§ Order of the Day for the Consideration of the Lords' Amendments read.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Sir, I rise for the purpose of moving that the House proceed to consider the Amendments made by the House of Lords in the Representation of the People Bill, sent down to this House on Tuesday last. I think I may congratulate the House—considering that the Bill is one of the highest political importance, and the most comprehensive measure of the kind ever passed by this House—on the fact that in the Amendments which I am now asking it to consider I cannot find that the House of Lords has challenged any of the principles upon which that measure is founded. This circumstance very much diminishes the difficulty which this House must at all times feel in considering and criticizing Amendments which may be made by the other House of Parliament, the matters dealt with being rather those of detail than of principle. In dealing therefore with the Amendments which have been made in the other House, we may come to the consideration of these Amendments without bias, and in that spirit of prudent but dignified conciliation which at all times it is advisable to cherish between the two branches of the Legislature. I would illustrate what I have endeavoured to express in describing the Amendments made by the other House of Parliament by referring to what may be deemed the main principle and the most important provision of the Bill before us—namely, that relating to the extension of the franchise. All will agree with me that, important as may be many of the other provisions of the Bill, the most characteristic and considerable feature is that which extends the suffrages of the people. Upon that subject—with one exception of an unimportant character — the House of Lords has accepted our provisions. That exception is the clause relating to the copyhold vote, upon 1109 which there was much controversy in this House, followed by a division, in which the policy recommended by the Government was not accepted by this House. The House of Lords has reversed that decision, but in no other respect has it altered the provisions fixing the qualification which should confer the franchise, In considering those provisions in Committee the House of Lords had in the first instance altered the qualification of the lodger. A noble Lord proposed that the lodger's qualification should be doubled. Another noble and learned Lord proposed, by way of compromise, that it should be placed at the figure of £15, and that proposal was carried by a large majority. It may be thought ungracious on my part to advert to that instance, considering the subsequent decision of the House of Lords with regard to the question. But in recalling that incident to the consideration of the House I am influenced by no wish to make an ungracious observation. I do it rather because I think this House may draw from the final determination of the House of Lords in that instance an inference which deserves appreciation and respect. I cannot but recognize the candid and spontaneous manner in which the House of Lords, after becoming more intimately acquainted with what had occurred in this House upon the question of the lodger franchise, proceeded to re-consider their determination, and resolved to confirm the decision which had been come to by this House, as a desire on the part of the House of Lords to show a cordial and confiding feeling in the decision of this House, and, as far as it lay in their power, to act in unison with the House of Commons. I rejoice that their Lordships took that course, and took it in a manner so consistent with the true dignity of their House. I feel that had they adhered to their original resolution it would have been a source of perplexity and embarrassment to us, for I cannot believe that this House would have consented to depart from its original Resolution, and I could not have recommended it. I trust that in dealing with the Amendments their Lordships have made we may reciprocate that cordiality and spirit of conciliation. Of the Amendments set down for our consideration this evening there are only three to which I would call particular attention. The first is the rejection of Clause 5 of the Bill sent up from this House, which reduced the 1110 amount of the copyhold qualification as settled by the Reform Act of 1832. The decision by which that clause was inserted by the House of Commons was arrived at after a division, and in opposition to the opinion of the Government. It was thought, on the part of Her Majesty's Government in this House, that it was on the whole unwise and unnecessary to interfere with the copyhold suffrage as settled by the Act of 1832. The House of Lords, expressing the same opinion, has rejected clause 5 by a large majority. It is their opinion that the copyhold and leasehold franchise as settled by the Reform Act should not be departed from. Her Majesty's Government are of opinion that it would be advisable that the House of Commons should accept the Amendment of the House of Lords in that respect, and when the occasion arises I will move to that effect. There are two other Amendments which do not trench on the provisions of the Bill as to the extension of the franchise. The first inserts a new clause and the second re-introduces a clause which was in the Bill as originally offered for the consideration of this House by the Government, and was, after deliberation, rejected by this House. Both these clauses refer to the same subject—namely, the mode in which a constituent should exercise and register his franchise. The first clause inserted by their Lordships provides that at a contested election for any county or borough represented by three Members, no person should vote for more than two candidates; and this is followed by another provision, which applies to the particular circumstances of particular constituencies. This proposal was opposed on the part of Her Majesty's Government in the House of Lords with all the authority that a Government can fairly exercise over a deliberative assembly; but it was carried by an overwhelming majority. I must confess that it was almost unanimously carried by the House of Lords, because when the minority was told I observed that it consisted almost entirely of the Members of the Administration. Considering the spirit of cordiality with which the House of Lords has met the suggestions of this House, Her Majesty's Government think that this almost unanimous expression of opinion on the part of the House of Lords should be deferred to. Although Her Majesty's Government on principle opposed that proposal, and although I do not say that I approve it, still in deference to the 1111 spirit of compromise and conciliation in which this Bill has been carried through the other House, without the exercise of which it is impossible to believe the Bill could ever have arrived at its present state, it seems to me prudent and becoming to support the clause which their Lordships have introduced. The third point to which I wish particularly to call the attention of the House is the clause which was omitted in this House from the Bill as proposed by the Government, and inserted by a large majority in the House of Lords. I refer to the privilege of the constituency in polling by voting papers. It would be inconvenient, especially at this moment, to enter into the merits or demerits of that proposal. The House has had an opportunity of debating it, and, if necessary they may debate it again. It is a subject on which, as was frankly admitted, not only by the Government but by many independent Members of this House, when we introduced it, opinion is much divided. It is a course on which much may be said on both sides. It cannot be denied, in considering its claims, that it is a measure which, if adopted, must lead to a very great increase of the constituencies. There is no doubt that many classes who do not now record their votes would record them if this system of polling-papers were admitted. The experience of the system in other electoral matters has shown that it gives opportunity for a larger expression of public opinion than can otherwise be obtained. On the other hand, I freely admit the force of the objection, that personation and corruption might be produced. But it should be recollected that corruption and personation exist at present. It does not follow because this system is likely, in the opinion of some, to favour personation and corruption that the amount of personation and corruption would be greater than that which at present prevails. But on this point of personation and corruption, and on other matters connected with the exercise of the franchise in this mode, I would call the attention of the House to this fact. The House of Lords, in re-introducing this clause for the employment of voting papers has accompanied it with a number of regulations evidently drawn with much thought and labour, in which all possible abuses of this mode of exercising the suffrage are contemplated and provided against. This scheme of polling by voting papers was discussed in this House upon 1112 the original Bill, and was defeated by a respectable, but still a moderate majority. It was carried in the other House of Parliament, Accompanied by this elaborate scheme of exercising the franchise, by a very considerable majority. Under these circumstances Her Majesty's Government will feel it their duty to recommend the House to accept the Amendment of the Lords. There are several other points on which differences of opinion may arise as we proceed to consider the Amendments, but there are none that involve any principle of importance. Generally speaking, I should say, of these Amendments, that they are prudent and proper, and I believe the House will feel that it is for the interest of the country that they should be adopted. Any, upon which a difference of views may prevail, we shall have the opportunity of considering as we go on. Before I sit down I would again impress upon the House the anxiety of the Government that in discussing the Amendments the House will bring—as I feel sure will be the case—to the consideration of these Amendments an impartial and conciliatory spirit. We must recollect that we have now passed through both Houses of Parliament, with the exception to of this final stage, a measure very largely increase the popular rights and privileges, and that we have received from the other House of Parliament no vexatious or prejudiced opposition. It was not always so. It is in the memory of some that when measures of this character went up to the other House of Parliament they have been met sometimes with eloquent invective, sometimes in a spirit of stately, I will not say of sullen, reserve. Nothing of that kind has occurred in the present instance. Although there has been no suppression of opinion in that assembly, although many noble Lords have expressed even with severity their opinions on many provisions of this Bill, it cannot be denied that the House of Lords have addressed themselves to the discussion of this measure in a frank spirit, and in a dignified manner. They have brought to the consideration of it adequate intelligence and great candour. They have considered it with an anxious desire to co-operate with the House of Commons in what they hope may prove a settlement of the most important political question of the day. I am sure that this House will reciprocate the sentiment of cordial and confiding sympathy which has been shown by the House of Lords towards them in the consideration of this measure. 1113 With that hope and belief I now offer for their consideration the Amendments of the other House of Parliament.
I hope the House will be disposed to waive any general discussion of these Amendments. I think it quite right and proper that the right hon. Gentleman should describe the course which the Government intend to take with respect to what he considers the principal Amendments made by the House of Lords. For my own part I would not have said a word upon the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, except for the very earnest and reiterated appeals which he has made to the House, including, of course, this side of the House, to recognize in the Amendments made by the House of Lords to this Bill the existence of a highly satisfactory and conciliatory spirit. I admit that the right hon. Gentleman deserves considerable credit for taking that view of the Amendments of the House of Lords, inasmuch as those Amendments included one relating to the question of what is called the representation of minorities, upon which I, for one, was extremely glad to have in this House the right hon. Gentleman for my Leader. Upon that question the right hon. Gentleman made not only a very able speech, but a speech delivered with the animation of real earnestness. I speak with perfect sincerity when I say—I have no right whatever to blame him, and I do not blame him—that it must have cost him much to recede from the opinions he then expressed. As regards those sitting on this side of the House who followed him on that occasion, all I shall say is, I hope he will on the present occasion allow us to observe a respectful silence with regard to attempting any general description of the character of the Amendments made by the House of Lords. There were some of us so sanguine as to hope that Amendments which on this side of the House were very generally desired, and were thought quite necessary to the perfection of the Bill—I mean Amendments relating to the re-distribution of seats—would have found favour with the House of Lords. But nothing of the sort has appeared. We are given to understand that all Amendments of that description were steadily declined, with a declaration that, whatever their merits, it would be an interference with the Bill as settled by the House of Commons to introduce them. Of course, if the majority of this House think that the Bill was settled by the House of Commons 1114 in a manner satisfactory to that majority, to them there is a very fair appeal. But there are, at any rate, many of us who think that settlement was unsatisfactory, and who took every opportunity of resisting it by our speeches and by our votes. Hence, we cannot warm ourselves up to the point of enthusiasm urged by the right hon. Gentleman as to the wise and conciliatory spirit of the House of Lords with regard to these Amendments, when we find that this argument respecting interference with the Bill as settled by the House of Commons, and the authority of the House of Commons to determine points connected with its own constitution, was summarily got rid of, and did not at all weigh either on conscience, understanding, or upon voting power. Whenever Amendments were proposed which were deemed in the Upper House, and are, I think, deemed in this House to be, of a reactionary character — such Amendments — as those with regard to voting papers, or relating to lodgers—were freely adopted. Happy as I am at the result—in the case of the lodger franchise — ultimately attained, I do not think the right hon. Gentleman was discreet in urging us to a discussion on the subject. My regard for the privileges and dignity of the House of Lords leads me to believe that the less said about the matter the better. I cordially rejoice to think that we have got rid of one most formidable subject of discussion, and I feel bound to applaud the courage and decision shown by Lord Derby at a critical moment with respect to a point of great importance. Having said so much, it may be permitted to us to pass over that portion of the subject which relates to a general verdict, whether of approval or otherwise, of the House of Lords. Time is valuable; and at this moment we ought by all means in our power to narrow the field of discussion. We should, therefore, I think, accept the invitation of the right hon. Gentleman, and, without further comment, proceed with the consideration of these Amendments.
§ Lords' Amendments considered.
§ [Bill 302.] (The Page and Line refer to the Bill (227) as printed by the Lords.)
§ Clause 3 (Occupation Franchise of Voters in Boroughs).
§ Line 10. After ("all") insert ("Poor.")
§ Line 11 and Line 12. Leave out ("for the Relief of the Poor.")1115
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, that the Amendment though apparently only a verbal and trivial one, really was an alteraion of serious magnitude, and he should move that the House should disagree to it. This Amendment must be construed in connection with the Amendment introduced in the other House in the interpretation clause, namely, that—Where a Borough Rate or County Rate is levied as a separate Rate, and not paid out of the Poor Rate, the term 'Poor Rate' shall, for the purposes of the Franchises conferred by this Act, be deemed to include such Borough Rate or County Rate.He had hoped that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have given an explanation of the meaning to be atttached to the words "poor rate" in the Bill. In many cases it would include the rates levied for lighting, paving, &c., of the borough; in fact, the borough rates. The present voters were only called upon to pay the poor rates, and it was undesirable that a fresh condition of pa3'ing these additional rates should be imposed upon the new voters. The words inserted in the present clause were copied from the Reform Act, and he thought that the principle of that Act in respect to the definition of the word rates should be followed, because to adopt the Amendment of the Lords in the interpretation clause would place the new voters in quite a different position to those who occupied £10 houses. The effect of the Lords' Amendment would be that it would virtually disfranchise hundreds of voters. It was to be remembered that the county rate was very often not more than ¼d. in the pound, and it might be discovered at the last moment that that small rate had not been paid in those portions of the county which were included in the boroughs. The Amendment seemed a trivial one, but it was necessary to disagree with it in order that the House might afterwards disagree with the Amendment in the interpretation clause. In the case of Stockport an alteration of this character was of vital importance; for the borough rates stood to the poor rates as in the proportion of 2s. 6d. in the pound as to the former and 1s. in the pound as to the latter. The Amendment had passed with very slight discussion in the Upper House, and he hoped that the Government would not ask the House of Commons to agree to it. He did not believe that the House would be willing to draw the contemplated distinction between the new and the old class of voters, and he, therefore, moved 1116 that the House disagree to the Amendment.
§ MR. GATHORNE HARDY
said, that the question the hon. Gentleman had raised did not arise properly on this clause, but on the interpretation clause at the end of the Bill. If this clause was passed in the exact shape in which it had come down from the Lords, it would not at all affect the question of what the voter would be called on to pay. The hon. Member was mistaken in supposing that the borough rate included the sewage and lighting rates, it only included such expenditure as took place under the Municipal Reform Act. In all cases in which parishes were conterminous with the boroughs, and not partly in and partly out of it, these rates were levied in the poor rates. But where a parish was divided, and partly in and partly out of the borough, the borough rates were levied separately, and no doubt the Amendment might be of some importance. The object, he believed, was to put those persons who lived in parishes out of the borough in the same position as those who resided within it. That was all that was done in the Amendment on the interpretation clause. But there was nothing in the Amendment in the present clause, for he could see no difference between "poor rates" and "rates made for the relief of the poor."
§ MR. HIBBERT
said, he objected to the insertion of the words, which would place the new voters on a different footing from that on which the old ones stood. It would lead to inextricable confusion, because the revising barristers had become accustomed to the wording of the Reform Act, and they would in future have to deal with two provisions, one referring to the £10 voters, and the other referring to those below. It would lead, moreover, to great confusion in the working of this Bill. The 7th Clause abolished the practice of compounding and released the owners from their liability to be rated instead of the occupiers to the poor rates; but, if "poor rate" was to be interpreted to include borough and county rates, it followed that the practice of compounding in Parliamentary boroughs would be abolished in the case of the borough as well as of the poor rate—a result that was never intended. The 26th Clause required notice to be given by the overseer of those persons who were in arrears; but how could this be done by the overseer, who had nothing to do with the borough rate, and could not be in a position to give the 1117 required notice? As the borough rate, when levied separately, was of course collected by persons employed for the purpose by the Corporation, that notice would be impossible on the part of the overseers who possessed no lists. A difficulty of that kind would have to be surmounted by extending the meaning of the word "overseers," so as to include "collectors of borough rates." The Amendment would, if agreed to, cause in several instances confusion of this character, and necessitate alteration. He believed the Amendment had been introduced with a view to uniformity, but it certainly would have a contrary effect to that of insuring uniformity. There were many and practical difficulties in the way of the adoption of the Amendment, and he called upon the Government not to ask the House to agree to it.
§ MR. CANDLISH
said, that the Amendment which the hon. Member for Bradford asked the House to disagree with would introduce far greater anomalies than it was intended to cure. Inasmuch, too, as it would impose on the new voter an obligation which was not imposed on the old, he trusted that the Government would recognize the expediency of disagreeing with it. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary was wrong in assuming that nothing was collected under the term "borough rate" except what was collected under the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, he apprehended that the clause as it stood was right. The question that was now raised might be settled when they came to the interpretation clause.
said, that from the statements of the Home Secretary and the Attorney General it appeared that this Amendment would be futile unless the House confirmed it by an Amendment in the interpretation clause. But he inferred, from the Speeches of the Home Secretary and the Attorney General, that they considered the alteration in the interpretation clause injudicious. If so, why make an alteration in this clause for the purpose of enabling them to make that injudicious alteration in the other? The phraseology of the clause as it stood in the Bill when it left the House of Commons was in precise conformity with the phraseology of the Reform Act. Let the House adhere to the phraseology of the Reform Act, and let them not introduce distinctions in that phraseology. He believed the great bulk of the House to be anxious that the franchise 1118 to be conferred by the Bill should be given to those below £10 upon equal terms with those who enjoyed it above that amount.
MR. J. B. SMITH
said, that the poor rate and borough rate were, in the borough, which he had the honour to represent (Stockport), two distinct and separate rates, the former amounting to 1s. in the pound, and the latter to 2s. 6d. in the pound. The effect of the Amendment of the Lords would, in fact, be to disfranchise a large number of persons.
§ MR. RUSSELL GURNEY
said, he did not think the alteration would make any change in the effect of the clause as it originally stood. Still it might be well to consider the main question upon this first Amendment, and if they were to consider that question now, he confessed that he could not think it was desirable that this Amendment of the Lords should be adhered to. It had the great evil of making a distinction between those voters who occupied premises of the value of £10 and upwards, and those who occupied premises below that amount. It would, moreover, introduce anomalies much greater than any which at present existed.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that he would not press the Amendment. It was not one for which the Government were responsible; still he thought the proper time to have discussed the question would have been on the interpretation clause.
§ Lords' Amendment disagreed to.
§ Clause 4 (Lodger Franchise in Boroughs).
§ Line 29. After ("House") insert ("or being one and the same set of Chambers or Rooms not separately rated.")
§ SIR ROUNDELL PALMER
moved to disagree to the said Amendment; and said that the Amendment was introduced with the object of changing the definition of the word "lodger" as it stood in the Bill when it left that House, and of letting in, under the new definition, resident Members of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, under the idea that the House of Commons 1119 intended members of those Universities resident within the walls of colleges to vote whether they were lodgers or occupiers of dwelling-houses. He apprehended that what passed in that House did not justify any such interpretation. He would briefly remind the House of what took place. His right hon. Friend the Member for the city of Oxford (Mr. Cardwell) thought that unless certain words were introduced into the Bill, its effect might be to enable the members of the Universities residing within the walls of the Colleges, either on the footing of being held to occupy a dwelling-house, or on the footing of being held as lodgers, to obtain the franchise for the city of Oxford and the borough of Cambridge, from which they had been carefully excluded by clear words in the Reform Act of 1832. His right hon. Friend accordingly gave notice of his intention to introduce into one of the clauses of the Bill clear words so as to adhere to the policy of the Act of 1832 in that respect. The Government acceded, in the first instance, to that proposal. Other Members of the House expressed an opinion favourable to the admission of that class of persons to vote for the city of Oxford and the borough of Cambridge, provided they would have been entitled to vote under the Bill as it had been introduced. The question having been considered in a full House on the 24th June, a majority of 200 against 179 adopted the Amendment which was proposed by his right hon. Friend, and determined, with respect to the towns in which the Universities were located, to adhere to the policy of the Act of 1832, and not to throw the members of the Universities as new elements into the borough constituencies. Upon the Report, in a small House, the hon. Member for York (Mr. Lowther) renewed the question, and moved to strike out the words which his right hon. Friend had introduced. The hon. Member succeeded in carrying his Motion. But whereas on the 24th of June the question was decided one way, in a House of 379 Members; on the 12th of July that decision was reversed in a House of only 229, there being 150 more Members present on the first than on the second occasion. Although the majority was actually larger on the second occasion, yet the total number of Members who voted with the hon. Member for York was only 145, being considerably less than the minority of 179 on the 24th of June. That was not a satisfactory mode of deciding a question which, if it were not of general 1120 importance throughout the country, was of importance to the two particular constituencies of Oxford and Cambridge. In 1832 Parliament dealt only with the household and not with the lodger franchise; and, therefore, the precedent of 1832 was not of necessity applicable to the lodger franchise of 1867. The majority who voted with the hon. Member for York voted with this view:—"If the lodger franchise, as you now define it, would include these persons in Oxford and Cambridge, let them have the franchise, but do not put in words expressly to include them." He regretted that he differed from that view, but that was the view upon which the majority proceeded. Upon further consideration, however, it was ascertained in "another place" that the members of Universities resident within the walls of Colleges were neither lodgers within the definition of the Bill, nor householders, and that if it was desired to force them upon those two particular borough constituencies, a new fancy franchise must be created for the purpose. As the Bill left that House, it provided that the lodging must be part of one and the same dwelling-house. It was seen that probably that would not apply to Colleges in the Universities, and so these words were added, avowedly for the purpose of including them, "or be in one and the same set of chambers or rooms not separately rated." In support of his Motion, he must repeat to the House, as conclusive against altering the lodger franchise for the express purpose of introducing this class into the constituencies of Oxford and Cambridge, reasons which to his mind were extremely forcible in favour of excluding them, even if the definition contained in the Bill would have let them in. The Universities were not only separate corporations, but were for all practical purposes as much divided from the body of the citizens in the towns where they had their domicile, as if they were anywhere else. They had large exclusive privileges, and exercised large powers of police over the citizens. They had a distinct historical character, a separate social status, and a distinct esprit du corps. It was an accident that they were within the limits of the city and town which had the Parliamentary franchise. The creation of bad blood between the Universities and the citizens would be the infallible and necessary result of this attempt to depart from the Act of 1832, and to force upon these boroughs the resident Members of the Universities, who 1121 might be qualified under the Bill as it came from the House of Lords. Look at the inconsistency of this proceeding. Upon the same principle upon which they forced these persons upon the Parliamentary representation they ought to introduce them into the municipal corporations. But the Universities were excluded from the municipal franchise, and exempted from ordinary liability to municipal burdens, and were rated under special Acts of Parliament. The Universities were in a peculiar and exceptional position. The resident members were divided into two classes, senior and junior. As to these two classes, there were separate arguments tending in the same direction. The senior members must all belong to the Church of England. It would not be just to admit to participation in the Parliamentary and political privileges of these towns an exclusive body—deeply tinged with an ecclesiastical influence—to which all the subjects of the realm were not equally admissible. As to the undergraduates who occupied lodgings out of College, they would remain there for so short a time that their case was not worth considering. As to those within the College walls the effect of this and another Amendment would be to enable all undergraduates who were ambitions of taking part in local politics to turn themselves into local politicians, although their connection with the town or city was most transitory, and only for the purposes of education. Although they were in statu pupillari they were invited by these Amendments to qualify themselves to meddle with the town politics, and to interfere with, and overrule, the choice of representatives, by the citizens of the towns, just on the eve of leaving the Universities. He could not but think that these arguments afforded good reasons even for the re-introduction of the words which were omitted on the Report, but he was not proposing as much as that. He was only asking the House to reject Amendments which were introduced with the express purpose of making this class lodgers, when by law they would not be in such a position, thus giving them privileges which the House of Commons had not conferred upon them.
