less than 250,000. According to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it was impossible for the Government to arrive at any precise estimate. He must say, however, that he was a little surprised at what had occurred with reference to the figures relating to the borough leaseholders and copyholders. The only information which the House had received on that subject had been given by his right hon. Friend the Member for North Staffordshire (Mr. Adderley), who quoted early in the debate some startling figures, which had not been touched upon, answered, or refuted by any Member of Her Majesty's Government. His right hon. Friend stated that from a careful analysis of the town of Birmingham he had discovered that no less than 5,000 voters would be added to the county constituency by this franchise alone. In the same debate a speech was delivered by the hon. Member for Birmingham; but, though he alluded 1804 to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Staffordshire, he neither refuted nor gave any explanation of the figures which had been given by him. All the hon. Member for Birmingham said was that the right hon. Gentleman had spoken in a frenzy; but he might remark that Gentlemen who spoke in a frenzy were seldom so accurate in their figures as his right hon. Friend had been in his. At all events, the figures having been left untouched, he (Lord John Manners) was disposed to think the frenzy of his right hon. Friend was more sober and sane than were the arguments of the hon. Member for Birmingham. Well, then, this enormous addition to the county constituency would effect a complete revolution in the state of the county representation. How, too, would the constituency be still further affected by the second part of the Bill which related to the re-distribution of seats? The Bill contained no effectual provision for the re-arrangement of borough boundaries, and whole armies of voters in the suburbs of all the great represented towns would be poured into the counties. The only provision which nominally and apparently had a tendency to repress the injustice and inequality of the measure was that it gave twenty-six additional Members to the counties. But whence were those twenty-six Members to be taken from, and what would be their real character? In the first instance, they would be the pillage of the smaller boroughs which, in the eyes of hon. Gentlemen opposite, are only supplementary sources of rural representation; and, in the second place, the slightest consideration would show that these twenty-six Members could in no sense be called county Members, as the term was generally understood, any more than the right hon. Gentleman, who had come in third on the poll for South Lancashire in July last, could be said to be a county Member. He would endeavour to show the House what would be the effect of the proposed addition to the constituencies of some of the largest counties, and hon. Gentlemen would then see whether it were likely or possible that county Gentlemen would come forward to contest an election when the constituencies were so gigantic. He would first take the case of South Devon. The present constituency consisted of 8,700 voters, but by the operation of the lowering of the franchise alone it would be raised to 13,000 or 49½ per cent. South Essex had a consti- 1805 tuency of 7,300, which would be raised to 13,800 or 89 per cent; West Kent had a constituency of 9,800, which would be raised to 19,600; North Lancashire had a constituency of 13,000, which would be raised to 21,200; South Lancashire had a constituency of 21,500, which would be raised to 36,300; Middlesex had a constituency of 14,800, which would be raised to 33,900; and East Surrey had a constituency of 9,900, which would be raised to 22,800. It was clear from this enumeration that what the counties required was not a third Member, but subdivision. He would now point out what would be the effect of the Bill on the status and character of the county representatives. Every one conversant with country life was aware that there was a growing reluctance among county gentlemen of independence, education, social position, and moderate fortune to embark in the turmoil, anxiety, and expense of a contested county election. In illustration of this statement he would take the case of Middlesex, in which was now, as there always had been, a very large and powerful Conservative party. Everybody was aware that at the last general election that county was not contested, simply because no county gentleman could be found who was willing to incur the enormous expense of a contest. Then, again, there was the case of North Derbyshire—a division to which the right hon. Gentleman proposes to give the exceptional boon of a third Member—when it lost the services of one of its representatives, through illness, in the last Parliament, the Whig and Conservative Gentlemen of the county were most anxious to supply his place with a country gentleman, not much caring whether he called himself a Whig or a Conservative; but not one gentleman on either side in politics was willing to contest that great county, and the hon. Gentleman who filled up the vacancy was not in any sense the representative of either the Whig or the Conservative feeling of the county. The Solicitor General had said that what ever faults might be found with the Bill it would, at all events, diminish the power of the landowners. There might be some Gentlemen in the House, even on the Treasury Bench, who would look with complacency on the exclusion of county gentlemen from the House of Commons, but he thought no philosopher, or statesman, or friend of the people would share those views. The great difficulty of Napoleon was to connect with the land the institutions which he had 1806 raised, and these were the words that he had left on record—The electoral colleges attach the people to the Government and vice versâ. They are a link, and a most important one, between the authorities and the nation. In that link it is indispensable to combine the class of proprietors with the most distinguished of those who have not that advantage; the former, because property must be the basis of every rational system of representation; the latter, because the career of ambition must not be closed to obscure or indigent genius.When the dynasty of Napoleon had been swept away the philosophical statesmen of the succeeding generation had endeavoured in their turn to place the institutions of France upon a firm foundation. M. de Fontanes, in the French Chambers, made use of these remarkable words—The holders of land in every age and country have constituted the strength of nations. They it is who are the guardians at once of our morals and institutions. In intrusting to them the enjoyment of political rights, our legislators have done no violence to natural justice; because civilization renders property always accessible to the persevering efforts of industry, and it is the sure recompense of labour and economy.In what community, ancient or modern, should we find more than in ours that property had been and was the sure reward of labour; and not property only, but those political privileges which had been wisely attached to property, and that security and confidence which alone rendered either property or privilege enjoyable or valuable? These great results had been achieved under our present system, which was the creation neither of doctrinaires nor of demagogues, and he, for one, would have no part in suppressing it. Ours is—A land of settled government,A land of old and wide renown,Where Freedom broadens slowly downFrom precedent to precedent.The Solicitor General the other evening seemed to think that it would be a laudable thing to disfranchise those boroughs which had any sympathy with the landed interest, hut the Attorney General took a sounder line of argument, and said that they had no right to disfranchise except for the purpose of enfranchisement. That was the just principle. He complained that the Government's plan of disfranchisement was extravagant, severe, and unjust, and he objected altogether to giving Members to boroughs and counties because of their magnitude. If the principle were to be acted on in future, and three Members were given to a borough because its population was over 150,000, or to a division of a county on 1807 corresponding grounds, the inevitable result would be that in ten or twenty years more places must be disfranchised for large boroughs and populous counties. Therefore he objected to the proposal to give third Members to big boroughs and unwieldy counties. He came now to the Scotch proposal. As the hon. and learned Member for Belfast (Sir Hugh Cairns) had pointed out, there was no justification on the score of population for the extraordinary proposal to give Members taken from English boroughs to Scotland. The hon. and learned Gentleman showed that since the Reform Act of 1832 the population of Scotland had increased only 29 per cent, while that of England and Wales had increased 43 per cent, and a little study of the figures made the case even stronger. Whereas in England the decennial increase had increased continuously, in Scotland it had been precisely the reverse. In the ten years ending 1831 the increase in Scotland was 13 per cent; in 1841, it was only 1082 per cent; in 1851, it was 1025 per cent; and in 1861 it had fallen to 6 per cent. Therefore there really was no case whatever for Scotland; and, if population were to be a guide, Scotland ought rather to have yielded some seats for England. He protested altogether against giving to Scotland seats taken from the English smaller boroughs. He admitted that for ten or eleven of the larger towns in England a case might be made out; but he could not understand on what principle Government had selected the towns they had, while they had overlooked such towns as West Bromwich, Croydon, Glossop, and other places of larger population than those selected. He had no objection to the University of London having a Member, but he objected to twenty-six seats being given in the way proposed to the counties, for he was sure that the seats would not be filled by county Members in the ordinarily accepted sense of the phrase, but by millionaires representing houses of business in Manchester and other commercial centres. Some eight or ten counties might, perhaps, be legitimately divided into four divisions with two Members each, and thus with the new boroughs some twenty-seven or twenty-eight seats would require to be obtained by the process of partial disfranchisement. With regard to the principle adopted by the Government in grouping the boroughs, he thought the scheme was open to all the objections which had been raised against it. Where geographical considerations did not 1808 intervene, represented boroughs might be grouped with each other, and, for the seats that were really required, there might be isolated cases in which appeals might be made to the patriotism and good sense which the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Harwich (Captain Jervis) appealed to in 1859 with such success as to induce the constituency to recognize the justice of the appeal, and to offer no impediment to the giving up of one of their seats to a large county. Among the glaring inconsistencies of the Government scheme was this, that it left untouched the following nine boroughs, with two Members, and with populations under 10,000:—Chichester, with 8,059 inhabitants; Guildford, with 8,020; Lewes, with 9,716; Malton, with 8,072; Poole, with 9,759; Stamford, with 8,047; Tavistock, with 8,057; Windsor, with 9,520; and Wycombe, with 8,370; making a total population of 78,420, returning eighteen Members. There were to be ten new groups of boroughs, each having more than 10,000 inhabitants, and having an aggregate population of 123,702, who would return only ten Members. How was this extraordinary injustice and anomaly arrived at? By a process which reminded him of the old English game of "leapfrog." Some of the unfortunate small boroughs were made to perform the extraordinary evolution of leaping over each other. For instance, Woodstock was made to leap over Oxford in order to reach Abingdon; Harwich jumped over Colchester to Maldon, and the claims of Chelmsford, the county town, were overlooked. Those who objected to the reduction of the borough franchise would not be reconciled to the measure by such anomalies as these. Such being its main provisions, was it wise and useful to proceed further with it? Could they hope, at the commencement of June, to go into Committee on a measure containing so many anomalies, tending not to a reform, but a revolution, of the existing electoral system, with the slightest hope of attaining any practical result? He objected to this measure because it had been introduced under circumstances necessarily exciting the gravest suspicion; because it had been prosecuted with a mixture of haste and indecision which had characterized the Government up to this very evening; because it created far more anomalies than it removed, and destroyed the present character of the county constituen- 1809 cies. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in introducing this measure, had stated that it could not be produced earlier because it was not until the end of October or the beginning of November that the Government had determined to get information upon the measure of Reform. But a curious revelation had been made by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, who stated that, so far as he was concerned, he announced his opinion in August that a Reform Bill was necessary. Confidences of that nature coming from Cabinet Ministers were always interesting. He would have liked the right hon. Gentleman to have continued that revelation, and to explain to whom he made that statement, and what was the nature of the answer he received? Because, if the right hon. Gentleman wished the House to imply that in last August his Colleagues, as well as himself, had resolved to bring in a Reform Bill, the Government were much to blame for their laches and indolence in forming a judgment on this subject in August and taking no action respecting it till October. If, however, as he (Lord John Manners) believed to be the case. Reform was not thought of in the Cabinet until the death of Lord Palmerston, then he blamed the Government for the haste, the precipitancy, and indiscretion they had shown in introducing this fragmentary measure of Reform. Under these circumstances the House could not he held responsible for any mischance which might befall this measure; the responsibility must rest with the Government. The question which Conservative Members had to ask themselves was, "Shall we who appreciate the blessings which the Constitution has conferred upon all classes of the community—shall we acting under no compulsion, unconvinced by arguments, because we have heard none, unconverted by figures, which only tell the reverse way from that intended—shall we, to gratify the pride of a veteran Reformer, or enable a versatile statesman to retain his hold upon the waning affections of his party—shall we, yielding to the threats of a vituperative demagogue, tamely, basely shatter the fair fabric of the Constitution in order to erect on its ruins a new structure modelled after some transatlantic pattern?" Did the issue rest with them (the Conservatives), this Bill would never become law. But it was notorious that the issue did not rest on that side of the House. It depended upon the great and independent 1810 Whig party. In their ranks a crisis was occurring like that which occurred in 1791. They had been deserted by their nominal leaders, who had appealed to "the Mountain," and sought for support in the Benches below the gangway. But if he could attribute to any one of the eminent men who were now prosecuting, he hoped with success, this appeal from the new Whigs to the old, the commanding position or towering genius of Burke, yet the right hon. Gentlemen the Members for Calne (Mr. Lowe), and for Stroud (Mr. Horsman), and the noble Lords the Members for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho) and for Chester (Earl Grosvenor) were leaders, orators, and statesmen of whom any party, however ancient, however great, and however illustrious, have just reason to be proud. In the last Parliament, when the Whig Gentlemen of England discovered what were the real intentions of the Liberation Society and their supporters below the gangway, they did not hesitate to join the Conservatives in their successful resistance to the attempt to sever the connection between Church and State. He did not believe, he would not believe, that they would fail or falter now when they were asked to interpose the veto of a wise delay upon measures subversive of our existing political institutions. Patriotism, common sense, ordinary prudence, and a just regard for the insulted dignity and outraged independence of this House impelled them no less than the Conservatives to affirm the Resolution of the hon. and gallant Member for Wells.
It is due, if not to the House, at least to those Members with whom I lately had the honour of acting, that I should not give a silent vote on this occasion, and that I should explain the reasons why I shall vote in favour of the Government and against the Resolution of the hon. and gallant Member for Wells. But before I give those reasons, let me refer for a moment to the Motion which I made on a previous occasion. That Motion met with decided opposition from the Government, and was treated as a vote of censure upon them. Certainly, I did not submit it to the House with any such intention, whatever may have been the intentions of those who supported it; but, although it was defeated in a very full House by a majority of five, the Government, by fusing the Re-distribution of Seats Bill with the Franchise Bill, practically conceded the point at issue and the object with 1811 which I had moved the Resolution. I have no reason to find fault with the Government for having fused these two Bilk; but I must say that the responsibility of the delay which has Occurred now rests with the Government for having done that in May which it was their duty to have done, if not in February, at all events at the earliest possible moment afterwards. No doubt the Re-distribution of Seats Bill has met with opposition from different quarters of the House, and the opposition must be attributed to the crudeness of the Bill itself, which can only be accounted for by the haste with which it was necessarily drawn after the Government had decided that such a Bill should be brought forward. In my humble opinion the Franchise Bill is not the best that could be devised, and I think the Re-distribution of Seats Bill cannot be considered a satisfactory measure, The House will judge what the result must be when a bad Bill is added to an unsatisfactory measure. But I submit that we had some reason for hoping that the redistribution part of the Reform scheme would be of a moderate and equitable character. When in 1859 the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer supported the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli), it may be in the recollection of the House that he then said the re-distribution part of the Bill was by far its best feature, the proposal then being to take one Member from fifteen seats, while the Bill of the present Prime Minister, brought forward in 1860 provided that one Member each should be taken from twenty-five boroughs returning two Members. It is difficult to understand why the Government discarded the precedent there set, for it Certainly was not owing to the re-distribution part of these two schemes that they failed to pass the House of Commons. Sir, the incongruities and anomalies which would arise from the present Re-distribution Bill have been so well exposed by those most interested in the question that I will not intrude any further opinion of my own respecting it. My chief object in rising was not to uselessly occupy the time of the House, but to state my reasons for the vote which, if a division does take place, I shall feel bound to give this evening against the Resolution of the hon. and gallant Member for Wells. I hope that the hon. and gallant Member may be induced to withdraw his Motion; but whether he does so or not, that will be, in my opinion, the wisest 1812 course he could pursue. One question with me was, whether, by voting for the Resolution, I should not, if it were successful, be both defeating the Bill and upsetting Her Majesty's Government. There is no doubt that these two results would arise. Now, I have always expressed my regret that the Government should have regarded my own Resolution as a want of confidence, for I had no personal hostility to the Government. On the contrary, I am bound to Members of the Government by ties of relationship, and certainly by admiration, and in many cases by confidence. Another question with me was, whether, if I now voted with the Government and against the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member, I should not by so doing retain the Government in office, and yet defeat the Bill of the Government. It is possible for us who vote against the Motion still to oppose the Bill in Committee; and I certainly hold myself free to oppose, tooth and nail, if I may use so homely an expression, those provisions which I think objectionable. After due reflection, and not without some difficulty, recollecting the hon. Members with whom I had acted on a previous occasion, I resolved to vote against the Motion, though I felt little confidence in the Government with regard to this measure of Reform, but felt confidence in certain Members of the Government and in their policy. When I reflect upon the state of the affairs of Europe, and on the financial crisis, which has not yet subsided—and I am afraid is not likely soon to subside—I hold it to be of the utmost importance that the Government should not resign office at this moment. I do not doubt the ability of hon. Members on the opposite side of the House; but I must say in the present critical state of things I have great confidence in Lord Clarendon—a statesman who conducted our foreign affairs on previous occasions with great credit to himself and honour to his country, and I am convinced that he will continue to do the same at the Conference which is now about to meet. I should be sorry to see him removed at the present critical moment. And now, before I sit down, permit me to say a few words with regard to the Cave of Adullam, which was notorious in former times, and which of late had become famous in this House. In olden times unquestionably the inhabitants of that Cave, as we have the best authority for stating, were always in distress, in debt, and discontent. Now, though 1813 some of us were in great distress when we repaired thither, we may not have been all in debt, though some of us may have been, but we were all very much discontented, and I do not know that our discontent has been in any way allayed. There is another cave well known in history of far older date, and, perhaps, of greater fame, the cave which Abraham bought in which to bury his wife Sarah—the Cave of Macphelah. Now, the latter more dismal cave may be put to some use on the present occasion—it may serve as a receptacle where the disfranchised boroughs may lay their bones. At one time I had some ground for believing that it was possible this measure of Reform might be so managed as to be made a settlement of the question, for I happen to know there were many hon. Gentlemen opposite who were certainly not unprepared to come to some compromise with the Government—["Hear, hear!"from the Opposition]—with a view to see the question of Reform satisfactorily settled. But, to whatever it was owing, whether to the attitude of the Government, to the want of conciliatory proposals to hon. Gentlemen opposite, to the ridicule that was cast by the Treasury Bench on any suggestions that were offered—for they ridiculed the notion that hon. Gentlemen opposite were willing to act with a view to the settlement of the question—nothing was done. I took the liberty of prophesying on a previous occasion that unless Government did consult with hon. Gentlemen opposite there would be no chance of any Reform Bill passing. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Goschen) stated that this Bill was made mainly to pass the House. I ask, is it likely to prove correct that it will pass? In my opinion it is not. Because, if I thought the Bill would not pass before we had the Re-distribution Bill, and the plan which is to be added on the subject of bribery and corruption, and perhaps the scheme with regard to education—I think, now that we have all these on our hands, any chance of a Bill passing this Session is very remote indeed. I can only venture to make an appeal to Her Majesty's Government, though I cannot expect any notice will be taken of that appeal coming from the quarter from which it proceeds. But still I will appeal to the right hon. Gentleman and ask him, knowing that the feeling of the House and the country is against going forward with the measure daring this Session, for there are none en- 1814 thusiastic, and but few wholly in its favour; and I would venture to say, the majority of this House being against the measure of the Government, that as this House is but the reflex of public opinion which is also against it, though some below the gangway may dispute the fact;—I would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, therefore, whether he will not yield to the feeling of the House and the country, and thus ward off that opposition and that disaster which will be fatal to himself and the Government of which he is a member. If he would consent to do this with a view to further inquiry, an opportunity may be given which would lead to a satisfactory settlement of the question.
