§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ COLONEL DYOTT
moved a new Clause (Freeholders, Copyholders or Leaseholders, within Parliamentary Boroughs, or residing within seven miles thereof, to Vote for such Boroughs).
§ MR. DENMAN
said, he rose to make a statement to the House respecting what had occurred on Friday, and he was anxious 783 to refer to the subject at once, because what he had said had been much misunderstood. An impression appeared to have prevailed that he had entered into some understanding with the House that the hon. and learned Member for Southwark (Mr. Locke) and himself should draw up a clause, and, relieving the Government altogether from action in the matter that either he or his hon. and learned Friend should propose the clause to the House: but the arrangement he proposed was quite of another nature. He proposed that his hon. and learned Friend should prepare a clause and should submit it to him, and that, if they could agree upon it, they should submit it to the Attorney General. ["No, no!"] If any Gentleman denied that, he misunderstood what had passed. But when he (Mr. Denman) made that proposition the Attorney General did nothing but shake his head; and therefore it could not be supposed that he (Mr. Denman) stood pledged to the bringing up of a clause. He held that the Government were still bound to bring up a clause to make sense of the words inserted in the 3rd section; and, as far as he was concerned, he should not absolve the Government from their promise.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, it was quite evident that the hon. and learned Gentleman had been trying his hand at a new clause; and if the Government were to be absolved from their duties by the hon. and learned Gentleman's success in that attempt, he certainly should not be too sanguine of the result. He felt confident that the Committee would come to some very safe and sound conclusion upon the controverted question of the other day, but he regretted that they could not now trust for its solution to the hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ MR. DENMAN
said, he would now give notice that he would to morrow ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether it was the intention of the Government to bring up a new clause defining the mode in which rates were to be demanded, in accordance with Clause 3 of the Bill, and if so, when the clause would appear on the Notice Paper?
§ LORD DUNKELLIN
said, he would suggest that in this matter they should follow the course which the House usually adopted. A clause intended to embody the views of the hon. and learned Gentleman was proposed, fully discussed, and negatived, and under these circumstances 784 he thought the subject ought to be dropped.
§ MR. BAXTER
said, he rose to make an appeal to the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Dyott), and to those other hon. Members who had given notice of new clauses. He was one of those who last week voted with the Government against the proposition to extend to copyholders and leaseholders, having property in towns, the right of voting for the counties, and he did so because it appeared to him utterly unsound and unjust in principle, that property in boroughs should give county votes; but he was also glad of a favourable opportunity of giving his support to the great democratic party opposite. But it was one thing to refuse to extend a principle which they conscientiously believed to be unsound, and another to deprive a vast number of voters of a privilege which they had possessed for centuries, and had exercised on the whole to the advantage of the country. He appreciated this great measure of enfranchisement so much that he should give no vote this Session which would impede its progress; but if debates were to arise upon every theoretic point which hon. Gentlemen were anxious to bring forward in the form of additional clauses, there would scarcely be any chance, now that they had arrived at the first of July, of passing this great measure of Reform during the present Session. He appealed therefore to hon. Members to withdraw their clauses and allow the Committee to go at once to the Schedules. The proposition now before the Committee was one of those which proved fatal to the Bill of 1859, and he thought the Government had acted prudently in omitting it from the present Bill.
§ COLONEL DYOTT
said, he wished to assure the hon. Member for Montrose that he had submitted the clause to the Committee in the full belief that it would greatly improve the borough register without doing the smallest injustice to the county voters. The county representation would be as perfect as it was now, by reason of the vast number of small occupiers which would be placed on the county register. He should, however, be guided entirely by the feelings of the Committee, although he had a strong opinion that his proposition was a movement in the right direction.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, it was quite natural that the hon. and gallant Gentleman should wish to do everything for the benefit of those whom he represented, but 785 this proposition applied not only to freeholders in the boroughs, but to freeholders within seven miles of the boundaries. While preserving the general principles of the constitution, provision should be made for such enfranchisement of persons and localities as their advancement in importance and intelligence might require. Resident freeholders in Bristol voted for the city, and that was the only exception to the general rule that the freeholder voted for the county, while the occupier voted for the city or borough. It seemed to him that, by the present proposal, they were coming back to the principle of the Bill of 1859, which was contrary to the general system of representation which had existed for centuries in this country. It was common for Members to give so much attention to anomalies in the representation that they forgot there was any principle in it. The principle of the English representative constitution was that the property franchise was the county franchise; for property worth 40s. annually enfranchised a man, though in no wise connected residence. He was gratified to hear with the hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. Stuart Mill) vindicate his character for ability when he descanted on this topic; but he could not concur with the hon. Member in his advocacy the other day of Mr. Hare's plan for the representation of minorities, because such representation really existed at the present moment in the county franchise, which was the most ancient form of electoral franchise in this country. It was a franchise based on property for the protection of property; and its existence was one of the reasons why real property had been held so much more safely in England than in any other country; but more than that, it produced in the Legislature a respect for property which had been the principal cause of the soundness of our credit, which again led to the growth of our trade and commerce. The borough franchises were additional privileges given to certain places in order that industry, manufacture, and commerce might be represented in Parliament; but afterwards other causes stepped in, and sovereigns found it expedient for the purpose of levying taxes to enfranchise particular localities, upon the good-will of the inhabitants of which they had reason to place reliance. He believed that upon this principle of double representation had rested the security, strength, and advantage of our free institutions. England had never 786 been represented by a system of equal franchise conferred upon every one; but there had been a double system of representation, and he was convinced that it would be most dangerous to depart from that plan. The most ancient principle of the representation of the country was struck at by this proposition. If the Committee sanctioned this proposal they would give up the ancient principle of the representative constitution. It was true that the Chandos clause modified the exclusively property character of the county electoral qualification; but the connection between schedules A and B of the Property and Income Tax—the revenue under both schedules being levied upon the same rental though in different proportions—sbowed that the enfranchisement under the Chandos clause was only a development of the ancient property qualification. The city and borough electoral system grew with the early establishment of trade and manufacture, but the privilege was conferred afterwards for other purposes. The sovereigns of this country created boroughs originally to strengthen their authority against ecclesiastical encroachment, and against the power of the aristocracy; and after the separation of the upper and lower branches of the legislature, when the lower branch asserted a separate existence, the progress of trade and commerce showed the necessity for an enlargement of the freedom. In the earlier days of the system, the sovereigns selected localities for enfranchisement, frequently on account of the favourable disposition of the inhabitants, and conferred the management of the direct electoral power on those persons who were most serviceable in the collection of revenue and payment of taxes. The borough electoral system showed a local, a special franchise, based upon special connection with the locality, and upon residence—it was a strictly local franchise and electoral system. He believed it to be essential that the marked characteristics, the positive differences, the actual distinctions, between the county and the borough franchises and electoral systems should be preserved, and that it would be a most perilous policy to depart from this fundamental character of our representation. He was convinced that the further the present proposition was examined, thought it would be evident that the hon. and gallant Gentleman was seeking to do his duty to his constituents, the more would it be plain that the effect of his proposal 787 would be to break up the old system of electoral representation by which the rights of the various classes had been preserved.