said, he would not discuss a point upon which there had been six debates in one House or the other and three divisions. It was true that the proposal of the right hon. Member for Oxford was first adopted, that after full consideration the decision was reversed, and that that 1122 reversal had been confirmed by the House of Lords. The hon. and learned Member for Richmond now asked this House to stultify itself, by taking the opportunity, upon an Amendment of the Lords, to reverse the decision at which this House had arrived, The inquiries made by the noble Lord at the head of the Government confirmed the statement he had formerly made that the highest authorities in both the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge were in favour of the proposal he had succeeded in carrying in that House. The words inserted did not apply merely to the occupants of College rooms. They would also enfranchise the occupiers of chambers let furnished in other places. He trusted that the House would not agree to the disfranchising Motion of the hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ MR. NEATE
said, he held in his hand a resolution of the town council of Oxford, declaring that the provision giving the power to resident members of the University to vote for the borough was an unjust encroachment on the rights of the inhabitants of the borough, would interrupt the friendly relations between the city and the University, and greatly prejudice the performance of the public duties they had jointly to perform. He therefore hoped that for the sake of maintaining the peace and harmony existing between the University and the city of Oxford, the House would reject the Lords' Amendment.
§ MR. SCHREIBER
said, he wished to ask the hon. and learned Gentleman whether he intended to exclude these gentlemen on the ground of the peculiar nature of their qualification, or of general policy? When the subject was last before the House the latter ground was given up. It could not be contended that educated men should be excluded from the franchise, and it was not for the House to avail itself of a legal quibble.
said, that the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Cardwell) had brought the House into the present difficulty by proposing his original Amendment which was not needed. It was not likely that members of the Universities would have voted for the boroughs as lodgers, except in very few instances. He voted against the exception which the right hon. Gentleman wished to establish. But the Lords' Amendment proposed to establish another exception against which he should also vote, as he wished things to be left to the general law. If the municipalities chose 1123 to rate the University buildings, the people who occupied them ought to have the vote under the general provisions of the Act of Parliament. He did not wish to have an exception one way or the other. Let the residents of the Universities be placed under the general law of the land, and if it would allow them to vote let them do so. He did not consider it a very important matter to let about 200 persons into a constituency of 4,000 or 5,000, and it could not be supposed they would all vote one way, for in these days such bodies were inclined to be somewhat liberal. But he did not see why a special definition should be made in order to bring in parties who under no other circumstances would have the vote as proposed.
§ Question, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment," put, and agreed to.
§ Clause 5 (Property Franchise in Counties).
§ Leave out Clause 5.
§ MR. COLVILE
moved that the House do disagree to the Amendment. He said it was not necessary for him to recapitulate all the arguments which were used when that clause was under discussion in this House. The question was ably and fully debated, and after a careful consideration of its merits the clause which he proposed was carried by a majority of 47 votes, including the votes of 13 Members on the other side of the House; his simple duty now was to ask the House to abide by its decision. He thought that the Lords' Amendment with regard to the unrepresented copyholders must have been passed under a total misapprehension of the facts of the case. It had been argued by the Peer who proposed the omission of the clause that the copyholders and leaseholders resident in small boroughs would swamp the agricultural interest in the counties; but anyone who had read the Reform Act of William must know that no copyholder or leaseholder could vote in respect of his copyhold or leasehold qualification situated in a borough provided any person voted in respect of the same property as an occupier. Therefore, by the adoption of household suffrage nearly all the copyholders and leaseholders in boroughs would be disqualified. Instead of diminishing the power of the agricultural interest, the adoption of this clause would materially increase it; and if it was desired that property should be represented, 1124 Parliament would do a great injustice by withholding the franchise from £5 copyholders and leaseholders. With what show of justice could they withhold the franchise from the £5 copyholder whose property was worth from £150 to £200, while they gave it to an occupier of £12 in the county, whose property invested in his farm might not be worth more than £50 or £60. The great fault of this Bill was, that, having lowered the borough franchise, it had not kept pace in the same direction with the county franchise. With what justice could they deny a vote to the copyholder of £9 living just outside the borough when they gave one to the occupier of a hovel inside worth 20s. or 30s. He therefore appealed to the House to give him their support, and he appealed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to give him his support. He begged to remind him that in 1859 he made the same proposal as was contained in this clause. The Bill which was brought in by himself, Lord Stanley, and General Peel, gave the copyholder of £5 a vote without any condition whatever. He begged to remind the Chancellor of the Exchequer of a speech he made on the 17th of May, in which he said he always scrupulously endeavoured to fulfil the engagements he made with the House; and in the same speech he said, the House having decided in favour of the Member for Derbyshire, "we bow to that decision." The Government having accepted his Amendment, he called upon them to keep faith with the House, and he appealed to the House with confidence to adhere to the decision it has already pronounced, and moved that the House should disagree to the Lords' Amendment.
§ MR. PEASE
said, the arguments in favour of the copyholder could not be got over. It was an act of great injustice to leave the copyholder at £10 while the freeholder was allowed to vote for a 40s. qualification. It was no question of admitting a new class to the franchise, but a question of mere justice to the copyholder, who could hardly be left at £10 when the county franchise was reduced from £50 to £12 and the borough franchise from £10 to nothing. The Amendment of the House of Lords was a most pitiful and paltry paring of the franchise against a class who deserved it as much as any other.
§ MR. HUSSEY VIVIAN
said, he had read with great attention what had passed in "another place," and he was at a loss to 1125 understand why the lowering of the franchise had been assented to in every case by the Upper House, except in that of the copyholder. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had said that evening, that with this exception the House of Lords had accepted every franchise proposed by the House of Commons. He had heard no argument in support of this petty and miserable Amendment, and he hoped the House would reject it.
§ Question, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment," put:—
§ The House divided:—Ayes 235; Noes 188: Majority 47.
§ Amendments as far as Amendment in page 5, "after Clause 8 insert Clauses A and B," disagreed to.
§ Clause A (Restriction as to Number of Votes in certain Counties and Boroughs),
I move that the House disagree with this Amendment. I was rather surprised at the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer upon this point, when I recollected the speech which he delivered when the same matter was before the House some few weeks ago. He concluded his speech by admitting that his views had not changed. That I knew without his saying it. It would be impossible for any person holding the view he held on a former occasion, and seeing the subject so clearly, to have changed his mind upon the matter. If the House will permit me—though, perhaps, I am leading a forlorn hope after the desertion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer — I will recall for a moment to the House what has taken place on this point. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe) proposed a mode of giving Members in these large boroughs to the minority which is alleged now to be unrepresented. The proposal of the right hon. Gentleman was different from that which has come down from the House of Lords; but although it is different it really has the same object, and, doing it in a different way, would have brought about the same result. [Mr. LOWE: No!] The right hon. Gentleman says "No." I do not say it would bring about the same result with the same amount of minority in any borough. But the result would have been the same. Whether you take Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, or Leeds, the scheme of the 1126 right hon. Gentleman would have given to minorities a representation in this House, which is precisely what in all probability will be done by the clause which has come down from the House of Lords. The right hon. Gentleman—and I ask hon. Members on this side of the House to bear this in mind—acting in precise accordance with the noble and learned Lord in the Upper House by whom this change was proposed, suggested his change as a corrective of the Liberal, or probably he would have said democratic character of the Bill before the House. He did not propose it as a portion of a grand scheme to give to every person in the country, whether one of a minority, or one of a majority, a representative in this House, but as a proposal made necessary by the extravagant and perilous character of the Bill the Chancellor of the Exchequer had introduced, and which has been supported with so much good-will by hon. Gentlemen on that as well as on this side of the House. That proposal was supported by the noble Lord the Member for Stamford (Viscount Cranborne) who has been perfectly consistent in everything he has done on this question, and by all those Gentlemen opposite who differ from the Government with regard to the question before the House. It was also supported by certain Members on this side who are in favour of representation of minorities—not because it is a corrective of a democratic measure, but because they think that everybody should be represented. I understood the hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. Mill) took that view. He, in a long, and very able, though, I must say, arising probably from the nature of the subject, a somewhat intricate speech, explained it as the plan proposed by Mr. Hare. But that plan is by no means a plan of representing minorities. It is a plan for representing everybody, in a way peculiar to his plan, and probably not to be accomplished by any other plan offered to the country. I think we have a right to complain of the hon. Member for Westminster and his friends, not that they are in favour of representing everybody, but that they are in favour of a proposal like this, which really does not represent everybody, but strikes off a large portion of the representative power which the population of this country enjoys; and does not effect in any degree that which my hon. Friend and his friends wish to be done by the establishment of Mr. Hare's system. It appears to me 1127 they have been taken—I want a suitable word to express my contempt for the proposal without expressing in the slightest degree anything offensive to hon. Members on this side; no man can conceive for a single moment that the hon. Member for Westminster, in the view he has taken on this question, has been actuated by any but the most honourable motives, perfectly consistent with everything he has written or said on the subject—but I say they have been taken by the phrase that in these four great boroughs you are about to give to the minorities a power which they did not possess. They therefore see in it, in some small degree, an approach to, or the admission of, a principle or of a plan which my hon. Friend and friends support, in which everybody would be represented, and such things as majorities and minorities never known. I think those Gentlemen who are in favour of Mr. Hare's plan are not in the slightest degree bound to support this plan. There is no intention at present on the part of the Government, or on the part of this House or of the House of Lords, or of any one in the country, to establish Mr. Hare's plan in this country. Carrying therefore this proposal only, or anything likely to follow this, is an unmixed injustice to the boroughs thus treated, is not likely to lead to the plan of Mr. Hare being adopted, and in all probability will create so much ill-will in a large borough to which it is applied, that we may be farther than ever from taking Mr. Hare's plan into consideration. When this question was formerly before the House of Commons the division was one of a very remarkable character. There were some Members on this side voted with some Members on the other side. There was a majority of 140 against the proposal. The Chancellor of the Exchequer made a speech on that occasion more earnest and full of feeling than any other speech he has made during the protracted discussion on this Bill. But the right hon. Gentleman now says the proposal was carried by a great majority in the House of Lords. The majority there was but 90—here it was 140. A majority so large on a matter which so particularly affects us and our constituencies—a majority of 140—is much more important in a matter of this kind than a majority of 90 in the other House. I do not recollect the precise words of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but I think he said it was a scheme to introduce into the House all 1128 sorts of crotchety people. I have no objection to crotchety people. I believe there must be all sorts of people in this House. I have never been in the House that there has not been at least one Member generally believed by the rest of the Members to be not quite strong—and excuses were made for his eccentric conduct because he was not as responsible as others. That will always be the case in the British House of Commons. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said he did not want the introduction of crotchety people, but he condemned the proposal on stronger grounds, on grounds of the highest policy and constitutional principles. The Gentlemen I see opposite, and those not before convinced—as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) was—accepted the arguments of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I cannot presume to say that they were influenced by my arguments, although I offered them with as much force as I could. I think the arguments of the Chancellor of the Exchequer were unanswerable. Then what did Lord Derby say in the House of Lords? I presume we can speak of exalted persons who from an exalted place send Amendments down here. Lord Derby said the principle was entirely unconstitutional, and that—Its mischief would only be bounded by the extent or the narrowness of its operation.I shall not pretend to have a greater reverence for Lord Derby than hon. Gentlemen opposite have; I have often thought him rash; I have often thought him unwise; and I have often had occasion during twenty-four years of political life to be in opposition to his views. But I think when he, as Prime Minister, having considered this question of Reform minutely since last Session expresses an opinion on a point of this nature so strong, backed by the opinion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and of his friends, and backed by a vote of more than 300 — I forget how many voted, but the majority was 140—I have a right to state that his opinion as Prime Minister on a matter of this nature is one we should not lightly pass by. I think hon. Gentlemen opposite, if they will bear in mind the tone of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, will feel that he adhered to his original opinion, and would have preferred that the House of Lords had not made the alteration. I think they may feel that they will only be carrying out what is for the true interest of the country 1129 and what is the true wish of the Government if they adhere to the vote they gave, when the question was before us on a former occasion. I said I thought our vote of more importance than that of the House of Lords. I do not pretend to say the House of Lords has not full power to consider this Bill and pass Amendments upon it. They have the legal and the constitutional power to do that, and we have no right to call it in question. But in a matter affecting the fundamental principles of our representation, affecting the power of our representatives—of a considerable number of the Members of this House—affecting the status of Members of this House—the opinion and vote of the House of Commons is necessarily and must be of more weight than the vote of the House of Lords. It is a question of delicacy. It is possible that the House of Lords would not enter into any contest with regard to this, and that whatever the House of Commons decided to do would be accepted with that moderation and dignity to which the right hon. Gentleman has paid—as he believes, and as I hope—so just a tribute. What is the change you are about to make? It is a fundamental change. There is no precedent for it in our Parliamentary history. You affect by it the very foundation of what I may call the constitution of your constituencies. I have said elsewhere that the alteration proposed has never been asked for. The hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), I understand, presented a Petition in favour of it from Birmingham. I am sorry it should come from Birmingham—that there should be a petition from Birmingham signed by a number of persons in favour of the change. [Mr. NEWDEGATE: 4,000!] Well, I will not dispute about numbers in regard to a town of 400,000 inhabitants. That is not an overwhelming consideration, especially as the 4,000 have just smarted from a defeat—I will not say an ignominious one, for it was not ignominious. At all events, they have not been able to seat a Member for the minority, having been outvoted by their fellow-townsmen. I am sorry that men who were unable to return their candidate for Birmingham by a fair majority should come and ask this House, in obedience to the mandate of the House of Lords, to allow him to take his seat by the votes of the minority. With the exception of that case this proposal has never been asked for by the House of Commons, by any constituency, by Petition, 1130 or at any public meeting. Never has there been a minority defeated fairly—I speak not of drink, or coercion, or bribery, and corruption — who did not accept that defeat in a fair spirit, and look forward to the time when, by the growth of their opinions and of their numbers, that minority would ultimately become a majority. For 600 years—as far as our Parliamentary annals go back, and one of the learned Clerks at the table can tell us how far they go back — the principle of Parliamentary election has been this, that the majority of the voices of a constituency to which the Writ of the Crown has issued should elect a Member or Members to sit in this House, and no others. Bear this in mind. You are urged to accept this proposal of a most important character, which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has denounced in the strongest language, of which Lord Derby says the mischief can only be bounded by the narrowness of its operation—when it has never come before the public for discussion. In all the discussions which have taken place this year or last year, at all the meetings which have been held, under roof or the open sky, there has been no debate, discussion, or consideration on the principle now offered to us in this clause as it has come down to this House. I would suggest, without unfairly urging my views, that the House of Commons should at least suspend its judgment in favour of this proposal until it has been a longer period before the country, and the constituencies have had an opportunity of considering it and making up their minds upon it. It is often said that we are not delegates; but if we are not delegates, we are not rulers. We are sent here to represent the general views of our constituents. We have morally no power to cut off the influence of those constituents — to make fundamental changes in the Constitution, and to vary, alter, and overthrow the practice of 600 years. This House is not in favour, of it; a majority of 140 voted against it. You have no moral right, therefore, to agree to such a proposal, because a House which is not representative, which has no direct influence in the matter, and no Member of which can vote for a Member of this House, or without the infringement of our rules influence a vote at his election, chooses to suggest it. It is an unintelligible and unbelievable thing that this House should under these circumstantances agree to a proposal making this 1131 fundamental change in our Constitution, and altering and crippling the power of four of the largest constituencies in the kingdom. What are these four constituencies you are asked thus to treat? I appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer; I know some of the difficulties of his position. Still he is accessible to reason, and he has been disposed to take the House very much into his confidence. If a census were taken, those four boroughs would be found to contain a population of nearly, if not quite, 1,500,000. What was done when the Bill was passing through Committee? It was proposed that an additional Member should be given to several boroughs. First of all, six boroughs were proposed for this honour. The number was afterwards limited to four. The hon. Member for Liverpool proposed three should have an additional Member. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in a moment of very good humour, got up at the table and said, "Not three, but four additional Members shall be given." He not only received the proposal handsomely but he dealt with it generously, and gave four Members to four of the largest boroughs. Look at those four boroughs. There is Liverpool, with its commercial interests, and with a port perhaps the largest in the world. Look at Manchester, with its 400,000 population, and vast manufacturing interests. Look at Birmingham, the very centre and heart of the island, also with a population of 400,000, and with interests which I need not describe, because they are well known to the House. Look at Leeds, the centre and capital of the county of York. [Mr. LEEMAN: No, no!] My hon. Friend the Member for York is quite at liberty to dispute that; still the House will not say that I have overcharged the picture in describing these four boroughs. They asked the House to grant them additional representation. They wanted more than one new Member. They said that their population was great, their interest beyond arithmetical computation, and their influence in the country large. They asked the House for greater representation. The House unanimously consented, for I will undertake to say there was as much satisfaction on that side as there was on this — when the Chancellor of the Exchequer said he would give these additional Members to the four boroughs I have named. If it were a question of minorities, I might say to my hon. Friend behind me and to 1132 others there are these 1,500,000 in those four boroughs who are now represented by eight Members only, and if this Bill passes they will have twelve Members only—I am not speaking whether they sit on that side of the House or this—I believe my opinion would be exactly the same, and just as strong, if I represented any other of the boroughs as it is representing Birmingham. As the Bill went to the Upper House these four boroughs would have twelve representatives, and when there was a great question before the country—as for example the question of the character of the administration, or the question of a further change in Parliamentary representation, or the condition of Ireland—and I might mention many other questions in which the case would arise—these twelve Members would be eight on one side of the House and four on the other, and the four on the one side would, of course, neutralize four out of the eight sitting on the other. So that, assuming party ties to be adhered to, these four boroughs with a million and a half of population would be so entirely emasculated and crippled by the proposal now submitted to the House, that only really four names would be found affecting any of those great questions to which I have referred. I do not think anybody is prepared to deny that statement. I put it the other day at Manchester in this way—that the borough of Salford, which is only part of Manchester, is to return two Members under this Bill, and that Manchester itself is to return three Members. But nothing can be more clear than this—that in all great divisions in this House henceforth, if this proposal be admitted, the voice of Manchester will be less potent than the voice of Salford. I say that is utterly at variance with all the principles of representation, and with the whole practice of the Constitution of this country. But what can the House say to these boroughs? When the Chancellor of the Exchequer accepted the proposal of the hon. Member for Liverpool, and when the House entirely agreed with him, and when these boroughs expressed the great satisfaction which they felt at the mode in which they had been treated, there was not a single syllable said that in giving these new Members you were to give them in such a manner as should not increase, but should actually diminish their power in this House. There is no case on record in the annals of Parliament in which a borough, however small in point of Members and contemptible in influence in comparision 1133 with these I have mentioned, has ever been treated in a manner so unfair, so ungenerous, and so unjust. I can speak for Manchester, and I can speak for Birmingham, and I say that the great majority of the present, and the proposed future constituents—nay, a great majority of the population of these two great towns, would have rejected, as I certainly should have voted against, the proposal that additional Members were to be given to them, if I had believed the House would only consent to give more additional Members under this crippling and injurious clause. There is one other point before I have done, and I put this to hon. Members. We have a preliminary election which is called the nomination. We have the hustings, the candidates, the electors, and the population all gathered round. The name of every candidate is submitted to the electors, and every elector who is present is called upon by the returning officer to hold up his hand in favour of the candidate of his choice. If there be no contest, and nobody demands a poll, the lifting up of the hand is made the actual and conclusive election of the Members. How are you to reconcile that constitutional practice with this unconstitutional innovation? Here is a man who can vote in Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, and Leeds at the hustings for three candidates—Three Liberals or three Conservatives—I have nothing to do with party in this matter, and I should think it contemptible to introduce a question of party into it. That man at the hustings will hold up his hand for the three candidates he wishes to be elected. When he goes to the poll should one be demanded, following out the constitutional process already began, he ought to be able to vote for all the Members to be elected, but under this system he is only to vote for two. Therefore, you establish an extraordinary and entirely novel and unconstitutional difference and discrepancy between the preliminary election at the hustings, and the subsequent and final election at the poll. What you are wanting to do is a thing which is absurd upon the face of it. You take a constituency which has always hitherto been held to be a united and compact body, and you propose that it should return two voices at one election, and that by an arrangement ordered, not by this House, but recommended by the other House of Parliament, this constituency is to speak in two voices—one end of the constituency shall be allowed to say 1134 this, and the other end shall be allowed to say that. There are jugglers whom we have seen exhibiting their clever tricks—pouring out port, champagne, milk, and water, from one and the same bottle. The proposal resembles this. The scheme is, that an electoral body, by a peculiar contrivance hitherto unknown, and I will undertake to say, if ever heard of, only despised, shall not be asked, but shall be made to do this—to return two Members to sit on this side and one on the other or vice versâ. We are told that the result will be admirable, because we shall put an end to animosities, contests, and the expenditure of elections—in fact, nothing is to be so charming as the tranquillity and good humour to prevail in all these boroughs. But look at Huntingdon. There has been the greatest tranquillity in that borough for the last thirty years. Ever since the right hon. and gallant Gentleman (General Peel) went there there has been hardly a single contest. In all that time nothing can be more admirable than the way things have been managed. But Huntingdon is not a centre of political life. If all the boroughs of England were like Huntingdon, the political life of the country would be extinguished—its freedom would be extinguished — and when once England's freedom has gone, I wonder what there would be left in the country worth preserving. One word of caution, if the House will permit me, before I close. You are about to give to many hundred thousands of your countrymen not hitherto possessing it, a vote for a representative in Parliament. Lord Derby said last night, or a night or two ago, in the House of Lords, that you were taking a leap in the dark, and he trusts somehow or other that the ground upon which you are about to alight will be soft, and that you will not be much injured. But you are admitting this number of persons who have never hitherto had a vote in boroughs, and you ought to be guided by the ancient principles of the Constitution, by those principles which have been laid down for us by our ancestors and forefathers. You want those you are admitting to the franchise to be guided by the ancient principles of the Constitution in all that they do when they have power, in order that they may not depart from that great chart which I hope in some degree they have studied, and which was laid down by our ancestors and forefathers in this House. Suppose you depart from it in this matter 1135 that we are now discussing, and introduce something entirely novel that cannot be defended by argument—for nobody in my opinion has ever attempted to defend it—the Chancellor of the Exchequer never heard of an argument about it which he thought worth answering — if you introduce something so entirely novel and so offensive, is it not possible that those who will have power after this Bill passes may think also that there are many fantastic things which they might do, and doing them would be as much justified as the House now are in doing this? When I have addressed great meetings of my countrymen I have always advised them to adhere strongly to that which is constitutionally and morally right. If they at any future time, whilst I am in Parliament or in any degree of prominence before the country, attempt to do things with regard to your class or order which I believe to be morally or constitutionally wrong, I shall be as firm in opposing them as I have been in supporting the rights which they have demanded. And I lament over the possibility of such a proposal as this being acceded to, because I am certain that it will afford an example hereafter to those who may wish to follow, not in this precise direction, but in some other direction which they may equally justify, but which may be very perilous and injurious to the country. I enter my protest against this proposal on all grounds. I enter it as one of the Members for a great constituency to which the other day you offered an additional Member, and from which you are now about to take one-half of their present political power. I say that constituency would prefer that the Member you are about to give it had been given to Keighley, St. Helens, Barnsley, or Luton, as first proposed, than that it should be given under such conditions as you now wish to impose. I saw 5,000 men only two nights ago in the Free Trade Hall in Manchester. It was not a packed meeting. Everybody in Manchester had a right to go. I believe about 1,000 paid to do so, and 4,000 or 5,000 went in free. They unanimously passed a Petition that has been presented to-night by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, and in it they prayed the House to do one of three things. They asked that either the borough might be divided as in the case of Glasgow—and why should Glasgow be in a better position as to its third Member than Liverpool, or Birmingham, or Manchester, or Leeds?