§ MR. OSBORNE
said: Mr. Speaker, the noble Lord the Member for Leicestershire (Lord John Manners) has alluded to the new and the old Whigs. Now, I cannot claim to be either a new or an old Whig, or to be anything more than simply an independent Member of Parliament, who will respect the evident lassitude of the situation and endeavour to compress my observations into the smallest possible space. Sir, I am not sorry that my noble Friend the Member for Chester (Earl Grosvenor) caught your eye in the first instance, because I think it is always an interesting spectacle to witness the reconciliation of friends. We know that the quarrel of lovers is said to be the renewal of love; and although I condole with the inhabitants of that Cave, which may now be said to have shrunk to the dimensions of a grotto, and although I think the speech of the noble Lord is rather a proof of his adroitness in looking one way and rowing another, at the same time it is a most agreeable spectacle to see a man of his ability and of the great respect in which he is held by the House and the country returning to the ranks of that party which has been an honour to him, and of which he forms a distinguished ornament. But, in considering this question of Reform, I am more than ever struck by the speeches of the two noble Lords who have preceded me; and, I am more than ever afraid that this present House of Commons is about to treat this question of Reform very much in the same manner as it was treated by other Houses in former Sessions of Parliament. There appears to be no difference of opinion among hon. Members as to the necessity of some extension of the franchise, or as to the expediency of a re-distribution of seats; but, somehow or 1815 other, it appears, whenever a Reform Bill is brought in, that hon. Gentlemen are occupied in subjecting it, not only to the minutest criticism, but to the most hostile condemnation; and yet, in spite of all this, not a single Member of this House—not even my right hon. Friend the Member for Galne—ventures to submit a direct negative. Well, that is, I think, a most peculiar position for the question of Reform to have got into. There is no quarrel at all on either side as to the necessity of some Reform, and the only question is as to who is to be the constructor of the measure. I think Reform in previous Sessions was very much in the situation of Cinderella, who was neglected because she was so much despised. But suddenly she puts on the guise of an heiress, and now all the quarrel is which party is to measure her for the glass slipper. But what will be the result of all these contradictory discussions, these various Amendments? Reform will vanish, like Cinderella, suddenly, in the midnight of August, and go back to the retirement and dusty attics of Downing Street. It is evident that that is to be the fate of Reform, and whose fault is that? Is it the fault of Her Majesty's Ministers? Now, I am not a particular supporter of Her Majesty's Ministers, but I should be wanting in candour if I did not say that Ministers are not to blame in the matter. What is the position of what I call the great Liberal party and the Liberal Ministry? The position of the Liberal party is excessively puzzling, and the position of Her Majesty's Government is excessively critical. What has been the occasion of all this? I have always understood that the new Parliament had returned to it a great majority—upwards of seventy Liberal Members—to support Her Majesty's Government, all pledged to retrenchment, most of them panting for Reform. Well, what has become of this majority of seventy Members? I think there must have been some errors made originally by the returning officers—that they must have made some mistake. I do not believe that majority ever existed. There can be no doubt, at the same time, that Her Majesty's Government were guilty of a mistake in policy and tactics in not having felt the pulse of the House of Commons at least for one Session before they so rashly committed themselves to a Reform Bill, and took for granted that these seventy "panting" Liberals were going to give them their support. Why, Sir, they will be left in 1816 the lurch, and I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer might paraphrase the old fable, and say—"I returned to the home of my birth, and sought the friends of Reform, and I cried 'Where are they?' and echo answered 'Where?'" Well, how was this brought about? Has the reduction of the franchise been mainly hindered by the devices or the malice of opponents? They have never brought forward any hostile Amendment, they have taken no step for the extinction of Reform, and they would have voted for an extension of the franchise. Well, then, to what is it owing? To the extraordinary zeal of the supporters of Her Majesty's Government, and particularly of one right hon. Member—"my own familiar friend," I may say, and not a familiar friend alone, but one of the most familiar—I mean the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock. My right hon. Friend, in the kindest and most disinterested manner, not being in any way asked for his advice, came down to the House and urged upon Her Majesty's Government not to offer to the House a bit-by-bit Reform, but to produce a comprehensive incomprehensible amalgamation, and he forced upon Her Majesty's Government this absurd scheme. The consequence is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer having in an evil moment yielded to the tempter in the person of the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock, the Bill for the reduction of the franchise will be withdrawn the moment the weather gets hot, and the only re-distribution of seats this House is likely to see is a new grouping of officials on the Treasury Bench. And who has done all this? Why, my own familiar friend. Now, I have heard many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen ask, "What is the principle of this Bill?" To me the principle is very evident; its main feature is in conformity with the Amendment which Lord Russell moved to the Bill of 1859—namely, "That no re-adjustment of the question of Reform would be satisfactory which did not provide for an extension of the suffrage in cities and boroughs." That is the principle of the Bill as I look at the question; and I do not think that any Reformer who has voted consistently for a reduction of the franchise will have difficulty as to the course which he ought to pursue when he finds out that this is a Bill for reducing the franchise in cities and boroughs. Sir, I confess to being one of that numerous class who are wise after the event, and I deeply regret the conduct I 1817 pursued and the language I used in 1859 with reference to my right hon. Friend the Member for Stroud; for he and the right hon. Member for South Lancashire (the Chancellor of the Exchequer,) alone among us Liberals, took the sensible view of the case, and abstained from giving an absurd and party opposition to the Bill which was brought in by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire. I have no hesitation in saying—and I am ready to do penance in a white sheet if necessary—that the House committed an enormous mistake in losing the opportunity of settling the question. Well do I remember the eloquence of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Hertfordshire. It shook me at the time, it shakes me now as I reflect upon it. He said, "Whatever you do, pass the second reading of the Bill, and if you have objections urge them in Committee." I say the same, pass the second reading of this Bill, which proposes to effect a reduction in the franchise. [An hon. MEMBER: It's passed.] What? It has been reported to me that this is an Amendment to the Motion for the second reading? [An hon. MEMBER: No, for going into Committee.] Well, then, go into Committee and urge your objections. You who represent little boroughs strike them out; but for Heaven's sake do not stand in the way of the committal of this reduction of the Franchise Bill for one hour. The principle of the Bill is, as I have stated, a reduction of the franchise, and have we not all been, Session after Session, endeavouring to frame some measure by which the artizan class shall be better represented in this country? We have all had a wonderful sympathy with what is called the superior artizan class; but, at the same time, there is a wonderful agreement among us to keep them excluded from the franchise. What is the case at present? Is it not patent to the world that the aristocracy reigns supreme in the counties; that plutocracy is dominant in the boroughs; and that a very small part of the artizan class have their proper share in the government of the country? I place no trust in the Returns furnished by the Government. They are a mass of confusion and mistakes from beginning to end, I gather that especially by judging them according to the borough which I represent. People are put down as working men while they are neither more nor less than publicans—and sinners. But I ask the House one question. What have been the changes 1818 since 1832 in property and prosperity in the country? It is notorious that there are at present fewer of the artizan class in possession of the right of voting than there were in 1832. That has been caused by the increase in the value of what was formerly a £10 house. I have taken some trouble to ascertain the facts of the case, and I find that a house which in 1832 was valued at £10 a year is now valued at £14. Moreover, the present mania for building speculation induces many of the artizan class to reside in flats instead of houses. Thus the tendency on the whole is to decrease the political power of what is called the working classes, because they do not now live in £10 houses to the same extent as they used. But look at the contrast afforded by the Vote for education. The Vote for public education only reached £30,000 in 1839, while in the present year upwards of £1,000,000 has been voted for England and Ireland. I may remark, by the way, that my right hon. Friend is surely not excluding Ireland from his calculations; I do not hesitate to say that if grouping goes on there no fortune will be able to carry anybody's election. To return to my argument, I have one other important point to mention with respect to figures. The deposits in savings banks in 1832 amounted to £380,000; last year they amounted to £2,000,000. These are facts pregnant with instruction, and you cannot in the face of them refuse a considerable reduction of the franchise. The Lord Advocate produced considerable sensation the other night by saying that this House was the embodiment of democracy. I am surprised that any hon. Gentleman should differ from him on this point. But how far is this House the embodiment of democracy? I find that 217 of its Members are either directly connected with or are actual members of the aristocracy. Talk of trades unions ! why, is not this House a trades union to a certain extent? [Mr. BRIGHT: Hear, hear !] Have we not 217 Members who constitute to all intents and purposes a trades union? But it is said, do they all give their votes on one side? No; like the trades unions, they differ in their political sentiments. I find, on referring to Mr. Sandford's History of Great Families, that there are no less than 1,500 members of great families who constitute the whole of the Upper Chamber, and one-third of this House, and yet we hear hon. Gentlemen talk of the necessity of keeping out the artizan class. It is evident 1819 that the labouring classes have not their fair share of the representation, and that we are to all intents and purposes an aristocratic trades union. It is asked, however, whether we do not pass the best measures, and whether we have at present any practical abuses? I say that we have many practical abuses. If there were no practical abuses in the year of grace 1866, would you have Ireland in her present condition? Would you have a rampant Church in that country? Would you have the old land question unsettled? Would you have the enormous and profligate expenditure still going on to the same extent as was declaimed against in 1859 by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he said he could not answer for the consequences if such an enormous outlay were continued? I hold that the very best thing that could happen in this country would be a healthy admixture of the artizan class among the Members of this House. It would tend to diminish flunkeyism, which is fast increasing to our prejudice. So much for trades unions and reductions of the franchise. I must now say that I listened with great admiration, and greater sorrow, the other night to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe). I listened to him with admiration, because I think he is in talent second to no man in this House, and because I regard his removal from the Treasury Bench as a great loss to the country; but I listened to him with sorrow because, although his speech exhibited extraordinary power, it was nothing from beginning to end but an impeachment of the representative system of this country. He almost adopted the language of Burke—not Burke in his best day, when he said, "The House of Commons was constituted to be a control, not upon the people, but for the people." Why, Sir, if these theories were carried out to their legitimate conclusion, we should not be here to talk about enfranchisement, disfranchisement, and re-distribution of seats. The right hon. Gentleman would put an end to the three estates, and would substitute a paternal tyranny in their stead. Then, in place of a fresh, free democracy, we should have a nation of cowering pupils receiving spoon diet at the hands of an intellectual despotism. That is what the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Calne amounts to. But I shall always call him my right hon. Friend, and shall always listen to him with pleasure. Now, with respect to the Re-distribution of 1820 Seats Bill. It is asserted that a Bill for the re-distribution of seats should have three objects in view—first, to correct anomalies; next, to remove inequalities; and finally, to supply deficiencies. That would form the basis of a good measure. But the Bill of my right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock, for it is his Bill, and not the Bill of the Government, contrives to steer clear of all these objects. I must observe, however, that the hon. Member for Galway has had something to do with the Bill; he seconded the Amendment proposed by the noble Lord the Member for Chester, and in Ireland they call the Bill by a very expressive title. They have named it "Gregory's mixture." It is impossible not to see the difficulty of Her Majesty's Government upon this question. How can you expect any Government to bring in a Bill for Re-distribution of Seats to please all of us, when the measure is bound to call upon a number of the Members of this House to ascend, like so many political suttees, the pyre on which they are to be consumed. You cannot expect it. It is an amount of public virtue not to be found save in very exceptional cases, such as that of the hon. Member for Knaresborough, respecting whom an hon. Gentleman expressed the opinion to me the other day that he had gone out of his mind. It is perfectly impossible to bring in a Bill by which you expect to get Members of this House to put the torch to the funeral pile of their own extinction. Now, with regard to small boroughs, I am one of those who think that these small boroughs have many great advantages, and I should be very sorry ever to see the day when they were abolished. I say this, not for the reasons mentioned by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But just remember this—in small boroughs, if bribery takes places, it is clearly illegal, and you can always, or generally, get at it, but look to the situation of the large boroughs. The candidate for a large borough, by employing an enormous number of paid canvassers, which is not illegal by law, and by opening a great number of public-houses, which is not illegal, for if it is, I know a great number of hon. Members who have lost their seats. In this way large boroughs can be carried, but our small boroughs are evidently necessary excrescences of the Constitution. I protest altogether against the policy which would deal with them without any respect to their past character for purity, or for return- 1821 ing men of distinction to the House. I never wish to see Calne disfranchised. Calne has sent to this House too many great men, and the last of them is not among the least, to lose its representation. Here is another borough, upon which the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock has laid his sacrilegious hand—one with which I formerly had some connection—the borough of Liskeard. Although the voters for that borough were not particularly partial to me, I am bound to say that I believe a better and a purer set of men never existed. In this one part of the country that is an extraordinary fact; but Liskeard has been always a bright and shining light in Cornwall. And what are you about to do by this Re-distribution Bill? You are going to ally Liskeard to a widow of very questionable character. Is that a proper way of treating a borough which has always been famous for its independence and purity? And see what you do. By forcing changes of this description entirely upon populations the result in this instance is this, that although the population is a little less than that of Truro or Helston, both of which are to retain its Members, the electors of Liskeard are many more than the electors of either of the other places, and the number will be doubled under a £7 suffrage. Yet Liskeard is to be linked to Bodmin, which does not hear the best of characters, while Truro and Helston are allowed to retain the first its two Members, and the second its one Member. It seems to me, therefore, that very little can be said in favour of the Government Bill for grouping. I believe it would be found on inquiry into the Scotch system that the elections in those grouped boroughs are extremely expensive, even when there is no contest. ["No, no !"] No ! why hon. Gentlemen come to me out of the House and admit that grouping is a bad system. One hon. Gentleman in particular tells me—I have got my eye on him now, and he called out "no" a moment ago—that this grouping is a very bad system, that he has got five boroughs, and is obliged to have an agent and committee in every borough, and he says, "Even when my return is not opposed it costs me £1,000." It stands to reason that if you group boroughs—and especially boroughs in Cornwall—that the expenses will be enormous, and therefore I am totally against the introduction of the grouping system into England. It may answer in 1822 Scotland—though I do not believe it does. There are very few contests there compared with the number in England; but, at any rate, I dissent from the proposal to extend it to this country. We heard some quotations in defence of these small boroughs made from an altered edition of Lord Russell's work on The British Constitution. I must say that I was sorry to hear my right hon. Friend the Member for Calne say that Lord Russell succeeded by seniority to the position of Premier. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne is very bitter in public, but he is the kindest man in private life; and he ought to have remembered that Lord Russell has earned his position by his able and consistent support of all measures which relate to popular progress. I have no particular intimacy with Lord Russell, but I must say, as a public man, that I should be ashamed of my position if I did not offer my humble tribute of respect to the Prime Minister as to one who has attained that proud position by virtue of his great services. We are told that Lord Russell published certain statements in the autumn of last year. But people do sometimes alter their opinions; and very wisely. I know a very notorious instance of it, which I will produce, and which relates to the opinions expressed on one occasion by my right hon. Friend the Member for Calne. Here is the speech of the right hon. Robert Lowe at Kidderminster, extracted from The Times. I do not take it from any country paper. This is evidently the report of his own speech as sent to The Times and published on the 10th of December, 1858. He had then just been turned out of office. I went with him. Here is the account:—"Last night Mr. Lowe met his constituents in the music-hall, to explain his views." I will come at once to the point to which I ask the attention of the House. In the sense in which a man exclaims, "Oh, that mine adversary would write a book!" he might well wish that he had not spoken this speech. He was speaking of the Conservative party, and he said—They have found it convenient to divest themselves of their old principles, and to adopt those of which the Liberal party formerly had the monopoly. If I might venture to be so censorious as to find fault with the Government it would be not on account of their conversion, but the enthusiasm of their conversion. Sheridan, when he saw an Highlander in a very large pair of trousers, remarked that converts were always 1823 enthusiasts.' The Tories have not only accepted and gone beyond our principles, they have caricatured them, and in some respects made them ridiculous.'I will do my right hon. Friend the justice to say that he has always been consistently against any reduction of the franchise, consistent even when he voted for it. But I pass to his observations upon the re-distribution of seats, and the small boroughs which he now wishes to preserve—I have no hesitation in saying that, in accordance with the principles of the first Reform Bill, I am willing to vote for disfranchising those boroughs which, in violation of the liberties of this country, and of the spirit and nature of the Constitution, have fallen into the hands of single patrons [the right hon. Gentleman was speaking in Kidderminster then, the House must remember], who appoint the Members those boroughs shall return to Parliament; further, if there be any boroughs which have become so small and insignificant (and I have many of them in my eye) to which the principle might be properly applied that they are unworthy to return Members to Parliament, I am perfectly willing the privilege should be at once withdrawn.The right hon. Gentleman now objects to the scheme of Reform as affecting the counties and to the proposal as to the third Member, forgetting that there are seven counties in England which already return three Members. What did he say at Kidderminster about the county constituencies?—The Reform most needed is in the county representation. The franchise there is eminently unfair, and for that reason I supported Mr. Locke King's Motion for the reduction of the county franchise to £10. Nay, more, I have given an earnest of my sincerity in that cause, for by my advice the Colonial Office was induced to lower the franchise of all the Australian colonies from a much higher amount down to £10.Was there ever a Highlander made his appearance in so big a pair of breeches? After all, this question of the re-distribution of seats is one eminently formed for Committee; and I take it that he is a very poor and lukewarm Reformer who will take advantage of the Government having accepted the good advice that was given them by the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock, to get rid of the £7 Franchise Bill, because the Re-distribution of Seats Bill is a bad one. If it is a bad Bill, which I believe it is, let us amend it in Committee. Do not let us, after all our protestations, refuse to go into Committee on this Bill. I am quite willing to act on this principle. I know the difficulty of passing any measure of Reform in this House, and that it is much better on this principle to take half a measure of 1824 Reform than to have no Reform at all; and, therefore, I shall be content with what Her Majesty's Government may do. But there is one thing I hope they will not do. A great deal of advice has been tendered to them in the course of this debate, many Amendments have been moved; Reform, like Tarpeia, has been almost crushed by the contributive zeal of its friends; but there is one bit of advice against which I wish to warn them. It was given by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington), in his usual insidious and attractive manner. He said, "We are all Reformers here; do not let us dipute about it, but refer the whole question of Reform to a Royal Commission." If there could be one thing more damaging than another to Her Majesty's Government, and to our whole representative system, it would be to adopt this suggestion and refer this question to a Royal Commission. No matter what you do, accept the responsibilities of the position. I may be found in Committee voting against you on many items of the Bill, but at any rate I would not give you one atom of support if I thought you would condescend to the meanness of referring this question to a Royal Commission. Reform may be postponed, but take care, I say, and more particularly do I say this for the interests of the Conservative party; take care that you pass it while the demand is moderate, while it is mild. By throwing it over this year you will be getting up a feeling that you little dream of, instead of being satisfied with a proposal for a £7 franchise and a mild re-distribution of seats, take care that one is not made for household suffrage. ["Oh, oh !"] It is more to your interest to settle the question than it is to the interests of the Ministry to do so. At any rate, be you wise in time; abjure the advice of the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock—go into Committee. But in going into Committee, I say to the Government, do not give way upon one thing, and that is the £7 franchise. That is the principle of the Bill; on other points we shall he ready to meet in a fair spirit of compromise anything which may be thought excessive.
§ MR. ADDERLEY
said, that he could quite understand the satisfaction of the noble Lord the Member for Chester (Earl Grosvenor) at the success of his late Motion—though, he was sorry to say, at the cost of one-half of the Session—-which compelled the Government to put the two 1825 fragments of the measure before the House, of which each without the context of the other was wholly unintelligible. He could not, however, understand the noble Lord's intention to vote with the Government and against the Amendment now under discussion. The noble Lord had certainly given the House some glimpses of the reason which was to justify this extraordinary proceeding; he said that he was anxious to retain the present Government in office, and that with that view he would vote against the Amendment in the hope that the Government would have a majority, and with the intention immediately afterwards of inducing them to withdraw the Bills. Now, this certainly appeared to him to be a most indefensible proceeding. If that was the intention of the noble Lord and his Friends, and if the rumour which had spread through the House that the Government intended to follow the course indicated was true, it was really deceiving the House to induce them to proceed with the debate any longer. The intention was evidently to get up a sham majority to retain the Government in their places. What reason could there be for such a procedure? The hon. Member for Nottingham had said that the Gentlemen now constituting Her Majesty's Government had obtained office on the question of Reform, and that they should be retained in office till that question had been settled. He was not surprised that the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, seeing that he had been returned to sit in that House in the middle of the discussion. should have taken this to be a debate on the second reading of the Bill; but that was owing to the extraordinary conduct of the Government in regard to it. When the first portion was introduced alone at the commencement of the Session, a protest was made against such a proceeding, and when the second part was produced that was allowed to pass the second reading in order that the House might have the whole measure before it. In this way a great deal of time had been lost; and the House was now practically discussing for the first time the second reading of both portions as a complete Bill. It was, however, difficult to discover what was the principle of the Bill. It was clearly in defiance of its assigned data, and of the evidence which had been produced for its foundation. He was, however, not surprised at that. It was well known 1826 that the hon. Member for Birmingham was the instigator of the present measure, and that he did his utmost to induce the Government to bring it in before the production of any statistics; for he said, "What do we want statistics for? We are ready with our scheme; produce the Bill." Since their production he had repudiated them, and had induced the Government to disregard them. The right hon. Gentleman the leader of the House had himself confessed that he had not got statistics completely before him when he produced the Bill, and when the blue book was produced he was utterly astonished at what the statistics revealed. Still, the course of the right hon. Gentleman had not in the slightest degree been affected by them. It was now the duty of the House on the occasion of what was in fact the second reading of the whole measure to ask what principle could be discovered in it, and whether there was any principle in it which would suffice for the House to take it into Committee and there shape it in such a manner as to make it fit to be passed. It seemed to him, however, that whatever its principle two objects were unquestionably aimed at in the Bill—the one was, the utter suppression of the country interest in the county elections, and the second was, to depart completely from the principles of the Bill of 1832, which was brought in by the noble Lord who was now at the head of the Government, and who had ever since that period professed to be still guided by the same. The evils aimed at in the Bill of 1832, according to Lord Russell, were—first, that Members were nominated to Parliament by individuals; secondly, that many were returned by close corporations; and thirdly, that the expenses of elections were too great. Now, the two first of these evils had ceased to exist, while the third must be aggravated, not cured, by the present measure. In advocating the Bill of 1832 the noble Lord said that it was framed in accordance with the ancient principle of the Constitution, that the voters for Members of Parliament should be men of property—that "real property and real respectability," to use the very expressions of the noble Lord, should alone attain to the privilege of the franchise, and that under the Bill he anticipated the admission of about half a million within the electoral body, all of whom would have a stake in the property of the coun- 1827 try, and, therefore, an interest in the maintenance of our institutions. At that time the noble Lord repudiated the assistance of those who supported the measure because they thought or hoped that it would lead to universal suffrage. But what was the case now? Was not the present Bill framed upon totally different principles? Was not every consideration of the possession of property eliminated from it, and numbers and population made the only basis of it? Nothing now was heard of voters who had a stake in the country. The £7 franchise with the rating clause repealed would amount to nothing more than a £6 franchise in boroughs, which was equivalent to household suffrage. Why did not the Government boldly and honestly come forward at once with a plain measure granting household suffrage? Merely because they wanted the franchise to descend by a sliding scale, the bottom of which was universal suffrage. There was another striking novelty proposed in this Bill. He wished to call the attention of the Government particularly to what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire had called the principle of plurality of representation. This principle had been condemned, he believed, by almost every Member of the House who had spoken upon the subject. What was got by the innovation of the present Bill in this respect? It treated the Members of the House not as intelligent men sent there to discuss the interests of the Empire, but simply as "counters" in a division. The old principle was that every locality should have its spokesmen, and that each should have the same number. At one time it was four, at another three, till it came to two Members for every county, and city, and borough. The object was evident, that each, whether large or small, might have a voice in the legislation. It was not now proposed to send so many knights from the counties and so many burgesses from the boroughs to consult on the affairs of the Empire; but it was proposed to have so many Members returned from each in proportion to its population to act as mere delegates, to give their votes cumulatively on the numbers in the place on the foregone conclusions of those who elected them. That was a grave innovation, and he thought that portion of the Bill to which he had just alluded was the main one the House 1828 ought to contest, inasmuch as it involved a serious charge on the constitution of the Legislature. It was quite true, by late measures, that three Members had been given to certain counties, but he thought that had been done almost inadvertently, and the practice ought not to be followed. It was easy to see the animus of the proposal, for it was equivalent to giving Manchester five Members, three Members to Birmingham, about thirty to London, and so on. It would be more in accordance with the Constitution if the towns were divided, and if the suburbs sent a Member of their own. But to have a multitude of Members for the same area was a novel principle which ought to be deprecated. He should say the same with respect to counties just as much as boroughs. If it were proposed to add a third Member to his own county—North Staffordshire—he would rather advise a division of the area into three. Another novelty was the practical refusal to bring growing suburbs within Parliamentary boroughs. He concurred in what had been said by his noble Friend (Lord John Manners) on the subject of the borough leaseholders and copyholders. In the two counties he was best acquainted with the county borough freeholders already constituted a third of the county constituency, and these would be increased indefinitely as time went on by the refusal to bring the suburbs of large towns within the political area. He was quite certain that the Greek Kalends would come before the suburban population of Birmingham would consent to include itself within the borough. By allowing these large and growing boroughs to swamp the counties, the Bill would simply urbanize the county constituencies. There would be no country interest to balance the towns in this House. There was no reason why the town interests and the county interests should be always antagonistic. ["Hear, hear!"from below the gangway on the Ministerial side.] He asked the hon. Gentleman who cried, "hear, hear!" whether, although their interests coincided, yet, in all political struggles the towns did not represent the principle of change, while the counties represented that of conservatism. The two combined had always kept the political system in order, as the centrifugal accutrifutal forces were mutually necessary to keep nature's order. But the present Bill would, he feared, while it suppressed the country interest, give such an impulse to the 1829 town interest as would lead ere long to an unlimited excess. Upon these grounds he deprecated the urbanizing tendency which ran through the whole of this Bill. The Opposition had been charged with obstructing this Bill. He utterly denied it. The real obstructives were its authors the Government by their mode of introducing the measure which they might have known the House would never sanction. The Government had so conducted matters that now, on the 4th of June, the House was in the first discussion on the whole measure. The hon. Member for Nottingham was not the first Member of the party opposite who had repented of having assisted to throw out the Reform measure introduced by the Government of Lord Derby, in 1859; but not only did the party now in power prevent the House going into Committee on that Bill, but the speech of the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire the other night showed that he had been ready to extend the terms of that Bill, and to meet what they considered to be the exigencies of the moment, and the just claims of the country. In 1859 they had to encounter all kinds of obstacles and objections raised not to discuss, but simply for the purpose of defeating or delaying the measure, and their willingness to make concessions was ridiculed and thrown into their teeth What they wanted was a fair extension of the constituency of the House. He would ask the hon. Member for North Devonshire, whether, from his experience of Birmingham, he did not think that the large body of artizans in reality carried that borough election? The question was not the admission of the artizan class, but the widening further the constitution already open to all classes. He believed that many were exercising the franchise who were not entitled to it, and that in the way in which elections were carried on they only corrupted themselves and demoralized the country. In fact, numbers looked to voting only as a means of getting money. The ground on which they opposed the Government was one of principle—distinctive, and fairly antagonistic. It was their wish to liberalize, but not change the constituency. It seemed to him that the Government had been led on by certain demagogues to carry this measure farther than they intended at first. Demagogues were the most unsafe advisers, and especially the demagogues of the modern type. The demagogues in ancient times when 1830 they fancied that the land had too much influence in the State sought to lessen it by raising the needier citizens to independence. Modern demagogues aspired not to elevate the lower class to the electoral franchise, but to degrade the franchise in order to make tools of them to overthrow those above them.