said, that it would be very unfortunate if they added, by the adoption of this Motion, to the feeling of injustice that already existed, owing to the difference between the constituencies in counties and boroughs, and hoped the hon. and gallant Gentleman would not press the Motion to a division. He believed the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not support it; for he believed the right hon. Gentleman would not consent to the addition of a clause which carried with it the taint of disfranchisement, as it would deprive a large class of persons of votes, who had hitherto exercised them with propriety.
said, that more cases than that of Bristol might be quoted where the freeholders voted in the towns, the practice prevailing also in Exeter, Norwich, and Nottingham. There was on the paper a notice of Motion that the privilege of voting for the City of London should be extended to persons who resided within twenty-five miles; and no doubt there were many persona holding property in the City, and living a good many miles out of it, who had a far greater interest in the City than those who slept within it for a certain number of nights in the year.
said, it was entirely incorrect to suppose that there were comparatively few freeholders residing within the limits of boroughs. He believed that they were numbered by tens of thousands, and that there was amongst them a very large proportion of freeholders holding small properties. The proposal, if carried, would therefore amount to a wholesale disfranchisement.
§ MR. DARBY GRIFFITH
said, that the proposition, instead of disfranchising the borough freeholders, would merely transfer their votes from the counties to the boroughs. The measure proposed to transfer the votes in respect of land, not geographically situated in the county, from the county to the boroughs within which the land was geographically situated. Hon. Gentlemen opposite appeared to have lost their usual desire for innovation and improvement, and as they objected to this proposition for some reason or another, they sought to put it aside by misstating the case. He thought the hon. Gentleman who last spoke had entirely failed to understand the meaning of the Amendment.
said, he wished to explain 788 to the Committee that what he had intended to say was that the borough freeholders would be deprived of their county vote by the adoption of the proposition of the hon. Member.
said, the hon. Member for Devizes was evidently under a mistake as to the effect of the proposition. It was quite clear that these persons who now had borough votes by reason of occupation, and also county votes by reason of the possession of property within the borough; if they lived within seven miles would have their county vote destroyed, and would be allowed in future only to give a borough vote. Of the number of such persons there was no return, but it must be considerable. But he would ask the Committee whether there could be anything more unfavourable to the future well-working of the House of Commons than these attempts to draw a distinct line between persons who lived in boroughs and persons who lived in counties? If they had all the borough Members, or the great bulk of them, on one side, and all the county Members, or the great bulk of them, on the other, they would have contests in that House in which there would be no party to afford any moderating influence, and he believed the character and services of the House of Commons would be greatly diminished to the country. In 1859 this question—not entirely the question now before the Committee, for it was only a part of it, arose; but still all the arguments he believed that could be used against the proposition of 1859 were equally available against the present proposition. He could not for a moment believe that the Chancellor of the Exchequer or his Colleagues would give any sanction to it; and if they should adopt the proposal he was quite sure that friendly disposition which was felt by a great portion of both sides of the House towards the progress of the Bill would be greatly interfered with, and much of that which was now taking place so advantageously would be thwarted, and that many hon. Members would be driven into a course of opposition which they would be most reluctant to assume.
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
said, the hon. Member for Birmingham's argument would be more cogent if he were consistent, but that he must recollect that, by the Bill, the man who rented a house in a borough of the rateable value of £12 and upwards was a borough voter and not a county voter. If, therefore, there would be, as 789 contended, any hardship in depriving the town freeholder of a county vote, equally would there be an inconsistency in shutting out under the new franchise many freeholder inhabitants of their own houses, within our boroughs from any share in the county constituency. He confessed that therein, differing from many of his hon. Friends, he did not see any advantage, but much the reverse, in retaining these large rural districts dubbed with the name of boroughs. But if they were to keep these large rural boroughs, at least let them represent the property and intelligence of the inhabitants. As it was they would be large areas, having hardly the slightest urban character about them, with constituencies composed of the lowest class of peasant householders, absolute agricultural labourers, while every freeholder of the district, from the yeoman who held his two or three acres to the proprietor of thousands, would be destitute of the local franchise and remanded to the county. In fact, the representation would be handed over to the ignorance and the poverty of the district, and the wealth and intelligence would be shut out. It was impossible for so anomalous and mischievous a condition of matters long to exist, and he would therefore vote for the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member which offered some redress.
§ MR. ALDERMAN LAWRENCE
said, he considered that the proposition was an attempt to deprive the borough freeholders of their county vote, and he trusted it would not meet with the support of Her Majesty's Government.
§ MR. VANCE
said, he preferred to call the clause an enfranchising and not a disfranchising one; for a freeholder in a town in the ordinary way had much more interest in a borough than in the county, and would infinitely prefer having a freehold vote for the borough than for the county. From his own experience he could vouch that this feeling prevailed in Dublin.