—or 1136 that the majority should decide the election as at present, or, failing either of these courses, that the House should withdraw the fatal gift of an additional Member who is merely to be paired off against one of their present Members. Will you refuse that Petition? Has there ever been a case like this in the annals of the English Parliament where a great constituency besought you not to confer upon them additional representation because you were going to give it in a manner notoriously destructive of their existing political power? I say, then, as one of the Members for Birmingham, I wholly protest against this proposal. What will you do with my Colleague if I should be humiliated to sit for a borough in which I cannot say that I have been elected by the majority of the voices of the constituency? What will you say to the Member for the minority of Birmingham? Suppose we had had within the last few months three Members for Birmingham, and suppose, which is an impossible supposition, that my lamented Friend and late Colleague had been the Member for the minority. At his death there must have been a new writ issued for a Member for Birmingham. Would you, by any clause in this Bill, or in any future Bill, prevent the majority of that constituency from voting for his successor? What could you do in in such a case? Or suppose that my hon. Colleague the Member for the minority in a future Parliament, if I should be unfortunate enough to be associated with such an one, proved serviceable to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Lord Derby invited him to take a seat in his Government. Under this very Bill you have enacted that those who take certain offices shall be re-elected. But if he went down as Member for the minority of Birmingham who is to elect him. Do you think the two-thirds who support myself and Colleague would be so condescending as to return your minority Member to sit as a part of a Government to which they are opposed? The whole matter is so monstrous and so unconstitutional, that I feel that I am humiliating you or myself in discussing it. No, I am not humiliating you, because you do not believe in it—you believe in the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Well, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in one of the most impressive speeches ever made in this House—and no man speaks more impressively than he does when he speaks from his heart—opposed this scheme. You believed him, 1137 and voted with him. He thinks now as he thought then. He has followed my speech from beginning to end, and there is not a single word which he is prepared at this moment to contradict. This is not a question of mere convenience to the Government or of acquiescence with the House of Lords. The House of Lords has done what it thought right, and if you should disagree the House of Lords will consult, not only the interests of the country and the dignity of the House of Commons, but its own dignity, in acquiescing in the view you take. You are a responsible and representative body. You have powers. Though they cannot be written exactly, and though you cannot take a clause from the Constitution which shall strictly define them, you have powers that are far above the powers of the Monarchy or of the aristocracy in the House of Peers. Of those powers you cannot divest yourself. They spring from the very source of your existence, for you come from the people throughout the length and breadth of the country. You cannot and you dare not—I say you dare not—betray their rights and desert their interests. I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman will say I am speaking strongly and passionately, because I am one of the Members whose constituents are interested specially in this matter. I do not deny it. I should be ashamed of myself if I did not admit that it made some difference in the earnestness and warmth of my feelings with regard to it. But if I went out of the House to-night—and I would rather go out of it to-night than vote for this proposal or sit for a constituency as the representative of the minority—if I were to leave the House to-night and never to return to it, I should entertain the same feeling, and should express it with the same warmth and earnestness with which I submit my views at this moment to the House. May I ask the House to lift themselves just for a, moment from any narrow view of party? It is not a question of party; let us put that aside altogether. Let us not suppose for a moment that we are going to injure or aid the Government—there is nothing of that kind in it. It will be greatly to the credit of Lord Derby and of the right hon. Gentleman in regard to the historic character of their measure that it should not be defaced by a great evil like this. I am speaking in their interest as much as any can do who have supported this Bill. Let us, therefore, get rid of the feeling of party—of the feeling that we are going to vote 1138 for or against the Government. Let us get rid of all feeling except that this change has been recommended to us by the House of Lords, in which there cannot be either the same knowledge or the same interest in the matter which exists in this House. Let us look at this simply as it refers to the great body in whose names we sit and speak here. Let us look at it in reference to that grand old freedom which our fore fathers struggled for and secured, and maintained, and the advantages of which, from the day of our birth till this hour, we have been constantly enjoying. If this proposal had come before this House at the time when the great men, the giants of the English Constitution, sat in this House, they would have treated it in a manner far less decorous than we shall treat it. There is no name that appears among the great men of that day, parents of English freedom, which would not have been found among the names of those who shall this day say "No!" to the Lords' proposal.
§ Moved, "That this House do disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."—(Mr. Bright.)
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
said, he was unable to rise to the heights of democratic Toryism which had been reached by the hon. Member for Birmingham. He did not think the hon. Member would charge him with any dislike of standing in the old ways; but when new roads were made, he was not to be blamed if he sought to have them of easy gradients and smooth tunnels. The hon. Member had drawn a gloomy picture of the humiliation which would befall the borough of Birmingham if he and his present Colleague were to be unequally yoked with a Conservative or a moderate Liberal. But, if Birmingham would be humiliated by having two Members voting on one side and one on another, what was the fate of those boroughs which had only two Members, and yet whose politics were divided? The hon. Member talked as if every borough that returned two Members returned them of the same side. But look at the borough which he (Mr. Beresford Hope) represented. It was not so big as Birmingham, but it had more than 100,000 inhabitants; and, as Birmingham was the seat of one of our great staple manufactures, so Stoke-upon-Trent was that of another. He (Mr. Beresford Hope) was the majority representative for Stoke-upon-Trent, as the hon. Member opposite was the majority Member 1139 for Birmingham, while the minority Member was his hon. Friend, whose absence from the House at that time they all must cheerfully accept, considering the event which had called him away. He believed that on every ground the Conservatives were entitled to return one Member for Stoke-upon-Trent; but he was also of opinion that, from their wealth, position, intellect, and numbers, the Liberals of Stoke-upon-Trent were likewise entitled to send their Member to Parliament. Well, one Conservative and one Liberal were returned by the borough. Would the hon. Member for Birmingham say it was humiliated in consequence of that circumstance? Would he say that it was not represented at all, but so to speak, suppressed from the difference of voting? So far was he himself from taking such a view, that he had refused to bring down a second Conservative because he believed it would be tyranny to do so. There were, say, 55,000 Conservatives and 45,000 Liberals in Stoke-upon-Trent. Now, would it be fair that either of those parties should be unrepresented? By the existing arrangement the whole population of Stoke-upon-Trent was better served in the House than if either the one which was just over or the one which was just under the entire half of the constituency were unrepresented. So much for the case of the two-handed boroughs; and, if they took the case of the future three-handed boroughs, it was a juggling with words, and a misrepresentation of facts, to say that the representation of minorities would deprive the majorities in those boroughs of a fair share of representation in that House. If, indeed, the Members which the constituencies were to send were only so many counters which the clerk could tell at the table—if, in this House, they were only to count noses—to use a vulgar but expressive phrase—that might be true; but how could they stand upon that assertion when each Member had to speak as well as vote? If the minority in Birmingham should secure a Member who would equal the hon. Member (Mr. Bright) plus his Colleague, in eloquence, it would give them a very great advantage indeed; and there might be, in that improbable case, some excuse for the complaint; but he denied that otherwise giving the third Member for that borough to the minority would be a political injustice to the borough as a whole, or to its majority. If hon. Members came to the House of Commons merely to be told off, 1140 there would be something in the hon. Member's arguments; but in no other sense could the influence of the two Liberal Members for Birmingham be counterbalanced, for each could speak, and each would vote; and their joint votes would mean two, neither more nor less, whether some other vote, given by somebody else on the other side, were that of a man who called himself Member for Birmingham or for Tipperary. The hon. Member, whom he was happy to see on the front Opposition Bench—(Mr. Bright was in conversation with Mr. Gladstone)—for no man had a better right to that position, and he would be on the other front Bench hereafter—had drawn a touching picture of the four towns which had, at present, eight Members, and would have had twelve, but which, if this Amendment of the Lords were adopted, would only have four; but, if he might ask the hon. Gentleman to descend from the regions of eloquence to those of plain fact, he would invite him to examine how matters really stood in these four boroughs. Manchester had two Liberal Members, Liverpool had two Conservative Members; so that those two boroughs wrote each other off. Leeds had one Liberal Member and one Conservative. Thus, its two Members wrote each other off. Birmingham, however, had the good fortune to be represented by two Liberals; so that, according to the doctrine of the hon. Member, the whole four boroughs were represented by his Colleague and himself. To what an absurdity was this principle reduced. Let them argue the question on the ground of common sense. The hon. Gentleman was the great advocate of numbers; "great is the power of King Mob" might be his motto. He never could deal with any number under thousands. He was in favour of the multitude because it was many. He had just told the House of his having addressed an assembly of 5,000 in Free Trade Hall, Manchester, as an important arithmetical fact. He would therefore argue the matter with the hon. Gentleman on his own chosen arithmetical principle. It stood to common sense that in all those big towns the minority was big because the majority was big. In Manchester, where the majority counted by thousands, the minority must be very large. It was the same in the other wide boroughs. Now, if the minorities in those boroughs should not be enabled to return a Member, many thousands of electors would be left unrepresented in every place. 1141 Well, but the minorities of Birmingham or Manchester would amount to 10,000 at least, and so they would make as respectable a constituency as the householders of Honiton. It was in this light that he pleaded for their enfranchisement. He contended that we were re-casting the Constitution; we might admit the principle of two constituencies co-existing in the same place, and each having the right to their own representatives, just as if they were in different towns. Certainly, such constituencies represented something more intelligent, respectable, and wealthy, than some of the puny agricultural boroughs which had been left. If they were to go back to the old times of the Constitution—if they were to do all that their ancestors had done, and nothing more—as the present doctrine of the hon. Member for Birmingham commanded them to do, there was an end to the question. But they were embarking on an unknown sea—they had discovered an unknown world, which might be Paradise, or might be somewhere else—and the old ships were of no use against the steamers and the iron-clads. Could not they endeavour to find out if there might not be some new and philosophical principles of representation which it would be worth while to try? The hon. Member for Birmingham was startled at the fact that some 5,000 people had petitioned against having another Member as an un-heard-of event. But, if he had read that amusing book, Sir Francis Palgrave's Merchant and Friar, he would have seen that it was the normal condition of boroughs of those old times, which he now so much admires, to shirk the trouble and expense of being represented in Parliament. The Government compelled the boroughs to return Members much against their will, and out of them grew the present House of Commons. The House ought to bear in mind that, by the great change now being made, the existing electoral system would be dislocated. They were enfranchising millions whose virtues and electoral excellence had yet to be shown; who had, no doubt, many merits, but who were, as a mass, loud, turbulent, and changeable, by the showing of their own advocates. In face of this vast influx, men of enlightenment, thought, and refinement, were coming forward in formâ pauperis and asking that they should be admitted to a share in the privileges of the franchise. The newly-enfranchised millions might have all the virtues which 1142 were attributed to them, but they had not had any political education; while, whatever might be the faults of the old governing class, that class had made England what she is—that class produced the men who had given England civil and religious liberty—who had formed the Reform Bill of 1832, and who had established Free Trade. That great governing class was now deposed; in time its members might recover their powers. He hoped that would be the case, for they were the men who had mastered the deep science of ruling commonwealths; but, for the present, there were new gods in our temples, new Sovereigns on our thrones. But the old governing classes surely had a right to some place being retained for them in that political edifice which their genius had built up. By governing classes he meant no party combination. He claimed alike for Whig and Tory the old dignity of which both had proved themselves so worthy. He equally deprecated the Tory monopoly in counties and the Liberal monopoly in boroughs. What he wanted was that all should be equally represented. A county Liberal would hold his politics from an agricultural point of view, and a borough Tory would be one from a borough point of view; and they had therefore four distinct classes — the borough Tory and Liberal, and county Tory and Liberal, moderating and mitigating each other. Let this underrating influence, then, be equally distributed by a mode of minority representation extended over more constituencies than the fortunate twelve, and the just indignation of those who find themselves disfranchised for the past services of themselves and of their predecessors to the State will be sensibly appeased. When he heard the speech of his right hon. Friend the Member for South Lancashire he could not but recollect that the right hon. Gentleman had been a Member of Lord Aberdeen's Government, by which a Bill was brought in proposing the formation of fifty unicorn constituencies, accompanied by the adoption in them of a mode of voting similar to that which had been now carried in the House of Lords. But the Parliament of those days in its blindness listened to those who were now upon the Treasury Bench, and who said that the principle was new-fangled, and so that Bill died partly from the cold-shoulder, and partly, he admitted, from the Crimean war. Had that Bill been carried, we should have heard nothing of this present 1143 measure, and we should probably have, for many years, been living under a Government formed of the great middle, constitutional class, under whose guidance we should have had good and stable policy; with none of those miserable complications, and heart burnings, and suspicions of treachery and tergiversation which have precipitated an extreme change complicated by the shipwreck of honour and the bunk ruptcy of confidence in men and measures
§ SIR J. CLARKE JERVOISE
said, that he represented a three-cornered constituency and could not help thinking that the minority ought to have a Member. Minorities were very important bodies. As a proof he might advert to the fact that this Bill was carried through Parliament by Ministers who did not possess a majority. He trusted that some one more eloquent than himself would do justice to the proposal.
said, that if they had determined to abide by the old ways of the Constitution the representation of minorities might not have been necessary. But having by this Bill made so great a change there was some danger if they did not agree to this Amendment, of their becoming obstructive of all that was Conservative, and Conservative of all that was obstructive. He had voted for the proposal when made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe); he would therefore support it in its present form. He cordially agreed with what the hon. Member for Westminster had said a few evenings previously—that he would not desire to see oppression practised even by the side to which he was most attached. The fact was that at present the representation of many counties and boroughs was equally divided. He remembered the time when a Conservative and a Liberal (Mr. Horsfall and Mr. Ewart), represented Liverpool, and he had never heard that the inhabitants of that town regarded themselves as humiliated by the existence of such a state of things. From personal knowledge, he could bear testimony to the fact that the interests of the town itself were never lost sight of by either of the Members, who, whenever the occasion arose, made common cause in their support. When the hon. Member for Birmingham said that the liberties of England would be destroyed if there were no election contests, he could not help thinking that the hon. Member spoke as if the life-blood of all the election agents and lawyers in the kingdom 1144 were flowing in his veins. Election contests were frequently unmitigated curses, and many places had been seriously injured by their means. The hon. Gentleman considered that the freedom and glory of the Constitution was gone if they had no more contested elections. The country would be better and happier with fewer election contests. What had they done for Reigate, Lancaster, Totnes, and Great Yarmouth? As to the representation of minorities the law attached great importance to minorities. So great indeed was the importance attached that we ran the risk of grave injury, rather than we would violate the principle of overlooking their rights and privileges. In the case of jurymen a minority of even one was sufficient to let loose upon the country the most atrocious criminals. Had there been but one dissenting juryman on Palmer's trial, he would have been let loose to poison perhaps twenty or thirty more people. The representation of minorities under this Bill only affected three or four towns and a few counties. In counties there was sometimes a little jealousy between the districts in which the Member did not reside and that in which he lived. But in boroughs which were rarely represented by residents, no such jealousy could arise. The arguments in favour of agreeing to this Amendment were of for greater weight than those which had been urged against it.
said, he wished to touch upon one point which had not he thought received the attention it deserved. Valuable as would be the other results of the adoption of the proposed arrangements, not one of them would be of greater importance than that it would call forth political vigour and life in the constituencies to which it was applied. It was curious that those who had not given the subject much consideration objected to the proposal because they said that by extinguishing contests it would destroy political vitality. Its effect would be exactly the reverse. It would be of singular use in preventing political stagnation. That would be clear if, instead of dealing with the question in the abstract, they took an example. Take, for example, the town of Birmingham, in which it was proposed to adopt the plan. Could there be a doubt that if no such arrangement were made Birmingham would henceforth return three Gentlemen of the same political hue? The Liberal Committee would select three candidates, and the majority of householders in the borough 1145 would be certain to support them. If there ever were a contest, it would be a contest between Liberals bidding against each other. But in all human probability there would be no contest at all. The electors, a large and important body of men, who were not so numerous and who might not go so far in their political views as the mass of small householders, would be politically extinct. They would feel it totally hopeless to attempt to carry a candidate, and they would resign themselves with more or less bitterness to political death. They would feel that they were altogether excluded from any influence whatever over the destinies of their country; not merely that they could not hope to rule it, but that they could not even be represented in the council of the nation. They, accordingly, would sink into hopeless apathy. The majority, on the other hand, having everything their own way, not having the advantage of being opposed, and forced to struggle and strive, would themselves also be likely to grow at once apathetic, arrogant, and tyrannical. He was not devising this state of things out of his own imagination. They knew that exactly this had happened in many instances both across the water and in certain constituencies at home, where one party, Conservative or Liberal, had held irresistible sway. It would be invidious to do so, otherwise he could easily remind the House of boroughs close at hand, and counties in which utter political apathy and stagnation had resulted from the feeling of the minority that any exertion of theirs must be in vain. But, suppose, that instead of all the three seals being at the disposal of one Commitmittee, the arrangement now proposed were adopted. Immediately every elector in the constituency would be stirred into life. Those who belonged to the minority, instead of giving up the whole affair as a bad job, shrugging their shoulders, and feeling that although they were Englishmen they were as destitute of political influence as if they were so many Indians, would immediately begin to organize themselves as a party, they would form a committee, they would look out for a candidate and combine to carry him. Very possibly no contest would ensue. But there would be as much demand for strenuous exertions and for individual self-sacrifice on the part of the minority as if a contest were certain. Political death would be exchanged for political animation. To the majority also this change would bring no less cause of 1146 excitement and vigour. Instead of sleepily accepting their three candidates, and carrying them without an effort, the party would be driven to keep its machinery in high order, to choose the best candidates that could be found, and to strain every nerve to hold their own. Both parties would be kept on the alert. Yet, though each party would thus be compelled to be on the alert, and to maintain its vigour, actual contests would, probably, be rare. The advantage of the arrangement would be that it would give all the political activity that contests are supposed to engender, without that grievous moral injury that contests almost inevitably inflict. These eleven constituencies would contain 2,300,000 persons. If the minority should not be able to carry its candidate, no harm could ensue. But if they carried them all they must represent a body of some 600,000 or 700,000 persons. It could only be for the advantage of all parties in the State that such a body, including a large proportion of the wealth and intelligence of the country, should not be excluded from all share of influence upon their destiny. It would be for the benefit not only of the minority, but of the majority. It would be for the advantage of Parliament and the whole country, that the minority should obtain some share of political power, and have a stimulus to exert themselves when an election was impending. He believed that the advantages of the plan were so great that if it were adopted as proposed in the Bill it would commend itself to the common sense of the country, and in a short period be further extended.