§ MR. GRENFELL
said, he was glad to follow the Member for North Staffordshire, because that right hon. Gentleman, not only in the House of Commons, but elsewhere, had expressed himself in terms which exposed him more to the charge of setting class against class than those whom he was pleased to call demagogues were open to. With respect to the Franchise Bill he might say that in the borough which he represented some publicans and small shopkeepers were returned in the statistics as working men. He believed the same was the ease in other boroughs; but passing from such details, he wished to say a few words on the whole Bill of the Government. The Re-distribution of Seats Bill had been prepared in a hurry; but clearly that was not the fault of the Government, but the fault of those who refused to allow them to proceed with the Franchise Bill till the other measure was brought in. The right hon. Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe) had said the other night that he could not discover any principle in the Re-distribution Bill, but the right hon. Gentleman had said that whenever he had spoken on the subject of Reform. Now, it appeared to him that the Government ought to act upon the principle of the first Reform Bill, which was that the system of close boroughs should cease. The right hon. Gentleman upheld close boroughs for the sake of young men of unappreciated genius, who wished to get into Parliament. But that would not stand the test of experience; and even the right hon. Gentleman himself had not been elected for Calne as an unappreciated genius. It was very rare indeed that the few remaining close boroughs returned Members who could be compared to Pitt, Fox, Burke, or Canning, who had been referred to by the right hon. Gentleman in illustration of his argument. With regard both to the franchise and the grouping of boroughs, there was no reason why the propositions of the Government should be accepted without alteration or modification in Committee. On the contrary, the Bill might be so altered as to meet the views of both sides of the House. It would 1831 be to the advantage of all parties to have this question settled for at least one generation, and if both sides of the House met in Committee with a determination to carry a good measure, this Bill might still be saved, especially as there was reason to believe that the Government would adhere to the most important part of it—the £7
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
thought the hon. Member who had last spoken had closed his eyes to the advantage of small boroughs. No less a person than the late Lord Macaulay had entered the House of Commons as the representative of a small borough; and it was a small borough that had returned the present Attorney General. He did not rise, however, to carp at the details of the Bill, but to find some common ground on which all parties were agreed, and which might form the basis for a future structure. If he were to go into details, indeed, he could only repeat what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne and the hon. and learned Member for Belfast had already said so much better than he could. To reiterate such matters would only weary the House, without advancing the cause. The hon. Member for Westminster, in the speech which was so complimentary to the Conservative party, doubtless meant that many of them had prejudices which were burdens to the party; to which they clung too tenaciously because their forefathers, in different circumstances, had so bravely defended them. He meant that we, as it were, insisted upon going into a modern battle gleaming in the burnished armour of other days. It might, however, with no less truth be said that hon. Members opposite made a theory of Government, like a dogma in religion, to become a mere cause of fanaticism. They worshipped at the shrine of 1832, because their forefathers had done so before them; although its inspiring deities had long since fled and gone! Let one side divest itself of its prejudices, and the other cease to worship Reform, and let all try to find some common ground on which all were agreed. The hon. Member for Nottingham, instead of seeking to throw oil upon the troubled waters, had reopened an old controversy. The hon. Gentleman said that the Peers had one-third of the representation of the House of Commons, and a chamber entirely to themselves. But who were the Peers? They were distinguished generals, persons who had attained to eminence in the law, men 1832 who had served their country for many years in the House of Commons. That was the class of men who chiefly constituted the Chamber of Peers—those were the persons of whose stock the House of Commons drew its best Members. To turn, however, to the common ground to which he had alluded. All parties seemed to concur that working men ought to have a share of the franchise; but all allowed, on the other hand, that they ought not to possess the greater share, they ought not to have a pre-eminent power. Then, too, while it was generally agreed that the working men were less liable to corruption than the lower class of shopkeepers, it was admitted that they were likely to combine for the purpose of carrying out their objects. As instances of this he need only allude to the combination formed to force the Permissive Bill on the country; and to the combination recently mentioned in The Times, by which workmen succeeded in crushing a new invention for making bricks more rapidly and at a reduced cost. Look, again, at the colony of Victoria, where the working men combined to put an end to an enlightened commercial policy which the colony had inherited from this country; and seeking their own immediate advantage rather than the future good of the colony, had resorted again to protection, and forced that tortuous policy upon the Government. Many of the working men were well educated, and even wise; but, on the other hand, there was among them much of that silly ignorance which led a man to decide questions of which he did not know the real bearings. He did not say that such ignorance was confined to the working classes; but certainly predominant power ought not to be given to a class of which number was the characteristic, and in which a haughty ignorance was found. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire in his speech on the Re-distribution Bill, and in that of 1859, and in nearly all his speeches on Reform, had said that the House of Commons must be the mirror of the nation. He was the leader and spokesman of the Conservative party. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne, the leader of the intermediate party, had said that the House must be the exact reflex of the nation. Lastly, Earl Russell, the leader of the Liberal party, had said, "The one great principle is that the representative body should be the exact image of the repre- 1833 sented." Now, what did all that mean? It did not mean simply that every class should be represented; even if a class were supposed to denote those who were bound together by common interests, and who indulged in a common mode of thought. It meant that the inequalities existing in the nation should be recognized in the representation. The nation was organized. It was not merely an agglomeration of individuals. All the elements of power in society, all the influences at work throughout the nation, all the sources and grounds of social weight, ought to be correctly and adequately represented in the House of Commons. That was what he called an exact mirror, or reflex and image of the nation—a mirror showed an image of a thing as it really is. What followed if all those social influences were not adequately represented in that House? The absence of such representation gave rise to all the abuses of which complaints were made. If any power or influence in the nation was not given a direct outlet, it would assert one for itself, and exteriorize itself in an illegitimate manner. Take, for example, the man of wealth, who felt that wealth was not adequately represented in the House; who became aware that the interests of wealth were disregarded or perhaps sacrificed for the advantage of other classes. What would he do? He would at once make use of his wealth. He would put forth the power which was peculiarly his own. He would attempt to regain by wealth what he had lost by legislation. Many a rich man was perfectly honest and upright, and would not stoop to a dirty action; he would not bribe for other objects; but he would say, with regard to political affairs, "Necessity knows no law; if I do not do this I shall be ruined; I must use in my defence the only power and influence which I possess." This was the history of bribery. A landowner might feel that legislation was injurious to his class, and that the interests of the land were not properly cared for; that the land was unequally burdened, to relieve the taxation on trade; he would say, "Necessity has no law; I must save myself; I must U3e that influence, which circumstances have given me, in order to ward off an utter annihilation from my class;" and he would put forward that power which resided in the relations between the landlord and the tenant. So the working classes, if they felt that their interests were not properly attended to, would put forth the power peculiar to 1834 their numbers; and then we had the appearance of physical force in legislative matters. This was, he believed, the rationale of bribery, intimidation, and physical force. Moreover the rule held good in regard to all classes, that if they found their interests were not properly attended to, if they were inadequately represented in that House, they would welcome despotism to free themselves from the results of the unjust inequality of misrepresentation. A representative Government where the nation is not truly represented, is the worst kind of tyranny; it is the despotism of a privileged class. Reform they were told, was the removal of abuses—and how should abuses be removed? Surely, by going to the source and the fountain-head of the abuses. The only way to remove bribery and intimidation and the resort to physical force was to give correct, precise, and adequate representation to all classes. The means by which he would do this were not popular in that House; they were at least worthy of consideration; but they had not received any discussion as yet in the debates on Reform. He firmly believed in the expediency of giving a plurality of votes. He was aware that the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire did not approve the idea, and had put a plurality of votes upon a par with a plurality of representation to towns. By a plurality of votes adequate representation could be given to all social influences, to all the weights and elements of power in society. Give a vote to every man as a citizen; give another vote to him if he is a houseowner; again give additional votes to landowners; men should also have votes in virtue of their education and attainments; to lawyers, doctors, and other professional and learned classes, he contended that votes should be given; and thus the various classes of society could be adequately represented. There were other theories of representation; but every one of them, except this, was inadequate and indefensible. If—accepting representation according to numbers—a vote were given to every man, power must fall into the hands of the most numerous class. Then the nation would no longer govern itself, but would be governed by a privileged class—namely, the most numerous and least educated class. This class would promote its own interests and allow the interests of other classes to suffer. A preponderance of power was always abused, being employed 1835 as a means to obtain increased power. So Charles I. and James II. employed power to get more power. That led to bloodshed and the uprising of a fierce and angry nation. It was the case again in the times of the three Georges. Blood was not then shed, because Pitt, the leader of the Conservative party, recognized the evil, and proposed the remedy in 1785. After these Kings the Peers had a preponderance of power and sought to increase it. But the angry struggle of 1832 terminated their efforts. If Kings and Peers sought in this way to increase their power, would not the multitude do the same? Give them superior power, and would they not abuse it in the endeavour to get more? In a representative body there must always be a conflict of interests to prevent the selfish sway of one class. Every moderate and reasonable and wise course was the result of antagonism. It proceeded from a clashing of interests, and a consequent sifting of opinions. Where there is no struggle there is mere stagnation, and no improvement. [Mr. J. STUART MILL: Hear, hear!] He was encouraged by hearing so decided an approval from the eminent political philosopher opposite. The unchecked domination of one class is the detriment of all. If any class obtained supreme power, not only would that class suffer because of the stagnation it induced, but every other class also would suffer indirectly; because the interests of each of these would be disregarded. Especially would that be the case if the class that had the supreme power was the lowest and the least educated of all. For these reasons he abjured the doctrine that representation must be in proportion to numbers, which the hon. Member for Westminster designated as "the principle of democracy," and which was the prevailing principle of the Bill of the Government. With respect to representation according to taxation, he quite agreed with the hon. Member for Westminster, whose book he had much studied of late, that direct and not indirect taxes must be considered. For indirect taxes are not felt to result from the expenditure of the State; and therefore the payment of indirect taxes did not affect a man's vote. Had the House any idea what would be the effect of carrying out the theory of representation according to direct taxation? In a paper read before the British Association last year, Professor Leoni Levi said that if representation were proportioned to direct taxation, the upper classes ought to 1836 have 83 per cent of the franchise, the middle classes 13, and the artizan class, instead of 27 per cent, ought only to have 4 per cent. Therefore, on this principle the representation of the artizan class ought to be reduced, and that of the upper classes increased. The House had no intention of making a change in this direction. The fault of this theory was that it supposed the whole duty of the State towards the individual was that which was paid for out of the taxes; and that the only duty of the individual towards the State was to pay taxes. This theory altogether ignored other relations and conditions which were much more sacred. He alluded, of course, to the theory of hon. Members opposite, so often heard in debates on church rates, that the State was a mere policeman, whose duty was merely to protect persons and property. Apply such a theory as the taxation theory to a family. Would it not be monstrous that the ablebodied sons should rule the affairs of the family in proportion to their contributions to the common store; while the father, whose hand was palsied and whose eyes were dim, exercised an authority in proportion to his earnings? And now with regard to representation in proportion to property. This was to some extent constitutional. The landowners elected the knights of the shire; the possessors of floating wealth sent burgesses to Parliament. Yet the evils of Plutocracy must be borne in mind. It had always been the tendency of wealth to acquire increased representation in that House. The adventurer who returned, say, from the gold diggings, possessing wealth but not social standing, would pay any sum to get into the House; it gave him that weight which money alone could not confer. And, like MacSycophant in the play, though he could not speak in the House, he could bow and cringe to a Minister. Joint-stock companies were already too much represented in the House. The Spectator stated that 225 Members were connected with railways, 195 were directors of financial and banking companies, and 185 were directors of miscellaneous companies. Charles lost his head because his word had no authority and his wisdom was depreciated. If the House of Commons came to be treated with contempt by the people of England, it would be speedily deposed from power; it would continue to fall until even the nouveaux riches, the adventurers of society, mere parvenus would not 1837 seek seats in it. It would be avoided, as many local bodies now were. This Bill certainly would not increase the representation of wealth. The more the franchise was reduced, the more power was taken from the rich and middle classes. They became, therefore, the enemies of the party who proposed to lower the franchise. The wealth of the country would support the Conservative side. To give representation to education and intelligence, as proposed by the hon. Member for Hull, seemed to be the most sensible theory; but he maintained that it could not be the only basis of representation, because it was not intelligence alone which gave standing and weight in society. The learned professor or the schoolmaster had a position; but the rich contractor and the country squirt: had also their influence. He returned, therefore, to his former proposition that all social influences and sources of power ought to be represented in this House. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, however, had proceeded upon the principle of democracy; he had affirmed that representation and population ought to go together. The principle of democracy was the principle of the Bill. For instance, every county in which the population was more than 150,000 was to have three Members; every borough in which the population was more than 200,000 was to have three Members; every borough in which the inhabitants numbered 100,000 or more, was to have two Members; every borough with a population of 8,000 was to be left untouched. Where the inhabitants were fewer than 8,000 the boroughs were to be grouped. Small boroughs were to be sacrificed to large constituencies. Every question was to be settled (so the Chancellor of the Exchequer had told them) by the old- fashioned rule of three. The character, the industry, the mode of thought of a town was never considered; numbers alone governed the amount of representation. But he was not consistent in carrying out this rule of three principle. He did not give Members to large towns, like Torquay, which were now unrepresented. This was a departure from the principle of democracy; but it was not an approach to any other principle of representation, except it were to keep up discontent and make "finality" impossible. Again, it was to be remembered that in proportion as the size of a constituency was increased, the less were minorities represented. Take an extreme case, if Great Britain and Ire- 1838 land were one constituency, returning the present number of Members, the House would represent but one opinion—namely, the opinion of the majority of the nation. All the minorities would be unrepresented. The House would not be a mirror of the nation. Yet the hon. Member for Westminster had written that it was essential to the principle of democracy that minorities should be represented. There were numerous other violations of the true principle of representation—namely, the principle of mirroring—namely, the grouping of agricultural and seafaring or manufacturing boroughs; the swamping of the landed interest by unrepresented towns, and by the freemen, the copyholders and the leaseholders of towns. For these reasons he cordially opposed the Bill. He had not carped at points of detail; he had sought for a common ground of understanding. He had found it, but discovered that the Bill did not stand upon that ground. Rut for his part he took his stand with the leader of the Conservative party; the leader of the Cave of Adullam (Mr. Lowe), that is to say the head of the new intermediate party; and he asserted the principle which Earl Russell had deliberately put on record in his book on the Constitution; that the representative body must, like a mirror, show the image of the represented nation.
§ MR. PIM
said, he did not wish to give a silent vote on that occasion. He had voted for the Resolution of the noble Lord the Member for Chester, and in giving that vote he was still of opinion that he did right. The country had, he believed, endorsed the course which he and others had then taken, and the Ministers had themselves given their sanction to it, because they had since brought in the second part of their measure, and had agreed to unite the two Bills into one. Was there not, however, an implied promise on the part of those Gentlemen who called for the complete scheme of the Government to support that scheme when it was submitted to the House? He confessed that he thought that all those Liberals who supported the Resolution of the noble Earl on the ground stated by him, being really of opinion that some Reform was necessary, were bound now to support the Government, whose measure could not be fairly considered unless it went into Committee. As to the objection that the Reform Bill was "inconvenient,"anyone—even if gifted with the wisdom of Solomon—would 1839 be puzzled to bring in a Bill which would not be thought "inconvenient" if it disfranchised any boroughs. He agreed with those who regarded the measure as "immature," and he also thought that it was ill-timed and ought not to have been brought forward this year. But that was not the question now before the House. The measure had been accepted; it had been read a second time; and the question now to be asked was—"Is it wiser to throw out the Bill or to give it a fair consideration in Committee?" For himself, he thought there were many faults in the Re-distribution of Seats Bill, and that the plan of giving three Members to one constituency was a very doubtful one. The Irish Bill, also, had serious faults. But all these were matters of detail which might be amended in Committee. The object of hon. Gentlemen opposite seemed to be to unite in opposition to the Bill all those who found any fault with it; and if that suggestion were followed, the Bill would be thrown out not merely by the majority of the House, but by the unanimous vote of the House; for even the Chancellor of the Exchequer had admitted that there were some details of which he did not approve. But this was not a fair way of dealing with any subject that was brought before the House. Now that the measure had advanced to its present stage it should be allowed to go into Committee, amended there as far as it could be amended, and if from want of time or other circumstances the measure was not carried, he did not think the time spent in discussing its provisions would be lost. That discussion might be usefully directed to particular points on which a difference of opinion existed, and thus a settlement would be facilitated next year. Another reason why the Bill should not be treated with contumely, as it would be if it were now rejected, was the agitation and political animosity which such a course would engender out of doors. The subject was one requiring a calm and impartial consideration, freed from party bias, so that a fair conclusion might be come to which would satisfy moderate men on both sides of the House. The only object of the course that had been pursued by the opponents of the measure appeared to be delay; but in saying this he did not wish to be understood as desiring undue haste.
§ MR. WALROND
said, when he attempted to catch the Speaker's eye awhile ago it was not with the view of replying 1840 to the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Chester, nor that of the hon. Member for Nottingham, inasmuch as one portion of that speech pretty well answered the other. After his remarks with reference to the Cave, he could not say that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Nottingham was an Adullamite, but he would rather call him an Ishmaelite, "whose hand was against every man." He flew his hawks impartially at every sort of game, whether it rose from the snug covers of the Treasury Benches or from the barren moor of the Opposition. Now, after three months of delay the House had got the complete measure of the Government. For that delay Her Majesty's Government were entirely responsible; but if the House and the Government were prepared to turn to the best account the debates which had been carried on, he ventured to hope that the cause of Reform would have gained as much as the Government would have lost by the delay which had occurred. The House were called on unfairly to pass a fragmentary measure in March, they were unfairly called on to place in the gallery of the Constitution a veiled statue, concealed with what no doubt would be termed appropriate drapery. The face only was visible, and they were told they should not raise the veil to see what it concealed. They knew not whether it ended in the monstrosity of a centaur or a merman, or simply in a mass of unmoulded clay. The result was that the Government which began with a majority on paper of seventy, on their first important division could only present a majority of five, and yet they were told that the Government were not to blame in regard to this measure. He believed, too, the Government was responsible for having brought forward this measure with undue haste, which was not to be excused by the exigency of the hour. There was no complaint against the governing bodies in the State, or the constitution of that House, except the complaint of the hon. Member for Birmingham that the House was never earnest for any good measure. The result of the late division proved pretty clearly that Her Majesty's Ministry could not pass a Reform Bill satisfactory to the House or the country without the support of hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House. The proceedings in reference to the Reform Bill of 1859 proved the difficulties that surround the settlement of the question by the Conservative side of the 1841 House. He had only further to observe that the Liberal Benches showed how entirely they had failed to carry with them the support of their own party. The hon. Member for Nottingham had said that no Member on that side had the boldness to meet the question with a direct negative. He was not going to move a negative, because he believed it would not be in accordance with the wishes of the country. What was the moral to be drawn from all this? Did it not point to a compromise? But he might be told that this measure was a compromise. A compromise might be called by many a refuge for weakness and indecision, but, rightly considered, it involved a great principle in itself; it was the safe medium between two extremes, and its wisdom was illustrated by the proverbs and history of every day life. He asked what conjuncture of circumstances could be more favourable to a compromise. It might be said that this Bill was in itself a compromise. Between whom? Certainly not between Her Majesty's Government and the Conservative party. That party's eyes were fully open to the necessity of meeting the wants of the country, and of dealing with the question of Reform, and carrying out a measure satisfactory to the country, but they were not bound to support a hastily and ill-considered measure; and to say they were opposed to all Reform because they did not support this measure was simply to attempt to raise a false issue. The late debates would not have been altogether uninstructive. In the first place, the House had heard from an authoritative source the value of the franchise to a working man, for they had been told by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that a working man's vote was not worth to him the wages of one day's work, and the working classes would be able to estimate by this opinion how much the Chancellor of the Exchequer was opening the door in their interests, and how much for the purpose of strengthening his own position in the House. And not only that, but they had seen the hon. Member for Birmingham "standing on the lines of the Constitution," and advocating Conservatism. He could well understand why the hon. Member always objected to "fancy franchises," for he had always consistently advocated household suffrage, and he therefore objected to any extension of the suffrage which was based upon a principle which offered any fitting resting-place short of that. The hon. Member 1842 objected to the harsh line of £10, but agreed to the equally harsh line of £7, because he knew it was a temporary measure leading to the end he desired. For his own part, he (Mr. Walrond) would alter the £10 line in a different manner, so as to enable the better specimens of the working classes to find their way to the franchise by introducing tests of industry, prudence, and intelligence; and if they could eliminate from the question of its extension all reference to household suffrage it would simplify the matter very much, because then they might admit the working man by elastic, self-adapting tests not open to fraud, but suited to the increasing wants of the community. As to the redistribution of seats, they would have greater difficulty in dealing with that. What they required might be done by grouping combined with disfranchisement, but in a better manner than was proposed by the Bill before the House. With reference to the rectification of boundaries, he quite acknowledged the justice and plausibility of the argument of the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he said that they did not eliminate entirely the urban element in the counties whilst they retained the agricultural element in the boroughs. He admitted that; but the value of that argument depended on the right hon. Gentleman's proving that there was a fair balance between the two. In regard to the franchise, he should be perfectly willing to support £20 in counties, and £8 in boroughs, if such an arrangement were softened by the admission of the working classes to the right of voting through the means of "fancy franchises," but he should prefer keeping the £10 franchise in boroughs, and assimilating to that the £10 in counties, because it would materially simplify the difficulties of dealing with the question of the redistribution of seats. If they had a lower franchise in towns they could not reduce the counties equally. If they would retain the £10 in boroughs, and admit, by the means he had suggested, the better class of the working men, and would establish an uniformity in the franchise between the counties and boroughs, they would simplify the question of the re-distribution of seats. When, then, the hon. Member for Birmingham ridiculed the idea that the moderate amount of re-distribution proposed by Lord Derby could be considered as otherwise than temporary, he would answer that if taken in connection 1843 with the proposal to assimilate the county and the borough qualifications, it would bear a permanent character, because no town could in that case complain of being excluded from the representation. The present Bill would, if carried in its present form, extinguish the Conservative element in the House; therefore he was not surprised that it had not received the support of the moderate men of the Liberal party who did not desire to see such a calamity happen to the country. This was an experimental attack on the English Constitution in its most vital part. To attack the Constitution hastily and inconsiderately was no small constitutional crime. If the Conservatives were doomed to die, let them die fighting in what they believed, however erroneously, their country's cause. They had not only had threats and cautions; they had also had prophecies. They had been told that they might bury the corpse of Reform, but that it would rise again. He did not mean to say that the banner of Reform would not again float in the breeze; but he did believe that if raised hereafter, in the same spirit and manner in which it had just been unfurled, unless a great change came over the spirit of the nation, it would be raised, not to float in victory but to droop in defeat.
§ MR. WYLD
remarked, that since not only the people of this country were looking to the conduct of that House in reference to the question of Reform, but every country where constitutional liberties existed read what was spoken in that House, no word ought to be lightly spoken there. Nor would he have risen had it not been for some remarks which recently fell from the hon. Member for Nottingham. He repudiated the assertions made by that hon. Member in reference to certain boroughs. He had held a seat in that House for Bodmin, with a slight exception, ever since 1847; and although the constituency of that borough could have chosen a wiser and a better man, he must say that his relations with the constituency had been of the utmost purity, and of the most constitutional character. Bodmin had a small but intelligent constituency, and was much distinguished in past periods. However, in course of time it might be requisite to take away a portion of the representation from some places and transfer it to other parts of the country. If the Government had proposed a fair and just Bill for the improvement of the representation of the people neither his constituency nor him- 1844 self would have objected to it; but he did object to the Government Bill, on the ground that it did great injustice to Cornwall, and particularly to the eastern division of that county. It was the extreme inequalities that were found in the Bill that prevented those Liberals and true Reformers who had always supported the Government from giving the present measure a hearty support. He hoped that the Government would assent to Amendments in Committee.
§ MR. MITFORD
said, as the representative of one of the boroughs which was to be grouped, according to the Bill of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and to return half a Member, or rather one-fourth part of two Members, he begged to make a few observations relative to those parts of the measure which specially concerned his constituents. Those were the re-distribution of seats, and especially that part which related to the grouping of boroughs. He considered the re-distribution excessive; in the case of some boroughs inconvenient and inequitable. He admitted that as great towns rose in importance, and new communities sprang up, it was necessary and desirable that they should be represented, and that that representation must be obtained at the expense of small boroughs. But when he remembered that so short a time as thirty-three years—for that was a short period in the history of a great country—had elapsed since the whole question of the representation had been thoroughly gone into, and gone into much more thoroughly than the present Government had condescended to do, he thought it was not expedient now to take fifty seats from the small boroughs, which the Reform Act had retained as being advantageous to the working of our representative system. In the year 1831 the present Prime Minister said—In the representation we propose to leave a certain class of boroughs which may seem to be a blot on our system, but their existence will add to the permanence and welfare of our institutions and of the people—I mean 100 Members for places with three, four, five, or six thousand persons, who will not represent any particular interest, and who may be able to inform the House on questions of interest to the general community. If we, testing the existing system, allow no Members to any places but counties and large towns, something will still be wanting—a number of persons not connected with land, commerce, or manufactures, but who are well able to advise on matters connected with the general welfare of the nation.1845 Lord Russell retained this opinion until about six months ago, and he should be glad if any Member of the Government could state at what time the opinions of the Prime Minister underwent this change. Again in 1859, the Chancellor of the Exchequer entertained a strong opinion in favour of small boroughs. He (Mr. Mitford) was a heretic on that point up to that time, but on reading his speech he became thoroughly convinced that the country could not get on without them. The right hon. Gentleman and the noble Lord would forgive him for saying that he preferred their opinions as independent men to the opinions which they had adopted since they had been inspired by the hon. Member for Birmingham. The Chancellor of the Exchequer seemed to have given up the idea that small boroughs were of any use, but he was either singularly forgetful, or singularly diffident—forgetful, that a small borough had been the means of introducing him to the House, and diffident in rejecting the notion that his services had been useful, a compliment which both sides the House willingly accord to him. Facts were against the right hon. Gentleman. At the very moment when he was recanting his former opinions respecting small boroughs in that House, there was sitting at his side one of the greatest ornaments of the bar, the Attorney General, whose absence would be a great loss to the House, and who would not have been returned but for the small borough of Richmond; and the Attorney General for Ireland was also returned by a very small constituency. He would now make a remark or two on a subject on which his constituents were very much interested—he meant the grouping of boroughs. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had adverted to the system of grouping in Scotland and Wales. In the case of Scot land there certainly was a kind of precedent, but it was not a very close one, because it took place before the Union of Scotland with this country. The precedent of the Welsh boroughs was in reality no precedent at all. It was not the grouping of boroughs, but of towns—a very different thing. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that the boroughs in Scotland and Wales were models of purity, and that it would be desirable to increase the number of such boroughs. But the remark had been made that they were models of purity only because they had no chance of being otherwise, very 1846 few of them having been contested. The hon. Member for Montrose had informed the House that there had been many contests in Scotland, and that there was one at Edinburgh which cost a considerable sum of money. But the hon. Member made a mistake in his point, for the constituency of Edinburgh did not consist of a group of boroughs. There could be no doubt that if the House adopted the system of the grouping of boroughs, the expense to the borough Members must be enormous. The borough with which he was connected (Midhurst) was grouped with three others, in each of which agents must be employed, and a considerable length of time must be occupied in canvassing. The necessity of having recourse to such means would keep out of the House a great number of men who could not afford to incur the necessary expense of a contest. There was another objection to the proposition—the grouping of boroughs would be the means of sowing discord amongst them. Each borough in a group would be anxious to return its own Member, and the contest would be fought not on political grounds, but the question would be whether this or that borough was strong enough to return a particular Member. He would not allude further to the question of grouping, which was a matter for consideration in Committee. He would only say that his constituents, and the electors of the other places belonging to the group, considered the arrangement a most inconvenient one. He agreed with the hon. and gallant Member for Wells (Captain Hayter) that it was not only inconvenient but inequitable. He would not go so far as to say that in the manipulation of the boroughs to form groups there had been any absence of fair play. He would take it for granted that there had been no unfairness. But he thought it was no feeling of fair play which had induced the Government to draw the line at a population of 8,000, above which number no borough was to be touched at all. That was an important consideration which could not be too often repeated. There were twenty-five Members returned to that House by boroughs having populations of between 8,000 and 10,000. Twenty of these boroughs returned at the last election supporters of Government, and five sat on the Opposition side of the House. Now, was any person so innocent as to believe that this was entirely an accidental arrangement? 1847 There could be no doubt the line must be drawn somewhere, but would the hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Brand) state that the arrangement was an accidental one? He (Mr. Mitford) could not believe that to be the case. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Goschen) had informed them that the Government would not be able to carry the Bill if they had done otherwise. But, in reply to that observation, he would say that even in the sacred cause of Reform the end in no way justified the means, and anything which approached, he would not say trickery—for that was not a Parliamentary phrase—but which approached partiality, would never be successful in a case of this kind. The right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie), at the beginning of these debates, had recommended the Conservative party to accept the measure, because Reform would always be held as a stick over their heads to drive them from office. Wow, he would ask the right hon. Gentleman if that advice was worth anything? Did he not know that if that stick were removed, another stick, and a far heavier one, might be wielded over their heads with far greater effect? Could any one suppose that when the hon. Member for Birmingham wished to have the Franchise Bill as a means of "leverage," to use his own words, by which other changes might be effected, that we were to see the end of agitation? Such a result could not take place. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had found himself able to change so many of his opinions that Her Majesty's Government, whom he controlled, had alienated all moderate men. He had thrown over the advocacy of church rates. He had thrown over his avowed opinions with regard to small boroughs, and in the same way he would find it just as easy to throw over the remnant of Conservative opinions which he held and cast it to the winds. No doubt hon. Gentlemen on the other side considered it absurd for the Members of small boroughs to defend the existing state of things. And the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock had been polite enough on two occasions to call the small boroughs "miserable boroughs." But however miserable the small borough which he represented and its Member might be, they would scorn to retain the privileges which they now held if they did not conscientiously feel they retained them for the good of the country; 1848 and so long as they retained those privileges they would make a better use of them than to support a measure which, in his firm opinion, was not called for by the country, of which the promoters were so afraid, that they only introduced one half of it at a time, which sufficed to frighten the great body of their supporters, and to reduce their majority of seventy to five—a measure which, in his opinion, must have the effect of entirely destroying the balance of power, and that equilibrium and just representation of all the interests of the Empire which had worked so well and so happily for many years past.