said, he was unwilling to stand in the way of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because the proposition before the Committee was one which, if further entertained, might lead to very troublesome consequences, and he was in hopes that what might fall from that right hon. Gentleman would put a stop to the discussion. The hon. Member who had just sat down had called the proposition before the Committee an enfranchising measure; would the hon. Gentleman inform the Committee how he had arrived 790 at that conclusion, especially as regarded a class of cases exceedingly numerous, where an individual had a vote for the borough in respect of occupation, and a second vote for the county in respect of his freehold which he did not occupy? If the proposition before the Committee were adopted, a person in such a position would lose his vote for the county, and would gain no additional vote for the borough beyond that which he held already, and if such were not a disfranchising measure, he was at a loss to know what could be termed one. In point of fact, both the hon. Member for Devizes and the hon. Member for Dublin must now vote in opposition to the proposal—[Mr. DARBY GRIFFITH made a gesture of dissent]—seeing that they had been labouring under a total misapprehension as to what would be the effect of the measure. He ventured to assert that this was a partial reproduction of the proposal of Her Majesty's Government in 1859, which was, in a great measure, unacceptable to both sides of the House. As the Chancellor of the Exchequer appeared to be somewhat sceptical upon that point, he would venture to remind him that amongst those who then opposed the disfranchisement of the small freeholders, were Mr. Sturt, Mr. Ker Seymer, Mr. Scourfield, Mr. Dutton, Mr. Stuart Wortley, Mr. Beaumont, Lord Elcho, Colonel Smythe, Lord Adolphus Vane, Mr. Palmer, Mr. Du Cane, Mr. Milnes Gaskell, and Mr. Edward Egerton, all of whom had expressed themselves in opposition to the principle involved in the clause, and he believed the right hon. Member for Oxfordshire had spoken in the same sense. This appeared to him to be a proposition that very strictly deserved the character of an innovating measure, without conducing in any way to any improvement. They had already taken considerable steps towards the assimilation of the franchises of county and town, and he believed that, with a uniform franchise, or with any other, the representative system of this country would maintain its main features; but he saw no reason for departing from the distinction which prevailed in the general character of the two franchises. The hon. and gallant Gentleman proposed an alteration of an important feature in our Constitution, without alleging any such grounds as ought to induce the Committee to move in that direction. The county franchise is a mixed one, but the right hon. Gentleman invited them to go a 791 step further and mix tenure with freehold in the boroughs. Independently of the positive disfranchisement, the very fact of taking from a man a county vote and giving him a borough vote would be regarded as a sort of disfranchisement. For what reason he knew not, but a man who had a county vote and a borough vote preferred the county vote, and he would not accept as satisfactory the answer that he had a borough vote instead of his county vote. Beyond this there were many cases in which they would give no vote at all in lieu of the vote taken away. The proposal was, in a measure, one of disfranchisement, and one to which it would be impossible for the Committee to consent.
§ MR. DARBY GRIFFITH
said, that he was quite right in saying that, in principle, this clause would have no disfranchising effect, for the principle was to transfer freehold votes from counties to boroughs. The right hon. Gentleman's opinion was not founded upon the principle of the clause, but upon the deductions which he drew from its operation; it was a misnomer therefore to say that the proposition itself was a disfranchising one. The right hon. Gentleman argued that it would have a disfranchising effect in certain cases, but it would have a contrary effect in others.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that he had no doubt that a great deal might be said on both sides of the question then before them; and that there might be a very protracted debate upon it. He thought that his hon. and gallant Friend had brought forward the clause with great ability, and had stated all the points that could be urged in its favour. He would not enter into the question, but would merely say that it was one which had engaged the grave attention of Her Majesty's Government, and after full consideration they had resolved that it was not expedient to introduce this provision, or any one of an analogous nature. It was not, therefore, in the power of the Government to support the motion of his hon. and gallant Friend.
§ Clause negatived.
§ MR. NEATE
said, that, in submitting the proposition of which he had give notice, he anticipated that the clause might be objected to on the ground that it would have the effect of sweeping away a venerable franchise, and he admitted that it would have that effect; but the franchise in question—namely, that derived from a 792 rent-charge, had altogether changed its character since it was first created. On such an occasion as the present, when they were reviewing the field of the Constitution and extending its boundaries, franchises which had ceased to answer their original purpose should be uprooted as noxious weeds. In the feudal times rent-charges were as much a part of an estate as the land out of which they arose, and involved the obligation of attending the County Court, taking part in elections, and contributing to the expenses of knights of the shire; but nothing of their original character now remained, and they were simply annuities, giving their holders no interest in the county, nor even in the land itself, beyond its producing the 40s. per annum. If an annuity of 40s. was a fair title to a county vote, £80 a year in the funds ought to give a vote for each of the forty counties of England. The holder of the rent-charge had no electoral right whatever in the county, nor any interest in the rent-charge itself, except so far as seeing that a sufficient margin to cover the charge existed. Even bonâ fide rent-charges ought not to confer the county franchise; but it was notorious that many were of a different character, and these might be multiplied to any extent. A rent-charge of 40s. might nominally be sold for £50 or £60—the stamps not being more than 10s., and printed forms of conveyance dispensing with the necessity for a lawyer—and neither the purchase money nor the annuity might ever be paid. In this way fictitious votes might be manufactured at a very small expense. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, replying recently to a distinguished Friend of his who had asked where the 4,000 freeholders of Bucks were, replied triumphantly that they were where they ought to be—in the county of Buckingham, meaning that they were on the register; but how many of them had fictitious qualifications? He had been told that in a neighbouring county there were recently 400 claimants at the registration, who all gave as their address one of the great London clubs, he would not specify which. This showed the devices that were resorted to to swamp the actual residents in the counties. This system of rent-charges put a power into the hands of the great landed proprietors of creating a greater number of votes than any new franchise enacted by this Bill. Whether they abused it or not, this enfranchisement of acres was too great a 793 power to be left in their hands. It should be remembered that after the passing of the present Bill the landed proprietors must exert themselves in order to maintain their present influence; for they were now calling into existence a new class of county voters, especially in the county towns, and they all knew that the right of voting in these towns would be viewed with two greatest jealousy by the county proprietors. Indeed, he had heard that there was an intention of stifling this franchise in its birth by buying up the land in these towns. If the Committee did not adopt his first proposition, he should move the alternative clause, which was meant to restrict the power of creating franchises of a pecuniary character. The hon. Member concluded by moving—From and after the passing of this Act no person shall be entitled to vote in the Election of Members or a Member to serve for any County in virtue of any rent-charge created after the first day of July in the present year.Or, if this clause be not adopted, then—From and after the passing of this Act no person shall be entitled to vote in the Election of Members or a Member to serve for any County in virtue of any rent-charge created after the first day of July in this present year, unless such rent-charge shall be of the amount of ten pounds or upwards, and shall be granted either in fee or for the life-time of the grantee, nor unless such grantee shall be either son, brother, or nephew of the grantor of such annuity.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that, although he had listened with the greatest attention to the hon. Gentleman, he had been unable to follow his remarks. The Motion of the hon. Gentleman was directed against what were called rent-charges; and so far as he could collect he was under the impression that the hon. Gentleman had indulged in very great exaggeration. For himself, he did not believe in this wholesale manufacture; of rent-charges. In severe contests there might be instances in which the right, as it unquestionably was, had been abused; but he had not been able to collect that the hon. Gentleman had given any evidence on this subject. His argument had been founded, in fact, on a mere assumption that rent-charges were created out of estates. No landed proprietor, however, was fond of a custom of this kind. He did not like to break up his estate into patches; and any political party would find that if such a practice were resorted to there would be counter-irritation, 794 and that all such proceedings would end in "vanity and vexation of spirit." He could not help thinking that these Motions from hon. Gentlemen opposite had a common character, and that they were all aimed at the limitation of the suffrage. There was evidently no case for such a clause, unless there was strong evidence that the power was abused, and that to a great extent. The hon. Member had adduced no evidence of that kind, and all experience went to prove that if the power of creating rent charges were exercised in a particular locality, it would be followed by a reaction, and would ultimately produce very little effect on public opinion. He hoped the Committee would not be induced to limit the franchise by agreeing to this clause, and, for his own part, he should certainly oppose the proposition.