§ SIR CHARLES RUSSELL
said, that as a representative of one of the three-cornered constituencies, which under the operation of the Lords' Amendment would suffer partial disfranchisement, he trusted he should be excused addressing a few words to the House on the present question. It would lead to a partial disfranchisement of constituencies, and was inconsistent with the other provisions of a Bill the great boast of which was that it was an enfranchising measure. When suddenly the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed to give a third Member to certain boroughs by way of additional representation, he voted against that proposal. Again, when the cumulative vote was under discussion, he successfully moved the adjournment of the debate. If his constituents were to be knocked on the 1147 head, he preferred that the operation should be performed in the light of day rather than they should be smothered by night. This had the effect of raising an important discussion on the subject, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer made the speech which had been so much commented on. To that speech he would rather not make too much reference, lest he should degenerate into personality, which might be wrong to the right hon. Gentleman, and which would be distasteful to himself. A division took place on the cumulative vote in a House consisting of 314 Members. The decision which the Lords' Amendment proposed to rescind was come to by a majority of 141 in the Commons, being only 1 less than the entire number who voted on the question of the representation of minorities in the House of Lords. He might be told that the two proposals were different, but he thought it was a difference without a distinction. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe) whom he might call the uncle of the measure, had stated that, of course, there were different ways of accomplishing the same object. When it was said that this scheme was to be tried as an experiment, he (Sir Charles Russell) asked what need was there for an experiment, as any schoolboy with a slate and pencil could show how it would work? The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lowe) had stated that it would be wise to give the principle a moderate application at first, until experience showed how it worked. The noble and learned Lord whom he might call the father of this measure (Lord Cairns), stated, on the other hand, that any proposal for the representation of the minority in a constituency returning two Members was open to great objection, and that his proposal had great merit as compared with the system of cumulative voting, because it could not be carried in its application beyond three-cornered constituencies. Thus, those who advocated the scheme most, differed in the interpretation and application to be given to it. It was said that the plan was only to apply to eleven or twelve constituencies. The noble Lord the Member for Stamford (Viscount Cranborne) speaking on this question, made use of an argument which was substantially merely an oppression of alarm at the terrible influx of the democratic element. Did he mean to say that the eleven or twelve Members returned by minorities could by any possible arrangement be strong enough to stem 1148 this terrible tide of democracy? There was nothing in that magical number that could oppose itself with success to the rush of democratic principles. What was the argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne? He said—This is the last offer that can be made before you put it out of your power to do anything to remedy the violence of the changes you are making. Woe to us if we refuse it our thoughtful attention."—[3 Hansard, clxxxviii. 1041.]The arguments which had been used in support of the scheme were three phases of fear. The argument of the noble Lord the Member for Stamford was that of alarm, the argument of Lord Cairns was one of anxiety, while that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne was one of woe. He did not share in the nightmare of any noble army of croakers. He felt no alarm. He had no anxiety. He conjured up no woe. What he had given, he had not given in distrust, but in confidence and faith.
§ MR. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN
Sir, as I am about to give a vote different from that which will be given by many of those to whose judgment in political matters I am accustomed to defer, I must ask the indulgence of the House whilst I explain the reasons of that vote. And however much I may regret to differ from some of my hon. Friends near me, I have the consolation of knowing that I do not do so without the sanction of high authority. For, Sir, the scheme which we are now discussing has not only received the support of a large minority in this House—a minority taken in tolerably equal proportions from each of the two great political parties — but it has been approved by a large majority of the other House of Parliament, a majority including the names of men whose whole lives have been identified with the growth and progress of Liberal opinion in this country. And, Sir, it is to a scheme which has been sanctioned by such men as these that within the last few days the hon. Member for Birmingham has thought it consistent with his duty to apply such terms as "childish," "nefarious," "odious," "dangerous," "mischievous," "ludicrous," and know not what beside. Sir, I shall not attempt to rival my hon. Friend in the application of hard epithets. Such expressions, according to my humble understanding, tend to irritate without convincing, and are more likely to discredit the individual who employs them than to damage the cause 1149 against which they are directed. But Sir, to-night, as the hon. Member has condescended to quit vituperation and to come to argument, I will gladly meet him upon that field. Now, what are the arguments of the hon. Gentleman. Taking Birmingham as an instance, he says this—"My Colleague and I represent the community of Birmingham—that town ought to have a much larger representation than such a borough as Arundel. But if you give a third Member to Birmingham, and allow the minority to elect him, he, paired off with one of the Members returned by the majority, will leave this large constituency practically represented by only one Member, that is, by a representation equal only to that of Arundel." But let me respectfully point out to the House what appears to me to be fallacious in this argument—that which the present Members for Birmingham really represent is the opinion—not of the whole community of Birmingham, but of a majority of sonic 6,000 or 7,000 electors as against some 4,000 or 5,000 other electors who differ from that opinion and are wholly unrepresented. And any comparison which may be instituted between Birmingham and Arundel—whether you try it by the test of population—or of property—or by whatever test you please—whilst it may furnish you with an excellent reason for giving increased representation to Birmingham, or for abolishing these very small boroughs, as I would have them abolished—or for grouping them, as others desire them to be grouped—really affords no argument at all for the virtual disfranchisement of that minority in Birmingham which of itself is much larger than many Arundels put together. And let us look a little further. No doubt, upon questions in which party interests were concerned, the three Members for Birmingham elected under the proposed scheme would be found two in one Lobby and one in the other. But in the numerous questions which come before us wherein the interests of party are not directly involved—in all questions affecting the local interests of their town — in all questions affecting those great commercial and manufacturing interests upon which Birmingham is especially entitled to be heard, does any one doubt that the three Members for Birmingham would be constantly found voting in the same Lobby and throwing into the same scale the undivided weight of that great constituency? The truth is, Sir, that in constituencies which 1150 return two Members the majority has more than its fair share of power, and this is only bearable because the alternative would be worse — namely, making the minority equal to the majority. But is this any reason why, when you are giving increased representation to large constituencies, you should decline to give a share of power to a large minority when you are able, in so doing, still to leave to the majority a fair preponderating power? But, Sir, in all humility and jet in all earnestness let me point out the conclusions to which the arguments of the hon. Member for Birmingham inevitably tend. Birmingham, he says, and such places as Birmingham, will not have due weight in Parliament, and then he talks about our having hitherto had united constituencies, wherein the prevalent opinion has been represented by the action of the majority. He contends that however many Members you may give to any large constituency, the representative power should not be divided in any proportion between the majority and the minority, but should be concentrated on and arbitrarily wielded by, the majority. And yet he thinks — and no doubt most of us think — that the weight of such places as Birmingham and Manchester in the Legislature should in some sort be in proportion to their wealth and importance in the country. But is that importance derived solely from the majority? For instance, do the great body of Conservative merchants in the City of London contribute nothing to the wealth and importance of that constituency? Why, Sir, if once you admit that the wealth and importance of any community is to be at all considered with respect to its representation in this House, is it not obvious that we ought to try and give representation to all the elements out of which that wealth and importance are constituted? But the hon. Member for Birmingham speaks of the population of these great towns. Does the House perceive upon what dangerous grounds we tread in this population argument? It is not sufficient to compare Birmingham and Arundel. There are other comparisons which must be made. Why, Sir, at the commencement of this Session, 200 boroughs in England and Wales returned 334 Members to this House. But of the whole population of these boroughs, amounting to near 9,000,000, more than one-half was contained in seventeen constituencies—that is to say, in the eight metropolitan constituencies (including Greenwich) 1151 and nine other large towns. These seventeen constituencies returned thirty-four Members to Parliament, but, if population is to be your test—and if it is good for one argument it is good for another—they ought to have returned not thirty-four but upwards of 160 Members, of which number about eighty-five would have gone to the metropolitan constituencies! Is the House prepared for such a step? Does not the House see that one reason of the hon. Member's opposition to this scheme is that it stands in the way of concentrating political power in these great towns? And what would the 11,000,000 of population in the smaller towns and counties say to this? Are they to be ignored because they are less concentrated than the larger town-population? I say, Sir, with all respect to the hon. Member for Birmingham that his arguments lead directly to the destruction of all the middle-sized boroughs, the establishment of electoral districts, and a total change in the manner in which electoral power has hitherto been distributed in this country, and unless the House is prepared for such a change, they must regard an opposition to this proposal which is founded upon such arguments as these, with some doubt, some distrust, and some apprehension. But, Sir, even if the objections urged against this proposal are not valid objections, I may still be asked—what are the advantages which you believe will follow its adoption? And I own—I freely concede—that we who advocate the representation of minorities are bound to show some advantages, clear and tangible, before we ask you to adopt our views. Sir, the two main advantages which I anticipate are, to my mind, of infinite importance—I take the lesser first—namely, that in times of popular excitement, eminent men will find avenues opened for their entrance into Parliament, from which, if they happen to differ from the popular fancy of the moment, they would otherwise be excluded. Is this a chimerical ideal Have we had no experience of it already? Does the hon. Member for Birmingham already forget the China vote, and his own exclusion from Parliament, and the exclusion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashton? Well, Sir, we may have more China votes—the popular tide may set in strongly, and able and useful men may be swept out of Parliament at the very moment when their services are most needed by their country—aye, and at a moment when thousands of 1152 their countrymen might be willing and anxious to combine in order to secure their services. Those services could be secured by that combination which would be possible under the plan of Mr. Hare, so ably advocated by my hon. Friend the Member for Westminster (Mr. Stuart Mill). They might be secured if you preserved the system of nomination boroughs. But public opinion is not prepared to accept the one alternative, and has already condemned (and I think rightly condemned) the other. Therefore we fall back upon this plan for the representation of minorities, by which we hope that this desirable result may still be secured. Do you tell me that minorities are even now generally represented in unicorn constituencies? If this be so, is it, or is it not desirable? If not, what argument do you found upon the fact? If desirable, is it not better that they should obtain representation by their own inherent right and strength, rather than by the concession of the majority, probably not obtained without much expenditure of money, time, and trouble? Well, then, I come to the second (and to my mind the greatest) advantage which I anticipate—namely, the inducement to large numbers of persons to take part in electoral matters, who, without this plan, will be indisposed to do so from a feeling that their votes will be swamped by those of a more numerous class. Sir, I know, full well the answer which is commonly made to this argument. It is said, "You want to increase the power of the upper classes," and then there are sneers about "a genteel minority," and we are told that we are "afraid of the people." Sir, it is not easy to argue against propositions which savour so much of what is commonly called "clap-trap." But, in truth, this is neither a class question nor a party question. Although the hon. Member for Birmingham spoke as if only the four great towns were to be affected by this plan, and quite ignored the seven unicorn counties to which it is also to be applied, there may be an oppressed Liberal minority in a county just as well as an oppressed Conservative or upper class minority in a town. The only thing to be said is this, that as the accident of numbers pertains to what is usually called the "operative class," it is certainly most probable that it would be the middle and more educated class voters who would generally be more likely to abstain from voting from such feelings as I have mentioned. But are these the classes 1153 whom you wish to render indifferent to the politics of the country? Sir, the real point is tliis—Is it, or is it not desirable to induce as large a number as possible of the inhabitants of a country to take part in its political affairs? Why, Sir, I thought that this was the very soul and essence of democracy. ["Hear!"] Has the hon. Member who interrupts me studied history? From all that I have ever read and gathered from the pages of history, I have always believed this to be the great merit of a pure democracy—that every man, feeling and knowing himself to be part and parcel of the State—assisting in framing those laws which he had to obey, threw, as it were, his own individual strength and vigour into the constitution, and so the State, resting upon the concentrated vigour and strength of the whole body of the people, became possessed of a certain inherent power and vitality which could never be obtained by a country resting upon a less extended basis. But, Sir, if this be so—how are we offending against Liberal principles—nay, how are we offending against the very principles of democracy, when we advocate a system the main end and object of which is to procure that as many as possible of our fellow-countrymen shall take an interest in the political government of our country? We sometimes hear of Americanizing our institutions, but what I complain of in the hon. Member for Birmingham is this—that whilst we are willing to take that which is good from the American system, he insists that we should also take the evil with it! And what is the evil? Have not many Members of this House conversed, as I have conversed, over and over again with Americans, who have told us that the great evil of their system is that the low suffrage which prevails, with no check upon the mere force of numbers, deters many of the more educated classes from concerning themselves at all in public and political affairs? Why, then, if we wish to copy America in an extended suffrage, should we not endeavour to avoid the evils which may therewith exist? And do we not know that in our own large constituencies many of the middle classes even now hold aloof from elections owing to similar causes? If this is an evil why not try to correct it? Sir, I thank the House for the kindness with which they have heard me. It is not without great pain that I differ from some of my right hon. Friends near me upon this question; but, Sir, I have deep and sincere 1154 convictions which I am bound to follow. It is no question between Liberal and Conservative opinions—strange to say, we who support the representation of minorities are often accused in the very same breath—first, of wishing to introduce an insidious Conservative element into this Bill, and secondly, of advocating a dangerous innovation upon the old principles of the Constitution! A dangerous innovation upon the Constitution? Why, Sir, we are accustomed to boast that England marches foremost in the van of civilization; if this be so, and if our Constitution has hitherto been an object of admiration to other lands, surely, when we are revising our whole representative system, if we can discover a plan by which the good of other representative systems can be secured and the evils avoided, why not seize at once upon that plan and so still hold up our revised Constitution as a model and an example to the other nations of the world. Let us do this, even though the hon. Member for Birmingham may tell us that the precedents of 600 years are against us! Sir, I said that this was no party question. It was lately my duty to draw up a plan for the extension of the application of this principle to some fifty of our largest constituencies—that plan, for reasons into which I need not now enter, has for the present fallen to the ground. But the inquiry showed that the Members at present returned by those constituencies are as nearly as possible divided between the two sides of the House. The balance of political parties would not have been affected. The hon. Member for Birmingham taunts us with the limited application of this principle. But it is either good or bad—if bad, reject it on its merits—if good, do not reject it because we cannot at the present moment give it more than a limited application, when you know that, if found to be beneficial, it can be easily extended hereafter. Sir, I may be told that I am speaking on the Conservative side. But, if this principle be Conservative, it is so in the best and highest sense of the word. Sir, if it be Conservative to wish to see men in communities, and not communities only represented in this House; if it be Conservative to desire that the opinions of large minorities should not be entirely overborne and shut out from representation — if it be Conservative to wish that eminent men should, in times of popular excitement, find on entrance into this House by other means than the exploded 1155 and objectionable channel of nomination boroughs—if it he Conservative to desire to interest in public affairs as large a number as possible of our fellow-countrymen—if it be Conservative to hail gladly an innovation which I believe to be an improvement—if, in one word, it be Conservative to be ready to extend electoral rights to the unenfranchised with a free and liberal hand, and at the same time to seek to provide that whilst we reap the full advantages—we shall avoid or at least mitigate the evils—of democracy—then, Sir, if these things be Conservative, I at least will not shrink from the name, and in the full belief that the vote which I am about to give, be it Conservative or be it Liberal, is a wise and patriotic, as I know it to be an honest, vote, I readily and cordially give that vote in favour of agreement with this Amendment of the other House.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
desired, in the first place, to pay a tribute to the spirit in which the hon. Member who had just sat down had addressed the House. Some hon. Members, whose liberality was limited to their party, had taunted the hon. Member with having spoken as a Conservative, and being about to give a Conservative vote. He accepted the hon. Member's definition as that of a true Conservatism, and be trusted he would never have any cause to change his opinion. Let him remind the Liberal party that the position of the Liberal minority in counties was far worse than that of the Conservative minority in towns, because the latter were represented through the freeholders by the county Members, whereas the former were totally unrepresented. He was surprised to hear Liberal Members complain of a plan by which Liberal minorities in counties would be enabled to obtain representation, a plan which had been approved by Earl Russell and the Leaders of their own party. But what was the position of some hon. and right hon. Gentlemen? The right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer represented a constituency of three seats, as did the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire. The hon. Member for Birmingham represented a constituency which was about to have three seats. It was very natural that those eminent persons should desire to have Colleagues of their own opinions. The speech of the hon. Member for Birmingham—an effort of eloquence which he had seldom heard surpassed—dexterous as it was, was singularly weak in argument; 1156 that hon. Gentleman almost admitted that he was actuated by personal feeling in the matter. Without wishing to disparage the position which the hon. Gentleman held in the country, he must say the manner in which he interfered in the elections for Birmingham and its neighbourhood was really quite peculiar to himself. At the last General Election the hon. Member went down to Birmingham and told the freeholders there that they should go and relieve North Warwickshire from being represented by two "dumb dogs"—an observation which aroused a strong feeling of irritation and indignation, as the hon. Member for Birmingham would have seen had he been present at the nomination at Coleshill. Again, at the late election for Birmingham the hon. Member went down when there was a contest, and in addressing the people of that borough, he said—I ask you, am I henceforth to sit in Parliament only nominally as your representative? Is my authority as a prominent asserter of the rights of the people to be struck down by your yoking me with a Colleague whose voice and whose vote will destroy the force and value of mine?If the Conservative candidate had been returned for Birmingham on that occasion he would have been able, in point of attainments and from his position as Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, to compete even with the hon. Member for Birmingham himself. But the hon. Gentleman went on to say—Better far I should retire from your representation than that, by your unhappy vote, I should be condemned to sit, speak, and vote with a divided and enfeebled authority. I think I gather from this grand meeting, from the tone it has exhibited, and the voice in which it has spoken, what will be the verdict of Birmingham in the coming contest.It was not for his own seat, but for the seat of the other Member for Birmingham, that the other hon. Gentleman was speaking on that occasion. [Cries of "Question," and "Time!"] Hon. Gentlemen opposite seemed to think it quite becoming that the hon. Member for Birmingham should claim absolutely to command both of the seats for that borough; and if he were to understand their motive for giving a third seat to Birmingham, it was that there should be in that House another Member sitting for Birmingham, but representing the authority of that hon. Gentleman. But was that not monopoly? Was it independence and freedom of representation? Was it not a dominion of that majority who, as that hon. Gentleman held, 1157 ought to continue to crush the minority? The hon. Member for Birmingham, therefore, had induced the House to gratify his ambition by placing at his command another seat—for that was what it came to—and then the hon. Member appealed to the Constitution of the country. He (Mr. Newdegate) accepted his challenge. They were dealing with a large question, and must remember the magnitude of the change they were making. He held in his hand a paper showing the enormous difference between the character of the representation now and that which existed prior to 1832. ["Time!"] The hon. Member for Portsmouth who interrupted him, was evidently in a very uneasy state of mind. That was a habit that hon. Gentleman had, especially when facts and arguments were going against It is view of the case; and as that hon. Member was a great advocate for a further re-distribution of seats, he wished to inform him of the progress which Parliament had already made. Prior to 1832, 141 places, chiefly small boroughs in England and Wales, returned 234 Members; and the number of electors who returned them was only 8,880. How was it that the Constitution of this country worked well under such an anomaly as that? It was because those boroughs were reserved for the representation of opinions which, probably, were in the minority in large towns. And now that Parliament had swept away a great number of those boroughs which were rightly sacrificed in 1832, and when they were further trenching on the representation of the small boroughs in order to enfranchise the larger populations, he warned them that if they would not totally change the character of the Constitution of this country, they must adopt some means of representing minorities, because the difference between the Constitution of England and that of the United States was that throughout the whole of our Constitution counterpoise was the rule, and throughout the whole of our representation hitherto the utmost care had been taken to preserve that variety of opinion, of knowledge, and of interest which enabled that House to perform the mighty task which devolved upon it, not only as the representative assembly of that island, but as an Imperial assembly whose deliberations affected the interests of various races and nations scattered over the surface of the globe. Having voted, then, that additional Members should be given to these large towns, he wished the House to accept the 1158 recommendation of the House of Lords, and not to create such a monoply as the hon. Member for Birmingham desired. The hon. Gentleman talked of emasculating boroughs; but how could that be done, while they left the majority with two representatives, and only claimed that the minority, if it exceeded one-third of the constituency, should not be crushed? There could be nothing more illiberal or intolerant than the attempt on the part of the hon. Member for Birmingham; not content with avowedly commanding two seats for that borough, to grasp at the third seat; and that was the feeling which actuated the 4,000 Petitioners whom he himself represented that night in urging upon the House their prayer, that they may not be sacrificed as victims to the monopolizing spirit of the majority, as represented by the hon. Member for Birmingham. He believed, that if the measure passed it would be possible hereafter further to re-distribute the representation of the country so as to do justice to the large populations, not merely in the boroughs, or among the minority of the English people, but among the majority of the people who resided in the counties, on whose part he thanked the House for granting them ten seats in addition to the proposal of the Government, although he believed that, on the principles which the House was adopting, still more would have to be done before the anomaly in regard to the counties were fully redressed. He should give his support to the Amendment because he hoped the result of it would be to give the people, as they advanced in intelligence, fuller opportunities than had been hitherto accorded them of making their opinions known in that House.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, that the opponents of the Amendment had a difficult task to perform. Although the Amendment involved consequences as important as were involved by any single clause of the Bill, it was now introduced into the House for the first time, and a decision on it would have to be given after a debate of three or four hours' duration. The principle involved in the Amendment had scarcely been discussed by the House at all on any previous occasion. It was not the cumulative vote, but an innovation wholly distinct from it. The House was to be called on to decide, after a few days' notice, upon one of the greatest innovations which could be made in the Constitution. His hon. Friend the Member for Sandwich, or rather for the majority of the electors of Sandwich 1159 (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen), had said that, as a Conservative, he should vote for the Amendment, because he was in favour of personal as against local representation. It was the first time he had heard that that was a Conservative doctrine. An eminent Member of the Conservative party—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Walpole) once stated in that House that the principle of our Constitution was "the representation of communities." If hon. Members were of the same opinion, they ought to record their votes against this Amendment. Some hon. Members who held extreme Liberal opinions were in favour of the Amendment, and strangely enough it was supported by some Conservatives too. The reason why the extreme Liberals were favourable to the Amendment was clear enough. It sanctioned to some extent the principle of personal representation, and personal representation pointed in the direction of equal electoral districts, h*e should have thought, however, that Conservative Members would hesitate before they voted for an Amendment which was a stop in that direction. As for those Members who were advocates of equal electoral districts, they ought to wait until they had them, or, at least, had a further and better Bill for the re-distribution of seats, before they introduced any system for the representation of minorities. When there was a chance of minorities not being represented, a claim should be made on their behalf, not now, when, in the opinion of the extreme Liberals, minorities were, as it is, over-represented in that House. Hon. Gentlemen opposite seemed to be favourable to the Amendment, because they thought it desirable to replace the nomination boroughs by nomination minorities in the great towns and counties of the kingdom. But how could this system of nomination minorities coincide with the argument of his hon. Friend the Member for Sandwich, that the proposal now under discussion would enable these large towns to be represented by Members connected with their own locality and society? The two theories were perfectly distinct and contradictory. To try the experiment of creating nomination minorities in some of the largest towns in the kingdom was a most visionary idea. While the experiment was being tried the power of these towns was being limited, as, indeed, was avowed by some hon. Members opposite. The House had given four additional Members to the large 1160 towns at the request of the majority, and now it was proposed to give that additional representation to the minority. They wanted to do this to provide nomination seats for statesmen who could not otherwise be elected. A Member not returned by the majority would consider himself not a representative but a delegate. The Amendment did two things. It substituted the principle of personal for the principle of local representation; and it made the representatives more dependent upon their constituencies, or rather upon election agents. It was said it would have the effect of preventing contests. But at what price would that be done? By producing apathy in the majority, and political stagnation in the entire constituency. If one of the Members of the majority should ever vote against his party, it would give the majority of Members to the minority, and be considered a greater offence than it was at present. If they desired merely to try the experiment, why try it on the largest towns and counties of the kingdom? The experiment, if successful, would result in the total extinction of political life in the large towns. Was it not a strange piece of irony that the large towns which had been so anxious for a Reform Bill, should be placed, after it had passed, in a worse position than they occupied before? It was a mistake for Liberal Members to support the Amendment, because, even if they were favourable to the principle it involved, they ought to insist that it should not be carried out until a better Re-distribution Bill were passed. It was admitted by the noble Lord at the head of the Government in "another place," that another Re-distribution Bill would be required. It would be better to defer the settlement of this important principle until next year, when the matter could be fully considered by the country. The Amendment would destroy half the satisfaction hitherto felt by the large towns in returning Members to Parliament. Its importance was as great as that of any clause in the Reform Bill. It was devising anew Constitution. While he objected to the clause as a Liberal, he objected to it also as a friend of the Constitution, as being more likely to open up new matters, and to keep the Reform question unsettled, than any other that could be submitted to Parliament.