§ MR. HENRY SEYMOUR
said, that if Her Majesty's Government were unable to carry the measure this Session they would have done that which would facilitate its passing at some future period, whether in the spring or in the autumn. They must naturally expect to hear some kind of remonstrance from those boroughs which would be affected by the disfranchising portion of the Bill, but those small boroughs must think themselves particularly fortunate in being grouped instead of being really disfranchised altogether, and absorbed in the counties instead of being grouped. He was delighted to find from the speeches of two right hon. Gentlemen who had been Members of Lord Derby's Government that they were not opposed to all Reform, but that they had shown a reasonable willingness to listen to the proposition of some kind of Reform, and that they were also willing to admit a certain portion of the working classes to the franchise. There was in reality very little difference on both sides of the House with regard to the first part of the Bill. And the reason why the moderate Liberals had received it was that the conduct of the working classes during the last six years had shown them to be first-class working men, and also that they were the equivalent to the £10 shopkeepers. The Liberals considered the seven-pounders proper persons to be admitted to the franchise, and that being so it was the duty of the Government to bring in a measure to admit them. The "old prophet," Mr. Carlyle, in his recent address at Edinburgh, used a remarkable passage which bore on the present measure. He fixed the limit as necessary for the enjoyment of man's faculties at precisely that which had been adopted by Her Majesty's Government in this Bill. Mr. Carlyle said, it mattered not, so long as a man got meat and clothes, 1849 whether he purchased them with £7,000, with £7,000,000 or with only £70; and as a man's rent was generally one-tenth of his income, the £7 limit gave each man an income of £70 per annum, which was sufficient to enable a man and his family to support himself, and enjoy the good things of this life. So far from the £7 franchise tending to reduce it, he thought they might safely take their stand on it, looking to the rise of wages and the depreciation in the value of gold. The £10 franchise in 1832 was looked upon by the Tories of that day as the £7 franchise was by the Conservatives of the present day. The result had been that the ten-pounders were eminently Conservative, and showed a greater affinity for those above than those below them. It was but natural that they should hear the wail of the small borough, but they did not expect to find it led off by the hon. and gallant Member for"Wells—the son of a former Member of a Liberal Government. It, however, corroborated an expression which he had heard fall from Sir William Hayter, "That if you make a man a Baronet or a lord-lieutenant he is as sure to forget his maker as a Bishop." He (Mr. Henry Seymour) hoped the hon. Gentleman would have seen the error of his ways, and would save the House the trouble of a division on his Amendment. They could not after that ask the Government what they would do, because they were in the hands of the House, and it was for them to determine what should be done. He thanked the Government for having brought in this measure, and he assured them that if they had not done so he should not have supported them, but would have joined all those who were opposed to them on the question of Reform. The same causes were in operation now which stopped the Bill of 1854. There was then, as now, a European crisis, and it was unadvisable that the Government should be placed in a situation which should compel them to resign and which would entail the loss of the services of the most tried and experienced statesmen that England could now boast of. In one sense he would almost wish that the hon. Gentleman would carry his Amendment to a division, because the result would show that the Reform question was gaining ground, and that some of the Conservatives were sincerely anxious to see this question settled, and would be prepared to give the Government a lift, as they had done on former occasions, if they 1850 were in a difficulty. He believed the effect of this Bill would be rather in favour of the Conservatives than otherwise. He was surprised at the absurd argument of the hon. and learned Member for Belfast (Sir Hugh Cairns) that three Members for counties was unconstitutional. They might have two or four Members, but three, it was said, was unconstitutional. London, from the remotest antiquity, had had four Members, and if that was the only argument that could be used against the Bill, the sooner they passed and got rid of this difficult question the better, and passed to subjects of greater social importance. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) said that the Bill would destroy the Conservative party, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe) said it would destroy the Constitution. He did not believe that Conservatism and the Constitution were synonymous terms, but he thought it would destroy the Tory party (not the Conservative party) which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire raised up in 1846, and which had met with what success he would leave the House to judge.
§ SIR THOMAS BATESON
said, he congratulated the Government on having the support of the last speaker, but when they recollected that the population of the borough of Poole was very little in excess of 8,000, the number fixed on by Her Majesty's Government as the margin where disfranchisement should begin, it would be unnecessary for him to answer the arguments that had been addressed to them by the hon. Gentleman. Representing as he (Sir Thomas Bateson) did a flourishing town (Devizes), venerable for its antiquity, though not effete or decayed, but, on the other hand, increasing in wealth and population, he for one protested against the Government scheme as being unjust, dishonest, and ill-matured. He would prove to the House why he considered it was eminently unjust to the borough of Devizes which he represented. Unfortunately because it did not contain 8,000 inhabitants, the number fixed on by the Government, it was to be disfranchised, because it was only to retain a fraction of a Member. At the time of the passing of the Reform Bill of 1832 the limits of the borough were so circumscribed that the suburbs of the town were not included in the Parliamentary borough. Now portions of parishes were in the borough, whereas, 1851 other portions, because the borough at the time was not what was called Liberal, were omitted from the borough. If those portions of the borough which had been omitted were added to the borough it would have between 9,000 and 10,000 inhabitants, and its population would exceed that of the borough which the hon. Member who had just sat down represented. He considered the Government scheme a dishonest one. He would not refer to those boroughs many of which were smaller than the one he had the honour to represent, but which, owing to the favour of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had not been touched, but had been allowed to retain one Member each. The right hon. Member for Calne had demolished that portion of the Bill already; but there was one important point which the right hon. Gentleman had not mentioned. In the county of Wilts there was a small and decaying village—he regretted that he did not see the hon. Member for Salisbury in his place—but the village to which he referred was a small suburb to the town of Salisbury, and it had not even a market. Its urban population amounted to 1,930 people, and out of that number upwards of 1,000 were females. He did not see the hon. Member for Westminster in his place, and therefore he would not pursue that portion of the subject. That wretched little village of Wilton had been spared by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and they knew the reason why. That wretched little village had been retained, while the county town of Devizes, with one of the largest corn markets in the South of England—a town containing all the public institutions of the county—it was proposed to disfranchise. He found that wretched little village of Wilton was represented by an hon. Gentleman who for many years after he (Sir Thomas Bateson) entered Parliament sat upon the same Bench as he did, and voted in the same lobby. They fought side by side, and shoulder to shoulder; but the hon. Gentleman had since seen cause to change his opinions, and had become—a convert—for, as he did not see him in his place he would not call him a pervert, as that might be offensive. The hon. Gentleman, however, had changed his opinions, and now sat on the opposite side, with his knees into the Treasury Bench—he was at the beck and call of the Treasury whip, and was, of course, a very useful Member. It might he desirable to retain that nice little Government preserve. The Attorney 1852 General had sacrificed those constituents by whose favour he had occupied for some years a position on the Treasury Benches, and it might be necessary to keep a quiet little preserve for him. He did not say that that was the case, but it might be possible. Of course, the Chancellor of the Exchequer knew nothing of those arrangements; probably the right hon. Gentleman never heard anything of the town of Wilton in his life, but he (Sir Thomas Bateson) would say there were some unscrupulous subordinates, some unscrupulous partizans, who had arranged these matters, and it was not to be forgotten that the House of Commons and the country at large would hold the Chancellor of the Exchequer responsible for the dealings of those unscrupulous partizans. They had heard a great deal about the necessity of providing additional seats for the large populous towns in the North of England, but if the Government were really in earnest why did they not disfranchise those towns which were proved to be utterly corrupt? Why did they not disfranchise Wakefield and Gloucester, both of which had been proved to be notoriously corrupt? The other night the hon. Member for Wakefield actually had the audacity to come forward and propose the abolition of small boroughs. The hon. Member, however, was not in his place, and therefore he would say no more about him. There were various places that might be disfranchised; there were Wakefield and Nottingham; Great Yarmouth and Totnes; Lancaster and Berwick; and many other places. What had they seen at Nottingham and at Windsor? If the Government were in earnest, if they were sincere, it was for them to come forward and disfranchise those places, and to give the Members who represented them to the large populous towns in the North of England. If the Government did not adopt that great principle, would not the country say that all their wordy protestations were a mere farce and a sham? Would not the country ask whether the Treasury Bench meant to set its face against bribery and corruption? The Members of the Government came down to that House and selected a number of small boroughs; but it was a very curious circumstance that the great majority of those small boroughs returned Conservative Members and Members opposed to democratic theories. The great majority of those small boroughs returned Members who were opposed to the principles of the 1853 hon. Member for Birmingham. He contended that the great majority of those small boroughs were pure and incorruptible. [Mr. GOSCHEN made a gesture of dissent.] He would tell the right hon. Member, in spite of his sneer, that his (Sir Thomas Bateson's) election for contesting Devizes only cost him between £100 and £200. So much for the sneer of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for London. In spite of the right hon. Gentleman's sneer he could tell him that the grouping of the boroughs had been "dodged." He could tell the right hon. Gentleman that with a cunning and a subtlety which might be necessary in a fraudulent transaction, but which were never necessary in an honest one, the grouping of the boroughs had been dodged.[Cries of "Order!"] He would repeat the phrase—the grouping of the boroughs had been so dodged as to hand over the Conservative Members to democratic boroughs, and the Conservative element in the small boroughs would be perfectly unrepresented. A great deal had been said about the unequal distribution of seats according to population, but if there was anything in the argument he would ask, did the counties cry out for a democratic Reform Bill. No; they were satisfied with the blessings they enjoyed under the existing Constitution. They were aware that the small borough Members represented the interests of trade and agriculture combined, and he maintained that in them the interests of trade and agriculture were so combined and interwoven that the individual representing them represented both. It almost appeared to him that Her Majesty's Government wished, and that it was their intention, that no hon. Members for Parliamentary honours should in future enter that House unless they were either millionaires or demagogues. He would ask, would the interests of the country then be better represented in this House than they were at present? Or would the interests of the working man be better represented than they were at the present moment? He would say no. A very short time had elapsed since the whole nation had had to deplore the death of a great statesman. He said the whole nation, but perhaps he should except the hon. Member for Birmingham and his accomplices, because the hon. Member for Birmingham could not hut feel that that statesman's death had removed the great barrier against the erup- 1854 tion of a republican deluge. A shorter time still had elapsed since they had heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the leader of that House, enlarging with his usual eloquence upon the high character, the statesmanlike qualifications, and the great judgment of his deceased chief. It was now that they missed that great man in the House. It was now that they found that those orations, that those eloquent speeches of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, were merely a string of set phrases in honour of the man whose policy the orators adopted while he lived, but which had been consigned to the tomb when he died. He (Sir Thomas Bateson) would ask the Government whether, had Lord Palmerston lived, he would ever have brought in a democratic Reform Bill? Had Lord Palmerston lived would he ever have brought in an unjust and dishonest Redistribution Bill? He regretted to see that there were only two occupants on the Treasury Bench now; but if all the Ministers were present, and the Bench was crowded, he would ask them whether there was a single man amongst them—whether there was a single placeman amongst them—whether there was a single official amongst them, who, had Lord Palmerston declined to touch the question of Reform, would have sacrificed his place on that Bench to his democratic convictions. He heard no response. Not a man among them would have removed. He would ask, further, was there a single man who now advocated with such enthusiasm the newdoctrine—the new "flesh and blood" theory—was there one of them who would have sacrificed his place? No, there was not. He could tell his hon. Friends on his own side of the House, however, that this new-born sympathy for the working man, whom the Government found to their astonishment already possessed one-fourth of the franchise, although the figures were sent back to be—what was it? "revised." He could tell them that this new-born sympathy for the working man was begotten by the lust of power and the love of place, was suckled by the unctuous "pap" of peripatetic stump orators, and was dry nursed by the insolent and swaggering bluster of domineering agitators. But after all the baby was but a puny one; it was but a weak, delicate creature, and after all that artificial nourishment, and after its having gone through all the forcing process, he doubted very much whether they would 1855 ever see it reach maturity. The motto of the Government was "Fixity of tenure"—and unfortunate Irish landlords knew what that meant. At the instigation of the hon. Member for Birmingham, the policy of "Best and be thankful" was abandoned. The noble Lord at the head of the Government, aged in years and rather decrepid in constitution—[Cries of "Order!"] If the House liked, he would call it his political constitution, as he had no wish to excite hon. Gentlemen opposite—the noble Lord, with the rashness and recklessness of his younger days, and with a self-confidence wholly his own, volunteered to "ride the whirlwind." Whether his Lordship would be able to maintain his position—whether he would not overbalance himself and fall off—it was not for him (Sir Thomas Bateson) to say; he left that in the hands of the House. But he would say that since then almost every vacancy had been handed over to the hon. Member for Birmingham, and the old constitutional Whigs had been "snubbed." There were only two Bright born Members on the Treasury Bench. He wished he could have spoken to a fuller House; but he would tell those two right hon. Gentlemen that they had sold themselves, bound hand and foot, to their imperious taskmasters; and he would further say that he did not believe there was any man in that House who was simple enough to believe that this wretched Reform Bill would fully satisfy the hon. Member for Birmingham. If it did satisfy him, the hon. Member for Birmingham must be a greenhorn and a simpleton indeed. The hon. Member for Birmingham was, no doubt, straightforward and aboveboard. Unlike a great number of his accomplices, he had avowed in a manly and open manner that his object was the overthrow of the aristocracy of this country—that his object was the abolition of the laws of entail and primogeniture. Pass this Bill, and what happened? The old constitutional Whigs would be annihilated. Committed as the hon. Member for Birmingham was at the present moment, it was impossible for him to take office. He had watched the hon. Member for Birmingham attentively last Friday evening—he saw the hon. Gentleman take his seat upon the Treasury Bench, and sit there for a considerable time. It struck him (Sir Thomas Bateson)—he might no doubt be wrong—that the hon. Member 1856 for Birmingham was then contemplating the time when he should occupy those Benches as a Member of the Government. It struck him that the hon. Gentleman was then feeling whether those Benches were comfortable, and that he was calculating whether they were becoming to him. But let them be serious. Pass this Bill, and what happened? The hon. Member for Birmingham would go direct to the Treasury Benches, and then take up a very important position on those Benches. What next would happen? Why, all the moderate portion of the Cabinet would be shunted off to a siding. The hon. Member for Birmingham would draw Liberal infusions from the mountain. He did not see the hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. Stuart Mill) in his place. However, as the representative of similar doctrines, that hon. Gentleman must make one of that Cabinet, and he would then be in a position to advance those socialist and democratic theories which he had so energetically advocated in his writings. The hon. Gentleman would then be in a position to wage a successful war against the rights of property and the hated landlord class. "Coming events cast their shadows before." Already the note of war had been sounded, already the organs of the clique had threatened. Lord Westminster, they were told, was to be deprived of his property, and why? Because his son, upon the second reading of the Reform Bill, had had the audacity and the hardihood to oppose the dictates of the hon. Member for Birmingham. Pass this Bill, and what happened? When the hon. Member for Birmingham was duly installed upon those Benches. When seven other spirits worse than themselves had entered into the Cabinet what then would happen? When the aristocracy of this country was emasculated—the Chancellor of the Exchequer laughed at that—no doubt the right hon. Gentleman thought the emasculation of the aristocracy a very pleasant amusement. When, he said, the aristocracy of the country was emasculated—[Laughter]—oh, that was no laughing matter, he could assure them—when the House of Lords had been emasculated—in spite of that laugh and in spite of that sneer from the right hon. Gentleman opposite—he said when the House of Lords had been emasculated by the abolition of the law of primogeniture and of entail, what, he asked, 1857 would then happen? Was it not probable that when the Constitution of Old England had been Americanized that an attack upon the monarchy of this country would very soon follow. Was it not probable, when that had taken place, that a Republic and a President with a salary of £10,000 a year would be considered a much stronger institution than a hereditary monarchy? He did not wish to detain the House much longer. [Cheers from the Ministerial Benches.] He thanked hon. Gentlemen opposite for their cheers. He hoped that they would take the same views that he did. But before he sat down he wished to say a word to the old Conservative Whigs, many of whom occupied seats upon the Benches opposite. He wished to say a word to the scions of the proud Whig aristocracy, many of whom he saw before him. Contrary to their instinctive dislike to the democratic theories of the ultra section of the Cabinet—in spite of their conscientious dislike to those advanced doctrines upon the second reading of the Reform Bill—they voted with the occupants of the Treasury Benches. He understood that a number of other Gentlemen who were found in the same lobby with the Opposition on the last division upon this question now intended to go into the Government lobby. Those hon. Members, he believed, were under the impression that the Leader of that House, following the example of a remarkable individual in another place—an individual of the name of Mace—not a political gladiator—following, as he said, the example of an individual in another place—they were under the impression that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon this question did not really "mean business." It was rumoured that the right hon. Gentleman meant to run "a cross." Now, that might be the case, or it might not be the case. He would say nothing more about it. But he told the old Conservative Whigs this—that the time would come, that the time was fast coming, when it would be necessary for all men who held moderate views—all men advocating moderate opinions—to join together in defence of the ancient institutions of this country. He did not say that the time would come now, for if they asked any one Member in that House a question on this subject, he would say that the idea of passing a measure like the present that year was a mere sham, a delusion—that it never could be done; 1858 that, in fact, nothing of the kind was intended. Well, he told those old Conservative Whigs that the time would come when they, the Conservatives, would have to appeal to their patriotism'—to call upon them to think of their country more than of the ephemeral interests of an ultra Government. He said the time would come when they would have to call upon the old Conservative Whigs to remember that Constitution under which their ancestors had achieved such historic renown. He repeated that the time would come when those Whigs would have to meet the Conservatives half way. And when both parties must be prepared to make sacrifices for the sake of the glorious Constitution of this country under which they had lived and prospered. What was the difference between them, the Conservatives, and the old Whigs now? None. What was the difference between the Constitutional Whigs and the advanced section of the Cabinet? Why, between them there was a great gulf fixed. He said it would not come that year, but it possibly would next year, when they, the Conservatives, should have to appeal to those Whigs to come forward boldly and manfully, and to declare that that Constitution which had stood the test of so many centuries, should still be preserved inviolate—Nolumus leges Anglice mutari.They would then all work together in defence of the principle that the laws of this country should be English and not American.