said, he did not think the Chancellor of the Exchequer was quite accurate in his recollection, or in the imputation he had made on the Members who sat on that side of the House. He could remind the right hon. Gentleman that, on several occasions when Motions had been made of an enfranchising tendency, the right hon. Gentleman had strongly opposed them; such, for instance, as allowing copyholders and leaseholders in boroughs to vote in counties. He doubted whether the Amendment before the Committee would be a solution of the evils complained of. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had laid down, though not in precise words, propositions which were of a doubtful nature, and he thought the meaning of the right hon. Gentleman's statement was that although it might be shown that a particular provision of law was open to abuse, and, indeed invited abuse, there was no necessity for meddling with it until it was shown abuse had been committed to a certain extent. He did not think it a sound proposition, and the House ought not, under the name of enfranchising or under any other name, deliberately to adopt or retain a law the provisions of which had a palpable tendency to abuse. It was quite true that the law recognized as freeholders persons who had rent-charges given on the lives of the grantors; at the same time it was an interest of the most fugitive character. A man ninety years of age, the expectation of whose life was probably not two years, might create rent-charges in favour of individuals, and thereby make them free- 795 holders and give them county votes, it being notorious that when such rent-charges were created no real interest whatever was conveyed and no money passed. He thought his hon. Friend ought to so frame his clause as to disfranchise persons in such a position. He did not think that a rent-charge upon the life of the grantor was such an interest as was in the contemplation of the law that made the freeholder a voter. But a rent-charge on the life of the grantee was quite a different thing. If this clause was to be read a second time, he would suggest that it should be amended in some respects. As it then stood it was proposed that no person was to vote for a rent-charge after the 31st July, whereas it was, he presumed, intended that no person should be registered after that date. But he presumed it was not intended to disqualify a man who was on the register. He did not see the necessity of limiting these grants, to the son, brother, or nephew, of the grantor, because there might be a bonâ fide interest in the rent-charge of an estate by a man who is neither son, brother, nor nephew. It ought, however, to be a bonâ fide transaction, and value received for the rent-charge. The principle of the clause appeared to be reasonable, and the points that had been referred to might very well be considered in detail. If the Committee was disposed to entertain it it ought to be pressed, but if not it had better be withdrawn for the present.
§ Clause withdrawn.
§ MR. CANDLISH
moved, after Clause 7 to insert a clause, "That no elector who had been employed for reward at an election shall be entitled to vote." The object of this clause was to check corruption, and he would illustrate the necessity for its adoption by referring to the election for the city of Oxford in 1857, when there was a somewhat keen contest. A Committee of that House reported that Mr. Neate's Committee employed 198 persons as poll clerks and messengers, 152 of whom voted for Mr. Neate, and received sums of from £1 to 2s. 6d. each, which were paid under 796 pretence of remuneration for services as messengers and runners during the election. Though it was not proved before the Committee that these payments to the voters were the primary motive in deciding their votes, yet in many cases it was shown that no adequate work had really been done for the money. Mr Cardwell had employed only twenty-eight messengers, of whom fourteen were voters, and he polled as many within forty-one as his competitor. Now, it was quite clear that if twenty-eight messengers were sufficient for conducting Mr. Cardwell's election, 198 were not necessary for conducting that of the other candidate.
§ MR. CANDLISH
was not aware that there would be any objection to his quoting from an official Report. He did not, however, desire in any way to reflect upon the hon. Gentleman, for it was quite possible that the 152 electors to whom he referred were hired and paid altogether without the hon. Gentleman's cognizance. But be that as it might, it was perfectly clear that the successful candidate had won by means of a system of hiring and "putting on" voters to do the work of the election. The Committee also reported that in many cases no services were rendered by the messengers employed by Mr. Neate. In the election for 1859 the objectionable system prevailed at Preston and also at Gloucester. Messrs. Price and Monk were unseated for the latter place, for bribing by the emploment of agents, messengers, and runners. At Beverlay the Committee reported that the objectionable practice also prevailed, the voters being paid from 3s. to 10s. per day, when in point of fact they really did nothing for the money. It was proved before the Committee that at Kingston-upon-Hull 487 persons were so employed on behalf of Mr. Hoare and 493 on behalf of Messrs. Clay and Lewis, and 300 who were voters and voted for Mr. Hoare received from 2s. 6d. to £3 5s. per day, when in reality many of them Attended only at dinner time, and in the evening, and some were so old and infirm that they were incapable of rendering efficient service; in fact none of them rendered any adequate service for the remuneration they received. One man who was refused employment as 797 a runner for Mr. Clay was afterwards put down as a messenger for Mr. Hoare. He was paid £1 2s. 6d. a day and afterwards voted for that gentleman. The same system of indirect bribery was also shown to have prevailed in the borough of Nottingham at the election in 1865, persons having been employed on behalf of Messrs. Paget and Morley who received, in the capacity of agents, messengers, and protectors from violence, sums varying from 15s. to £4 10s.; while the Commission appointed to inquire into the last election for Reigate reported that the system of paid agency seemed to have eaten through and through the whole constituency, several persons, such as clerks, engine drivers, and stokers engaged on the railway at Redhill, who were in constant employment, receiving pay on account of the candidates, and demanding wages from them to the amount of £8 each. In the report of the third Commissioner it was stated that the system of employing voters as sub-agents and canvassers seemed to be considered both by candidates and electors as perfectly legal. He thought such facts as these fully justified him in submitting his proposal to the House. He did not think it necessary to trouble the Committee with any further evidence on this subject, but would appeal to the experience of hon. Members themselves. He could say that as regarded himself the only embarrassment and difficulty he felt during a keenly contested election was the pressure that was put upon him to employ voters. The experience of other Members would confirm his own, and he wanted the House to declare that such things could not be done legally. It might be said, indeed, that the persons who did the things he had stated were disfranchised. But they were not all disfranchised, and it was the fact that this employment of voters was in law not wrong in itself, but was only wrong in the degree to which it was carried; so that it was difficult for a person who desired to conform to the law to know what was or what was not a legal employment of voters as agents and canvassers. In many boroughs too, and perhaps in many counties, there was a resident class of electioneering agents, whose professed business it was always to bring about a contested election. Now the trade of these touters would no longer be profitable if they were debarred from personally participating in the expenditure resulting from contested elections. He proposed 798 that an elector employed for reward should, if he voted, be deemed guilty of a misdemeanour; and that any candidate or other person paying such reward should also be deemed guilty of a misdemeanour. An objection had been made that his clause wae too sweeping; but if that were thought to be the case he would not object to have it modified. He, hoped, however, the Committee would retain the penalty he proposed for the offence—that of a misdemeanour. If they made the punishment a fine, those who traded in corruption would only sink themselves deeper in corruption by paying, not merely the bribe, but also the money penalty for having bribed.