§ MR. HUBBARD
said, that when his right hon. Friend (Mr. Goschen) spoke of the unfeigned dislike with which this clause was regarded, he rather mistook the source 1161 from which the objection proceeded. The objection was not so much on the part of great cities as on the part of their representatives. There was a great difference between the inclination of the city represented and that of the representatives of the city. It was said that the principle of the clause was innovation; but was not the Bill full of innovations? Was not household suffrage itself an innovation? Why should exception be taken to one of many innovations? The clause came back to that House with a special recommendation of a large and influential majority of the Upper House. When he found that the clause was recommended by so much of the eloquence and patriotism of the Upper House, he naturally sought to know the objections against it. His right hon. Friend said that, if a large town returned one or two Members of the same mind as the majority, they were representatives; but, if it returned one Member of a contrary opinion, he would be a delegate. He could not concur in that opinion. Members of Parliament were chosen from their experience, high character, and influence, and they were sent to that House in order to promote what they considered to be the best interests of the country. Was it, not, then, degrading to the constituencies which such men would represent to speak of them as delegates? The hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) had put the case of a Member of the minority accepting office as a Member of Her Majesty's Government, and asked whether, in that case, he would be returned? This, so far from being an objection to the scheme, seemed to him to be a great recommendation; because it was clear that, if this were so, the Premier of the day must not only seek men who were returned to Parliament by the voice of the people, but who were returned by the voice of the majority. The view taken by his right hon. Friend rested on this mistaken basis—that a Member of Parliament was a mere delegate instead of a representative. Therefore, all his right hon. Friend's arguments were really in favour of the proposal before the House.
Sir, I lament the conclusion at which the Government have arrived in regard to the course they should take on this question; but while I lament it, I do not presume to censure it. I admit the difficulty in which they stand. They are naturally anxious for the success of a Bill which the great majority of the 1162 House wish to see pass into a law. They stand, in a certain sense, as mediators between the two Houses of Parliament, and if, in my own mind, I think they have arrived at an erroneous judgment, I must admit that they are, so far as their own course is concerned, acquainted with many elements and considerations which bear upon it, but which are necessarily concealed from our view. And I think it only fair to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to acknowledge that he has brought the subject candidly before the House of Commons, stating, on the one hand, that he retains his own opinion, the expression of which had left so deep an impression on our minds, and that, on the other, he thinks it fair, looking to the mixed considerations which govern Parliamentary proceedings, to recommend the adoption of the Amendment. Sir, I lament, but I cannot presume to censure that course. I have this consolatory consideration in the remarks that I mean to address to the House, that I feel I am expressing the undoubted opinion of a large majority of this House. The division which took place many weeks ago has placed that fact upon record. If those who were then the majority against the proposal are now to be the majority in its favour, they will be so, not because they have altered their opinions, but because, from considerations of policy, they deem it wise to waive those opinions. The question which I wish to raise and to present fairly to the mind of the House is, whether there is before us a fair and sufficient case for waiving those opinions which the large majority of the House undoubtedly entertained, and which they have recorded in the face of the country by a division of the most decisive character? I have heard the words Liberal and Conservative used by my hon. Friend the Member for Sandwich (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) during the present debate. Sir, I know of no such words in connection with the consideration of this question; or if I am to qualify that statement, I will say that I feel conscious I am arguing this question from a Conservative point of view. This is, undoubtedly, a great innovation—great in its virtual objects—great in its ultimate extension. Unless great and powerful reasons can be shown in its favour, it is you, the Conservative Gentlemen of England, who are bound to give aid to any of us who may resist a causeless change in the institutions of the 1163 country. I am an ill-calculator in such matters; but I believe the immediate operation of the proposed change would be in favour of the party to which I belong. That, however, does not alter the question, and does not in the slightest degree recommend it to me. The first form in which this change comes before the House is not its best form. If adopted at all, this proposal must be adopted with the knowledge, and with the certainty, that, whether we admit it ourselves or not, it must unfold and expand itself over the whole country, and completely re-construct the system of distribution of seats. If there be one in this House whose position would naturally lead him to take a dispassionate view of the question, I am he. I was a party to this very proposal in 1854, when, being a Minister not immediately engaged in the preparation of the Reform Bill of that year and much engaged in other matters, I failed to see on the surface of this proposal much of what it contained, and became officially responsible for its being propounded to the House of Commons. Lord Aberdeen, who was at the head of the Government at that time, possessed, among many other remarkable gifts, a singular power of laconic expression. When this proposal was first made to him he well described it in these few words—"It's a conundrum," and a conundrum in many points of view it is. Gentlemen should consider the mode in which this measure is to operate in the case of a great contested election; the manipulations that are to take place; the pressure that is to be brought to bear; how all electors are to be treated, not as rational and thinking beings, but merely as equivalents of one another, who can be made to vote A and B, or A and C, or B and C, just as thought proper by some exterior influence. If they so read it, it is a condemnation of the proposal. With regard to the influences of this scheme on contests, which, I think, are necessary to prevent stagnation, I do not say that if it discourage them it will be an evil. I believe that, on the whole, so long as Englishmen remain Englishmen we shall probably have a sufficiency of contests. It has been my fate to have as many as eight contests, and I am not prepared to deny that to avoid the necessity of contests is desirable. I adopt the opinion of the noble Lord the Member for Stamford (Viscount Cranborne) who stated that he was prepared to vote for tripartite constituencies, 1164 because he thought that tripartite representation had in itself a tendency to check contests. I entirely concur in that opinion; upon that opinion we acted last year, and suggested many tripartite seats. I confess it was a disappointment among the several of that year that nobody seemed to concur in that opinion; but the proposals of the present Government were received with greater disapprobation than met that proposal. The right hon. Gentleman has stated quite consistently his former vote and his unchanged view, and has induced the House to adopt instead of tripartite representation tripartite division of counties. Still we have tripartite representation; but that is doomed if this proposal should pass. The representation of minorities which arises only out of tripartite representation is good, manly, sound and honest. There is nothing to be ashamed of in it. In that sense I am in favour of the representation of minorities principle. The hon. Member for North Warwickshire—too complimentary to myself—said that the hon. Member for Birmingham, the right hon. Member for Bucks, and the Member for South Lancashire, secure in their scats, naturally think little of contests. I join with the hon. Member in congratulating the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the hon. Member for Birmingham, but theirs is not my case. If there be one to whom this proposal would be advantageous I am that one. I am one who sits for what may be called a minority in the sense of a mere party vote; but this I will say that I am not able to realize the precise position in which I should find myself at the close of my political career as a sitting Member for a minority. It may be that the party who returned me were somewhat weaker, but I sit here as representing the majority of votes in the constituency of South Lancashire, and except as representing that majority of votes, I have no desire to sit here. My hon. Friend the Member for Sandwich (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) used an expression to which I am desirous of calling the attention of such Members of the House as may not have been in their seats when he spoke. Answering an imputation which he thought some might make against him of being unfaithful, in supporting this Amendment, to Liberal opinions, my hon. Friend said "Why this proposition is the very spirit and the essence of democracy," and he went on to explain what he meant—"We are now going," he said, "to have in England for 1165 the first time the representation of men and not only of communities." [Mr. J. STUART MILL: Hear!] I hear the cheer of the hon. Member for Westminster—one who never speaks or cheers in this House without clear and distinct meaning. I interpret his cheer on this occasion as an acceptance of the proposition that in his view this little, limited, and paltry proposal will be the means of effecting that total change to which I have referred in the whole character of our electoral system—of getting rid, in fact, of local representation, and substituting for it the representation of persons. That is the plan which has been recommended with so much power by Mr. Hare, and which has received the sanction of the high authority of my hon. Friend, with whom I agree to this extent, that if we embark upon this career we must be prepared, sooner or later, to go through with it to the end. I agree that if we are to embark in this career we must be prepared, sooner or later, to contemplate changes in our electoral system which as yet the boldest of us have not dreamt of. I wish very seriously and earnestly to bring before the House, especially that portion which has supported this Motion, a consideration of the singular manner in which a change so important has been brought before us. The intelligence of the House will perceive that the importance of this measure is not to be tested by the limited range of the present proposal. One of the many singularities attending the proposal is that those who will support it by their votes will be composed of two sections diametrically opposed in their views to each other. There will be one section—of whom I may mention as the honoured representative the clear and distinct thinker, my hon. Friend the Member for Westminster—who see what they think is valuable in the principle of personal representation as the basis of your system, and honestly pursue it. This section recommend the proposal, not because of its smallness, but because of its possible largeness. Will that majority or minority, which ever it be to-night, be a homogeneous body? How will the minority which voted for this proposal on a former occasion be converted into a majority? It will be by the acquisition of Gentlemen who agree to adopt the Amendment of the House of Lords upon the principle which has been spoken of by the Earl of Derby in a manner known to us all—namely, that if a 1166 proposal of this character of tripartite representation of one Member given to the minority were to be largely extended it would be absolutely intolerable; but he is prepared to accept it under the circumstances. The case, then, simply comes to this, that the measure is so small that the effect produced by it will be scarcely appreciable either on the one side or the other. I do not blame either of the sections to which I have referred, but I think the House should understand the absolute divergence of views that prevails among those who may be found in the same Lobby to-night, and those who are attached to Conservative views should consider what will be the consequences of their vote. Opposed as I am to the principle of representation of minorities, I feel that if we are forced into it on the basis of a plan such as that before us, the injustice that will be inflicted upon the great towns and counties with tripartite representation will be so gross as to be almost penal, on the majorities of those constituencies, and after a deliberate consideration of what has fallen from hon. Members here to-night and not upon preconceived opinions, we must not be accused of inconsistency if we go further in the choice of evils. I hope we shall not be accused of inconsistency if, in the event of this plan being adopted, we feel bound to go further than we could wish in disturbing the electoral power, and demand changes which at the threshold we would resist. I beg the House, apart from the merits of the question, to consider the position in which we are placed with respect to the time and circumstances in which it comes before us. We adopt this Session a great change in the basis of the franchise. We have now another change before us which perhaps in certain, though not yet evolved, consequences, is equally great. That change on the basis of the franchise we adopted after long consideration, after discussion to which there was no limit, but the free discretion of the Commons of England. We had the opportunity of viewing it in every light, and of applying to it every possible test of argument and inquiry. That which we adopted we embodied in the Bill, which we sent to the House of Lords, and which the House of Lords have sent back to us. Why is it that with regard to this country, apart from and beyond all nations of the world, it is a common subject of observation with every foreigner that progress in England may be achieved slowly, but that 1167 it is achieved surely? It is because these opportunities of deliberation are given. It is because great changes if they are adopted are not adopted until time and occasion have been given for all the Members of both branches of the Legislature to bring every faculty of their mind, sharpened by so many opportunities, to bear upon them, so that the nation shall have every security and every guarantee that human institutions can afford, for the wisdom of the conclusions at which we eventually arrive. Is that the case with the great matter before us? Sir, we are called upon on the night of the 8th of August for a final decision upon a change of this kind, which unless it be subject to reversal in itself—and that undoubtedly is not a desirable aspect in which to present it—must involve a much further change. And when was this change brought before the House? When did the country become cognizant of it in such a way that they had a fair opportunity of revolving it and of communicating with us upon it? It was produced for the first time in the House of Lords and became known on Tuesday week. Nine days, therefore, will have seen the birth of this scheme as the suggestion of an individual Member of the other House, and its incorporation into the Constitution of this country. Can that be a satisfactory state of things? It may be sail, perhaps, that I have overlooked the Motion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe) for the cumulative vote. Of course, I do not stand on the difference between his Motion and the proposal now before us, although, in some respects there is a great superiority in the Motion of my right hon. Friend. But what happened in that Motion? It was produced in this House. It was supported by my right hon. Friend with his great ability, by the noble Lord opposite (Viscount Cranborne), and by many other Gentlemen of first-rate talent and capacity; but it was rejected under the auspices of Her Majesty's Government by so commanding a majority that the country was justified in believing—nay, it could not but believe—that for this crisis the subject had been disposed of and would not be revived. This proposal, therefore, has come as a novelty upon the Members of the communities immediately affected and upon the whole country; and after nine days from its first production we are called upon to affix the stamp and seal which, beyond revocation, will make it a portion 1168 of our Constitution. There is in the minds of Members of this House such a spirit of candour, fairness, and of regard to the general and traditional modes in which great and important changes have commonly been adopted in this country, that there will be a disposition on the part of many of them to agree with us who have scruples, nay, who have objections in principle, to this great change, that due time has not been given to insure its fair consideration. If we are to approach this question with a view to some legislative determination, we ought to approach it under circumstances different from those in which, in these few fugitive hours, gathered from all parts of the country, we have to apply our minds to it. We ought to bring to bear upon it all those advantages of repeated investigation and consideration, by which alone we succeed in giving that character of solidity to the legislation of the country that has made it safe legislation. Sir, I cannot but hope that the considerations connected with the question of time will weigh with many even of those who may be disposed to favour the adoption of the principle. I have spoken strongly and decidedly against its adoption, but that is not in consequence of any foregone conclusion. I listened patiently to former debates, and since the discussion in the House of Lords I have felt it my duty to give all the time and care I could to the thorough comprehension of this question; for I have never known a proposal submitted to this House of which the surface is so entirely one thing, and the interior upon careful examination so entirely another. Having spoken on the question of time, I would ask the House to consider the principle of the measure. First of all, as regards the adoption of the doctrine proclaimed by my hon. Friend (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen), the representation of men, and not only the representation of communities. Do not let my hon. Friend suppose that I regard him as an apostate from Liberal principles for proclaiming such a doctrine. My Liberalism, however, may be more infirm than his, and I entreat him to give me a little time before I embrace the doctrine of the representation of men, instead of the representation of communities. The House of Commons—the oldest, and greatest, and most venerable Legislative Assembly in the world, and I trust, in another sense, the freshest and youngest, with the largest and richest future before it—the House of Commons has, from its 1169 first beginning to this day, been founded, and founded exclusively, upon the principle of the representation of communities, and communities alone. If this change be adopted, you ought, for consistency's sake, to alter the language of the writs addressed to the citizens of London and to South Lancashire, Manchester, Liverpool, and so forth. Those writs ought hereafter to say that the majority in those respective communities is directed to return so many Members, and the minority so many; but, according to the old and time-honoured language, taught us from our infancy, those communities are integral parts of this Constitution. Those who represent them are elected by them as a whole, and are bound to look to the welfare and interest of the whole. All this, however, is to be changed; but if it is to be changed, surely we are entitled to ask — I would almost add to demand — time for the adoption of a change so great and so pregnant as that of passing from the representation of communities to the representation of men. Time should be given us to deal with this subject, to consider whether the principle should he embraced at all, whether, if embraced, it should not be embraced upon a scale adequate to its magnitude and its depth, and whether further, if we embrace it upon a limited scale, we do not inaugurate it by an act of the grossest injustice? Let me ask the House to look at the question in relation to the injustice which is involved in this partial and limited application of a principle totally new, most doubtful, and requiring, beyond all others, to be weighed and scrutinized before it receives the sanction of the Legislature. I noticed, on an occasion when I think we might very well, if the House had been so inclined, have adopted a more rigid frame of mind, the effect produced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he said he was anxious to keep this Bill free from the taint of disfranchisement; but will this Bill be free from the taint of disfranchisement if you adopt the present clause? I concede to my right hon. Friend (Mr. Lowe) that he did not, at any rate, upon the face of the case, make himself obnoxious to the reproach that he was about to disfranchise any portion of the constituencies; but observe the case before us as affecting, for example, the citizens of London. The constituency of London numbers, I suppose, 20,000. We have in South Lancashire a considerably larger 1170 number. The citizen of London has hitherto had the power of exercising a 1–20,000th part in the choice of four Members for the City. My hon. and learned Friend (Sir Roundell Palmer) recently told us — making us admire his electoral richness, for, if any one could bear a little disfranchisement, he is the one—that he had votes for sixteen seats. The citizen of London has now the 20,000th fractional power of electing four Members; but you are going to take away one-fourth of that electoral power. There is no denying that, to the extent of one-fourth in London, and of one-third in the tripartite constituencies, you are about to inflict disfranchisement upon the electors. It is perfectly true that, as regards the minorities in those constituencies, you are about, by a circuitous plan, which I will notice by-and-by, to give them greater power; but, as regards the majority, you, who on public grounds will disfranchise nobody, except for some electoral offence, are about to