§ MR. COLERIDGE
said, he was sorry he was not present to hear the whole address of the hon. Baronet who had just sat down, inasmuch as those portions which he had heard made him feel the loss he had sustained by his absence from the House. It appeared to him, however, that some parts of the hon. Gentleman's speech were somewhat disconnected; and being so, perhaps he (Mr. Coleridge) would be allowed to pass by the somewhat excited observations in which the hon. Baronet had indulged, and to express shortly and simply the earnest hope of independent Members that the House would resolve to go into Committee upon this Bill by a majority sufficient to enable the present occupants of the Treasury Benches, who had again and again identified themselves with the measure, to retain their position with dignity and credit and with power enough resolutely to push on the Bill, or at least the more important 1859 portions of it, through the Houses of Parliament in the present Session, so that the year 1866 might not pass away, as so many others had done, without anything accomplished towards the settlement of this most vexed, most difficult, and most important question. It was really a matter of serious importance that it should not be thought in the country that the House was strangling Reform by indirect means, that the measure was not met fairly and frankly by direct negatives, but that advantage was taken of Motions and Amendments brought forward by persons professing to be favourable to Reform to defeat Reform with the aid of persons altogether opposed to it. In the House of Commons there were a few, and but a few, professed opponents of Reform. The opposition to Reform came almost wholly from the Ministerial side of the House. Among these could not be counted the right hon. Gentleman the leader of the Tory party, the right hon. Baronet the Member for Hertfordshire (Sir Bulwer Lytton), the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington), or the hon. Baronet the Member for North Devon (Sir Lawrence Palk), or many other hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who addressed the House in the course of this debate. As far as he could make out, the only Gentleman on the opposite side of the House who, with the characteristic gallantry of his profession and his family, committed himself to determined opposition to this Bill, and to all other Bills of a similar kind, was the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Huntingdon (General Peel). On the Liberal side of the House, the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho), had always been opposed to the lowering of the suffrage; and, of course, first and foremost among those opposed to anything like a reduction was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe). That right hon. Gentleman, as far as he could make out, was the only person who had endeavoured to put his opposition to this Bill on any plain, straightforward, and intelligible principle with which the House could deal. As far as he was able to understand the objection, it was that the advent of democracy would be the triumph of everything that was worst in the social and political system of the country, and that the passing of this Bill would be the advent of democracy. He supposed the 1860 right hon. Gentleman thought that well worth saying, because he thought it worth saying exceedingly well, and, moreover, he took the trouble of saying it twice—first of all and much at large in his speech upon the second reading of the Franchise Bill; and secondly, not quite so much at large, but with considerable emphasis, in the speech to which the House listened on Thursday last; not, however, if he might be permitted to say so, with much novelty of expression, and certainly not with much novelty of idea. The passage certainly in which he expressed great indignation at anybody who ventured to lay a sacrilegious hand upon the temporal power of the bishops was a novel and interesting feature of the address, and must have been exceedingly reassuring to the minds of those right rev. persons. It gave promise, he supposed, of a time when the right hon. Gentleman and the Bishop of Oxford might be found working heart and soul together for the immediate restoration of the active functions of the two Convocations of York and Canterbury, which, if not as old as the bishops, were sufficiently old and constitutional to excite the warmest sympathies of the right hon. Gentleman in his present mood. But apart from that Episcopal passage of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, there was nothing novel in his second definition of democracy. He should like to say a word on another passage upon which the right hon. Gentleman laid great stress. He hoped the House would perceive that he approached the matter with a proper amount and decorous quantity of awe, such as the subject demanded. There were probably not half-a-dozen Gentlemen in the House of Commons who would approach a discussion with the right hon. Gentleman without a certain amount of nervous apprehension; but irrespective of the great personal ability which everybody, or almost everybody, who entered into conflict with him must of necessity deal with, he (Mr. Coleridge) could not help thinking that in that House they did not argue with him upon altogether equal terms. In the early days of George III. it was Lord Chatham, he believed, who was accustomed to say that he did not mind the opposition of the Throne, but there was behind the Throne something greater and more powerful than the Throne itself. To use an expression which had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, he could not help feeling that any debate 1861 in which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne took part was adjourned in a peculiar manner to another place—a place not so distant as the County Palatine of Lancaster, but a place no less difficult to get at, and where it was especially difficult to obtain the last word, and there the debate was conducted, not by the right hon. Gentleman himself, but by his disciples and followers, who echoed his sentiments and applauded his arguments with an eloquence only inferior, if inferior, to his own. As far, therefore, as his recollection went, it was a somewhat hazardous and uncomfortable piece of business to criticize in any way the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman, unless it was added that the right hon. Gentleman's tone was resolute, his arguments cogent, and his illustrations splendid. No person could admire more than he did the abilities of the right hon. Gentleman. No Member could be more proud of him as a Member of the House of Commons. No Gentleman could feel more pride in recognizing him as a member of a common university than he did; but he could not help feeling, and he must say so frankly, that his abilities appeared to be exercised at present in a most mischievous direction. It would be well, he thought, if those great abilities which were so constantly before the House, and the exercise of which afforded them so much delight and gratification, were employed in the inculcation of principles, politically speaking, of a less utterly detestable character. ["Oh, oh!"] He had not the slightest intention of saying that they were detestable because they were Tory principles. He could respect, he could admire, and he could appreciate Tory principles. Such opinions were not, to his mind, at all detestable. Respect for authority, veneration for the past, personal loyalty to the Sovereign, with other principles of a similar sort, were high and noble principles, in which, to some feeble extent, he hoped he could himself participate. Those principles, however, were not those entertained by the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman attacked democracy in the House because he thought its advent, unmixed, might work certain changes in the political and social relations of society, and possibly in the laws of property, while even if mixed it might tend to diminution in the temporal prosperity which the upper and middle classes enjoyed. But out of that House he went to other places and de- 1862 precated, with all the power of his eloquence, scholarship and cultivation, and called civil engineers, great men in their way, the "heirs of all the ages," setting up before his hearers large bridges and electric telegraphs as the chief objects of human admiration. That sort of Conservatism for mere material wealth, and Liberalism so far merely as Liberalism tended to increase wealth, could not be regarded as either good Conservatism or good Liberalism. Such principles were not, and never had been, the principles of the great party opposite. He trusted that they never would be; and though, perhaps, his opinions upon the subject might have but little weight either with hon. Gentlemen opposite or with the right hon. Gentleman himself, he could not help expressing his grief that such miserable, hopeless, cynical materialism should be put forth as a serious ground for political action. ["Oh, oh !"] He could not express the horror with which his whole nature would recoil from a Government whose conduct was in the slightest degree guided or animated by such principles. He was not, and never had been, the advocate of unmixed democracy, though in all free Governments there must be a large mixture of the democratic element; and even were he a strong advocate of democracy, he should not think for one moment of forcing his opinions upon a society of Gentlemen to whom he knew them to be repulsive. He desired to say, however, that when the right hon. Gentleman quoted without acknowledgment from De Tocqueville passages which condemned democracy, he did not quote passages which, though side by side, were equally emphatic in its praise. Certainly, recent events had shown, in spite of what the right hon. Gentleman had shown, that democracy could at least be as merciful in peace as it was terrible in war, and that it could be as remarkable for its respect of law and order as it had been resolute in its determination to maintain a magnificent Empire undissolved. Why had this horror about democracy been kept over their heads when the question was simply one of lowering the franchise and the re-distribution of seats, and when nobody but the right hon. Gentleman, as far as he could understand, pretended to say that they could stand with the borough franchise at £10 and the county franchise at £50? The measure before the House was a moderate measure of Reform—a measure more moderate in 1863 many respects than the last 'Reform Bill brought in by Earl Russell; more moderate in many respects than the Reform Bill brought in by the Government of Lord Palmeraton; more moderate in many respects than the Reform Bill brought in by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire in 1859. It was so moderate that hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Ministerial side of the House had felt considerable difficulty in accepting the measure. ["Oh, oh!"and ironical cries of "Hear, hear!"]"Was he not entitled to say what was true? It might be disagreeable, but if it was true he was entitled to say it. ["Oh, oh !"] He said again, that hon. Gentlemen sitting on his side of the House, who did not agree with hon. Gentlemen opposite, had had great difficulty in accepting the Bill of the Government because of its moderation; but they had accepted it bonâ fide, with a real intention of carrying it as a compromise, at least for a political generation. They accepted the measure as a compromise, it being a moderate one, and not open to the objections made to it on the score of its supposed democratic tendencies. Those able discourses, so carefully composed, so skilfully delivered, and so delightful to listen to, might be very well as the exercitations of clever men; but as arguments on the Bill before the House they had really no force, and no relevancy whatever. But whether they had democracy or did not have it, there was this at all events to be considered—in spite of the sarcasms of the right hon. Gentleman, he could not help thinking that the honour of the great Liberal party and the honour of the Government had been pledged to bring forward a measure of this kind. It was very well for Gentlemen to be smart on the point—to tell them that there was no contract, that the last Parliament was dead and had left no executors. The right hon. Gentleman had quoted Hudibras and an American squib, and he had also quoted Falstaff's opinion about honour. Now, if he were minded to know what honour meant he would not go to Falstaff to inquire on the subject, no more than he would inquire what virtue was of Iago, who said it was "a fig;" but if he wanted to know what honour meant he would go to a high-spirited officer who once neglected his duty, and feeling that he had stained his honour exclaimed, "I have lost the immortal part of myself, and all the rest is bestial." That was his notion of the 1864 matter. No doubt it was a great loss to one not to be able to make a joke when a joke was desirable; but it was an equally unfortunate thing not to be able to be serious when seriousness was required. The characters of public men, the political consistency of a great party, the truth of political declarations made year after year and again and again under various circumstances, were not matters which could be settled by a joke. They were very serious things indeed. Though he himself was entirely free from anything like a pledge on the subject of Reform, he could not help thinking that the honour of the Government was pledged to bring forward a measure of this sort, and that the honour of the Liberal party, and his honour as one of that party, was pledged to support it. If they were beaten, so it must be; but it appeared to him that, until they went into Committee, and took a vote on some definite issue, it was the duty of the Government to persevere, and it was the duty of the Liberal party to persevere in supporting them. It was because he did not for a moment believe in the existence of the danger which was said to exist, and did believe in the existence of the honourable obligation which was said not to exist, that he did earnestly hope the Government would persevere in their course, and that he did sincerely hope their perseverance would be followed by success. Moved by the example of the right hon. Gentleman, he would conclude by quoting a few lines from a great poet who sprung from the people, who loved the people, and was loved and honoured by them in return. He said—We should rejoice if those who rule our landBe men who hold its many blessings dear,Wise, upright, valiant; not a servile band,Who are to judge of dangers while they fear,And honour which they do not understand.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
The speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just spoken induces me to address an observation or two to the House—not to the Bill, because the hon. and learned Gentleman never touched the Bill at all, nor did he say anything with regard to the arguments which have been urged by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Belfast, and last, though not least, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne. Those arguments, indeed, have hitherto remained entirely unanswered. I admire the character and 1865 the ability of the hon. and learned Gentleman, and I thought he was about to apply himself to the matter of those speeches which hitherto have been unanswered, and that he would dissect the clauses of the Bill and consider its principles, and show that the House ought to adopt the measure at once. But the speech consisted simply of two parts—panegyric on the Government, and a tissue of abuse of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne. The speech appears to me to have been carefully studied, elaborately composed, and well digested; but yet I cannot remember that I ever heard anything more feeble, more irrelevant, more declamatory, and more unsound. Now, what was there in the opinions of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne? I am not one of the party of the right hon. Member for Calne, but I can be just to a public man; and, though I have often differed from the right hon. Gentleman, I cannot be insensible to a great exhibition of intellect and intelligence. And, I am convinced that if the hon. and learned Gentleman, when he heard the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne on Thursday, had stood up and replied to it with one-hundredth part of the ability of the speaker, it would have been more creditable to him than to ponder over it for several days, and then to come down and tell the House that, in his opinion, the principles inculcated were utterly detestable. Why are those principles detestable in the opinion of the hon. and learned Gentleman? The only reason I could pick up was simply because they differed from the views of the Government, and because the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne pronounced a severe, telling, and unanswered criticism on the Bill. Now, I will put this question to the hon. and learned Gentleman as if he were an enlightened Republican, for I think that is the best idea I can give of him. Suppose he held the opinions of the hon. Member for Westminster, would it be true to say that a person who objected to the reduction of the franchise in this country had no argument in his support? Will the hon. and learned Gentleman allow me to give him a sentence from the great instructor of the Gentlemen who sit upon the opposite Benches, and to state why I, for one, object to a rash reduction of the franchise? This is the opinion of the hon. Member for Westminster. He says— 1866The natural tendency of representative Government, as of modern civilization, is towards a common collective mediocrity, and this is increased by all reductions of the franchise and by all extensions of the suffrage.Nothing can be more clear than his argument. It is the remedy that is wanting. It appears, then, that the abasement of a Legislature will be or may be accomplished by a reduction of the franchise. The hon. Member for Westminster goes on to say that the effect of it is to place the principal power more and more below the highest level of instruction in the community. And then the hon. Gentleman describes the Government in America as a false democracy, which, instead of giving representation to all classes, gives it only to the local majority, so that the views of the instructed may have no reflex at all in the representative body. It is, he says, an admitted fact that in the American democracy, constructed upon this faulty model, the higher and cultivated members of the community, except those who are willing to sacrifice their own judgments, and become the servile mouthpieces of their inferiors, seldom even offer themselves for Congress or the State Legislature, because there is so little likelihood of their being elected. The hon. and learned Gentleman asked for a principle and an argument. There is a principle which I should like to see refuted. The hon. Member for Westminster says that that false democracy places the enlightened few at the mercy of the ignorant majority, and what better argument could there be than that the best men in America cannot present themselves for election because they would sure to be rejected. There is at this moment in this city a member of the Senate of America; I believe he has never been in this country before, but he is one who is an eminent person. I asked him what he thought of our condition; and the only observation he made upon our system of political government was that, in order to guard against the commission of a great and irremediable evil, we must not descend in the franchise. [Cries of "Name"'] It is not necessary to give his name; but he is a friend of the hon. Member for Peterborough, and a very distinguished person, and it would have done the hon. Member for Birmingham good to hear the sensible views he expressed. He described what had been the consequence in America of complete democracy, completed, as he described it, step by step, 1867 until they elected Judges by universal suffrage, and for a term of years, and dismissed them whenever they were found uncomfortable in their judgments. That seems to be a great triumph, and this Bill would introduce the same principles here. The hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down has said he objects to cynical materialism in political questions. What does he mean by that? I should like to have a translation of that expression. I do not understand it; we are not cynics; nor are we materialists; nor did we start Parliamentary Reform; nor did the Government. Who started it? Earl Russell. The hon. and learned Member ought to read the account given by Earl Grey of the origin of the new business of Reform, and published by permission of the Queen. As there described, Earl Russell, without the assent of his Colleagues, made a speech which forced them into the business they were reluctant to undertake. That is the history of the matter; and it is true. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that the Government had given a pledge upon this question, and ought to perform their pledge. When did they make it? I have sat in this House for a great many years, and have heard Lord Palmerston's speeches snuffing out Parliamentary Reform; and I saw that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen sitting beside him took the benefit of his patronage, and, sustained by his power and influence, they never had the courage or manliness to say a word in favour of the question. The hon. and learned Gentleman, a new Member of the House, informs us that it was their bounden and imperative duty to undertake Reform and to carry it to a successful conclusion. How did the hon. and learned Gentleman answer the arguments addressed to us on the boundary question? How did he answer the arguments addressed to us by the hon. and learned Member for Belfast upon the proposed plan of grouping? How did he answer the statesmanlike and yet simple speech of the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire in delivering to the House his ideas of a simple and practical measure of Reform? To none of these great questions did he address himself. No arguments has he adduced in reply to those that still remain untouched and unanswered. If the Government were bound to bring in a Bill, why did they not bring it in as an entire measure? If they were bound to act upon their promise with fidelity to the great 1868 Liberal party, why did they not at once, in a tangible and rational manner, undertake to deal with this question? The reason is this, nobody believes in the reality of the Bill, nobody can believe it who heard the speech of the noble Lord (Earl Grosvenor) who made a Motion here a few nights ago. With sincere respect for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I say no one can believe in the sincerity of the Government upon this Bill, because the noble Lord having argued admirably against the Bill he was going to support, it is quite plain he does not intend to support it, and that he does not believe in it. He pronounces it a bad Bill; he says the first part is bad and the second part worse, and, having given us these opinions against it, he says the only thing that remains to be done is to give his reasons for the political course of action he has announced it his intention to pursue. There, I think, with great respect, he failed. I am in the dark as to his reasons, although I listened to them with attention. I clearly understand his policy; we heard it announced on Friday. The policy of the noble Lord is a merciful policy, a benevolent policy, a commiserating policy. He sees the condition of the Government, and he announces he will be satisfied if they abandon the Bill. He will spare the Government in consequence of their patriotic and noble conduct in the business of Denmark and of the foreign policy which he eulogizes. He is apprehensive that war may break out, although the Whigs are in office; he looks forward to the influence of the wise principles and the peaceful policy of the right hon. Gentleman, and he thinks the best thing the right hon. Gentleman can do, and the thing he will do, is to preserve his place and abandon his Bill. I thoroughly understand the policy recommended by the noble Lord. Although it may be indelicacy in me to say so, I assure him I could on Friday night last have given him a sketch of the speech he has delivered to-night, for I heard it pretty well detailed what it would be. I am not in the least surprised at the course he has taken; it is quite consistent with his high character and conduct; and I have no doubt he has earned the gratitude of the Ministry by the manner in which he has come to their rescue, and will earn the gratitude of his country by causing the abandonment of the worst Reform Bill ever laid upon the table of the House.
§ MR. MARSH
said, he did not intend to occupy the attention of the House more than a few moments. One of the reasons for postponing the consideration of the question before the House was that there were at present four boroughs under trial—they might in a short time all be condemned. He thought they should all be disfranchised, and thus seven seats would be obtained for distribution among places that deserved to be enfranchised, which was the number of seats required in the Bill for the new towns to be enfranchised. There might be a difference of opinion as to whether the counties and large towns like Manchester should have additional Members, but if it were decided that the number of Members for those places should be increased it would be an easy task not only to obtain seats, but also to put down corruption by disfranchising some of the rotten boroughs. In his opinion that would be a much better plan to obtain seats than by grouping the smaller boroughs. Another reason for postponing the Bill was to be found in the Resolution come to by the House of Commons the other night with regard to bribery. It would require great consideration to enable a clause in conformity with the Resolution to be drawn up for insertion in the Bill. The Government had declined the task, and it was scarcely likely that the efforts of a private Member to perform it would meet with success. The question before them was one of vast importance, and the only way in which the matter could be satisfactorily accomplished was by referring it to a Select Committee. Another reason for postponing the Bill was to be found in the number of Amendments of which notice had been given, and which would have to be discussed at considerable length. He himself had to propose an Amendment, to the effect that all voters should be required to have a long residence in the same house upon the same principle as a municipal elector or a juryman. He should also propose that not only should the voter have resided in a particular place for a certain number of years, but that he should have paid rates for a like period. The possession of a qualification of this description would be a guarantee of the respectability of the voter. A still stronger argument in favour of the postponement of the measure was that it would be impossible for it to pass this year except by a very slender majority. Most Constitutions were pro- 1870 tected by a clause under which no alteration could be effected in them without the consent of a substantial majority of the Members of the Houses of Legislature; and although there existed no similar safeguard to the Constitution of this country, it would be most unconstitutional for the other House' of Parliament to pass a measure altering the fundamental principles of the Constitution unless it were sent up to them by a large majority of the Members of that House. He was astonished to hear from certain quarters great praise of the English Constitution. He admired it in its present form, and he was convinced that it became more respected as it grew older. He was still more astonished to hear the Attorney General say that by the ancient Constitution of the country the working classes were almost the only classes represented in towns. Every person must be aware that in the days of the Plantagenets the working classes were almost all in a state of villainage, and he did not suppose that even the Attorney General would suggest that persons in such a position had votes. Again, the hon. and learned Gentleman stated that, previous to the Reform Bill of 1832, the working classes had a greater voice in the election of Members of Parliament than they had at the present time, but he did not coincide in that opinion, as he believed that then the elections were almost exclusively in the hands of the borough-mongers, who managed to get the scot and lot voters, the potwallopers, and the freemen under their control. For the reasons he had given he thought it would be advisable to postpone the Bill.
§ MR. ALGERNON EGERTON
said, that he represented a constituency which since the Bill for dividing the West Riding of Yorkshire had been passed was the largest county constituency in the country, and he therefore wished to say a few words on a subject that so closely affected county constituencies. He would address himself in the first place to the observations of the Solicitor General upon the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Member for Wells (Captain Hayter), which the hon. and learned Gentleman contended should not have been put because the division ought not to have been taken on the second reading of the Bill. He would not enter into many points which had been raised in the course of this protracted debate, but would simply address himself to the effect of the measure on his own constituency. 1871 As the House was aware it was proposed to divide South Lancashire, and give three Members to each division, besides which the county franchise was to be reduced from £50 to £14. Now, the number of voters in South Lancashire, in respect of property situate in the boroughs, was already more than half, being upwards of 11,000 out of the 20,000 on the register, and the result of reducing the qualification to £14 would be completely to swamp the agricultural element. Even if a Boundaries Bill were brought in and considerable additions were made to the boroughs, this would still be the case, for in the eastern division there were a large number of towns which were not to have separate Members, as he thought they ought to have, so that there would be an enormous influx of town voters. He objected to the Bill, also, because no distinct idea could be formed of the numbers which would be added to the constituency. As to the propriety of giving three Members to each division, something had been said on the representation of minorities, and if there was to be a new cut and dried Constitution, such as the AbbéSieyes might have produced from his pocket, it might, perhaps, be a good thing to introduce that principle. It was, however, entirely alien to our existing Constitution. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, it was true, might be an instance of it, for he was returned by a Conservative section of the electors of South Lancashire, but this was quite an exceptional case, and generally speaking the dominant party would endeavour to return all three Members, and the elections would be contested at every opportunity.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Mr. Speaker, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin complained, I think, that there was no reality in this debate. Well, Sir, I know not if that be so, but if it be it is not our fault. Every step we have taken both since and before the period when our Franchise Bill was introduced to the House has been a real step, and one grounded upon the best consideration we could give to the actual circumstances of the case. Now, let me briefly remind the House of what has taken place. In the first place, it has been objected that we introduced a single Bill; and, in the second place, it has been objected that we did not introduce it till the 12th of March. With respect to the question of the single Bill, I only notice 1872 it because the hon. and learned Member for Belfast (Sir Hugh Cairns), in his able speech on Friday night, inadvertently stated that the Government had admitted they were in error in their attempt to separate the two parts of the subject. Sir, the Government have never made any such admission, and have never entertained any such belief. I need not now say more, but so much it was requisite to say.
With regard to the introduction of the Bill on the 12th of March, I must own I have felt it somewhat difficult to reconcile the two opinions expressed by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington), who in the very same speech both found fault with us for not having postponed the measure altogether with a view to more adequate consideration of the subject until the year 1867, and then only a few minutes afterwards blamed us for not having introduced it, if we were to introduce it at all, at the very commencement of the present Session. Now, if the right hon. Gentleman finds fault, as he did, with the measure as being immature—if he complained of its hasty preparation when we had expended all the time till March in considering and preparing the measure, what would he have said of it if we had introduced it the first week in February? But, in point of fact, this question of the 12th of March has been made more of than it deserves. It was not in our power to have introduced it, if we had been perfectly prepared with it, within the first few weeks of the Session. Have we forgotten the energetic and ardent appeals to us from the Benches opposite to postpone Jamaica—to postpone every public question, to postpone Reform among the rest, until we had completed legislation with reference to the cattle plague? But I veuture to say that if the measure had been introduced on the earliest practicable day it would have made little or no sensible difference in the position in which it now stands; because we were enabled by its postponement till the 12th of March to make such progress in the essential business of the Session connected with the supplies required for the service of the country as would enable us—I say it without fear of contradiction—to devote a great portion of the Session to the consideration of Reform; I believe we have not lost a week: and whatever may be urged on this subject, I do not feel that the circumstances of the introduction of the Bill on the 12th of March will in any degree 1873 justify us in receding from any position which we have taken up.
It has been said repeatedly in these debates, and it has been repeated in the discussion to-night, that we have pursued the evil course of listening to men of extreme opinions, and have not consulted either with the more moderate portion of our supporters or with our opponents. Now, Sir, in regard to consultation with opponents everyone knows that on questions of political controversy it may, as a general rule, be said to he practically impossible. Speaking of the matter as a general rule, there would be no more dangerous practice; for what it would result in would be this—under the name and pretext of conciliation, it would end in a series of shabby attempts to devolve responsibility on those to whom it does not properly belong. But, Sir, did we not practically consult, that is did we not in every way endeavour to conciliate opponents? Did we not practically endeavour to conciliate them in the actual provisions of our measures? In framing a Reform Bill, was not the natural starting-point for this Government the measure of 1860? That Bill was introduced into the House with the express sanction of Lord Palmerston, whose Conservative tendencies are sometimes contrasted by speakers opposite with our dangerous leanings; and yet, did we not alter our Bill in respect to the counties from a £10 franchise, which had the double sanction of Lord Palmerston and of the Government of Lord Derby, to a £14 franchise; and in respect to the borough franchise, did we not alter the figure £6 to the figure £7, cutting off the very large section of persons whom the figure £6 would have enfranchised? My noble Friend (Earl Grosvenor) and any one else are at perfect liberty, if they so choose, to say these great concessions are not sufficient to satisfy them. But, at least, I am entitled to refer to such facts as indicating the anxiety of the Government to anticipate as far as we could the wishes and feelings that might be entertained in the various quarters of the House, and to make their mission with respect to Reform a reconciling mission. Well, the course we took was to bring in a single measure on the subject of the franchise. We had been warned before the measure came that in some quarters our plan was disapproved, and after it came it appeared unsatisfactory to a considerable portion of the House. We have more recently been censured for giving way, and 1874 for not adhering to our original decision to introduce and prosecute steadily the subject of the franchise without allowing, so far as depended upon us, the mixture of that subject with any other question. Undoubtedly we did make concessions—two very important concessions. The first of them was this. As we saw that suspicion was entertained with respect to our intentions—as it appeared to be believed that some plot on our part was connected with the measure to be introduced for the re-distribution of seats, we were bound, however gross we might deem the injustice done us, to relieve ourselves from that suspicion, and to lay a Bill for the re-distribution of seats on the table. We did not willingly, yet we endeavoured not ungraciously, to accede to the desire expressed. We did not do it willingly, because it was impossible not to foresee, as my hon. Friend the Member for Montrose has lately observed, that the difficulties of making progress would be increased from the moment that Bill was produced. But we saw it was no more or less than a question between making progress on those terms of additional difficulty and discouragement and breaking at once with the majority of the House on the subject of Reform. I believe we took a prudent course—at any rate, we took a conciliatory course in departing from our original intention, while we exposed ourselves to the not unreasonable taunts of the right hon. Gentleman the leader of the Opposition in laying that Bill on the table. The immediate result undoubtedly was, that we were enabled to surmount the difficulty and danger of the formidable Motion of the noble Lord (Earl Grosvenor) behind me. So far, we had our reward. But then sprung up a new demand, that the two Bills should be united. Again, it was impossible for us to overlook the fact that by the union of these two Bills we should load the measure so as greatly to increase the difficulty of passing it. But what was the alternative? Again, the only alternative was the rupture with a considerable majority of this House. Again, we gave way to that feeling; we have been censured for doing so; but whatever else it indicates, at least the fact indicates our intention to conciliate. The reason why I refer thus carefully and in detail to facts which I think prove this disposition to concede is, because I feel that much hangs upon the issue of this controversy, and that we all, whether we belong to the Government or the Opposition, shall have 1875 a strict account to render for the success or non-success of this near attempt to settle the question of our Parliamentary representation. [A laugh.] If there be, as there seems to be, some one single Gentleman in the House who can indicate by his laughter a dissent from the proposition it only proves more pointedly the serious nature of the juncture at which we have arrived, and the need that some at least even among the representatives of the people should open their eyes to perceive facts which they have not yet been enabled to discern.
I must say it was a discouraging circumstance when, the very moment after, with our assent, the two Bills had been united, a majority of this House determined to import into the Bill for the settlement of the franchise and for the redistribution of seats provisions relating to the enormously important, and not less critical and difficult, subject of corrupt practices at elections. This was done in spite of our remonstrance, in opposition to all precedent; in opposition, I must add, to all authority. One authority I will quote. It should have had weight with those who gave the vote that I now lament. It is that of a Peer of great eminenee—Lord Derby—who, speaking on the occasion of the discussion on Reform, under the Government of Lord Aberdeen, said—I trust that your Lordships will never consent to couple together as parts of one system, or belonging to the same system, two questions which are essentially different from each other, however they may bear upon your electoral system—I mean measures for the purpose of preventing corruption and bribery at elections, and measures far the alteration of constituencies and the extension of the franchise,The House knows the success that we met with in the endeavour to give effect to Lord Derby's earnest appeal.
And then, in answer to these various, these perhaps crude, but certainly well-intended efforts in the way of conciliation, we had next to confront the Amendment of my hon. and gallant Friend (Captain Hayter), with respect to which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Whiteside) now complains that there is no reality in the debate. However, there appeared to be at the period when the Motion was made considerable reality. There was my hon. and gallant Friend behind me; there was a well-compacted phalanx in our front; there were all the indications—nay, there were more than all the usual 1876 indications—of deliberate concert, between those in front of us and some few of those in the rear. Because when the hon. and gallant Gentleman ended his speech by moving an Amendment quite different from, and I think much worse than the Motion of which he had given notice, and when casually, with one or two of my Colleagues near me, I took notice of the difference as you, Sir, were reading the Motion from the Chair, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) immediately, from an explanatory observation which he passed across the House, indicated that he was already privy to the various editions through which this Motion had passed. [Mr. DISRAELI: No!] The right hon. Gentleman says it is not so. Then, by some divining faculty he attained, at any rate, to that knowledge, for he introduced some words in explanation of the difference between them. However, I need dwell no longer on the incident, for my hon. and gallant Friend, in I must say the most ingenuous and fairest manner—I respect him for it—distinctly announced that it was an Amendment which he moved not only in concert with some Gentlemen sitting on this side of the House, but in concert with those whom he believed to represent the party opposite. That is the state of things at which we have arrived, and, therefore, if reality has been taken out of the debate, it has not been taken out of it by us. It is even a little hard upon men who have been sitting here in that nervous condition which generally befals those who believe they are arraigned upon a matter of life and death—it is a little hard when one probably of the arch-designers against us undertakes to come and charge us with the want of reality in the debate, when, in point of fact, that want of reality only depends upon the breaking down, better know, perhaps, to him than to us, of certain combinations of which, whatever else we may say or think, they appeared to be real and certain enough.