Moved to insert after Clause 7, the following clause:—
(No elector who has been employed for reward at an election to be entitled to vote.) No elector who before or during any election for any County or Borough shall have been retained, hired, or employed for reward by or on behalf of any candidate at such election as agent, canvasser, clerk, messenger, or otherwise, shall be entitled to vote at such election, and if he shall so vote, he shall be guilty of a misdemeanor; and any candidate, agent, or other person who shall promise or pay, or cause to be paid, any such reward to any elector so retained, hired, or employed, and voting at such election, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.
§ MR. CLAY
said, he thought that the hon Gentleman the Member for Sunderland could have made out a sufficient case for asking the Committee to read his clause a second time without entering into matters which were now but too notorious. Many of the cases to which the hon. Gentleman had alluded would be found to be by no means as gross as they appeared if they were examined into. With respect to the case of Mr. Hoare, the Committee were swayed by the appearance of a half-witted cripple in the witness-box. It appeared too ridiculous to have employed such a man as a runner. But the fact was that under no circumstances would that man have voted against his "colour." He thought there should be an alteration in the latter part of the clause—And any candidate, agent, or other person, who shall promise to pay or cause to be paid any such reward to any elector so retained, hired, or employed, and voting at such election, shall be guilty of a misdemeanour.In Hull it was impossible to carry on a contested election with less than 250 messengers, who were principally selected from 799 the Temperance Society; and what it would be when the constituency was increased from 6,000 to 17,000 he could not tell. He might mention what had occurred to himself in 1857. He had expressed a wish to those who were conducting his election that no voter should be employed, but on the polling day it was found accidentally that one of the clerks was an elector. A message was immediately sent to him desiring that he should not poll. A similar case might very well occur at any election, and a candidate or agent might by accident do that which by this clause was declared to be a misdemeanour. If, therefore, the latter portion of the clause were withdrawn, he should cheerfully vote for the first part.
§ MR. CRAWFORD
said, he should feel some difficulty in voting for this clause, as he believed that, to a certain extent, it would be inoperative. Its intention was to prevent persons voting who were employed as clerks, canvassers, or messengers; but what was to prevent those parties from getting their brothers or other immediate relatives to act for them? The corrupt motive for the employment would still remain. The clause would bear very hardly upon agents, who in large towns were generally very respectable persons, and many of whom from time immemorial had been engaged in the conduct of the local election. These gentlemen were far above all suspicion of being governed in their votes by the fact of their being professionally employed in connection with the election; and he did not see why they should be debarred from voting solely from this circumstance. He entirely approved the spirit in which the clause had been brought forward, but he would suggest that the word "agent" should be struck out and the clause made to apply only to canvassers, clerks, or messengers. If that suggestion were acceded to he should be happy to support the clause.
said, he thought his hon. Friend who proposed the clause ought to accede to the suggestion of his hon. Friend the Member for the City, not only on the ground that the agents were in general most trustworthy persons — though he believed that they well deserved that character—but what he chiefly looked to was the fact that their numbers could not be collusively multiplied. They were too expensive persons; the remuneration they required was too great for multiplication of agents for the furtherance of objects 800 and motives inconsistent with the purity of election. It was when they came to the canvassers, and messengers in particular, that multiplication by a hundredfold took place. Now, if the numbers were not greatly more than the occasion required, he would say primâ faciè that it was hard that these people should be deprived of the privilege of their vote. But looking at the matter practically, it would be found that it was by the employment of nominal canvassers and nominal messengers that by far the larger part of the real corruption at elections was carried on. It was only in far advanced stages of corruption that avowed, palpable, and positive bribery was carried on. The payment of canvassers was not direct bribery, though it had all the effect of bribery—it had a generally demoralizing and degrading effect and yet as it had not the palpable character of bribery it was extremely difficult for a candidate, who was not of a very firm mind, to say, "This is bribery, and I will not have anything to do with it." It was very difficult for a candidate, who was not personally acquainted with the cirumstances and the numbers of the electors, to say what number of canvassers and messengers might be necessary. It came, however, to have the effect of bribery, and of flooding the town with money, the expenditure of which did no good to the town or anybody in it, while it had a generally depraving and demoralizing effect. What happened? Here were three or four candidates in the field. They had agreed that they would not employ these swarms of canvassers and messengers, and accordingly they had not employed them at first. The contest became hotter, and the candidate who was weakest employed a few more canvassers and messengers. The other candidates find it out, and they do the same, and so this large, and on the whole demoralising expenditure was brought about in a large number of towns. Looking at the matter practically, therefore, he could not help wishing well to the proposal of his hon. Friend, because he was persuaded that any inconvenience attending it would be very small in comparison with the benefit which was likely to result from it; but he hoped his hon. Friend would accede to the suggestion of the hon. Member for the City, and omit agents.
§ MR. BAXTER
said, he was very glad to observe the reception which the Committee had given to the clause proposed by 801 his hon. Friend. He thought the case made out for it had been quite conclusive. At the same time, there was much force in the objection of the hon. Member for Hull, and he hoped the second part of the clause would be omitted. It was quite obvious that, if the Committee adopted that part of the clause, in the case of an elector being employed as a messenger, a misdemeanour might be committed per incuriam. But he rose to support the general principle that no man who was paid for his services at elections should have a vote, as it was impossible for such a man to be a free agent. He would oppose the omission of the word "agent" as suggested by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone), and the hon. Member for London (Mr. Crawford). The hon. Gentleman said that these agents were, for the most part, persons of the very highest character. He admitted that in nine cases out of ten—perhaps in 999 out of 1,000, these gentlemen were far above the suspicion of bribery. But he held it as a general principle, that no man who was paid for his services ought to have a vote at all. Let him put the case of Scotland. It was said there was no bribery in Scotland, and that was true; there was not that open and unblushing bribery which disgraced some of the towns in the south of England. But it was the habit in Scotland, and it had been the habit ever since the Reform Bill of 1832, to employ all the lawyers; and whenever an election took place in a Scotch burgh there emerged from all the dens and alleys of the place gentlemen who had never been heard of as lawyers before. What, he asked, was this but a species of bribery? If they omitted agents from the clause they would enable candidates to continue this corrupt and unconstitutional practice.