inflict a certain disfranchisement, or, at all events, a diminution of electoral power, upon men against whom you bring no charge for the use they have made of it; but that is not all; look at its bearing on the communities to which these individuals belong. That there may be nothing invidious in the selection, I take the case of Liverpool as compared with Beverley, because these two towns happen to be represented, so far as Parliamentary politics are concerned, by gentlemen of the same opinions. The charge of injustice which, apart from the novelty of the proposal, I make is this—that you are going to treat most unjustly the majorities in those constituencies which you have "selected," forsooth, to try your experiment upon. And why are the most powerful constituent bodies in the kingdom selooted—those bodies which, more than any other, lead the opinion of the country? On the Slave Trade, on Emancipation, on the Corn Laws and other questions of Free Trade, on Parliamentary Reform, in what centres was it that thought was matured and elevated so as to bring the public mind to that state of maturity which enabled these great changes to be effected? It was in these great constituencies. The charge I make is this—that you are going to place those constituencies, those majorities—and I draw no distinction between majorities and constituencies, because, in the language of the Constitution, up to 1867, at all events, there is no distinction 1171 —you are going, I say, to place them in a position of privation and penalty. In Liverpool there will be found to be, when the Boundary Commissioners have reported, probably about 600,000 people, of whom there may be a majority of 350,000 and a minority of 250,000 or 1,000, I do not mind which. You are about to give these 350,000 the power of returning two Members to the House of Commons whose voice upon political questions will be the same. Upon local questions, the three Members will be only too united. About their unity upon local questions I am rather jealous; I do not want to see their power in that way increased, because when Members on local questions—take, for instance, those of the City of London and of the metropolis — are too closely united, it becomes the House to look sharp; but, upon political questions, the two Members will be counteracted as to half of their voting power by the third Member representing the minority, leaving one Member as the real representative for Liverpool; and what is the reason alleged? You tell me that there are 250,000 electors who, by the present system, are unrepresented; that there is a large, independent, and intelligent minority of great importance and weight who, at present, have no representation at all. It is a fair statement of the argument that there are these large intelligent minorities who are of great importance, great weight, who have great claims, but who have no representation at present; but if you determine to give them representation, you recognize—without the smallest reference to mitigating considerations, such as arise out of local organization and the recognition of each community as a whole—the principle of numbers. If you determine to give representation to minorities, you recognize I say, the principle of numbers; and, if so, you must be prepared in no long time to make that recognition consistent. And now, Sir, I put it this way—I claim three Members for the majority at Liverpool by the present Bill. You say, "No; there are 250,000 in Liverpool who ought to be represented and are not." If so, find representation for them if you will, but no at the expense of the majority, for that would be unjust in the highest degree You say there are 5,000 in one place, 6,000 in another, 10,000 in a third, who are unrepresented. If so, seek the materials to represent them in the proper quarters. You have at the present moment a 1172 system which works for the representation of minorities—a system you never could have invented—a system which you have found it necessary here and there to check and to prune—it is your system of mixed representation, your representation of communities infinitely varying in size. If you ask me where is the representation of minorities, I tell you it is in Arundel, it in Marlborough [Mr. BAILLIE COCHRANE: "Oh!"]—yes, and in Honiton. My hon. Friend has been the representative of minorities as long as he has had a seat in this House, and I hope he will long have a seat in it, as long as it continues to suit him. You demur to my proposition that this is a representation of minorities. Can you demur to this—that if you claim for the 250,000 in Liverpool a right to representation, it is fairer, on numerical and arithmetical principles, to go to Honiton and Bridport, and obtain there the means of meeting the claims you have yourselves recognized, than to deprive and plunder the majority in Liverpool of the very small recognition you have given them by giving them three Members? If the great towns, if the great counties of South Lancashire, of Buckinghamshire, of Oxfordshire, and others, are over-represented in comparison with other places, then I grant you may fairly say, "We may take a Member from the majority." But not one of them is overrepresented; on the contrary, the great bulk of them are grossly and enormously underrepresented. You give to the 10,000 of Beverley a Member for every 5,000. [Sir HENRY EDWARDS: 10,500!] Well, let it be 10,500. I will not quarrel about the number; I will give the hon. and gallant Gentleman even a greater population if he likes; but while you represent Beverley by one Member for every 5,000 or 6,000 inhabitants, you represent Liverpool, with its 300,000 majority, at the rate of one for every 100,000. What right have you, in equity or justice, to take the Member you want from the 100,000 of Liverpool, instead of from the 5,500 of Beverley? I hope the hon. and gallant Member for Beverley will vote for us to-night. We contend for the representation of communities. If you depart from that principle by the recognition of this scheme for the so-called representation of minorities, you will constantly raise up claims on the part of the majorities of those communities which will be so equitable that it will be impossible to resist them. If you begin to give in to those claims, and give the majorities in those towns the right 1173 of pleading that on behalf of numbers, which you are now pleading on behalf of minorities, the end of that can only be that the principle must be equally carried out throughout the country, and that those electoral districts which have hitherto been one of the monopolies of those who style themselves Chartists in this country, will be brought before you with claims which, either in toto or in approximation, you will, unless you are heedful, be compelled to recognize. Sir, I must own, as the result not of factious party or personal feeling, that looking to the mischiefs that lie hid in this proposal, I regard it as most dangerous. There are two alternatives offered. We may decline to recognize those claims of minorities, or recognizing them, we may be prepared to carry the principle through, and apply it impartially as a general, if not an universal, rule throughout the country. I am very doubtful whether, if we did so apply it, we should be a bit better off than we are now—whether the representation of all parties, grades, and classes in the community, would be better than it is. There are some difficulties of machinery, and I have heard no suggestion made as to how we are to get over them. When Lord Russell in 1854 made a similar proposal, the hon. Member for Birmingham rose in his place, and, straight after the words fell from the lips of Lord Russell, asked when the Member representing the minority for Manchester died was the Member who was to succeed him to be elected by the minority. Lord Russell, though not deficient in ingenuity, found it impossible to give a satisfactory answer to the question. This is quite plain, that if we alter our representative system upon the principle of giving representation to minorities, and if that principle runs through the representation of the country, in a long Parliament there will be this difficulty—a large number of scats are vacated in the course of a Parliament, fifty, sixty, or eighty seats. All those seats for which Members have been returned by minorities at the outset will be gradually taken up by the majority, and we shall find during the course of such a Parliament a great change in particular constituencies, arising out of this cause, though the general principles and temper of the country may have suffered no change whatever. That is a difficulty which, so far as I can see, it is impossible to get over. I have only one or two more words to say, which I could not honestly withold. The Bill which 1174 we have passed is a Bill which, in respect of the borough franchise, and, I may even say, in respect to the entire franchise, I hope may be said to carry with it every promise of future durability. With respect then to the entire subject of the franchise, a sanguine man may hope that there is no disturbing cause which is likely, or at all events, which is certain to revive discussion on the subject at a very early period; but I speak of what is no secret when I say that as regards the re-distribution of seats the matter stands in a very different position. I ventured to give a very distinct intimation of my own opinion on the subject when the Bill was passing through the House of Commons. Since that time that opinion has received a remarkable confirmation. I need not commit any breach of Order in alluding to what took place elsewhere, but I may say that I myself heard the highest organ of the Government declare in his place that if in the next Session of Parliament any new and enlarged plan for the re-distribution of seats should be proposed the Government would be prepared by no means to say that the matter was settled last year, and therefore decline to entertain the question, but that they would be prepared to entertain it and give it a candid consideration. Perhaps if we were acting merely from a party point of view, we might not be dissatisfied to see move morsels thrown into the cauldron of Parliamentary discontent. If any of us were capable of allowing ourselves to be carried away by such feelings, we might rejoice to see fresh grounds created for feelings of discontent; but I act on entirely different principles. I disclaim all such intentions. I therefore entreat the House not to give to these great and powerful communities, armed as they will be with such considerations of reason and justice, as have been pointed out, opportunity and provocation to enlist their great energies and powers, and their facilities of acting on the public mind of the country—energies and powers which will be sharpened by a sense of wrong and of disparagement inflicted upon them, and of having been selected from others for that wrong and disparagement, do not let us give to them opportunity and provocation to lead on a new agitation, excited and heated, as they cannot fail to be, by asense of wrong and disappointment. Let us endeavour that this great work of legislation on which we are engaged shall be a sound and solid one. With regard to those great constitutional experiments 1175 which have passed, I grant the ordeal of the brain of philosophers of no mean order, but which have not yet taken their place in the regions of practical life, let us urge the claim we are entitled to make, that ample time, facility, and opportunity shall be given to discuss them, to turn them round and round, and to use every human instrument of being well assured of their character and tendency, before we give them a place in the constitutional law of England.
§ MR. LOWE
Nothing, Sir, would induce me at this late hour of the night, and after the very powerful speech of my right hon. Friend, to presume to ask the attention of the House for a few minutes, except the nature of that speech itself. I should despair of being able to answer my right hon. Friend's arguments if he had not been kind enough to save me the trouble by supplying the answers to these arguments either by his previous conduct or by the speech which he has delivered to-night. My right hon. Friend said this Motion was first heard of on Tuesday week, when it was proposed by Lord Cairns, but a little further on he was kind enough to tell us that he was a party to this very proposal in 1854. He even recollects the discussion which took place, and has described what he perfectly remembers, the conversation on this very point between the hon. Member for Birmingham and Lord Russell. My right hon. Friend says that he considers the constituency and the majority of the constituency the same thing. In those few words he has summed up the fallacy which has pervaded the whole debate. The whole of the hon. Member for Birmingham's speech, if he will forgive me for saying so, rested on the assumption that whenever anything was true of the majority at Birmingham, it was true of the whole of Birmingham. Taking their own arguments, I wonder Gentlemen who refuse to give votes to minorities are willing even to admit the existence of minorities. But my right hon. Friend having laid down that dogma with regard to the identity of the constituency and the majority, proceeded to answer it with that elaborate analysis to which we listened with so much admiration. He divided the constituency of Liverpool into the majority and minority. He weighed them in the balance and considered their respective claims. All this of course, was superfluous if he thought himself right in saying that the majority and the constituency amounted to the same 1176 thing. So we go on—My right hon. Friend proceeds to consider the cause of this proposal, and he bids my hon. Friend the Member for Sandwich (Mr. Knatch-bull-Hugessen) to beware what he was doing, because he is going very near the doctrine of numbers. But I should like to know on what principle he acted in forcing on the Government this third Member to the large constituencies, except as a homage to numbers. I voted for it myself, because I looked forward and hoped that either in this Session or in some future Session the third Member might be obtained for the minority. But my right hon. Friend repudiates any such notion. I want to know, therefore, on what principle, except the doctrine of numbers, he supported the proposal of a third Member for these constituencies. Then my right hon. Friend goes on — The minority of Liverpool, he says, has no occasion to ask for a representative, because it is represented elsewhere. When it is asked where it is represented, I am told it is in Arundel or some such place. [Mr. GLADSTONE: I did not say Arundel.] Well, in some similar place. In a small borough, [Several hon. MEMBERS: Calne.] My right hon. Friend forgets that he did all he could to destroy small boroughs during the past Session, that is to destroy the very places through which he now maintains that minorities obtain the representation. My right hon. Friend says he supports the representation of communities as distinguished from that of persons. Yet he argues that the minority in Birmingham is represented by Beverley. His idea of the representation of communities appears to be that the minority of one community should be represented by the majority of another. It is said that in introducing personal representation you are doing away with local representation. There is again the same fallacy. Gentlemen have accustomed themselves so much to overlook the existence of minorities that they will not allow them to live even in the places where they actually reside. There may or may not be more virtue in the principle of numbers, which the right hon. Gentleman now so completely disregards, than in that of locality; but I cannot in the least understand what there is in a minority that should make it less local, because it is less numerous than the majority. This observation must serve as an answer also to my right hon. Friend the Member for London (Mr. Goschen). My right hon. 1177 Friend speaks almost with horror of the unparalleled, the gross injustice of this measure. It is right that we should recall the nature of the measure on which this enormous heap of invective has been piled. It is that where two-fifths of the constituency are willing to vote for one person they shall be permitted to return that person. That is the whole of this tremendous violation and infringement of the acknowledged principles of the British Constitution—that where two-fifths of the constituency are in favour of one person, and three-fifths of the constituency are in favour of two other persons, those three fifths shall return two and the two-fifths one Member out of three. Was ever a moderate principle belaboured with such terms as these? I should have thought that according to the view of any plain-thinking, right-minded man, if two-thirds of a constituency were in favour of one political view, and the remaining one-third of a different political view, in any constituency so circumstanced the majority of two-thirds ought to return two Members, and the minority of one-third a single Member. That is the way the arithmetical problem would come out if you gave the cumulative vote. But withholding the cumulative vote and substituting for it this, which is not so large and drastic a measure as the cumulative vote, it encounters the determined opposition of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone). My right hon. Friend could see something in the cumulative vote which might perhaps recommend it, but he is shocked at this which is much more narrow and confined. Then this is represented as a penal measure. Instead of giving one to the minority it is said that it will take away one from the majority. But it comes exactly to the same result whether you give one to the weaker side or take one away from the stronger side. My right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen) says that the Member elected by the minority will be more of a delegate than the Member for the majority. Why, I cannot conceive. It appears to me that the representation of the two portions of the constituency will represent similar classes of people in a precisely similar manner. The minority are fewer, but they are electors, and I do not know what there is in the connection between them and the person whom they elect that should make them less free to elect the Member, or the Member elected less free 1178 than in the case of the residue of the elective body. I fail to understand the connection of the idea. But I notice it because it formed a prominent part of the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London, who spoke with great ability. The hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) says, "Look; what a dreadful thing! The whole country is going to be immolated, because, by giving an additional Member to Birmingham, you are neutralizing the other two." What does his argument amount to? Simply this—You are going to give Birmingham a representation corresponding to the state of opinion in Birmingham. If the feeling in Birmingham were unanimous, if the hon. Member had succeeded in converting to his views all the people of that town, then it would be quite right that we should have the three Members all going together. But if, as I will suppose, for the sake of argument, and as I believe is the fact, two-fifths of the inhabitants of Birmingham are opposed to the hon. Member's views, does not Birmingham under this Bill get a more fair representation in this House, when it obtains a proportion of Members corresponding in some degree to the state of feeling in the town? What ground, therefore, need there he for alarm, because this technical rule of the majority,—for, after all, it is nothing more—be departed from to the extent that one Member shall be returned by the minority, when this amounts to two-fifths or thereabouts? But so horrified was the hon. Member for Birmingham at the bare prospect of a Member for the minority being returned by his own constituency, that I am not sure that he did not threaten to abandon the borough altogether, and he indulged in some dark threats of leaving the House of Commons altogether. This puts me in mind of the troll—But should some other claim a partIn that which I adore,And call a synod in thy heart,I'll never love thee more.This is the sort of argument with which the proposal is met. Then it is said that this is a small measure, and therefore very unjust. If it had been larger it would have been said that it was very rash. You cannot possibly please persons who are determined not to be pleased. But it is said that the proposal is absurd—that there can be no argument in favour of it. It appears to me that the argument is as strong as anything can possibly be. But 1179 there is a worship of the majority which is a mere political superstition. True representation, the idea of true representation, is to leave no portion of the constituencies unrepresented. If a constituency were unanimous it would be perfectly represented. We have a specimen of the old and rugged way of doing things in the case of juries. We require these to be unanimous, and as that is not in the nature of human things, we shut them up in durance vile till they come to an agreement. That system not having been found practicable under all circumstances mankind hit upon the plan of representation by majorities as a better mode of settling their differences. But there is no absolute reason for stopping there. The art of representation, like other arts is progressive. If means can be found for increasing the number of members for a constituency, and then adapting your system to that increase by the cumulative vote, so as not to disfranchise minorities, and to give some representation to the whole of the constituency, so far from regarding that as an innovation on the Constitution, I think we ought to hail it as an advance in the science of government. The great difference between ancient and modern societies lies in the invention of the principle of representation. It was from the want of that power of representation that the Roman empire was reduced to place itself under the tyranny of a Cæsar. It is only by the existence of that power that large free governments have become possible. This is just an instance of the advantageous changes which may be produced by the use of the most simple expedients. Instead of regarding this principle with hatred and jealousy, I think we should act more wisely if we calmly sat down to investigate its nature, see what it will do, and ascertain whether it does not offer us the only refuge from that tyranny of numbers adored by my right hon. Friend, and forced upon us by this Bill. I will not detain the House at any greater length, and will only now offer them my thanks for the kindness and patience with which they have listened to me after with an orator as the right hon. Gentleman we have just heard.