Now, with regard to the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend (Captain Hayter), and with respect to some other speeches that have proceeded from Members representing the grouped boroughs, I make no complaint at all of those speeches. I make no complaint of my hon. and gallant Friend for his reference to the facts and the authority of Sir William Hayter. No one that was ever brought into relation with Sir William Hayter can hear otherwise 1877 than with pleasure the mention of his name; and on this occasion in particular we do not at all shrink from recurrence to the authority of Sir William Hayter, because if he objects to the grouping of Wells, and if the distinguished Baronet exercises his great paternal influence to induce the hon. and gallant Gentleman who now represents that cathedral city to object to our grouping system, it need never be forgotten that there is another alternative. I should not have supposed, indeed, that it would have been more agreeable to my hon. and gallant Friend; but still I see that he follows his father's footsteps in everything; and, therefore, I do not fear to mention that Sir William Hayter was the attached, faithful, and able Secretary to the Treasury in the year 1854, when a Reform Bill was introduced, to which I for one was a party, by the Government to which Sir William Hayter belonged, and which contained a schedule enacting not the grouping, but the disfranchisement of Wells. It is perfectly open, therefore, to my hon. and gallant Friend at once to satisfy all the instincts of filial affection, and likewise to perform his duty to his party and his country, if he thinks fit, by suggesting the other alternative. However, Sir, speaking generally, I do not think we ought to criticize too severely the votes or expressions of those who may be called grouped Members; but, on the contrary, we should consider whether in any manner compatible with the demands of justice to the nation, we can either meet their views, or at any rate alleviate their embarrassments. Their position relatively to the towns they represent on an occasion of this kind is one which must be admitted on all sides to be a grave and serious difficulty. It reminds me of a remarkable and almost historical passage in a great speech of Lord Brougham, delivered in defence of Queen Caroline. In that passage he says—An advocate, by the great duty which he owes his client, knows, in the discharge of that office, but one person in the world—that client and none other. To save that client by all expedient means he must not regard the alarm, the suffering, the torment, the destruction which he may bring upon any other. In separating even the duties of a patriot upon those of an advocate, and casting them off to the winds, he must go on, reckless of the consequences, if his fate should be to involve his country in confusion for his client's protection.And so I find no fault with my hon. and gallant Friend if he was willing not only 1878 to displace the Government, which is a small matter, but even to arrest the course of this national question, and to plunge us once more into political confusion, for the sake of saving the representation of the ancient, venerable, and respected city of Wells.
Whether the policy which we propose is a wise one I shall presently inquire; but I cannot but think that Gentlemen who are in the position of my hon. and gallant Friend would do well to represent to themselves this one consideration; that the system of grouping adopted by the Government, even if it were chargeable with all the faults which have been so freely imputed to it, was at least not adopted in a spirit of hostility to those small boroughs. It was intended to mitigate the severity of a stroke which the public good required them to receive, but which might not unnaturally seem harsh enough in many cases to their friends. And it would be well for those concerned to bear in mind that the ejectment of that system of grouping from the provisions of the Government Bill might result in a less favourable, and not in a more favourable, mode of treatment of those boroughs.
I beg now, Sir, for one moment to notice a charge which has run through the thread of the debate on the opposite side of the House—namely, the charge of precipitancy in the preparation of the Bill for the Redistribution of seats. Do not let it be said, as it has been from time to time, "Oh ! it could not but be a crude and precipitate affair because Her Majesty's Government only took twelve days to prepare it." When the hon. and learned Member for Belfast said something of the kind, I made a sign of dissent, and he thereupon very liberally enlarged the time to eighteen or twenty-four days, which is, at all events, better than twelve. But I am not satisfied with this concession. It was not a very short time that was allowed for the preparation of the Bill. Unless I am very much mistaken, the official promise for the introduction of the Bill was given on the 23rd of March, and the Bill was introduced on the 7th of May; that was a term of at least forty-five days, or nearly four times the period which the hon. and learned Gentleman first allowed us, and nearly twice the period of which the hon. and learned Gentleman, after all his obliging consideration, could give us the benefit. And here I must observe that in the Cabinet there were many men who had been con- 1879 cerned in previously constructing either two or three Bills containing a system for the re-distribution of seats; and really, Sir, upon the whole, if that Cabinet had not been able in forty-five days to prepare a Bill of this nature, depend on it, the fault would have lain deeper than in a mere want of time. It is the truth that the Bill was deliberately prepared, and deliberately laid on the table.
With regard to the general charge of anomalies created by this Bill, I deny that it creates a single anomaly in the true and proper sense of the word. I ask of those who make the charge, did the Reform Act create anomalies or not by disfranchisement and re-distribution of seats? If you choose to say that the man who destroys a gross anomaly, and re-produces a much milder form of the very same thing, creates an anomaly—to that charge we are open, and to that charge the Reform Act was open. The Reform Act enfranchised Frome with one Member, while it left close by the city of Wells, having less than half of its population, with two Members. Did the Reform Act on that account create an anomaly? It is an abuse of terms to say so. The Reform Act mitigated anomalies, restrained their range, cut off the extremes and extravagances of those anomalies, and confined them within contracted limits; and though to some extent it of necessity reproduced them, it was only in a contracted and in very far from a natural sense that it could be said a single anomaly was created by the Reform Act.
So much for matters bearing generally on the argument; and now let me refer to what has passed in the debate. Of course, it is necessary for me to advert to the speech delivered by my right hon. Friend the Member for Calne; but, as far as regards the general strain of argument, I do not think there was anything in it to call for special notice from me. That is my opinion; for, as far as regards those parts specially pointed to the Bill, I do not know of anything, except, indeed, the spirit of exaggeration with which it was delivered, which distinguished his arguments from the same arguments used by other hon. Gentlemen on the opposite Benches. But I must protest against one portion of the speech of my right hon. Friend, and that is the portion in which he treated largely of the honour of the Government. He gave his view of the Government as composed of persons who needed not be particular, and who were not 1880 in a condition indeed to be fastidious on that subject; and he spoke, I think, with marked emphasis of "a truckle bed" in which they were to lie. I frankly own that, in my opinion, all that portion of his speech was one gross and continued error both of taste and judgment. Because, Sir, in these matters we must look, not only at the merits of the sermon, but at the individuality of the preacher; and I want to know what charge is to be made against the Government on this score which cannot be made, at the very least, as easily against my right hon. Friend? In that "truckle bed" there may be a bedfellow, and the right hon. Gentleman would learn with some surprise who that bedfellow might be. No doubt my right hon. Friend thinks he can defend himself; we think we can defend ourselves; but it is just as well that there should be a truce between us on this particular part of the question. If there is a charge against us on this subject I do not object to its being urged, only let it be urged from the proper quarter. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Droitwich, on the same evening, had charged us, in no unbecoming terms, with a long slumber on this question. Those who were connected with the Government of Lord Derby are entitled to challenge the conduct of the present Government with respect to Reform. But what is the charge? It is this, that while we are now acting on our convictions, we, for a long time, with a view to our own convenience, allowed our convictions to go to rest. I would, then, ask my right hon. Friend the Member for Calne whether it is only to us that that charge applies, and whether it would not be better for him to avoid for the future the dangerous ground on which he has been bold enough to tread.
Again, Sir, I was astonished at the feat which my right hon. Friend performed in that speech. A Bill had been laid on the table for the re-distribution of seats, which may be briefly and simply described as a Bill for cutting off, in round numbers, half a hundred seats from the small boroughs and distributing those seats among the great, populous, and principally the growing communities of the country. My right hon. Friend, however, bitterly complained of what he called the provocation which had been offered him—this it seems in our not having explained to him the principle of this Bill. He declared that when it was produced he could not understand it, that he endeavoured to puzzle its prin- 1881 ciple out for himself, and that the week which elapsed between its introduction and the second reading was a great deal too short a time to enable him to arrive at a knowledge of what it was the Bill really meant. [Mr. LOWE: To arrive at a knowledge of its principle] I am obliged to my right hon. Friend for the assistance which he seems disposed to give me. He may, however, spare himself the trouble. The principle of the Bill lay, as I conceive, upon the very surface of what I have stated as the facts of the Bill. I tell him that it did not require any further explanation of its principle beyond that which was furnished to the House when the Minister rose in his place and said that the Government proposed to carry over forty-nine seats from small or decaying, or secondary boroughs, and to distribute those seats among great towns and counties and new communities. That single sentence fully explained, in my opinion, in what the principle of the measure consisted; and when I heard my right hon. Friend state that it took him a week to find out the meaning of that transference of seats, I confess it appeared to me that in the latest freak of his fancy he was endeavouring to emulate the performances of that portion of the party opposite—I do not think, I may observe in passing, that it is quite so large as has been supposed—which has been pungently described in the works of my hon. Friend the Member for Westminster, and to which allusion was very recently made.
Sir, speaking generally, I must observe that my right hon. Friend allows himself such license in his method of handling the whole argument on Reform that, although it is a very great treat to listen to his speeches regarded as intellectual exercitations, yet no man must imagine that if his object be the attainment of a practical issue, it is of much avail to enter into a discussion with him. What ground, for example, did my right hon. Friend take with respect to the small boroughs? He defended them through thick and thin, without the slightest qualification or reserve; while he, in the very same breath, spoke and prepared himself to vote in favour of the Amendment, which pledges the House to the declaration that it is ready to consider the general subject of re-distribution of seats, that is to say of a reduction of the representative privileges of small boroughs. At the same time I admit that my right hon. Friend is so far consistent with himself that he can produce an exact pre- 1882 cedent from his own previous conduct, while on a former night he made a speech against all reduction of the franchise, and repeatedly informed us in heated phrase that its reduction would lead to the destruction of the Constitution; yet he, on the same occasion, voted for a Motion the terms of which gave expression to the declaration that the House was prepared to take into its consideration, and to settle the subject of Parliamentary Reform.
But how, let me ask, can we occupy common ground with my right hon. Friend? How can we cherish the slightest hope of mitigating the differences which exist between us, or arriving at a settlement with one who approaches a question of this gravity in such a spirit, and with such a decree of licence so far as regards his own individual opinion? On a former occasion the horror to which my right hon. Friend gave expression was a horror of democracy. He told us this House was to be vulgarized, that it was to be filled up with representatives of the seven-pounder householders, little superior in character and position to those by whom they were elected. But when he spoke on the present debate his tone underwent a change. He had wheeled right about to the other extremity of the argument. He entered upon another line of inquiry. He thought it necessary to state—and, in my opinion, greatly to overstate—the probable expenses of elections under the new system; and he proceeded to tell us the consequence of the Bill would he that the House of Commons would be filled with millionaires; that plutocracy, forsooth, constituted the evil which loomed darkly in the future. It is no wonder, then, that my right hon. Friend takes the liberty to contradict us when he assumes the liberty to contradict himself, and in the keenness of his movements does not seem to think it at all necessary to make the slightest effort to reduce his speeches either into harmony with his votes or with one another.
My right hon. Friend, I must say, in one respect confers upon us a very great advantage. I have listened to the speeches of the hon. and learned Member for Belfast, whom I have certainly been accustomed to look upon as one of the most able and certainly not the least keen partizan in this House. I have heard him and others who sit on the Benches opposite argue patiently and point by point the provisions of this Bill, and with a closeness to the facts of the case which was perfectly 1883 refreshing after the speeches of my right hon. Friend; because, although we think they criticize unjustly our propositions, and represent them in colours sufficiently different from the truth, yet, at all events, we can discern so much of likeness in their delineation of them that we know what they are meant for. But when we find ray right hon. Friend disfiguring and denouncing in terms so inflamed, as it is his habit and pleasure on each occasion to employ, the whole of every proposition made by the Government, and every step they take, in whatever direction, and in whatever sense, it becomes hopeless indeed for us to deal with matters presented in such a form; but it is, notwithstanding, positively refreshing, and gives us more kindly and philanthropic views of the disposition of hon. Gentlemen opposite, when we come down to the mitigated statements and language in which they close their opposition to this Bill, and appreciate their comparative moderation by the force of contrast.
I must now say a few words upon the speech of the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, or at least upon the plan which he proposed; because I think it will be generally admitted that schemes for the re-distribution of seats, involving almost an infinity of details and a vast number of questions upon which there may be most naturally, and even most legitimately, great difference of opinion, cannot well be judged of, perhaps, on the whole, except by being compared with other schemes. I shall endeavour, therefore, to look for a moment at the scheme of the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire. The right hon. Gentleman repudiated a defence which I had offered some years back for the principle of small boroughs as an antiquated affair, and presented one of his own instead. Well, as to my defence of small boroughs, I believe at least there was a time when it was true. I think that at the epoch of the old Parliamentary system what I said with regard at least to nomination boroughs was strictly true—that is to say, that they were made eminently useful as a means of introducing to this House young men who afterwards won the favour of popular constituencies. And in the whole six hours during which I had the advantage of listening to my right hon. Friend the Member for Calne there was this one single sentence and sentiment with which I had the satisfaction of concurring—the matter indeed was painful, yet the concurrence between us in respect 1884 to it was very satisfactory to me, perhaps, because it was so rare—I refer now to his statement that in his belief the door of ingress to this House has been in some degree narrowed by the Reform Act. The enormous benefits conferred upon the country by that Act throw entirely into the shade any incidental disadvantages attending it like this; but I confess that, whether I am right or wrong, I agree with him that to some extent such has been the case. But I do not think, as I have already owned, that the defence of the small boroughs drawn from the experience of a former time, applies to them as they now exist. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, however, has devised a new argument in their defence. He contends that the small boroughs are necessary in order to maintain that diversity in the character and composition of this House, which, as he truly says, is so essential to its efficiency. Now, is it true that the small boroughs do contribute to that diversity?—that is to say, do they contribute to it more than an equal number of seats of any other class? It is not enough to go to a particular small borough and show that it is represented by a very good man, or by a person who has some special qualification. What is necessary is that, taking boroughs, say under 10,000 inhabitants, and going over the whole of the seats which they possess, you should be able to show that they return classes and descriptions of men to Parlialiament who would find their way there by no other channel. Now I say boldly and sweepingly, that that is not the fact. The right hon. Gentleman, evidently after painful and laborious research, completely broke down in his attempt to show that it was. He quoted the case of my hon. Friend the Member for Frome, but Frome was enfranchised under the Reform Act. [Mr. DISRAELI: It is a small borough.] It is not a small borough in the sense in which we are dealing with small boroughs, for our Bill does not touch it. The right hon. Gentleman went on to speak of Bridport, Huntingdon, and Peterborough as small boroughs. Undoubtedly those places are represented by distinguished mercantile gentlemen; but what did the right hon. Gentleman allege at the beginning of his speech? Why, that large constituencies will return only landowners, merchants, and manufacturers. Then he admits that merchants find an abundant entrance to this House by means of the large towns; 1885 and it is true that no class of men as a body obtain a better access to the confidence of arge constituencies than merchants as well as manufacturers. Why, then, should small boroughs be maintained in order to provide for their admission which is amply provided for by other means? These were the special instances as to the class of merchants given by the right hon. Gentleman.
But he said it was very important that gentlemen connected with the colonies should be represented in this House. And so it is. And what gentlemen here do represent the colonies? There is my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (Mr. Marsh), whose support upon the main question we were not fortunate enough to obtain; but, I admit that he is an ornament of this House as a Gentleman of colonial experience. He sits for the city of Salisbury, a town not included in the ordinary category of small boroughs, and not within the class of boroughs which anybody has ever proposed to touch. The other hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Hamilton), who has been more recently added to this House, acquired great distinction at his University, and is a gentleman well qualified to take a part with honour to himself in our proceedings; but he does not sit for one of the small boroughs to the defence of which the whole point of the right hon. Gentleman's argument was directed. My hon. Friend the Secretary of the Treasury (Mr. Childers) sits for the borough of Pontefract—again a constituency of moderate size, but not a small borough in the sense of this Bill, or of any Bill ever introduced into Parliament by a Government which undertook to deal with the subject of small boroughs for the purpose of restricting their representation. Lastly, my right hon. Friend the Member for Calne undoubtedly sits for a small borough at this moment, but he did not find his way into this House as a representative for a small borough, but addressed himself to an open constituency. He represented a town of considerable size, and succeeded in obtaining the confidence of that constituency, as a means of entrance to this House, where he distinguished himself in such a manner as opened to him the road to the representation of Calne. So much for Members connected with the colonies. But then the right hon. Gentleman likewise mentioned Members connected with India. And was it not most extrardinary that in order to buttress his 1886 argument and to find an instance connected with India, which was suitable to his point, he went back to the case of Sir James Hogg, who sat for Honiton several Sessions ago—not less, I think, than seven years ago? But, I ask, who are the men connected with India now sitting in this Honse, and what are the small boroughs that return them? We are dealing with a most important allegation, and while the right hon. Gentleman repudiates my superannuated defence for small boroughs, he sets up, forsooth, a bran new defence of his own. Who, then, are at this moment the chief among representatives of Indian affairs and Indian knowledge in this House? My noble and gallant Friend who sits for Taunton (Lord William Hay), which is not in the sense of this Bill a small borough: the Friend of the right hon. Gentleman who sits for Dumbartonshire (Mr. Smollett), which is a county constituency, and again, my hon. and gallant Friend who generally sits on the third Bench behind mo (Colonel Sykes), is Member for the large city of Aberdeen. I take the instances that come first to my mind. But I ought not to leave off without referring to my hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Mr. Crawford), who, representing the vast metropolitan constituency, completes the list of those who may be quoted as representing Indian interests. Now, Sir, it will not do for the right hon. Gentleman to say that Salisbury, Pontefract, and Kidderminster are towns of moderate size. No one attacks towns of moderate size. He objects to this Bill because it deals largely with small boroughs. He upholds small boroughs, and I must say that his defence, depending, as he himself made it depend, upon particular instances, has entirely and absolutely failed.
Now, as I understand the right hon. Gentleman, he has himself a plan of disfranchisement, he says that the grouping of represented boroughs is a scheme totally unknown to England, and that the grouping of unrepresented boroughs is unknown to Scotland. As regards the first of those propositions, it is nearly true, but even this is not true altogether; for there are two or three boroughs grouped in England—namely, the Cinque Ports, the Hythe boroughs, the Monmouth boroughs, and Penryn with Falmouth. With regard to Scotland, the Scotch boroughs were not, as was erroneously stated by the right hon. Gentleman, grouped together as unrepresented towns to receive for the first time 1887 the privilege of representation. They were grouped as representative boroughs at the period of the Union, and all the arguments derivable from precedent may be drawn from those Scotch boroughs. But while the right hon. Gentleman objects to the grouping of boroughs in our fashion, what does he put in its place? He gave us a rough outline of his own plan. As I understand him, he would proceed as follows:—He would take the smallest possible number of Members from the smallest boroughs, probably in the mode of his Bill of 1859—say some fifteen or twenty Members. Having so got his little store together, he would give them to new towns, and would form these new towns in such a way as, to judge by the instances he gave us, would pay off the population of this country at the rate of 70,000, 80,000, and 90,000 of population for each Member that he withdraws from the small boroughs. For he told us what sort of groups ought to be taken. He took five or six large towns—Ratley, Dewsbury, Mirfield, Cleckheaton—six, or I believe, seven in all, with a population of 91,000, while the other groups he gave us had a population of 65,000 and 72,000 respectively. If that is the idea of the right hon. Gentleman, I can well understand that by getting twelve or fifteen Members from the smallest boroughs, he would in that way dispose of 1,000,000 or 1,500,000 of the new rising towns that are scattered through the country. Next to that, he would have an extension of the boundaries. He says we ought to take out of the counties all those who do not follow the leading pursuit of the counties—that is the pursuit of agriculture. Of course, I do not mean that he would prescribe from the political area of the county pursuits merely subsidiary to agricultural pursuits, but where a manufacturing hamlet is formed, or where mineral enterprize is developed, or a port is constructed, all these places, according to his doctrine, ought to be weeded and purged out of the counties. Besides this, the boundaries of towns, he says, ought to be so extended as to combine all the inhabitants dwelling in their neighbourhood who follow their ordinary avocation3 in those towns. By the double operation of taking some fifteen or possibly even twenty Members from the small towns for new enfranchisement, and the enlargement of boundaries in this extended sense, he might effect his avowed object of withdrawing from the counties a population of something like 2,000,000 of people, and obtain 1888 the double end of leaving the small boroughs of the country in possession of nearly the whole of their present forces, subject only to that small reduction; while, at the same time, he would reduce the counties to a simple collection of landlords and tenants, with those inhabitants of purely rural villages and towns who are immediately dependent on them. If that be the plan of the right hon. Gentleman, or anything approaching to it, I can perfectly well understand his feeling of suspicion as to what might be the nature of our re-distribution scheme. Because our plan of re-distribution has been based upon the principle of simply restraining the representation of small boroughs and enfranchising large communities without any scheme thus to disturb and recast the distribution of population and of power.
The object of a re-distribution scheme ought to be, and the test of its excellence should be, the degree in which it leaves the extension of the franchise as nearly as possible unchecked to its full, legitimate, and natural operation. If it is asserted in opposition to our scheme that re-distribution of seats is not to be mixed up with a complicated scheme for drawing broad lines of separation between counties and boroughs that are totally unknown to the tenor of our history and totally opposed to the spirit of our Constitution ["No, no !"], then I must say that, not only am I here prepared to defend our scheme of re-distribution in comparison with that of the right hon. Member for Bucks, but to predict with confidence that no such scheme of re-distribution as his would ever receive the final sanction of this House.
I must here, Sir, point out to hon. Gentlemen opposite that which really seems to be unperceived by them. They treat the ancient parts of the Constitution as anomalies and solecisms whenever they come awkwardly across their own views. They say that the vote of the freeholder living within the limits of a borough for the county in which that borough is situate was an anomaly. It may be an anomaly according to their rather new-fangled views; but it is not an anomaly in itself. Is it not one of the most ancient parts of the Constitution? Was not the county representation the representation of property? And was not the borough representation the representation of the people? And is it not a fact that before the Reform Bill passed the freeholder's voting powers in these two capacities were so distinctly re- 1889 cognized that the same man actually had his vote for the borough by virtue of the very same freehold which qualified him as a county voter? Can there be a more distinct assertion of the intention and sense of the ancient Constitution, and of the line between the two descriptions of representation? The line was not by the Constitution drawn, as the right hon. Gentleman would draw it, between agricultural pursuits on the one side, and manufacturing and commercial pursuits on the other; but between the representation of the population through the towns and the representation of property through the knights of the shire, whether that property lay in the town or in the county. I will not detain the House upon the subject of the lease-holding clause, because, considering the statistics produced by my right hon. Friend the Member for North Staffordshire with reference to Birmingham, we have come to the conclusion that the leaseholding clause demand further consideration before the House of Commons is asked to make any provision with reference to that part of the subject. This, however I may say that the spirit of this clause, aiming at the extension of the proprietary part of the county constituencies, is, especially at a time when we are seeking to extend largely the occupation franchise, thoroughly legitimate and constitutional.
But I now come to consider the particular charges which have been made against our Bill; and I am here in a position of some difficulty, because the Amendment which has been moved and the debate upon that Amendment are to a certain extent in conflict. But, in the first place, I contend that the grounds of opposition to our Bill for the redistribution of seats are not good; in the second place, that even if they were good grounds, they are totally insufficient to justify a vote against going into Committee upon the Bill. And thirdly, I must point out that the Motion as it has been made, and not as it stood in the first instance, but as it stands in the form in which it has been placed in your hands, Sir, is a Motion against the terms and form of which I think we have a right to protest. Save and except the wholesale denunciations of all Reform, like those of my right hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Lowe), there has been no sound objection taken to the rest of the Bill, either by the hon. Member for Wells, who so ably defended his constituency, or by any of those who succeeded him. But if you admit the ques- 1890 tion to be great, if you admit that it has been again and again recommended to you from the Throne, then, admitting all the objections raised, their scope is limited, and you are still bound to go into Committee on the Bill. It has been objected, for example, that 8,000 is not a right limit of population for partial disfranchisement; and we have been urged and recommended to go higher. It has been objected that our groupings have been ill-advised and unfair; and it has been pointed out in detail that some few of our arrangements in that respect may be improved upon. It has also been a source of objection that there has been no provision made in the Bill for the representation of minorities; and it was stated that the unicorn representation of counties ought not to be extended, but that it would be much better to divide the counties which have already two divisions into three divisions, giving two Members to each of them. It has further been made a subject of complaint that Members should be taken from England and given to Scotland. It has been objected in the very careful argument of the hon. and learned Member for Belfast (Sir Hugh Cairns) that the plan for the re-adjustment of boundaries is unsatisfactory. I freely admit that this is one of the most difficult parts of the whole subject, and I think the hon. and learned Gentleman will admit also that it is a difficult part of the subject, upon the settlement of which the most temperate as well as the most detailed argument in Committee would be required. It has been objected, again, that we do not enfranchise a sufficient number of new towns. As far as I can gather from the sense of my Colleagues—and certainly it is the impression on my mind—that is certainly one of the points of detail in the plan which is most open to criticism. Here are no less than seven or eight points, all of them of very considerable importance I admit, but every one of them questions fairly open to dispassionate discussion, without any prejudice to the general scope and purport of our measure. But these six or seven points might be multiplied to sixty or seventy; because, from the nature of the question of re-distribution of seats, the points it opens to discussion, and moreover to bonâ fide discussion, are almost infinite in number; and undoubtedly they will be questions which, when we go into Committee, it will be our duty to hold ourselves ready in an open and conciliatory spirit to dis- 1891 cuss, and which we must endeavour to settle, not upon the basis of any foregone conclusions of our own, but with a view to general equity and general satisfaction.