§ MR. POWELL
said, he hoped the clause would not be adopted. It was rather a matter for the consideration of the Committee now sitting upstairs on the Prevention of Corrupt Practices at Elections than for insertion in a Bill to amend the Representation of the People. He could not admit that gentlemen employed as agents at elections ceased to be independent men. It was not every man whose position would enable him to devote his time on behalf of a candidate at an election without reward. There were also various objections to the phraseology of the clause. As the clause then stood every person who had received reward for services rendered at any election was for ever debarred from voting. 802 He was not favourable to a measure which proposed to prohibit by legislation that which was inevitable at every election—namely, the employment of a reasonable amount of paid labour. If the practice of the employment of attorneys, canvassers, messengers, &c., were abused, Election Committees would deal with the matter, and the Member guilty of such abuse would run the risk of losing his seat. He hoped that the Committee would not accept the clause—in the first place, because the whole matter was before the Select Committee upstairs; secondly, because the clause was a most mischievous one, and would not mitigate the evils it proposed to remedy; and thirdly, because it was not properly worded.
§ SIR ROBERT COLLIER
thought the hon. Member who had just sat down had entirely misapprehended the scope of the powers of the Select Committee sitting to inquire into Corrupt Practices at Elections. It would be quite beyond the scope of their powers to determine who should and who should not have a right to vote at elections. If the hon. Member were to read the clause attentively he would perceive that its words only disqualified a person receiving payment for his services at an election from voting "at such election," and not at any subsequent election. When one or two verbal alterations had been made in the clause it would become, in his opinion, a very salutary measure, and he trusted the Committee would adopt it.
§ MR. STEPHEN CAVE
thought that the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite went too far when he stated that the subject under discussion was beyond the scope of the powers of the Select Committee which was now sitting to inquire into the subject of Corrupt Practices at Elections. The right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary under the late Government had himself introduced a similar clause in a Corrupt Practices Bill in 1862. The object of the clause, however, was, in his opinion, a very good one, as it was directed against an admitted abuse of a legitimate act. A certain amount of obloquy had been thrown upon men who were really honest in their calling by the practice of employing an unnecessarily large number of persons, and by paying them a great deal more than they were legitimately entitled to; and if it were true, as had been stated, that twenty-five solicitors were employed on each side at an election for a small borough, he did not wonder at some measure being introduced with the object of putting an end to such an abuse. Still, 803 it must be recollected that those solicitors were not paid for their individual votes, but for the votes they could command; and he was therefore afraid that the value of those legal agents would not be practically diminished by this clause, as an agent who could command, with his own, 100 votes, would not be much less valuable if he could bring ninety-nine. On the whole, perhaps, it would be better to leave the question of abuse or no abuse to be decided by an Election Committee, especially as the passing of such a clause as that now under discussion would merely lead to candidates employing the relations of voters instead of the voters themselves, just as a Post Office was given to a widow with a son, in order that the vote might not be lost. There would be some danger of what might be called reverse bribery. Sharp agents would be employing their adversaries' voters, and thereby disqualifying them from voting. It would be dangerous again in another way, because it would be an inducement to candidates to employ strangers as their agents; and where strangers had been brought down to act as agents, bribery had always been more extensive and unscrupulous than in cases where a local agent, having a character to lose, had been employed. The clause was a good one; but the question was whether it would not be better to leave the law as it stood at present, and allow Election Committees to decide whether or not the practice of employing voters for legitimate purposes had been abused.
§ MR. FAWCETT
said, he hoped the Committee would pass the clause, because it would show the country that they were sincere in their desire to prohibit corruption at elections. He expressed his hope that the Member for Sunderland would not accept the suggestion, made with the best intentions, no doubt, of the right hon. Member for South Lancashire; for if they allowed agents to be employed in the same way as now, while canvassers and messengers were disqualified from voting, they would be creating a very invidious distinction. He had had some experience of elections, and especially of county elections, and he thought the right hon. Gentleman was in error when he said that agents were not employed corruptly, the same as paid canvassers were. A friend of his, who was standing for a large constituency at the last election, wrote to his leading agent empowering him to do everything he could in the way of spending money so long as he did not spend it corruptly, to secure his 804 return. The agent, a man of great acuteness, immediately went to every solicitor in the constituency, offering a handsome retaining fee, which many of them accepted, and that gentleman afterwards acknowledged that he did not intend to give these solicitors any employment, and that his chief motive was to get their votes. No doubt he retained them for their interest also, and that Parliament could not prohibit; but it was no argument against the clause that they could not completely prevent that which they all desired to prevent. If they were to say that a solicitor who acted as agent should not have a vote, they would diminish the chance of his taking the agency, and they diminished, if they did not completely destroy, the motive of the candidate for employing those agents. The argument that candidates might use any number of canvassers was tantamount to the assertion that a rich man could gain his sent by legitimatized gross corruption. The Member for Sunderland never supposed that this clause would entirely destroy corruption. They could only deal with that subject by bits. This clause struck at one very great source of corruption; it would do good as far as it went, and therefore it would be most unwise not to adopt it. The collateral advantages of passing the clause were as great as the direct, and unless the House showed itself sincerely desirous and resolutely determined to do something to diminish election expenses, it would appear to the country that they had framed a Bill which would increase election expenses, and it would be always impossible for a man who had not a large fortune to obtain a seat in Parliament. It was all very well to say that Election Committees checked these expenses, but an Election Petition was a most expensive and uncertain process; and there were many cases where a very large number of canvassers and messengers were employed, and no petition was presented. He believed there were solicitors in the country who depended on elections for the best part of their income; and it would be greatly to the advantage of the country if the law said that he who made a profit out of an election should be deprived of the privilege of exercising the rights of citizenship. He therefore heartily supported the clause.