§ Question, "That the House do disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment," put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 204; Noes 253: Majority 49.1183
|Acland, T. D.||Gower, Lord R.|
|Adair, H. E.||Gray, Sir J.|
|Adam, W. P.||Grove, T. F.|
|Agar-Ellis, hn. L. G. F.||Gurney, S.|
|Allen, W. S.||Hadfield, G.|
|Armstrong, R.||Hamilton, E. W. T.|
|Ayrton, A. S.||Hankey, T.|
|Barclay, A. C.||Hardcastle, J. A.|
|Barnes, T.||Harris, J. D.|
|Barry, C. R.||Hartington, Marquess of|
|Bass, M. T.||Harvey, R. B.|
|Baxter, W. E.||Hay, Lord J.|
|Bazley, T.||Headlam, rt. hn. T. E.|
|Beaumont, W. B.||Henderson, J.|
|Berkley, hon. H. F.||Heneage, E.|
|Biddulph, Colonel R. M.||Henley, rt. hon. J. W.|
|Blake, J. A.||Henley, Lord|
|Bowyer, Sir G.||Hervey, Lord A. H. C.|
|Brady, J.||Hibbert, J. T.|
|Brand, rt. hon. H.||Hodgkinson, G.|
|Bright, Sir C. T.||Hodgson, K. D.|
|Bright, J.||Holden, I.|
|Briscoe, J. I.||Horsfall, T. B.|
|Bruce, rt. hon. H. A.||Howard, hon. C. W. G;|
|Bryan, G. L.||Hushes, W. B.|
|Buller, Sir A. W.||Hurst, R. H.|
|Buller, Sir E. M.||Hutt, rt. hon. Sir W.|
|Burrell, Sir P.||Jackson, W.|
|Butler, C. S.||Jackson, H. M.|
|Calcraft, J. H. M.||Jardine, R.|
|Candlish, J.||Kearsley, Captain R.|
|Carington, hon. C. R.||Kennedy, T.|
|Castlerosse, Viscount||King, hon. P. J. L.|
|Chambers, M.||Kinglake, A. W.|
|Chambers, T.||Kinglake, J. A.|
|Cheetham, J.||Kingscote, Colonel|
|Cholmeley, Sir M. J.||Kinnaird, hon. A. F.|
|Clay, J.||Knox, hon. Colonel S.|
|Clement, W. J.||Labouchere, H.|
|Collier, Sir R. P.||Layard, A. H.|
|Colvile, C. R.||Lawrence, W.|
|Cowen, J.||Lawson, rt. hon. J. A.|
|Crossley, Sir F.||Lee, W.|
|Dalglish, R.||Leeman, G.|
|Davie, Sir H. R. F.||Lefevre, G. J. S.|
|Denman, hon. G.||Lewis, H.|
|Dilke, Sir W.||Locke, J.|
|Dixon, G.||Lusk, A.|
|Duff, M. E. G.||M'Lagan, P.|
|Dundas, F.||M'Laren, D.|
|Edwards, C.||Maguire, J. F.|
|Edwards, H.||Marshall, W.|
|Eliot, Lord||Martin, C. W.|
|Enfield, Viscount||Martin, P. W.|
|Erskine, Vice-Adm. J. E.||Milbank, F. A.|
|Ewart, W.||Miller, W.|
|Ewing, H. E. Crum-||Mills, J. R.|
|Fane, Colonel J. W.||Mitchell, A.|
|Fildes, J.||Mitchell, T. A.|
|Forster, C.||Moffatt, G.|
|Forster, W. E.||Moncrieff, rt. hon. J.|
|Gaselee, Serjeant S.||Monk, C. J.|
|Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.||Moore, C.|
|Gilpin, C.||More, R. J.|
|Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.||Morris, W.|
|Gladstone, W. H.||Murphy, N. D.|
|Glyn, G. C.||Neate, C.|
|Glyn, G. G.||North, Colonel|
|Goldsmid, Sir F. H.||Norwood, C. M.|
|Goschen, rt. hon. G. J.||O'Beirne, J. L.|
|Gower, hon. F. L.||O'Brien, Sir P.|
|O'Loghlen, Sir C. M.||Stacpoole, W.|
|Onslow, G.||Stanley, hon. F.|
|Osborne, R. B.||Stansfeld, J.|
|Otway, A. J.||Steel, J.|
|Packe, Colonel||Stone, W. H.|
|Padmore, R.||Sullivan, E.|
|Palmer, Sir R.||Sykes, Col. W. H.|
|Parry, T.||Taylor, P. A.|
|Pease, J. W.||Tite, W.|
|Peel, A. W.||Tomline, G.|
|Philips, R. N.||Torrens, W. T. M'C.|
|Platt, J.||Tottenham, Lt.-Col. C. G.|
|Potter, E.||Trevelyan, G. O.|
|Potter, T. B.||Vanderbyl, P.|
|Powell, F. S.||Verney, Sir H.|
|Pritchard, J.||Vernon, H. F.|
|Pugh, D.||Villiers, rt. hon. C. P.|
|Rearden, D. J.||Vivian, H. H.|
|Robertson, D.||Vivian, Capt. hn. J. C. W.|
|Roebuck, J. A.||Watkin, E. W.|
|Rothschild, Baron L. de||Western, Sir T. B.|
|Rothschild, N. M. de||Whalley, G. H.|
|Russell, Sir C.||White, J.|
|St. Aubyn, J.||Whitworth, B.|
|Samuda, J. D'A.||Wickham, H. W.|
|Seely, C.||Williamson, Sir H.|
|Seymour, H. D.||Woods, H.|
|Sheridan, H. B.||Young, G.|
|Sherriff, A. C.||Young, R.|
|Simeon, Sir J.|
|Smith, J. A.||Crawford, R. W.|
|Smith, J. B.||Baines, E.|
|Adderley, rt. hn. C. B.||Cartwright, Colonel|
|Amberley, Viscount||Cave, rt. hon. S.|
|Andover, Viscount||Cavendish, Lord E.|
|Annesley, hn. Col. H.||Cavendish, Lord G.|
|Archdall, Captain M.||Cecil, Lord E. H. B. G.|
|Arkwright, R.||Chatterton, rt. hn. H. E.|
|Aytoun, R. S.||Clinton, Lord A. P.|
|Baggallay, R.||Clinton, Lord E. P.|
|Bagge, Sir W.||Cobbold, J. C.|
|Bailey, C.||Cochrane, A. D. R. W. B.|
|Baring, hon. A. H.||Cole, hon. J. L.|
|Baring, T.||Colebrooke, Sir T. E.|
|Barrington, Viscount||Corrance, F. S.|
|Barrow, W. H.||Corry, rt. hon. H. L.|
|Barry, A. H. S.||Courtenay, Lord|
|Bass, A.||Cowper, hon. H. F.|
|Bathurst, A. A.||Cowper, rt. hon. W. F.|
|Beach, Sir M. H.||Cox, W. T.|
|Beach, W. W. B.||Cranborne, Viscount|
|Beecroft, G. S.||Cremorne, Lord|
|Biddulph, M.||Cubitt, G.|
|Bingham, Lord||Curzon, Viscount|
|Blennerhasset, Sir R.||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Bonham-Carter, J.||Dent, J. D.|
|Bourne, Colonel||Dering, Sir E. C.|
|Bouverie, rt. hon. E. P.||Dick, F.|
|Brett, W. B.||Dickson, Major A. G.|
|Bridges, Sir B. W.||Dimsdale, R.|
|Brooks, R.||Disraeli, rt. hon. B.|
|Bruce, Lord C.||Dodson, J. G.|
|Bruce, Sir H. H.||Doulton, F.|
|Buxton, C.||Dowdeswell, W. E.|
|Buxton, Sir T. F.||Du Cane, C.|
|Calthorpe, hn. F. H. W. G.||Duncombe, hn. Colonel|
|Campbell, A. H.||Dunne, General|
|Capper, C.||Dutton, hon. R. H.|
|Cardwell, rt. hon. E.||Dyke, W. H.|
|Dyott, Colonel R.||Lacon, Sir E.|
|Eaton, H. W.||Laing, S.|
|Eckersley, N.||Laird, J.|
|Edwards, Sir H.||Lamont, J.|
|Egerton, hon. A. F.||Langton, W. G.|
|Egerton, E. C.||Leader, N. P.|
|Elcho, Lord||Lefroy, A.|
|Eykyn, R.||Legh, Major C.|
|Fawcett, H.||Lennox, Lord G. G.|
|Fellowes, E.||Lennox, Lord H. G.|
|Fergusson, Sir J.||Leslie, C. P.|
|Fitzwilliam, hn. C. W. W.||Liddell, hon. H. G.|
|Floyer, J.||Lindsay, hon. Col. C.|
|Forde, Colonel||Lindsay, Colonel R. L.|
|Forester, rt. hon. Gen.||Long, R. P.|
|Fort, R.||Lowe, rt. hon. R.|
|Fortescue, hon. D. F.||Lowther, Captain|
|Freshfield, C. K.||Lowther, J.|
|Garth, R.||M'Kenna, J. N.|
|Gaskell, J. M.||Mackie, J.|
|Gilpin, Colonel||Mainwaring, T.|
|Goldney, G.||Manners, rt. hn. Lord J.|
|Gooch, Sir D.||Manners, Lord G. J.|
|Goodson, J.||Marsh, M. H.|
|Gorst, J. E.||Meller, Colonel|
|Grant, A.||Mill, J. S.|
|Graves, S. R.||Montagu, rt. hn. Lord R.|
|Greene, E.||Montgomery, Sir G.|
|Greville-Nugent, A. W. F.||Morgan, O.|
|Gray, Lieut.-Colonel||Morgan, hon. Major|
|Grey, hon. T. de||Morris, G.|
|Gurney, rt. hon. R.||Morrison, W.|
|Gwyn, H.||Mowbray, rt. hon. J. R.|
|Hamilton, Lord C.||Naas, Lord|
|Hamilton, Lord C. J.||Neeld, Sir J.|
|Hamilton, Viscount||Neville-Grenville, R.|
|Hardy, rt. hon. G.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Hartley, J.||Newport, Viscount|
|Hartopp, E. B.||Noel, hon. G. J.|
|Harvey, R. J. H.||Northcote, rt. hn. Sir S. H.|
|Hay, Sir J. C. D.||O'Conor Don, The|
|Hayter, A. D.||Paget, R. H.|
|Heathcote, hon. G. H.||Pakington, rt. hn. Sir J.|
|Heathcote, Sir W.||Palk, Sir L.|
|Henniker-Major, hn. J. M.||Parker, Major W.|
|Patten, rt. hon. Col. W.|
|Herbert, hon. Col. P.||Paull, H.|
|Hesketh, Sir T. G.||Peel, rt. hon. General|
|Hodgson, W. N.||Pelham, Lord|
|Hogg, Lt.-Col. J. M.||Pim, J.|
|Holmesdale, Viscount||Pollard-Urquhart, W.|
|Hood, Sir A. A.||Portman, hn. W. H. B.|
|Hope, A. J. B. B.||Price, W. P.|
|Hornby, W. H.||Read, C. S.|
|Hotham, Lord||Robartes, T. J. A.|
|Howes, E.||Robertson, P. F.|
|Hubbard, J. G.||Royston, Viscount|
|Hughes, T.||Russell, A.|
|James, E.||Russell, F. W.|
|Jervis, Major||Samuelson, B.|
|Jervoise, Sir J. C.||Schreiber, C.|
|Jones, D.||Sclater-Booth, G.|
|Karslake, Sir J. B.||Scott, Lord H.|
|Karslake, E. K.||Scourfield, J. H.|
|Kekewich, S. T.||Selwyn, Sir C. J.|
|Kelk, J.||Severne, J. E.|
|Kendall, N.||Seymour, G. H.|
|Kennard, R. W.||Smith, A.|
|Keown, W.||Smith, S. G.|
|Knatchbull-Hugessen, E.||Somerset, E. A.|
|Knight, F. W.||Stanley, Lord|
|Knightley, Sir R.||Stock, O.|
|Knox, Colonel||Stuart, Colonel W.|
|Stucley, Sir G. S.||Walsh, Sir J.|
|Sturt, H. G.||Waring, C.|
|Sturt, Lt.-Col. N.||Warner, E.|
|Surtees, C. F.||Waterhouse, S.|
|Surtees, H. E.||Welby, W. E.|
|Sykes, C.||Whitbread, S.|
|Thorold, Sir J. H.||Williams, F. M.|
|Thynne, Lord H. F.||Wise, H. C.|
|Tollemache, J.||Woodd, B. T.|
|Torrens, R.||Wyld, J.|
|Tracy, hon. C. R. D. Hanbury-||Wyndham, hon. P.|
|Wynn, C. W. W.|
|Treeby, J. W.||Wynne, W. R. M.|
|Turner, C.||Wyvill, M.|
|Vance, J.||Yorke, J. R.|
|Verner, E. W.|
|Verner, Sir W.||TELLERS.|
|Walcott, Admiral||Taylor, Colonel T. E.|
|Walker, Major G. G.||Whitmore, H.|
|Walpole, rt. hon. S. H.|
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause B. (Restriction as to Number of Votes in the City of London).
§ MR. CRAWFORD
said, the result of the division which had just taken place was not encouraging to a Member for the City of London rising with the object which he had in view. But there was a considerable difference between the constituencies affected by that division and the constituency which he had the honour to represent. That fact was admitted by the House of Lords because they had dealt with London in a separate Amendment. The decision which they would have to come to would not be a trivial or an unimportant one. They were about to deal with the first constituency in the Empire. It was a constituency which returned four Members, and in that respect if in no other it was entitled to be considered the first constituency in the Empire. It was not his intention to go into the question of the representation of minorities which had been so fully discussed. What he desired to point out was that there were some peculiarities connected with the City of London which deserved the consideration of the House. The first fact to which he wished to call the attention of hon. Members was that the legislation now about to be adopted by Parliament was experimental legislation. Surely the philosophic views or crotchets put forward with respect to the representation of minorities might be tested sufficiently by means of the constituencies already selected for the purpose. There was no reason for extending the experiment to the City. Eleven constituencies had been selected for the experiment. Surely it was enough. London was made the subject of a separate clause. Lord 1184 Cairns in introducing the subject of three-cornered constituencies said that he thought the experiment ought to be confined to places returning three Members; so that it was evidently not intended originally to extend the experiment to London, which returned four Members. Of all the constituencies in the kingdom, London would be the least affected by this Bill. So far as the City of London was concerned, no danger to the Constitution was to be apprehended from the democratic tendencies of the Bill. At the outside it would not add more than about 200 to the number of occupation electors in the City. He asked the Members of the Liberal party—even those who had voted for the Amendment just carried—to bear in mind that there was no constituency better entitled to considerate treatment on their part than the constituency of London. Of late years it had returned to Parliament supporters of all great Liberal measures. He should ask the House to go to a division if for no other reason than that there should be on the records of Parliament the names of those—especially if there should be Liberals among them—who were disposed to vote for the partial disfranchisement of the City of London.
§ Moved "That the House do disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."—Mr. Crawford.)
§ MR. ALDERMAN LAWRENCE
said, he wished to ask the House, as it had now affirmed the principle that minorities were to be represented, when it would be prepared to affirm the principle that the minority of that House should have some share in the government of the country? It seemed that if the principle of the representation of minorities was to be applied to these constituencies it ought to be applied more extensively. If fully and fairly carried out the party who happened to have a majority of ten or twenty in that House ought not necessarily to have the whole of the patronage, and to administer the whole of the affairs of this great Empire.
I think it would be judicious on the part of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer if his Government and if the House agree to the proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for the City of London. I think I can understand a little of what it is that has brought us into the position we are in, in regard to this question. There are many Members of this House 1185 who think it wise to make a concession to the view of the House of Lords on a point on which, in reality, they do not agree with the House of Lords. That I know to be the feeling, because I have heard it from various quarters to-night, and I am quite sure it prevails. A concession of great magnitude has been made in the late division. What the hon. Member for the City of London says is perfectly true. The cases are not the same. I believe the City of London has enjoyed the representation of four Members—I do not know that it has been entirely without interruption—from the time of Henry the Eighth. It appears to me that the right hon. Gentleman, having carried into execution the decree of the House of Lords with regard to these other boroughs, might—and the House might—fairly consent to accept the proposal of my hon. Friend. I am not a Member for the City of London, and have no interest in this matter more than any other Member has; but if we assent to the proposal of my hon. Friend, it will be received, no doubt, in the City of London with great satisfaction. I shall not go into any argument upon the matter, because the arguments which have been laid before the House in the different speeches which have been made to-night will tomorrow be in the hands of most persons in this country who can read, and we must leave those arguments to produce their own effect. I am giving this advice, or rather expressing this opinion, with no hostility to hon. Gentlemen opposite, and with no hostility to the right hon. Gentleman and his Government, of which he is so distinguished a member. I think the House would do wisely, and the Government most wisely, in accepting the proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for the City of London.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 188; Noes 252: Majority 64.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Amendments, as far as Amendment in Page 10, "after Clause 27 insert Clauses C, D, E, F, G," agreed to.
§ Clause C (Power to Vote by Voting Paper).
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I am desirous to induce the House to come to a unanimous vote upon this subject. As this is a new clause we can make Amendments in it. Therefore I move to omit the words "or borough," 1186 and so leave the clause applicable only to counties.
§ Amendment proposed in Line 1 of the Clause, after the word "County" to leave out the words "or Borough."—(Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'or Borough' stand part of the Clause."
Of course, in point of form it would be competent for the House to accept the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman without anyone hereafter losing the right to vote against the clause. But that would not be to act in the spirit of the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman, He has made a proposal which deserves to be fairly dealt with, and I am sorry to say I cannot accede to it. If I could accede to a compromise at all I would much rather strike out the word "county," and leave in the word "borough." The vote of this House was taken on the principle of the optional use of voting papers, and strong opinions were expressed upon it. It was well debated at the time, and we are under obligation to detain the House by discussing it now. I can take no course but to disagree to the Lords' Amendment.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
It is a considerable sacrifice on the part of those who approve the principle of voting papers to leave the boroughs out. I am rather inclined to agree with the right hon. Gentlemen opposite. The argument for voting papers applies very strongly both to counties and boroughs, but more strongly to boroughs than to counties. I think so for this reason. In counties it would mainly have the effect of stopping travelling expenses; in boroughs it would have the effect of protecting voters who dislike violence and outrage from the brutal mob who always surround polling-booths. Therefore in assenting to this proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I assent to a modification which I would rather not see made. The plan has been tried in the case of the Universities, and has been found to work well. ["No!"] I am not going at this time of night to argue the question. I trust the House will carry out the principle. I merely press the dominant fact that the arguments against it are merely arguments against the machinery, not against the principle. You say the machinery is capable of great abuses. Those abuses are as revolting to us as to you, and any modifications to prevent them, which can be 1187 now or hereafter suggested, will be gladly accepted by us. There is a great evil to be redressed. Large numbers of our fellow-countrymen are practically disfranchised by the present system. If abuses should attach themselves to the machinery of this clause, it will be easy to introduce such Amendments as may be needed. It is not retrogression, but true progress, truly in harmony with the civilization of the present day, and with the requirements of our century, that you should adopt some method of this kind in place of the barbarous method soon, I trust, to become obsolete, to which you compel all electors at present to have recourse.
§ MR. DODSON
said, that in principle he had no objection to voting papers, provided they could devise safe machinery for the use of them. But they could be more easily adopted in the case of boroughs than in that of counties. One of their uses would be to give facilities for polling, and to reduce travelling expenses. Those were advantages which were applicable to counties and boroughs in common, although their force would be greater in the former. Voting papers would have, however, one advantage in boroughs which they would not have in counties, and an advantage which would be incalculable. They might be made the means of preventing the state of the poll from being made known from hour to hour, and thus place a check upon the bribery which prevailed during the last hours of the poll. In counties they would have the great disadvantage, which would not exist in the case of boroughs, that they would afford facilities for the creation of faggot votes. As it was, non-residents might obtain a 40s. franchise, but the necessity of personal attendance at the poll very much limited the exercise of the privilege. No man would take the trouble of qualifying for a county unless it was one in connection with which he had some local association or personal tie. But if a system of voting papers were adopted, it was perfectly conceivable that a band of devoted partisans might qualify themselves for every county in England in such numbers as materially to affect the result of elections. That danger, unless means could be found for guarding against it, would be a strong objection to the adoption of voting papers in counties. With him, however, the question of the advisability of the adoption of voting papers was essentially one relating to the necessary machinery. The machinery provided in the present Bill was 1188 fraught with every kind of danger and difficulty. What were the dangers to be guarded against in employing such a system? The extortion of a voting paper from a weak voter, increased facilities for bribery, the accumulation of these papers in the hands of a few wire pullers, forgery, the falsification of papers, and the tampering with them generally. How did the Bill propose to guard against these evils? It contained a great apparatus of securities, but it was an apparatus which was most fallacious. The returning officer was to have a book of voting papers. To each voting paper was to be attached a counterfoil, and the paper was to be sent to the voter by the returning officer, only upon a written application by the voter, containing the name of the voter. The returning officer was, moreover, to take the precaution of entering on the voting paper the name and number on the register of the voter, and on the counterfoil, and he was to send it addressed to the voter. Thereby, he would, of course, have the security that when the paper come back at the poll he would know it was the paper which he had issued. But what would he know of the applicant? The application might apparently come from John Jones, number 200. The paper would come back in the name of John Jones, number 200. But the supposed applicant might be dead or abroad, or intend to vote in person, or delay applying for his voting paper. The paper was, however, to be returned, signed by John Jones, and countersigned by John Smith, a justice of the peace. But what did the returning officer know of John Smith? Supposing he knew there was a justice of that name, he did not know his handwriting. But the election might be in Devonshire, and Jones and Smith might date from Doncaster, and then the returning officer would not know whether there was such a justice at all. What security was there that the voting papers might not have been applied for by some keen partizan living in the neighbourhood of the returning officer, who might sign John Jones with his right hand and John Smith, justice of the peace, with his left. The question was one involving matters of minute and intricate detail, and the machinery provided by the Bill was, so far as he could see, totally inadequate for its purpose. The machinery adopted in the case of the Universities was inapplicable to that of counties and boroughs, yet not 1189 as much so as that contained in this Bill. If the plan were to be carried into effect at all, it should be made the subject of a separate Bill, brought in after careful consideration at the commencement of the Session, when it could be fully discussed and referred to a Select Committee, and the details afterwards considered by the whole House. He believed that it would be found, when the matter came to be considered, that counties and boroughs required very different machinery, and that it might be necessary to have one machinery for resident voters in counties, and another for nonresident voters. The machinery now proposed was totally inadequate for the purpose, and if adopted would only lead to every kind of deception and fraud, to disappointment to themselves and injury to the country.
MR. M'CULLAGH TORRENS
said, he hoped the House would well consider the question. It was only six weeks ago that by a majority of 38 this clause was rejected. He agreed in thinking that the proposed machinery was defective. But the question was one, not of machinery only, but of principle. The greatest authority who took part in the discussion elsewhere pronounced the idea inadmissible that the identity of the voter should be attested in the presence of one magistrate sitting alone, and suggested that the presence of two magistrates should be required. That suggestion was discarded. The proposed plan would only lead to deception and fraud. It was said that the system of voting papers would lead to a large number of votes being recorded. In a recent election for Poor Law Guardians in one of the largest parishes in Islington the plan was tried. In that parish there were 10,000 assessments, and 5,500 voting papers were issued; only 1,500 of the papers were recorded. That circumstance was a sufficient proof that this system would not add to the number of the persons who voted. The proposed plan would make the magistrates before whom the voting papers were attested a sort of political banker. Votes would be turned into paper which they might hold in their hands, and thus show their influence and importance. There was this other evil attending the scheme, that if a voter desired to alter his vote after delivering the voting paper to the magistrate he would not be able to do so.
§ MR. GATHORNE HARDY
said, that he was ready to discuss the proposed provision 1190 both on its principle and its details. Upon the principle of the measure he agreed with the noble Lord the Member for Stamford (Viscount Cranborne). With regard to the election of guardians, in the case of a contest where matters of interest were involved almost every voter voted, but very few did so if the election was one of no great interest. He presumed that the election to which the hon. Member for Finsbury had alluded was of the latter character. The objection urged by the hon. Member for East Sussex (Mr. Dodson) would apply to every power of attorney. It would be supposed that forgery was resorted to in connection with these voting papers; but forgeries did not happen in that way now, and he did not think they would be more frequent under the new system. The person must go before a justice that knew him, and there was every means of detecting him if he was guilty of fraud. What they had now to vote upon was the principle of voting papers, and he hoped the House would agree to the Lords' Amendment.