I nust now, Sir, say one word to show how little considered, as I think, have been the objections which have been taken to our grouping in general. The great complaint has been the complaint of distance. Another head of objection has been a want of identity of interest among the towns grouped together. Now it is admitted that the grouping system works well in Wales and in Scotland. But there is no identity of interest whatever among the boroughs grouped together either in Wales or in Scotland. Again, what identity of interest is there in an ordinary county? Did those who are now present in the House hear the speech of my hon. Friend who now sits for Newport, and who once represented West Kent? He described the various interests in the neighbourhood of London, of the seaport towns on the Thames, and of the hop district, and of the suburban villas which abound in that portion of Kent, together with the agricultural community, and I may well ask what identity of interest is there in these? Now with regard to objections as to distances. It has been stated that some of the boroughs proposed to be grouped are 30 miles apart. This is the case in perhaps one or two instances only. But what is the state of the case in Wales? In Wales there are some seven or eight cases of boroughs 30 and above 30 miles distant from one another. How is it in Scotland? I have before me four of the groups belonging to that country. The average distance of the Ayr boroughs from each other is 47½ miles, and the maximum is 74. The Dumfries boroughs average 25½ miles in distance, while the maximum is 38. The average distance of the Elgin boroughs is 31, the maximum being 58. In the Wick boroughs the average distance is 49, and the maximum is no less than 108 miles. Now, really it is somewhat fastidious to produce some particular instance where a couple of boroughs are 26 or even 30 miles apart, an instance of a kind but very rarely found, and to treat any such cases, not as matters for consideration, which they may justly be, with a view to more precise arrangements in detail if you can make them, but with those sweeping denunciations which, it was said, by some laudatory critic, had demolished, forsooth, the system of grouping proposed in the Bill.
1892 There is one method proposed by the hon. and gallant Member for Wells, against the adoption of which, as a general rule, I must, on the part of the Government, state the strongest objections; that is, the plan of taking in, as a general rule, to make up and supplement the small boroughs the still smaller places in the neighbourhood. It is said you have got in the neighbourhood of some of these places certain towns of 4,000, or 5,000, or 6,000 inhabitants, and that if you will add these you will have a constituency of 17,000 or 20,000; and that the principle of our dealing with small boroughs ought to be first to take in the small boroughs which are in their immediate neighbourhood. Now, this appears to me to be an extravagant proposition. There is in this country an enormous regard for vested interests, but there is surely some limit even to that regard. You may fairly say, when we are dealing with those boroughs which have long enjoyed Parliamentary representation, "Deal tenderly with them if you think it fit to touch them, but do not extinguish them. Give them a modified share of that privilege which they have so long possessed, in cases where it has not been grossly abused." But it is really going a little too far to contend that these old privileges which are in the nature of a monopoly, and in tendency somewhat adverse to the community at large, shall be held to contain in them such an essence of diffusive virtue that it shall spread around them on all sides, and shall, as it were, consecrate the hamlets, the villages, or the little country towns that may be so fortunate as to be in the neighbourhood for the purpose of introducing them to the privilege of being represented in Parliament. At the close of the civil wars of Augustus, when he settled his soldiers on bits of land in the territory of Cremona—well-known as the unfortunate Cremona—it was not found sufficient for the purpose, and they had to take some portion of the territory of Mantua. The poet, speaking of the circumstance, says, in a line often quoted—Mantua, væ miseræ nimiùm vicina Cremonæ!Now it is a perfectly ludicrous inversion of that sentiment to take some little place in the neighbourhood of Honiton or Wells, and to provide that that circumstance of neighbourhood shall be a reason for conferring on such a place a power of returning a Member of Parliament, which by the general rules of right and policy should be given to some large constituency. Whe- 1893 ther there may not be instances in which, upon particular grounds, a departure from the general rule may be justified, I will pass no opinion. This is one of the points that can be best settled after a general and fair comparison of views mutually entertained in Committee; but, as a general rule, I am sure that it would be unwise and quite impossible to induce Parliament to accede to a system which should patch up or eke out a limit of population on behalf of these small towns by bringing in other small and insignificant places as their companions, for the purpose of fastening Parliamentary representation down to those precise spots on the surface of the country where it has been fixed by former legislation.
But perhaps the House will be surprised if I go on to say not merely that we are open to consider, and that it is our duty to consider, the propriety and sagacity with which each practical group is framed, but that no declaration has ever been made by Government to the effect that grouping is a vital principle of the Bill. ["Oh, oh !"] We have recommended it on grounds which we thought, and which we continue to think, amply sufficient. We think, as we thought, that it is adverse to bribery; we did not think it was likely to increase expenditure ["Oh !"]; and I think if hon. Gentlemen will investigate actual cases of expenditure in grouped boroughs at contested elections they will see some ground for that opinion. We thought likewise that it would favour the return of an eligible class of Members to this House; and that in another view it might perhaps have this immediate advantage—that if it should become absolutely necessary to require the present Parliament to continue to sit for a time, greater or less, after the Re-distribution of Seats Bill shall have been passed, there would undoubtedly be a more glaring inconsistency in retaining in this House the representatives of constituencies that were absolutely disfranchised than those of constituencies about to be conjoined in groups. But, however that may be, not a word has been spoken to the effect that we regarded grouping as one of the vital or essential principles of the Bill.
Perhaps it may be well, Sir, that I should just remind the House what have been stated to be its leading principles. Here I am bound to say at once that there are Borne kinds of grouping to which we could not accede. We could not accede to 1894 the wholesale grouping of new places proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks—nor yet to the grouping of small villages and towns with other small villages and towns that do not possess the franchise. We know that Shakespeare says—The strawberry grows underneath the nettleAnd wholesome berries thrive and ripen bes;Neighbour'd by fruit of baser quality.But we do not believe in such a virtue of neighbourhood as among constituencies of this description. The leading principles of the Bill in its two parts have, I think, been stated before with sufficient clearness to the House; but it will not take one minute to repeat them. The leading principles of the Franchise Bill are to complete, in the first place, the provisions of the law which enfranchises voters at £10 clear annual value and upwards; to extend the borough franchise downwards, and to extend the county franchise downwards. These are the principles of the Bill as far as regards the part relating to simple enfranchisement. As regards the re-distribution of seats, its principles are to curtail the small borough representation, not to extinguish it; indeed to leave, I think, a very large, at least a very fair proportion of it; to curtail the small borough representation by the removal, in whatever manner may be thought best, of some fifty Members, more or less—it is not necessary to adhere rigidly to anyone particular figure—and to distribute the seats among the great and growing and new counties; and lastly, to secure to Scotland, from whatever source, that increase of her representation to which we contend that her wealth and her numbers justly entitle her. Now, these I believe to be the principles of the Bill, and that claim of Scotland is in my belief so strong and clear upon an investigation of the case as to convince me that, unless the matter becomes envenomed by party discussion through some error of ourselves or others, it is impossible not to admit it. Whence those seals for the benefit of Scotland are to he obtained is another matter; but in regard to the claim itself I cannot see any reason why Scotland, with one sixth of the population of the United Kingdom, speaking in round numbers, should be contented, or should be expected to be contented, with little more than one-tenth of the representation.
Now, I think from the manifestations I have recently observed that some hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side appear to 1895 suppose that there is something questionable or inconsistent on the part of the Government in thus appearing to throw open to discussion a great number of points connected with the re-distribution of seats. I cannot, however, conceive what accusation can be brought against the Government on that score. It was one of the difficulties, and to my mind the greatest of all the difficulties and objections attending the combination of the two subjects, that in dealing with the question of re-distribution we could not but open so many views and touch such a multitude of local and class interests, each of which would according to our usage require that its particular claims should be fully and patiently considered. It was not, therefore, the principle of the re-distribution of seats that was attended with so much embarrassment; it was the mass of detail which attends any such measure of Reform, and this, I confess, has always appeared to me to be a strong practical argument in favour of the separation of the two subjects. However, I am not arguing now with a view to reopen a question which has been referred by us to the decision of this House. We have placed ourselves frankly in the hands of the House, and shall abide by its decision on this point, in our treatment of the subject. I am only desirous of showing that a very large part of the subject of redistribution necessarily consists of matters which should be held open for discussion, and which ought not to be settled according to any foregone conclusion. To me it has, I confess, always appeared that the most important branch of the subject is the enfranchisement of our fellow-countrymen. That being so, I do not see how we have fairly laid ourselves open to the charge of inconsistency by our readiness to concede in the plan of re-distribution, for in the direction of the franchise it is that, as we feel, lies our most solemn and serious responsibility. Sir, these are the principles of the Bill which we submit, and what we ask from the House is its fair consideration.
I am bound to say that I do not think the Amendment now before us is compatible with the fair consideration of the Bill. The Amendment is perfectly definite so far as regards the object of my hon. and gallant Friend—that is, it condemns, in a form perfectly explicit, the system of grouping proposed by the Government. That is a perfectly fair issue to raise, and while it raises that issue, we say we might admit the 1896 proposition—though we do not in any degree admit it—and yet go into Committee on the Bill. But the Amendment goes on to state that "the scheme is not sufficiently matured to form the basis of a satisfactory measure." Now, it is, even grammatically, of the utmost possible difficulty to decide what may be the meaning of the word "scheme," the word "franchise," and all references to the subject of the franchise, having been by some careful expurgator, no doubt for good reasons, struck out of the Amendment. The Amendment is little better than unintelligible. It looks like an Amendment which has been framed with the view of at once getting rid of the Bill, and yet escaping the responsibility of having rejected the Bill or any of the provisions which it contains, or of being called to account by constituents. Notwithstanding the frequency of the "No, noes," which arise from time to time on the other side, I have none at this moment; but I am free to confess that I should be glad to hear even a very storm of those "No, noes," now when I say I am afraid that was the object of the party opposite in supporting this Amendment of my hon. Friend. The hon. and learned Member for Belfast (Sir Hugh Cairns) spoke in terms of high approbation of the Amendment; the hon. Mover avowed his concert with the party opposite; and if I understand rightly the statements which have appeared in the usual channels of Parliamentary information, all the strength of that party is to be used in support of it. But I protest in the name of the Government, I protest for the character of Parliament, I protest on the part of my countrymen at large, against dealing with measures of great importance in this House—especially measures of such capital importance as this—not in the good old English manner of "Ayes" and "Noes," but in language which nobody can construe, and which nobody can understand. Here is a declaration that the scheme of Her Majesty's Government "is not sufficiently matured to form the basis of a satisfactory measure." Why, Sir, do not hon. Gentlemen see that any man who wanted to resort to mere cavil and for the purpose of escaping from the real brunt of a controversy would adopt that very language? Is it not to those generalities that the lust of ambition resorts for the prosecution of its wicked purposes? Do not let any hon. Gentleman suppose I am speaking of the movements of political parties. I am speaking rather of 1897 those movements of which history, unfortunately, is too full—frightful and bloody collisions, produced between contending nations, by that lust of ambition which I am describing, and which makes use of these generalities, because their effect is to efface the distinctive lines between justice and injustice—between truth and falsehood—to prevent the merits of any question from being brought to a fair issue, and to provide a place of refuge on behalf of those who are afraid of the exposure they would suffer if the same were left to reason and to argument. Such modes of speech have been too often resorted to in theological controversies, when objections of a definite character which could be embodied in judicial forms have been avoided, and vague words about "dangerous doctrines," or "savouring of heresy," or something of that kind, have been invented, showing, in fact, nothing but the cruelty, the injustice, or the cowardice of those by whom they were invented. I was in hope, Sir, that when I ascribed this evasive character, this indirectness of aim, to the Amendment, I should be met by a tempest of disclaimers, and that there would be some sympathy with the view we take of the manner in which warfare such as this should be conducted. Well, I was in hopes; hut my hopes may be disappointed. In the course of now a somewhat long public life, I have been disappointed in other things, and I probably may be again. But we had, as we think, a right to expect it, and indeed we had a special right to expect it. It was promised us; it was gratuitously promised us; it was even ostentatiously promised us. On the 6th of February, 1866, Lord Derby used these words:—"I promise the noble Earl another thing"—he had not been asked, but it was promised, and promised largely—I promise the noble Earl another thing—that his Bill shall have fair play—that it shall not he thrust aside by any underhand method—that there shall be no factious movement or combinations against it on the part of those who can combine for nothing else, but that it shall be dealt with on its merits."—[3 Hansard, clxxxi. 101.]Is it dealing with a measure on its merits to say that it is not sufficiently matured? When, in the long course of Parliamentary controversy, was that course adopted? What instance, what precedent, is there of a great party resorting to that mode of warfare? [Cries of "Fifty-nine!"from the Opposition.] In '59? Is '59 your instance? In 1859 the Bill was condemned 1898 upon grounds perfectly definite and clear; it was condemned because it did not reduce the borough franchise. Act as my noble Friend acted in 1859, and my complaint falls to the ground. Condemn the Bill, if you can muster courage for the purpose, because it does reduce the borough franchise. In your speeches you have said you objected to its reduction. My right hon. Friend the Member for Calne, my hon. Friend the Member for North Devon, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire objected in their speeches to a reduction of the borough franchise. Let the right hon. Gentleman, let some one among you, embody that opinion in a Motion. Or, if he do not choose to embody his opinions in a Motion—and I admit that he is not bound to do that unless he pleases—let him take the usual, the known, and the established course of opposing our measure by a negative, and the country will then know what he means. It is useless to fall back upon these large, vague, unmeaning words. You cannot build upon such words the name and fame of a party. You may embarrass the Government; you may impede the course of a great measure; you may injure for a moment those who are politically opposed to you; but you cannot lay any solid foundation by such courses as these for the fortunes of yourselves and of your friends. Do not let us be drawn into these vague, broad, and almost wild denunciations about the Constitution. Every time my right hon. Friend (Mr. Lowe) addresses the House he makes a speech in the form of a prophecy about the Constitution. In his first speech—drawing upon the works and words of Canning, from what cause I know not, but I am quite sure it was not from the poverty of his own imagination—he prophesied the destruction of the Constitution; and every speech that has come from him since—though he has no longer foraged among the speeches of Mr. Canning—predicts in a new form, but with darker and yet darker features, the ruin and the downfall of the Constitution. "Do not," he says, "I pray you, discard rules and maxims that have never failed for doctrines and theories that have never succeeded." What is the rule and the maxim that has never failed? The £10 franchise. What is the doctrine and the theory that has never succeeded? The£7 franchise. The £7 franchise has not succeeded because it has not yet been tried. The £10 franchise before it was tried was a doctrine and a 1899 theory that had never succeeded, and it was met with the very same reproaches and loaded with the same denunciations, delivered with not less earnestness and ability than those delivered by my right hon. Friend. My noble Friend the Member for Leicestershire, in his speech delivered to-night, tempts me to ground upon which, if I had not heard the words of Tennyson from his mouth, I should not have ventured to tread. My noble Friend described England as—A land of old and wide renown,Where Freedom broadens slowly downFrom precedent to precedent—lines taken from the noble dedication and noble address of the Poet Laureate to the Queen. My noble Friend stopped with those lines. It did not suit his purpose to go on; but Mr. Tennyson goes on, and, in his description, he adds these not less worthy lines—And statesmen at her Council metWho knew the seasons, when to takeOccasion by the hand, and make,The bounds of Freedom wider yet,By shaping some august decree,Which kept her Throne unshaken still,Broad-based upon her people's will,And compassed by the Inviolate sea.We claim to love the Constitution; we claim to value the Constitution; we claim to revere the Constitution as sincerely and as earnestly as any of those opposed to us. My right hon. Friend the Member for Calne looks back with something like contempt on those who opposed the Reform Bill of 1831. We have heard him denounce in terms of the extremest severity the Parliamentary system which prevailed before that great measure; but he thinks that along with that contempt for the course that was then pursued by men of the stamp of the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel he may join the kind of opposition which he offers to the smaller measure of Her Majesty's Government. Sir, I must say that the very converse of that view appears to me to be far more just. The opponents of the Reform Bill of 1832, although I can now see that they were wrong, yet had much to say for the course they pursued. They had to deal with a system the most complicated in the world, the springs and movements of which were hardly, traceable to the common, or even to the philosophic eye, and which, like some wonderful creation that might have descended from above, was of such a delicacy of conformation, that they might well fear to touch any of its parts, lest by 1900 deranging some hidden spring they should mar its effect, and so long had this state of things prevailed that even the wise man, even the brave man shrunk back from the responsibility of attempting such a task. How different is our case. We have seen the risks of the experiment run, we have seen the dangers, if such there were, of enfranchisement defied, we have seen the frequent prophecy uttered in all solemnity collapse almost as soon as delivered; we have witnessed the happiness and the blessed fruits of that constitutional change, and we have found ourselves launched upon a career where everything before us is comparatively plain and open. We have now to deal, I will not say with an alteration so much as with a growth of circumstances, with a growth of numbers, with a growth of wealth, with a growth of intelligence, with a growth of loyalty, with a growth of confidence in Parliament, and with a growth of attachment and of love among all classes of the community; and our view is this, that Under these circumstances we are entitled to say now again has the time arrived to apply, with circumspection and with caution, yet with firmness and decision, those principles from the operation of which we have reaped such blessed fruits? It is in the prosecution of that work that we are confronted with the hostility which has met us in the various stages of this Bill—hostility that may be formidable indeed—hostility which I will not even now presume to predict may not meet with a momentary success, but with regard to which I will say that any triumph which may be gained will recoil with tenfold force upon the heads of those who may achieve it. To be the chief sufferers in a cause such as that we have in hand is, indeed, to be preferred to success, attained in any ordinary cause. For we are well convinced that in the discharge of our own duty, in the redemption of our pledges, we are consulting at once the honour and the dignity of this House, the stability of the Throne from which Her Majesty receives the affectionate homage of her subjects, the contentment and happiness of the people, and the strength and endurance of our institutions.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Mr. Speaker, I quite agree with one sentence of the right hon. Gentleman's speech that it is the duty of the two parties in this House to approach this subject in a spirit of conciliation and conscientiousness; and I was 1901 rather surprised, considering the general tone of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman and this voluntary expression of opinion on his part, we being prepared to meet him in that spirit, and prepared to meet him upon the merits of the case before us, that he should, according to his habit, assume that the peroration of a Parliamentary speech must necessarily consist in scolding one's opponents. Why, Sir, the facts of the ease are all against the right hon. Gentleman. Of what does he complain? He read us an extract from a speech delivered by Lord Derby that was uttered at the commencement of the Session, and certainly, as I followed it, it appeared to me that we had exactly and severely, and rigidly fulfilled the undertaking then given. For what did Lord Derby say ! That we would give the measure of the Government fair play. Well, have we not consented to I the second reading of the Bill? Have we interposed any cunning Resolution, as in 1859, for the purpose of defeating the measure by a side-wind. I admit, indeed, that in the course of those proceedings there have been two Motions which have arrested the progress of the Government measure. One of them was offered by the noble Lord the Member for Chester, and he received from the right hon. Gentleman opposite, in due course, the same invective to which we have just been exposed. The House and the country, however, sanctioned the wisdom and acknowledged the propriety of the course recommended by the noble Lord, and the right hon. Gentleman in twenty-four hours adopted it. What is there, therefore, to complain of, that we should have voted for a measure the sagacity of which he and his Government have subsequently recognized? Well, thou, again with regard to the other Amendment which is now before us. This also has been proposed by an habitual supporter of the Government, and it might, perhaps, have given rise to great controversy had not the right hon. Gentleman opposite risen and expressed the sentiments that we have heard from him. The Motion might have been described as an adroit, an insidious, a sinister, and vexatious Amendment, aiming at that which ought not by any means to be proposed, and, if carried, damaging with great effect the proposition of the Ministry. But what has the right hon. Gentleman done in the main portion of the speech which he has addressed to the House? Why, he has acknowledged the justice of the Amendment, 1902 has thrown over the whole system of grouping—[The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER signified dissent]—as a scheme the difficulty of which all acknowledged to be one that it was impossible to deal with in Committee, and the right hon. Gentleman has frankly informed the House that no doubt upon reflection Her Majesty's Government do not deem the geographical system of grouping to be either an indispensable portion of the measure, or, on the whole, to be the most convenient solution of the difficulty. Yet these are the two factious Amendments that have been brought forward, and which have been denounced by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and which, with one exception, are the only Amendments that have been offered to the consideration of this House. There was one more, and that was the Instruction moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Northamptonshire (Sir Rainald Knightley). The right hon. Gentleman availed himself of his considerable command of epithets to attempt to describe the character of the Motion made by that hon. Gentleman; but not satisfied with that, the right hon. Gentleman resorted to the language of Lord Derby—it seemed the right hon. Gentlemen had his pockets full of extracts from that authority—he flaunted them before the House, and amid the enthusiastic and sympathetic cheers of the great Liberal party, seemed to make one of those palpable hits which are so popular in this House. Well, what did my hon. Friend the Member for Northamptonshire really do? He moved that clauses against bribery should be introduced into the new Reform Bill. Does the right hon. Gentleman, when he rises in the House and quotes the language of Lord Derby, and declares himself that there is no precedent for such a course—does he forget that the late Member for Norfolk made the very same proposal in the last Parliament; that the measure was accepted by Lord John Russell, then leader of the House, and the Instruction was inserted in his Reform Bill?
Now, Sir, so much for the Motions that have occurred in the House of Commons within the last three months in opposition to this Bill. Two of them have been virtually accepted by the Government, and the other, which was denounced as unprecedented, was accepted by Lord John Russell, on the occasion of the last Bill of the same character. Therefore, Sir, I think 1903 the right hon. Gentleman will probably, on reflection, feel that he pitched his note a little too high for the subject. He must have been thinking of the great days of 1832, of which he has certainly read, if he did not witness them. He must have thought it was an occasion to menace a party with impending revolution, and, what has always a considerable effect in rhetoric,—menacing the dangerous consequences of an indefinite policy, the effects of which at that moment cannot be ascertained. I think I have shown that far from there being any foundation for this charge of the right hon. Gentleman, the House of Commons throughout these three months have acted in a temperate and sagacious manner, and I think it would have been very well if other persons had imitated the House of Commons. Good sense and good temper have been shown in the wisdom of the course they have recommended, and which has been adopted by the Government.