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, he thought the object of the clause had been a little misunderstood. No one contemplated that if legal gentlemen were employed at elections they should not be paid. All that the 805 clause declared was that if they were employed as legal agents they should lose their voles as electors. That principle would apply equally to both sides, and it would be very difficult for one party to gain an advantage over the other. The clause went on to say that—Any candidate, agent, or other person, who shall promise, or pay, or cause to be paid any such reward to any elector so retained, required, and employed to vote at such election shall be guilty of a misdemeanour.That, of course, was the necessary complement of the first part of the clause, for if it was right to pass such a law, it was certainly right to punish a man for disobeying it. If the clause became law, a man should be punished for infringing it just as much as he would for stealing a loaf, for both would be equally forbidden by Act of Parliament. The hon. Member for Hull had said that no less than 240 messengers were required at his election for that borough; but he (Mr. M'Laren) had had experience of a constituency where the number of voters were greater than in Hull by a half, and the number who actually polled more than double; in that constituency at the last election there were not twenty messengers employed. He did not know how many of them were voters, but he was quite sure that they were not employed because they were voters. The hon. Member for Montrose was not generally much given to playful banter; but he must surely have been quizzing the Committee when he talked of the number of lawyers in Scotch boroughs, who came out of holes and all sorts of abominable places to be employed at election times. There was certainly no lack of lawyers in the city which he had the honour to represent, and yet he could assure the Committee that, with the exception of clerks at the polling booth, who were paid for their services, there were only four legal gentlemen employed by himself and his Colleague at the last election, and no less than 8,400 persons were polled upon that occasion. He admitted that in grouped boroughs in Scotland whatever club, or local coterie, sent down a candidate first and secured the local lawyers had the best chance in the election. The lawyers were powerful with the £10 householders—the men who were small traders, who built houses, who borrowed money—but the honest artizan did not care a pin about them. Thanks, however, to the gift of household suffrage, which they had got from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the 806 lawyers would not continue to rule the roast, and he was assured a change was on the eve of being accomplished in Scotland which would startle many. He quite agreed with the spirit of the clause, and he hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would add to the many obligations he had conferred on the country by consenting to its adoption in the Bill.
§ MR. D. ROBERTSON
said, he did not admit that the burghs of Scotland were at the mercy of the legal gentlemen employed by the candidates sent down from London. He never heard of such a thing; and, on behalf of Scotch Members, he begged to give the statement the most unqualified contradiction.
said, that candidates need not fear that they would be deprived of the valuable services of advocates, as the vote would not be counted worth as much as the fees; whereas, on the other hand, as scarcely one in five of the adult male population would have a, vote, non-voting messengers would not be scarce. He therefore asked hon. Members to pass the clause, and prevent the public from inferring that they employed voters as messengers in order to get their votes.
§ Clause read a second time.
§ On Question, "That the clause be added to the Bill,"
§ MR. POWELL
moved the omission of the words "before or" in the first line of the clause, believing that those words would give the clause a retrospective operation.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
said, that the first thing to consider was when the election commenced, and what mischief could be done before then. He did not think there could be any harm in using the words "before or;" but he believed that the words "at such elections" would prevent the retrospective operation which the hon. Member feared would result from the clause as it stood.
§ MR. CRAWFORD
said, he would propose that they should insert the words "after the issuing of the writ;" because agents were often constantly and continuously engaged by candidates, though they did not come into the active exercise of their functions as election agents until after the writ was issued.
§ MR. SERJEANT GASELEE
said, that unless some such Amendment as that proposed by the hon. Member for Cambridge was adopted, the operation of the clause might go, at all events, as far back as the previous election. [Mr. ROEBUCK 807 repeated his opinion that the words "at such election" were conclusive on the point.] Well, he differed from the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, if the hon. and learned Gentleman would allow him to say so, as he considered that the words which followed did not govern those which were proposed to be omitted.
§ MR. MONK
said, he had just been informed that the hon. Member for Sunderland during his absence had made an attack upon himself and his Colleague on account of their employment of messengers and doorkeepers at the Gloucester election in 1859. The charge made by the hon. Gentleman was totally devoid of foundation; for, while on his opponent's side 151 messengers were employed, he and his Colleague only employed 82, and he himself obtained a majority of 180, and his Colleague 212. He might add that, so far from their owing their election to the employment of these messengers, it was proved in Committee that a considerable number of them were bribed by Sir Robert Carden's agents, and voted for that gentleman.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, his wish was to suggest language which should meet the views of the Committee. He would therefore propose to insert after "canvasser, clerk, messenger, or otherwise" the words "and who shall act accordingly at such election." The introduction of these words would, in his opinion, make the clause more perfect. Perhaps it would be better also that the word "agent" should be omitted. He understood that the hon. Member did not press for the adoption of the latter part of the clause beginning with the words "and any candidate, agent, or other person." With that omission, therefore, and the alteration he had suggested, he thought the clause would answer very well.
§ SIR ROBERT COLLIER
said, he thought the words proposed by the Attorney General would generally meet the difficulty, and might be fairly accepted. If the latter portion of the clause remained unaltered, a candidate might hire a person on the supposition that he would not vote, and if he did vote afterwards the candidate would be made guilty of a misdemeanour.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that the clause, as it stood, would apply to check clerks, who were usually men distinguished for ability, and enjoying the confidence of the parties. As, according to the Constitution, they did not trust the returning officer, each side must 808 be represented by men of ability, in whom full confidence was placed. But under this clause even the most esteemed persons in society could not act as check clerks without forfeiting the right to vote.
said, he wished to thank the hon. and learned Gentleman for the manner in which he showed himself anxious to meet the views of the Committee. He would put it to the hon. and learned Gentleman, however, whether the words proposed would not limit the operation of the clause too much. Numbers of voters were employed to act as agents, who did nothing but simply recorded their votes in favour of the candidate by whom they were paid.
§ MR. CRAWFORD
said, he thought the check clerk was employed by each candidate to check the votes given for the other candidates.
§ MR. CANDLISH
said, he wished to express his obligation to the Attorney General for his acceptance of the clause, and entirely concurred in the words he had suggested, and the words to which he took exception, and which, in fact, were not before the Committee. The remarks made by him respecting the Gloucester election were misconceived. He wished to explain to the Committee that he had cast no imputation on the hon. Member (Mr. Monk). He simply read the Report of the Committee that sat on the election, in which it was stated "that voters were employed as messengers."