§ MR. C. P. VILLIERS
said, the right hon. Gentleman had referred to the little excitement that occurred under this system, upon the election of Guardians. This was the case, no doubt, when there was no interest taken in the election; but how was it when there was interest taken? He could speak from his connection with the Poor Law Board, that in such cases there was every sort of practice that could not be justified. He wrote to one of the inspectors a few days ago to know the result of an inquiry he had made upon this subject, and he would read to the House the reply. It was in these terms—I was certainly directed by the Poor Law Board to institute an official inquiry into the election of Guardians for the wards of the town of—. I did so, and I was obliged to report to the Poor Law Board that every sort of trickery, of forgery, of theft, of destruction of voting papers was practised, and indeed the collectors of voting papers were allured into pot-houses, and were either plundered or were a party to the demolition of those papers. The whole affair was disgraceful.[Cries of "Name, name!"] The right hon. Gentleman might make inquiry as to whether he was accurate or not in the statement he had made. Wherever there was political feeling in connection with the election of Guardians, the use of papers must be distrusted. There was every abuse and every facility for abuse. That he took to be the fact, and he believed the right hon. Gentleman himself, when at the Poor 1191 Law Board, heard complaints made to him on this subject that induced him to issue a General Order to vary the system. But the system of voting papers was recommended to the House by its being confined to the counties. Why, it was precisely in the counties that all the danger was to be apprehended. The only check now on all kinds of fraud and mal-practice with reference to the non-resident voters was that they must attend and shew themselves at the poll. They must go down to vote. But here was a scheme devised to meet that difficulty. They might qualify any number of persons. Persons might create rent-charges, give them to their servants, put them on the register, and they might send down their papers to tell for whom they voted. He believed if this scheme were adopted one Member of Parliament—he would not say of what House—could vote for fifty-two places in one morning. A man might get himself qualified for every county in England and send his papers and those of other persons without moving a step from London, showing only for whom they voted. The Reform Bill of 1832 was totally varied in its operation by the Chandos clause; and as the £50 clause no longer existed, this appeared to be a device to recoup the great proprietary for their loss of influence on that account. He could not support such a system.
I wish to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer a question. When a voter comes up to the poll can he be asked to take the bribery oath? I am not in favour of the bribery or any other kind of oath; but I do not see any provision of this kind with regard to those persons who vote by voting papers. A man could fill up his paper 200 miles off, and send it to the poll, he having received a bribe; and it would be impossible to put the oath to him. Whatever security we take with regard to the other voters we ought to take with respect to those who vote by voting papers. I will state a fact communicated to me since the last discussion on this subject. Immediately after that discussion I received a letter from a gentleman stopping in London, the son of one of the most eminent lawyers in the United States, and known to every eminent lawyer in this House. He said that at the last great Presidential election in the United States a law was passed to enable soldiers in the field to vote for the different States from which 1192 they came, and the law was passed with every guarantee possible. The papers were to be given in presence of the colonel or some officer of the regiment. The result was that the amount of forgery was positively appalling. Thousands of votes were sent up that were fraudulent. The exposure was so complete that my correspondent stated that there was no public man who, under similar circumstances, would recommend such a proposal again to Congress. I believe that that which was done by wholesale in the United States would be done to a very large extent by many parties in this country. I hope the House will agree with the proposal that the Amendment of the Lords be disagreed to. I doubt if anyone has been heard out of doors expressing approval of this proposal. I think it bad in every way. It is impossible to amend it, and I shall therefore be glad to vote against it.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I understand the hon. Gentleman's chief objection to this clause is that it gives no power to put the bribery oath.
I did not say it was my chief objection — I merely suggested that the provision as to the oath was omitted.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
The argument comes to the same. I only rose to answer the hon. Gentleman, and to state that the power of putting the bribery oath no longer exists.
§ MR. J. STUART MILL
It is scarcely possible that the House will be induced to pass, or that the Government will attempt to force upon the House, this really monstrous proposal. The vast mass of fraud to which it would give birth has been shown, but it will produce effects worse than even that mass of fraud. If the House have the smallest desire to diminish bribery and intimidation — if they do not wish to increase it to an enormous extent, they will refuse to assent to this Amendment. If it passes, every tenant may be taken to the drawing-room of his landlord and there compelled to sign his voting paper. Do not we know what electioneering agents will do? Will they not take the voter before the magistrate who has the greatest power over him? This will become the general rule of the country. I do not say that bribery will be as universal as intimidation. But the 1193 voting papers are to be signed before a magistrate, and, recollect, Mr. Churchward is a magistrate. When I heard that the Upper House had adopted this principle. I did expect something decent would be done to place cheeks and restraints on its consequences. I could not have believed that any serious person pretending to the character of a politician would have brought forward such a set of rules, which are apparently constructed to aggravate instead of diminishing the mischievous operation of the system. I should prefer that no Reform Bill should be passed, rather than that this monstrous scheme should be carried into effect.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that the county franchise was much higher than that for the boroughs, and that the higher the franchise was the more absolutely necessary it was that the non-electors should know how the electors voted. Then, with respect to fraud, it was within his knowledge that the United States of America had been obliged to establish a system of registration before the election, at which the voter had to appear, and which was equivalent to appearing at the poll. That had been been the experience of several at least of the States in America. It might be thought the scheme of voting papers would save the candidates from many inconveniences, but that was an error, and he implored hon. Members not to give their support to a proposition which would inevitably terminate in disappointing every favourable anticipation indulged in by those who had brought it forward.
§ Question, "That the words 'or Borough' stand part, of the Clause," put, and negatived.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Clause as amended." — (Mr. M'Cullagh Torrens).
§ The House divided:—Ayes 258; Noes 206: Majority, 52.1197
|Acland, T. D.||Baines, E.|
|Adair, H. E.||Barclay, A. C.|
|Adam, W. P.||Barnes, T.|
|Agar-Ellis, hon. L. G. F.||Barry, A. H. S.|
|Akroyd, E.||Barry, C. R.|
|Allen, W. S.||Bass, A.|
|Amberley, Viscount||Bass, M. T.|
|Andover, Viscount||Baxter, W. E.|
|Antrobus, E.||Bazley, T.|
|Armstrong, R.||Beaumont, W. B.|
|Ayrton, A. S.||Berkeley, hon. H. F.|
|Aytoun, R. S.||Biddulph, Col. R. M.|
|Blake, J. A.||Gilpin, C.|
|Blennerhassett, Sir R.||Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.|
|Bonham-Carter, J.||Gladstone, W. H.|
|Bouverie, rt. hon. E. P.||Glyn, G. C.|
|Bowyer, Sir G.||Glyn, G. G.|
|Brady, J.||Goldsmid, Sir F. H.|
|Brand, rt. hon. H.||Goschen, rt. hon. G. J.|
|Bright, Sir C. T.||Gower, hon. F. L.|
|Bright, J.||Gower, Lord R.|
|Bruce, Lord C.||Gray, Sir J.|
|Bruce, rt. hon. H. A.||Greville-Nugent, A. W. F.|
|Bryan, G. L.||Grove, T. F.|
|Buller, Sir A. W.||Gurney, S.|
|Buller, Sir E. M.||Hadfield, G.|
|Butler, C. S.||Hamilton, E. W. T.|
|Buxton, C.||Hankey, T.|
|Buxton, Sir T. F.||Hardcastle, J. A.|
|Calcraft, J. H. M.||Harris, J. D.|
|Calthorpe, hn. F. H. W. G.||Hartington, Marquess of|
|Candlish, J.||Hay, Lord J.|
|Cardwell, rt. hon. E.||Hay, Lord W. M.|
|Carington, hon. C. R.||Hayter, A. D.|
|Castlerosse, Viscount||Headlam, rt. hn. T. E.|
|Cavendish, Lord E.||Henderson, J.|
|Cavendish, Lord F. C.||Heneage, E.|
|Cavendish, Lord G.||Henley, rt. hon. J. W.|
|Chambers, M.||Henley, Lord|
|Chambers, T.||Hibbert, J. T.|
|Cheetham, J.||Hodgkinson, G.|
|Childers, H. C. E.||Hodgson, K. D.|
|Cholmeley, Sir M. J.||Holden, I.|
|Clay, J.||Howard, hon. C. W. G.|
|Clement, W. J.||Hughes, T.|
|Clinton, Lord E. P.||Hughes, W. B.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Hurst, R. H.|
|Coleridge, J. D.||Hutt, rt. hn. Sir W.|
|Collier, Sir R. P.||Jackson, H. M.|
|Colvile, C. R.||Jackson, W.|
|Cowen, J.||James, E.|
|Cowper, hon. H. F.||Jardine, R.|
|Cowper, rt. hn. W. F.||Jervoise, Sir J. C.|
|Crawford, R. W.||Kearsley, Captain R.|
|Cremorne, Lord||Kennedy, T.|
|Crossley, Sir F.||King, hon. P. J. L.|
|Dalglish, R.||Kinglake, A. W.|
|Davie, Sir H. R. F.||Kinglake, J. A.|
|Denman, hon. G.||Kingscote, Colonel|
|Dent, J. D.||Kinnaird, hon. A. F.|
|Dering, Sir E. C.||Knatchbull-Hugessen, E.|
|Dilke, Sir W.||Labouchere, H.|
|Dillwyn, L. L.||Layard, A. H.|
|Dixon, G.||Lamont, J.|
|Dodson, J. G.||Lawrence, W.|
|Duff, M. E. G.||Lawson, rt. hon. J. A.|
|Dundas, F.||Leader, N. P.|
|Eckersley, N.||Lee, W.|
|Edwards, C.||Leeman, G.|
|Edwards, H.||Lefevre, G. J. S.|
|Eliot, Lord||Legh, Major C.|
|Erskine, Vice-Ad. J. E.||Lewis, H.|
|Ewart, W.||Locke, J.|
|Ewing, H. E. Crum-||Long, R. P.|
|Eykyn, R.||Lusk, A.|
|Fawcett, H.||Mackie, J.|
|Fildes, J.||M'Laren, D.|
|Fitzwilliam, hn. C. W. W.||Maguire, J. F.|
|Forster, C.||Marshall, W.|
|Forster, W. E.||Martin, C. W.|
|Fortescue, rt. Hon. C. S.||Martin, P. W.|
|Fortescue, hon. D. F.||Milbank, F. A.|
|Gaselee, Serjeant S.||Mill, J. S.|
|Gaskell, J. M.||Miller, W.|
|Gibson, rt. hon. T. M.||Mills, J. R.|
|Mitchell, A.||Seely, C.|
|Mitchell, T. A.||Seymour, H. D.|
|Moffatt, G.||Sheridan, H. B.|
|Moncrciff, rt. hon. J.||Sherriff, A. C.|
|Monk, C. J.||Simeon, Sir J.|
|Moore, G.||Smith, J.|
|More, R. J.||Smith, J. A.|
|Morris, W.||Smith, J. B.|
|Morrison, W.||Stacpoole, W.|
|Murphy, N. D.||Stanley, hon. F.|
|Neate, C.||Stansfeld, J.|
|Newdegate, C. N.||Steel, J.|
|Norwood, C. M.||Stock, O.|
|O'Beirne, J. L.||Stone, W. H.|
|O'Brien, Sir P.||Sullivan, E.|
|O'Conor Don, The||Sykes, Colonel W. H.|
|O'Loghlen, Sir C. M.||Taylor, P. A.|
|Onslow, G.||Tite, W.|
|Osborne, R. B.||Tomline, G.|
|Otway, A. J.||Tracy, hon. C. R. D. Hanbury-|
|Padmore, R.||Trevelyan, G. O.|
|Palmer, Sir R.||Vanderbyl, P.|
|Parry, T.||Verney, Sir H.|
|Pease, J. W.||Vernon, H. F.|
|Peel, A. W.||Villiers, rt. hon. C. P.|
|Pelham, Lord||Vivian, H. H.|
|Philips, R. N.||Vivian, Capt. hn. J. C. W.|
|Pim, J.||Waring, C.|
|Platt, J.||Watkin, E. W.|
|Pollard-Urquhart, W.||Western, Sir T. B.|
|Portman, hn. W. H. B.||Whalley, G. H.|
|Potter, E.||Whitbread, S.|
|Potter, T. B.||White, hon. Capt. C.|
|Price, W. P.||White, J.|
|Pritchard, J.||Whitworth, B.|
|Rearden, D. J.||Wickham, H. W.|
|Robartes, T. J. A.||Williamson, Sir H.|
|Robertson, D.||Woods, H.|
|Roebuck, J. A.||Wyvill, M.|
|Rothschild, Baron L. de||Young, G.|
|Rothschild, N. M. de||Young, R.|
|Russell, F. W.||TELLERS.|
|St. Aubyn, J.||Torrens, W. T. M'C.|
|Samuda, J. D'A.||Enfield, Viscount|
|Adderley, rt. hon. C. B.||Campbell, A. H.|
|Annesley, hon. Col. H.||Capper, C.|
|Anson, hon. Major||Cartwright, Colonel|
|Archdall, Captain M.||Cave, rt. hon. S.|
|Arkwright, R.||Cecil, Lord E. H. B. G.|
|Baggallay, R.||Chatterton, rt. hn. H. E.|
|Bagge, Sir W.||Clinton, Lord A. P.|
|Bailey, C.||Cobbold, J. C.|
|Baring, T.||Cochraue, A. D. R. W. B.|
|Barrington, Viscount||Cole, hon. J. L.|
|Barrow, W. H.||Corrance, F. S.|
|Bateson, Sir T.||Corry, rt. hon. H. L.|
|Bathurst, A. A.||Courtenay, Lord|
|Beach, Sir M. H.||Cox, W. T.|
|Beach, W. W. B.||Cranborne, Viscount|
|Beecroft, G. S.||Cubitt, G.|
|Biddulph, M.||Curzon, Viscount|
|Bingham, Lord||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Bourne, Colonel||Dick, F.|
|Brett, W. B.||Dickson, Major A. G.|
|Bridges, Sir B. W.||Dimsdale, R.|
|Brooks, R.||Disraeli, rt. hon. B.|
|Bruce, Sir H. H.||Doulton, F.|
|Burrell, Sir P.||Dowdeswell, W. E.|
|Du Cane, C.||Lacon, Sir E.|
|Duncombe, hon. Col.||Laing, S.|
|Dunne, General||Laird, J.|
|Dutton, hon. R. H.||Langton, W. G.|
|Dyke, W. H.||Lefroy, A.|
|Dyott, Colonel R.||Lennox, Lord G. G.|
|Eaton, H. W.||Lennox, Lord H. G.|
|Edwards, Sir H.||Leslie, C. P.|
|Egerton, E. C.||Liddell, hon. H. G.|
|Elcho, Lord||Lindsay, hon. Col. C.|
|Fane, Colonel J. W.||Lindsay, Colonel R. L.|
|Fellowes, E.||Lopes, Sir M.|
|Fergusson, Sir J.||Lowther, Captain|
|Floyer, J.||Lowther, J.|
|Forde, Colonel||Mainwaring, T.|
|Forester, rt. hon. Gen.||Manners, Lord G. J.|
|Fort, R.||Manners, rt. hn. Lord J.|
|Freshfield, C. K.||Meller, Colonel|
|Garth, R.||Montagu, rt. hn. Lord R.|
|Gilpin, Colonel||Montgomery, Sir G.|
|Goldney, G.||Morgan, hon. Major|
|Gooch, Sir D.||Morgan, O.|
|Gore, J. R. O.||Mowbray, rt. hon. J. R.|
|Gorst, J. E.||Naas, Lord|
|Grant, A.||Neeld, Sir J.|
|Graves, S. R.||Neville-Grenville, R.|
|Greene, E.||Newport, Viscount|
|Gray, Lt.-Colonel||Noel, hon. G. J.|
|Grey, hon. T. de||North, Colonel|
|Griffith, C. D.||Northcote, rt. hn. Sir S. H.|
|Gurney, rt. hon. R.||Paget, R. H.|
|Gwyn, H.||Pakington, rt. hn. Sir J.|
|Hamilton, Lord C.||Palk, Sir L.|
|Hamilton, Lord C. J.||Parker, Major W.|
|Hamilton, I. T.||Patten, rt. hon. Col. W.|
|Hamilton, Viscount||Paull, H.|
|Hardy, rt. hon. G.||Peel, rt. hon. Gen.|
|Hartley, J.||Powell, F. S.|
|Hartopp, E. B.||Pugh, D.|
|Harvey, R. B.||Read, C. S.|
|Harvey, R. J. H.||Robertson, P. F.|
|Hay, Sir J. C. D.||Royston, Viscount|
|Heathcote, hon. G. H.||Schreiber, C.|
|Heathcote, Sir W.||Sclater-Booth, G.|
|Henniker-Major, hon. J. M.||Scott, Lord H.|
|Scourfield, J. H.|
|Herbert, hon. Col. P.||Selwyn, Sir C. J.|
|Hervey, Lord A. H. C.||Severne, J. E.|
|Hesketh, Sir T. G.||Seymour, G. H.|
|Hodgson, W. N.||Simonds, W. B.|
|Hogg, Lieut.-Col. T. M.||Smith, A.|
|Holmesdale, Viscount||Smith, S. G.|
|Hood, Sir A. A.||Somerset, E. A.|
|Hope, A. J. B. B.||Stanley, Lord|
|Hornby, W. H.||Stopford, S. G.|
|Horsfall, T. B.||Stuart, Lt.-Col. W.|
|Hotham, Lord||Sturt, H. G.|
|Howes, E.||Sturt, Lt.-Col. N.|
|Hubbard, J. G.||Surtees, C. F.|
|Hunt, G. W.||Surtees, H. E.|
|Jervis, Major||Sykes, C.|
|Jones, D.||Thorold, Sir J. H.|
|Karslake, E. K.||Thynne, Lord H. F.|
|Karslake Sir J. B.||Tollemache, J.|
|Kekewich, S. T.||Torrens, R.|
|Kelk, J.||Tottenham, Lt.-Col. C. G.|
|Kendall, N.||Treeby, J. W.|
|Kennard, R. W.||Turner, C.|
|Keown, W.||Vance, J.|
|Knight, F. W.||Verner, E. W.|
|Knightley, Sir R.||Verner, Sir W.|
|Knox, Colonel||Walcott, Admiral|
|Knox, hon. Col. S.||Walker, Major G. G.|
|Walpole, rt. hon. S. H.||Wyndham, hon. P.|
|Walsh, Sir J.||Wynn, C. W. W.|
|Waterhouse, S.||Wynne, W. R. M.|
|Welby, W. E.||Yorke, J. R.|
|Williams, F. M.||TELLERS.|
|Wise, H. C.||Taylor, Colonel T. E.|
|Woodd, B. T.||Whitmore, H.|
§ Several Amendments disagreed to; some agreed to.
§ Clause 46 (Corrupt Payment of Rates to be punishable as Bribery).
§ In Page 16, Line 41, on Question that the Lords' Amendment leaving out "corruptly' be agreed to,
§ MR. GATHORNE HARDY
said, he thought the House ought to disagree with the Lords on this Amendment, and retain the word "corruptly."
§ MR. RUSSELL GURNEY
said, he hoped that the word "corruptly" would be left out, and the Lords' Amendment agreed to.
§ On Question, Amendment disagreed to.
§ On the Amendment of the Lords, providing that any returning officer acting as agent at an election should be guilty of misdemeanour.
§ Clause I (Returning Officer, &c. acting as Agent guilty of Misdemeanour).
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that it had been argued with considerable force that the effect of such a clause would be to confine the selection of returning officers to not the most respectable class of professional men. He thought, therefore, it might be as well not to agree to the Amendment.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, he thought the Amendment a good one. The law ought not to remain as it was in respect of those returning officers.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Clause 54 (Construction of Act), in Page 18, Line 35, after "Act," insert,
Provided that so much of Clause 78 of the last-mentioned Act as provides that nothing in that Act contained shall entitle any Person to Vote in the election of Members to serve in Parliament for the City of Oxford or Town of Cambridge in respect of the occupation of any Chambers
or Premises in any of the Colleges or Halls of the Universities of Oxford or Cambridge shall not apply to the franchises conferred by this Act.
§ SIR ROUNDELL PALMER
said, that this Amendment virtually repealed the provision of the Reform Act by which persons were not permitted to vote at the borough elections in respect of their occupation of any chambers or premises in any of the Colleges or Halls at the Universities of Oxford or Cambridge. If this clause was introduced with that intention the word "insidious" was a very mild term to apply to it. If without that intention it was but right to point out the effect which it would have. He moved that the House disagree to the Lords' Amendment.
§ Question, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."—(Sir Roundell Palmer)—put; The House divided:—Ayes 188; Noes 164: Majority 24.
§ Clause L (Saving Clause as to Dissolution of Parliament).
§ SIR ROBERT COLLIER
said, he wanted to know why the operation of the new constituencies was to be postponed till the 1st of January, 1869?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, there was no intention to postpone the action of the new constituencies, but it would be that time before the new register would be in force.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, that there were two propositions involved in the clause, one with regard to the franchises created, and the other with regard to the distribution of seats. As regarded the latter proposition the Bill might come into operation at the end of this year, but as regarded the new franchises it could not come into operation till the end of next year.
§ MR. WALPOLE
said, that there could not be any registration until next summer, and therefore no part of the Act could come into operation until after that time.
§ Clause amended and agreed to.1199
§ Committee appointed, "to draw up Reasons to be assigned to The Lords for disagreeing to the Amendments to which this House hath disagreed:"—Mr. GLADSTONE, Mr. CARDWELL, Mr. VILLIERS, Sir ROUNDELL PALMER, Mr. WILLIAM EDWARD FORSTER, Mr. COLVILE, Mr. M'CULLAGH TORRENS. VISCOUNT ENFIELD, Mr. MONCREIFF, and Sir COLMAN O'LOGHLEN.