And now, if the House will permit me, as the right hon. Gentleman adverted to some observations made by me in a former debate, I will say a few words, not to vindicate myself, which is of little moment, but because they lead me to a most important part of the question—the very pith of the question which has not yet been touched on, and respecting which the right hon. Gentleman showed, on the part of the Government, what I deem to be a misapprehension, that, if I am correct in my view, must be most injurious in its consequences if not remedied. And first, I will say one word about the small boroughs. I am not going at half past twelve o'clock to vindicate them, but I will say this about email boroughs—it is impossible to argue the case of the utility of small boroughs by referring on either side to individual instances. It is a controversy that may last for ever. We are in the habit of referring to the very eminent statesmen who have sat for small boroughs, and I mentioned several myself. I do not think my instances were bad instances; and, so far as regards the case of India, I beg to remind the House that two high authorities on India, Mr. Wilson and Mr. Massey, were returned for Westbury and Newport, two small boroughs, while I believe there is a distinguished Indian Judge in the House of Commons at this moment who is Member for Liskeard. The truth is, you cannot decide this question by instances drawn from an existing Parliament. You must take a wide range; and it is my 1904 opinion that, if you were to put an end to all these small boroughs, you will find landowners, merchants, and manufacturers coming in too great numbers into this House. I think there is a popular principle at the bottom of this system of small boroughs. There is even a democratic principle. I do not mean that it has anything to do with demagogues. They easily get into this House, but if only demagogues they seldom stay here. I do not mean these; but men who have carved out their own fortunes, who have shown that they are men of mark, do find their way into the House of Commons chiefly through these small boroughs. Then, says the right hon. Gentleman, "The small borough you instance is not in our list, and is not, therefore, a small borough." Well, perhaps it may have a population of 9,000; but what security have we that it will not be in the right hon. Gentleman's next list? Sir, there is a most important point connected with our borough system (I am not now speaking merely of the smaller boroughs) which ought not to be disturbed or changed before the House has given it their fullest consideration. The House knows well the statistical fact that 11,500,000 of the population of this country are represented here by 162 county Members. They know that 9,500,000 people living in boroughs are represented in this House by 334 Members—borough Members. Well, now, upon the first blush one would naturally say, "How is it possible that such a system could have existed so long and worked so well, founded upon such monstrous anomaly, on such injustice as that 11,500,000 of a free people should be only represented by 162 men, while 9,500,000 people, because they live in boroughs, are represented by 334 Members?" That is a great problem to solve. Now, we have always had a general understanding in the House that there was some indirect mode by which a just or, at least, an endurable arrangement in this House was brought about; that there was some counteracting influence by which the system of a majority of the population, represented by the minority of the Members, found some approximation to a fair adjustment. It has been acknowledged by Gentlemen on this side, it has been greatly exaggerated because it was unknown by Gentlemen on the other; but when the House of Commons is called on to disturb and to destroy a great portion of the borough representa- 1905 tion, they are bound to consider what effect it will have upon the representation of those 11,500,000 people who live in the counties. Now, I admit that it is not a very easy task to ascertain with precision what is the number of the supplementary votes that constitute the fair representation that has made our system work, on the whole, so advantageously. You cannot take a pen and sheet of paper and ticket off the boroughs, and say, "these represent the landed interest, and these the urban," and so on. The considerations are complicated. It does not follow, for example, that because there is a small rural borough it is under landlord influence, or at all re presents the landed interest. There are very small boroughs in the agricultural districts of a very independent character. There are some in which Dissenting interests predominate; and, next to the landowners, the result of my researches is, that Dissenters and religious interests are predominant in the small boroughs. Again, you may take a borough with a large constituency, and superficially of an urban character, and yet upon fair analysis you may find that one of its Members is returned by territorial influence. Again, you may find a country gentleman, a large-acred man, who sits for a borough, but does not represent in his votes and sentiments the interests of what is called the land. Therefore, it requires considerable analysis to arrive at a precise result. I have endeavoured to perform this analysis, not as a partizan, or even as a politician, but as if I was preparing a paper for the Social Congress. I will now state to the House—I may be mistaken in what I say, but, at all events, I have gone through the necessary research and trouble—the number of supplementary votes which the landed interest—that is to say, these 11,500,000 people who are not represented except by the 162 county Members—receive. It is eighty-four. Now, if you deduct eighty-four from 334, the number of borough Members, you will find 250 as the result. If you add these eighty-four to the 162 county Members, you will find the result to be 246, as against 250; and there you see the counteracting machinery by which our system has been permitted to work so advantageously. It is not a complete and perfect adjustment of the claims of the landed interest; but you cannot, in the arrangement of a large and ancient Constitution, expect too great a nicety, but only a fair approximation to what may be called 1906 electoral justice. Well, observe what will be found in the provisions and clauses of the present Bill. Of these eighty-four borough Members that are supplementary to the fair representation of the counties and the county population, forty-two are disfranchised by the proposition of Her Majesty's Ministers. Well, that becomes a very serious consideration, and of course involves a very imperfect county representation. It is very true you give twenty-six new county Members, but you institute at the same time at least fourteen new borough seats, and therefore where the adjustment was by no means perfect before there is now a diminution to the number of at least thirty Members proposed by the Bill. Well, this is a very serious matter, because you must feel convinced that unless you establish something like approximation to justice in the representation of this House, according to the claims of the population and property of the country, the system cannot work. It has worked before by these supplementary means; but if you greatly impair or destroy these supplementary means, it is quite impossible you can go on very long with a representation so one-sided and imperfect. But then the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when I talk of the landed interest, and when I suggest to the House the means by which a fairer representation of the landed interest may take place—necessary before, but doubly necessary since the introduction of this Bill—denounced my plan as one by which the counties would be weeded and purged, and that I wished to reduce the counties to a mere assemblage of landlords and tenants. That has been said by Her Majesty's Government throughout these debates. It is not a new opinion on the part of the Ministry. The Secretary of State said the other day that the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, by enfranchising unrepresented towns, would eliminate every element of intelligence in the country. The Solicitor General said that by so doing the Member for Bucks wants county Members only to represent farmers and farm labourers. The Lord Advocate said that the Member for Bucks wants to eliminate the urban element out of the counties, so as to leave them purely agricultural constituencies. The Attorney General and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said the right hon. Member for Bucks—unfortunate Member for Bucks!—wants, contrary to the Constitution, to limit the county constituency to one class, and 1907 to eliminate the intelligence and independence of the counties. It is very important that we should have a distinct idea of the views of Her Majesty's Government. and the right hon. Gentleman entered into such details that there can be no doubt upon the subject. The Chancellor of the Exchequer observed that I wanted to enfranchise all unrepresented boroughs having a population above 5,000, and to eliminate thereby from the counties their intelligence and independence. Now, let me state, in the first place, that there never was a man so silly, not even one of those Members whom the hon. Member for Westminster says are celebrated for their peculiar mental conformation, who would wish to give Members to all unrepresented towns, from Burnley with its 30,000 inhabitants to little Ware with its 5,000. No one can for a moment believe I proposed it. Still, for the sake of argument, I will assume that that was my policy, and that I am going to solve the difficulty as to the representation of the landed interest by this great scheme of enfranchising all unrepresented towns above 5,000 in population. We have a Return on the table giving the names and population of the unrepresented towns in England with a population above 5,000, and it will be found that their population amounts to a little more than 1,000,000, so that if you deduct that number from the 11,500,000 of the county population you will still leave for the county population half the English people. But I want to know what becomes of the surplus over the farmers and farm labourers. We have Returns on the table of the number of farmers and farm labourers and members of their families, and of all the persons otherwise connected with the cultivation of the soil, arable, pasture, and woodland, and even of all those engaged in horticulture, the total amounting to 2,000,000, which if you deduct from 10,500,000 will leave 8,500,000 still unaccounted for. Now, what I complain of is that those Gentlemen who charge me with eliminating the people of England from the counties have, it appears, based their calculations so that they do not account for 8,500,000, and thus eliminate 8,500,000 from the counties. Besides the unrepresented towns from Burnley to Ware, with a population above 5,000, there are 500 towns in England with a population under 5,000. There is a scattered, or technically speaking, a village population in the counties of upwards of 9,000,000, as 1908 numerous as the whole population of the represented towns, while there are as many trades and manufactures in the counties as in the towns. There may not be for special industries those great aggregates of wealth and skill which you may find at Manchester and Leeds, but you may see even in the rural districts similar establishments not less important and powerful than any in those great cities. You have besides a great many manufactures which are almost peculiar to the country districts. The silk manufacture prevails there almost to a greater extent than in the towns. Paper is manufactured in the country. Leather is chiefly manufactured there. There is great mineral development in rural districts; all quarrying is carried on in the country. You have fifty branches of active industry peculiar to the country. You have a greater number of the professional classes residing in the country than in the towns. The counties contain more lawyers, more Dissenting ministers, and as for the clergy, who, irrespective of their special calling, constitute as territorial proprietors one of the most powerful classes in the kingdom, it is in the counties they are most numerous, and it is only by the county Members that they are represented in this House; yet we have notwithstanding all this a Government which comes forward and contends that my plan is to represent the unrepresented towns by a process in accordance with which all the population will be eliminated from the counties except the farmers and farm labourers, who amount to 2,000,000 out of 10,500,000. How, I would ask, can men with such views and convictions as I have described settle with any propriety and success the county franchise?
But then the Chancellor of the Exchequer replies, "It is all very well; you go off on your unrepresented towns, which may amount only to 1,000,000; but you forget the boundaries." Well, all I have heard in this debate convinces me that so far from being a waste of time, it has been extremely profitable, not merely to ordinary Members, but even to Ministers of State. All that I have heard on this question of boundaries has only confirmed me in my original impression, that it is a part of the subject with which we ought to deal vigorously and efficiently, and that it is perfectly monstrous that one-half of the town population of Halifax should be included in the county constituency. I do not believe there is any difference of opinion 1909 with the Government or the country generally on this point, and I think that it is only the difficulty of the subject which prevents us from proceeding with it. But its very difficulty makes it only the more necessary that statesmen should deal with the subject efficiently. But suppose you were to deal with it efficiently, and that you were to represent those of the unrepresented towns which ought to be represented, you might reduce the population of the counties about 1,500,000, The Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was putting the case as much as he could against my view, and indulging in all the exaggeration of a rhetorical estimate, did not place it at more than 2,000,000. And what is the result? You still leave in the county population nearly 10,000,000—that is one-half of the English people. Adjust your boundaries, enfranchise your more important unrepresented towns, and you will still leave in the counties a population of 10,000,000 represented by only 162 Members. Is that a state of affairs which can last? I say the moral is that you must not meddle with your borough system unless you are prepared to take into view these important considerations. The landed interest, which hon. Gentlemen opposite persist in calling the agricultural interest—a phrase which I never used in the whole course of my life—the landed interest in the proper sense of the term—that is, the land with all its various products, all its accumulated capital, and all its classes—that interest with 10,000,000 of population, even after all these changes, will be represented by only 162 Members, plus the number which you are going to add by your Bill. That, I repeat, is a system which it is impossible can last. As far as the power of the landed interest is concerned, it would, no doubt, profit by direct representation. Every interest profits by direct representation, which gives it more vigour and, in every sense, more power. But there are other considerations which must influence us besides that of absolutely conferring on the landed interest the amount and character of representation which they require, and among those considerations are the wish to avoid unnecessary change, and the great advantage of adhering to a system which is hallowed by tradition and prescription. All those we acknowledge; but if you choose to destroy that system—if you choose to tamper with it, it is absolutely essential that you should offer some substitute and devise some 1910 means by which the landed interest should be adequately represented. And you cannot get off by these views expressed night after night, and week after week, by the Government describing the population of counties—after justice has been done by arranging boundaries and enfranchising some unrepresented towns—by describing one-half of the English nation as a mere collection of farmers and farm labourers. Your own statistics—your own authentic records on the table confute the superficiality and error of such views and such statements. And it must be met. And when the Chancellor of the Exchequer comes down and rises in his place and warns us that unless we adopt the measures of the Government we must take the consequences and may rue the consequences of our conduct, it is our duty to come forward and moderate his anger, and put our case before him and ask him to deal with these facts and statements, the accuracy of which no one can dispute. And instead of hurrying on a piece of legislation which every one must feel, after such a statement as I have just made, is entirely immature, wanting in every respect in prescieuce and preparation, I think, instead of doing that, he ought to have availed himself of the friendly counsel of the noble Earl the Member for Chester, and have taken the earliest opportunity to reconsider and reconstruct his measure. I see myself no objection whatever to the Amendment which has been moved by the hon. and gallant Member for Wells, and so far as I could follow the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer the Amendment is conceded. I understand that the Chancellor of the Exchequer does not for a moment insist upon the system of grouping which the universal opinion of the House and the general sentiment of the country has criticized and condemned. The noble Earl the Member for Chester has thought proper to express an opinion on the Bill of the Government. I am far from differing from him in that opinion. I, perhaps, should not have ventured to express it in so uncompromising a manner. An expression of that kind coming from me might be misinterpreted, but coming from the noble Lord it will, I should hope, break with the force of truth upon the conviction of the House and the conscience of the country. But what surprised me most was the reason which the noble Lord the Member for Chester urged for not at once terminating the course of a measure so pernicious, according to his account, as that proposed by 1911 the Government for the representation of the people. The noble Lord says it is the critical state of foreign affairs that influences him, and that he cannot take upon himself the responsibility of dislodging Lord Clarendon from the Foreign Office. Now, I very much regret that the name of Lord Clarendon has been introduced into this debate. Certainly, I should not have introduced it myself, and I should have been willing to limit my observations to the subject of our borough representation and its influence upon our county representation, which is much more congenial to my mind at the present moment. But I cannot allow such an observation as he has made upon a public man of the importance of Lord Clarendon to pass unchallenged. The character of Lord Clarendon is brought forward by the noble Lord the Member for Cheater as a reason why he should not oppose on every occasion, or on subsequent occasions, a Bill which he believes so improper, nay, so pernicious, as the measure introduced by Her Majesty's Government. Any man who occupies the position of Lord Clarendon, a Secretary of State invested with the management of our Foreign Affairs, no doubt often finds himself in very difficult positions. The difficulties of such a Minister may be dealt with in his Cabinet, or he may experience them in Congresses and Conferences. The Minister of State who has to manage the Foreign Affairs of a country may find himself in the painful and difficult position of having, if possible, to prevent war. That is a great occasion, demanding a man's utmost energies and resources. Well, if he is the Minister of a country which is not prepared to go to war, I do not think he can be blamed if he fails to prevent war from taking place; but if he be the Minister of a first-rate country, of a country like England, who wishes to prevent war, and is prepared to act to prevent it, and fails in that object, then I say he has shown a great want of resource and of those qualities which a man in his position ought to possess. ["Oh, oh!"] That, certainly, was the position of Lord Clarendon during the Crimean War. He had the power of England at his back, yet he failed to prevent war. I think he might have succeeded in preventing it; his whole course until war broke out was a scene of disaster. Let us now look to the time Lord Clarendon was in Conference and Congress. [Cries of "Question!"and "Order!"] I say let us look at Lord 1912 Clarendon in Conference, because we have been told by one of the principal Members of this House, or at least one who has taken a leading part in the matter now before it, that his conduct is entirely influenced by his conviction that it is his duty to help to retain Lord Clarendon in power as the administrator of our foreign affairs. I say again, if in a Congress he is Minister of a country which is not prepared to enforce its decrees, it would be ungenerous to blame him if he fails in the object of his negotiations. But Lord Clarendon was the Minister of a triumphant and victorious country at a Congress, and what did be do there? Why he favoured an arrangement with regard to the boundaries of the Turkish Empire so ignominious after our triumphant struggle, that it required all the energy and exertions of Lord Palmerston himself to prevent its being carried into execution. Lord Clarendon, the Minister of a triumphant country at a Congress, forfeited all the maritime rights of England. He consented at a Congress to enter into a conspiracy to put down the free press of Europe. ["Oh, oh!"] At a Congress he deserted Circassia, which had every claim upon us. Circassia's case was introduced to the notice of this House by my noble Friend near me; she has ceased to exist as a nation in consequence of the conduct of Lord Clarendon at that Conference. Therefore, when the name of Lord Clarendon is brought forward as a reason why the noble Lord the Member for Chester is prepared to give his vote in favour of a measure which he denounces as pernicious, I am apt to doubt the discretion of the noble Lord in that respect. The right hon. Gentleman opposite ended his speech with a solemn protest against our conduct. It seemed to me that, as he went on, he could scarcely make good his ground, while he enforced with the fire of his eloquence charges against us which had no foundation. The right hon. Gentleman must feel that the reason that this measure has not advanced as he expected, and as he fondly hoped it would, originates in the essential character of the measure which he has introduced to Parliament. It was illadvised, and it was ill-prepared, and when it was first introduced no one was more of that opinion, I believe, than the right hon. Gentleman himself. He spoke then with bated breath, he had a downcast glance, and he has subsequently taken up the case and done justice to it. Gerard Hamilton—"single speech Hamil- 1913 ton"—once a Member of this House, speaking of Mr. Burke, who was then his private secretary, said—Whenever he took up an opinion, whatever might be the circumstances or the cause that he adopted it, he had so ductile an imagination that before he had talked long about it he fervently believed it.Well, the right hon. Gentlemen will not be offended with me if I compare him, at least in that respect, with Mr. Burke. The right hon. Gentleman, however, has also sometimes the advantage of a facility of forgetfulness. I do hope that the good sense of the House of Commons will allow this question to be adjourned till next Session ["Oh, oh!"], in order that Her Majesty's Government may make themselves masters of the question before it comes forward again; that they will not believe that the landed interest, when the unrepresented towns are enfranchised, and the boundaries are arranged, consist only of farmers and farm-labourers; and that they will recollect that they will have to deal even then with half the people of England, so that they will be prepared to come forward on a subsequent occasion with a measure which will be more adequate to the occasion, and more calculated to give content and satisfaction to the people of this country.
§ CAPTAIN HAYTER
said, he rose to ask a Question of Her Majesty's Government after the direct appeal made to him by the noble Lord the Member for Chester. That appeal was the more deserving of attention from him inasmuch as it was contained in a speech which, as far as he could understand it, was much more condemnatory of the Government scheme than was the Amendment. As matters now stood his Amendment had been robbed of much of its significance by the concession of the whole point by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. ["No! no!"and "Divide, divide!"] Much more than this, whether there were any grounds for them or not, there were rumours beyond the walls of this House, and in the press, and even within the House itself, that would very materially alter the result of a division. He did not say that Her Majesty's Government had given the slightest reason for it. He appealed most to the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Chester in confirmation of that fact, and he appealed to the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to the real intentions of Her Majesty's Government. ["Divide!"] He 1914 felt certain that the measure would not be proceeded with in its present form in the present Session, and, therefore, he had the less reluctance in withdrawing the Amendment of which he had given notice. ["Oh!"and "Divide, divide!"]
§ LORD ELCHO
Sir, I shall not trespass long upon your patience; but, as one of the aboriginal Adullamites, I claim the indulgence of the House for a very few moments. [Cries of "No !" "Bar, bar !" "Chair!"] I claim this indulgence, and I hope hon. Gentlemen below the gangway—for the interruptions came, I think, exclusively from that part of the House—will, when I appeal to their sense of fairness, allow me to say a few words. I ask that indulgence because our position as aboriginal Adullamites is somewhat peculiar. Our David has left our Cave and made friends with Saul, for this night at any rate. Now, any one who listened, as I did, with very great pleasure, to the speech of my noble Friend—a most able speech, most effectively delivered—must have preserved this idea—that if we go to a division the body of my noble Friend will go into the lobby with the Government, but his heart still remains with the opponents of the measure, ["Oh!"] For he denounced the policy of the Government in every possible way; he objected to the provisions of the Bill, and he even went the length of prophesying not only what his own course would be with regard to it, hut what the eventual fate of the Bill must be. He said this is a Bill so ill-constructed and so ill-matured that it will not, and cannot pass, and he stated further that in Committee he would oppose it "tooth and nail." That was my noble Friend's expression. The only reason my noble Friend gave for voting with the Government was that he did not wish to bring about a change of Government at this particular time, and that reason actuated him—not that he had any confidence in the Government with reference to their conduct on the question of Reform, for upon that point he said he had no confidence—but his reasons arose, as was said by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, from his confidence in Lord Clarendon. As one of the aboriginal Adullamites, I desire to express my opinion that the division under these circumstances will be a division taken upon a false issue, that it will be no test as to the real feelings of the House upon the question as to whether the Bills of the Government are matured or well-considered, 1915 and whether their proceedings, taken as a whole with reference to the question of Reform, are such as to merit the confidence of the House. The division will not give the country a fair test of what our feelings are, and I for one rejoice that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wells proposes to withdraw his Amendment. I rejoice at this, because I for one have no desire to embarrass Her Majesty's Government. ["Oh, oh!"] I am not aware that I have differed so much as hon. Gentlemen appear to think from the course pursued by my noble Friend the Member for Chester. Had there been a division I was prepared to have voted against the Government; but why? As a protest against the hasty, inconsiderate way in which they proposed to legislate on this question. It is not because I am hostile to the Government that I have adopted this course. It is because I am opposed to legislating upon this vital question upon incomplete information and untrustworthy data, and because I am opposed to legislating upon this subject in haste. I think that the recommendation of my noble Friend is a wise one, and I trust that the Government will withdraw their Bill for the present Session—["Oh, oh!"]—and not sacrifice their friends by persevering with what I regard as an impossible measure.
§ Many hon. Members crying "No,"
§ MR. SPEAKER
The original Question was, "That I do now leave the Chair;" since which an Amendment has been moved to leave out all the words after the word "That," in order to add the words—This House, although desirous that the subjects of the franchise and of the re-distribution of seats should be considered together, is of opinion that the system of grouping proposed in the present Bill for the Re-distribution of Seats is neither convenient nor equitable, and that the scheme of Her Majesty's Government is not sufficiently matured to form the basis of a satisfactory measure.The Question that I have to put is, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
And many hon. Members crying "Aye !" and some "No !" Mr. SPEAKER said, that in his opinion the Ayes have it.
Whereon some hon. Members crying, "The Noes have it!" Mr. SPEAKER again put the Question; and many hon. Members crying "Aye!" and some "No!" Mr. 1916 SPEAKER again declared that in his opinion the Ayes have it.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bills considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Chairman do report progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.)
§ Some hon. Members crying "No!" Mr. SPEAKER put the Question again; and some hon. Members again crying "No!" and others for a division; The Committee divided;—Ayes 403; Noes 2: Majority 401.
§ House resumed.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Thursday.
§ MR. LOWE
Mr. Speaker, I wish to call attention to a point of order. I wish, if I may be allowed, to call attention to the scene that has just taken place—a scene regrettable at any time, hut more especially considering the importance of the measure before us. I can state very little of it, for very little did I see of it; but what I wish to state is that, in common with a great many other Members, I left the House, being unwilling to force a division on a Motion which an hon. Member was anxious to withdraw. Having left the House, many of us, when the Motion had been disposed of, endeavoured to return, but we found it physically impossible to enter the House. What passed inside the House I cannot say, but when, with the greatest exertion, I and other Gentlemen forced our way in we found we had no opportunity of discussing this important measure, which we had wished to do on the question of your leaving the Chair. We found the House in Committee, and that a Motion for reporting Progress had been proposed. I wish, Sir, to have your opinion whether it is right, and whether it is a precedent that ought to be tolerated in this Assembly, that hon. Members should be debarred, without any fault of their own, and by actual physical violence ["Oh, oh!"] from discharging their duties as Members of this House. I have stated my own experience, perhaps other Members will state theirs, and I think it is very hard that any Member, by no fault of his own, should be debarred by obstacles abso- 1917 lutely insuperable from re-entering the House to discharge his duty.
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
stated, in corroboration of what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne, that when he and many other Members came back they were met by a rush like that at a minor theatre—a rush that would have been disgraceful even at such a place. It was with great difficulty that he and others forced their way in, and they then found the House in Committee.
§ MR. HADFIELD
said, that if hon. Members had left the House it was their own fault. There was a chance of a division, and they ran away.
§ MR. ONSLOW
said, that before the division, in going out of the House, he found himself absolutely carried back by the rush in the contrary direction.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
asked whether it was consistent with the practice of the House for the decision of the Speaker on the question of the Amendment being withdrawn to be challenged by hon. Members, whom he could name, who were supporters of the Government, and had hitherto been supporters of the Bill. A large portion of the House left in order to avoid being forced into a division on a false issue, and it was entirely in consequence of the extraordinary course taken by Members whom he could name, [Cries of "Name!"] He could give the names if the House wished. ["No, no !"]
§ MR. DARBY GRIFFITH
bore testimony to the extreme inconvenience which had occurred on this occasion. He had had an important Amendment on the paper from the earliest moment, which would occupy as much time as any of the discussion that had already taken place, He was now deprived of that opportunity. He could name, but he would refrain from doing so, those hon. Members who had falsely given their voices in order to force a division. ["No, no!"and" Name!"] He should decline doing so. ["Oh, oh !"]
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had not lost the opportunity of bringing forward his Amendment, because, by the rules of the House, he would 1918 have been precluded from doing so after the Motion for going into Committee was agreed to. He might, however, have raised the question on the Motion for Adjournment. The complaint made by his right hon. Friend (Mr. Lowe) of the scene outside the House raised the presumption that there was some organized plan on the part of some hon. Members to offer obstruction to those attempting to re-enter the House. [Mr. LOWE: No, no !] He was very glad to hear a disclaimer of any intention to impute such conduct as this, and he thought that very few Gentlemen in the House had not often experienced the same difficulty, especially when, as in this instance, the House was exceedingly full, and large numbers of persons had occasion to quit it in a way not often seen. The greatest care was taken that the question, instead of being taken as a mere adjunct to the Motion, should be read with great deliberation by the Speaker, and he noticed that there remained in the House a considerable number of hon. Gentlemen on the oilier side, including the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Walpole), whom he thought might have been fairly trusted to take objection to the Main Question of the Speaker leaving the Chair.
§ SIR MATTHEW RIDLEY
said, he was among those who went out of the House, and he was not even aware that any division had been called, or any Motion made, inasmuch as the entrance to the House was entirely obstructed.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
said, it was true that many hon. Gentlemen had remained on the Opposition Benches, but in the confusion and the hurry and the surprise of the moment they did not remember that the hon. Member (Mr. Darby Griffith) had a Motion.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I will first answer the question put by the hon. Member for Devizes on a point of order. If there had been no disturbance, and everybody bad remained in their places, it would not have been competent to the hon. Member to have moved his Amendment. The only opportunity that the hon. Member had of moving it would have been in the first instance on the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Bouverie) that the two Bills should be referred to the same Committee, to which proposal any hon. Member might have objected. If any Member objected to that proposal, the second Bill—that for the Re-distribution of Seats— 1919 must have been postponed, and that would have offered an opportunity to the hon. Gentleman of moving his Amendment. I mentioned this to hon. Gentlemen who spoke to me on the subject, that there was a Standing Order to the effect in the case of two Bills being referred to the same Committee if any Gentleman had an Amendment to move on one of them, fearing he should be precluded in moving it, he would have the power of objecting to it; but after the House had agreed to refer the two Bills to the same Committee, and an Instruction had been carried, then no Amendment could be moved but one. That was the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Member for Wells, and the House having decided that I should leave the Chair, the opportunity for moving any other Amendment had gone by. As to the second objection of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne, it appears to have referred to what occurred before I left the House, while I was present in the Chair, and therefore I am able to speak to it. It is true some Gentleman said the "Noes" have it, and the House will remember that I put the Question several times in order that every Gentleman might have time to deliberate, and ultimately no objection having been made, and the House agreed unanimously, I said "The Ayes have it." Therefore no inconvenience did result from those who intended to vote with the "Ayes" crying out that the "Noes" have it. But as this is the first occasion of such an occurrence to the present House, and as this is a new House, I may inform hon. Members that any Gentleman who has first given his voice with the "Ayes," and then said that the "Noes" had it, in order to force a division, does an irregular and unparliamentary thing. And anybody who has given his voice with the "Ayes" when the Speaker, in conformity with that, has declared "The Ayes have it," challenges that decision of the Speaker, and says "the Noes have it," would have to vote with the "Noes." Subsequently, there was some confusion from the large numbers leaving the House. I gave all the time that was possible before putting the Question. The Question was then put, and on the second occasion it was accepted unanimously that the "Ayes" had it. There was no precipitation at all when putting the Question that I now leave the Chair. Many Members remained in the Opposition seats. It was perfectly competent for any Gentleman to have challenged 1920 the decision, and to have produced an adjournment of the debate. I wished to give every one time and opportunity for so doing, but the decision was not challenged. With regard to the difficulty experienced by Members desiring to return to the House, no doubt, with such considerable numbers in a single doorway, there must have been difficulty, but as regards the proceedings in this House nothing could be more regular and in order.