§ MR. MONTAGU CHAMBERS
said, he believed the intention of the clause was to suppress the remuneration of voters, and to prevent election agents from voting at elections. His hon. Friend was perhaps a little unconscious how matters might be managed if they were to introduce the words "acting at elections." Experience taught them that there were certain election agents who "nursed" certain boroughs, and undertook to return any candidate. If the alteration proposed by the hon. and learned Attorney General were agreed to the effect would be this, that men who were electors might be employed, and any amount of money given to them, provided they agreed not to act openly for 809 the candidate at the time of election, and then they could vote for him with perfect freedom. He might be charged with excluding many humble electors; but his notion was that no man who was paid by a candidate should vote at an election in whatever capacity he might have been employed on behalf of the candidate. If that notion were acted upon they would have a very much higher class of voters. He thought the adoption of the clause before the Committee would check a very growing evil with respect to the employment of voters by rendering them liable, if employed, to be proceeded against for misdemeanour; but the alteration proposed by the hon. and learned Attorney General would absolutely destroy its efficiency.
said, he thought this was a very amiable attempt to attain electoral purity; but that its effect would be to buoy out the channels along which those who wanted to do a wrong might sail with the utmost impunity. The adoption of the clause would simply be to point out and put down buoys against every danger upon which those people might possibly have run their heads. If they were to create misdemeanours, then the least they could do was to define the offence, and not leave it vague. A man ought not to be allowed to run into the commission of a misdemeanour without the least knowledge of what he was about. He did not know what the words "anybody employed for reward or otherwise" were intended to convey. Let them take the case of a candidate who had a threepenny ride in an omnibus in the borough of Marylebone during an election. If the wretched man to whom he paid the 3d. were a voter, he would be gulty of misdemeanour, having been "employed for reward." ["Oh, oh!"] He admitted that that was an extreme case, but that was the sort of case that might arise. He would move, under those circumstances, to strike out the words "or otherwise." If he were told by the hon. and learned Attorney General that those words would only have reference to such sort of employment as the employment of clerks, canvassers, or messengers he should be content. He did not see that any advantage would be gained by these people voting; but if hon. Gentlemen thought they were going to make elections more pure by clauses like this they were much mistaken. Agents, who knew their business, would be able to keep exactly clear of the particular things mentioned in the clause, and would still be able to go on 810 spending money right and left as they did now, where one man had money to spend and another man was inclined to take it. He wished to ask the Attorney General what would be the legal construction of the words "or otherwise," and whether or not their meaning would be narrowed by the words which preceded them?
§ Amendment to omit the words "before or," from the first line of the clause, withdrawn.
§ MR. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN
said, that the Bribery Committee, of which he was a member, could not possibly take cognizance of such questions.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
agreed to the insertion of the words limiting the employment of voters to "within six months" before or during the election.
§ Clause amended accordingly.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, he thought that the words "or otherwise" would be held to apply to other employments of the like character as those specified in the clause, and he believed that this was the true construction under the Acts 7 & 8 Geo. IV. which had been referred to by several hon. Members. In order to put this beyond doubt he suggested the use of the words "or in other like employments," in place of the words "or otherwise."
§ MR. POWELL
moved to omit the word "agent." He believed that many of these gentlemen at elections did not receive more remuneration for their time and services than they had a right to expect. He was sorry the experience of hon. Gentlemen opposite was so different from that of Members on the Government side. The law recognized the employment of agents, and he did not think they ought to be disfranchised by the present Bill.
§ Amendment to omit the word "agent" put, and negatived.
§ MR. BONHAM-CARTER
said, he thought it would be very unjust to disqualify the agent for election expenses, whose nomination was rendered necessary by the law itself. He was generally one of the most respectable men the candidate could find, and it was hard that he should be deprived of his vote. He therefore moved to insert "other than the agent for election expenses."
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Amendment to leave out the word "otherwise," and insert the words "in other like employment,"—(The Attorney General,)—put, and agreed to.
§ MR. DARBY GRIFFITH
said, that the object was to prevent these agents from voting. He moved to insert the words "his vote shall be void."
§ Amendment withdrawn.
§ Amendment put, and negatived.
§ On Question, "That the clause, as amended, be added to the Bill,"
§ MR. POWELL
said, that if the Committee passed the clause in its present shape they would be placing many gentlemen in a most degraded position. A man might have done some act as an agent, and given a vote without knowing that he actually came within the description. The clause was so ambiguous that he trusted it would be negatived.
§ Clause, as amended, added to the Bill.
§ MR. HORSFALL
said, the object of his Amendment was that an additional Member should be given to each of the three largest towns—namely, Liverpool, Manchester, and Birmingham; and he thought he could, in a very few words, state a case which would, he hoped, induce the Committee to assent to that Amendment. According to the Census of 1861, Birmingham had 296,000 inhabitants, Manchester 357,000, and Liverpool 443,000. The population of Liverpool now exceeded 500,000, and he had no doubt that the 812 population of Birmingham and Manchester had increased in an equal ratio. It had been suggested to him to contrast the case of Liverpool, returning two Members, with that of the City of London, returning four, not for the purpose of concurring with the proposition of the hon. Member for Maldon for depriving the City of London of two of its Members, but rather for the purpose of strengthening his argument. In 1821 the City of London had 124,000 inhabitants; in 1831 it had 122,000; in 1861 the number had decreased to 112,000; and he believed now it was considerably lower. Thus the City of London with 100,000 inhabitants returned four Members to Parliament, while Liverpool with a population of 500,000 returned but two Members. He should be told that merchants and others who formerly resided in London now resided in the country, and went to and from the City daily. But the same thing happened at Liverpool, and no doubt, also, at Birmingham and Manchester. So far, then, as to population, which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had well said must not alone be taken into account, but that property and intelligence must likewise be considered. Well, continuing the contrast between London and Liverpool, he found that the assessed property of London was £1,920,000, while that of Liverpool was £2,402,000, or nearly £500,000 in excess of that of London. The exports of British manufactured goods from London were, according to Parliamentary Returns, about £37,000,000, while those from Liverpool were £73,000,000. He could quote from other public documents, showing the great importance, not only of Liverpool, but of Manchester and Birmingham. So much for population and property. He now turned to the subject of intelligence, with which it was not quite so easy to deal. He was afraid there would be great difficulty in instituting a competitive examination to test that; but he ventured to say that, in point of intelligence, Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool stood at least as high as any other part of England. He believed, therefore, that, on the grounds of population, property, and intelligence, each of those three large towns had a claim to an additional Member. When the Motion of the hon. Member for Wick, for giving a third Member to six large boroughs, was before the House, he had not heard a word from his constituents on the subject, and he did not take any part in the debate beyond his vote. But since then a public meeting 813 had been held at Liverpool, presided over by the Mayor, and in which gentlemen of every shade of politics took part. The meeting came to a unanimous resolution to forward a petition to that House, which he had had the honour to present, praying for two additional Members. He had been struck with some of the arguments used at that meeting, and particularly by a statement made by one of the speakers on the occasion — a gentleman well known to many hon. Members opposite, who after quoting statistics relating to population and property, and referring to the Income Tax, maintained that Liverpool, according to that, ought to have twenty-one Members; and that the average of the whole was that, instead of two, it should have fourteen Members. Now, he made no such claim on behalf of Liverpool, and, though he only asked for one additional Member for it in his Amendment, he thought it was fairly entitled to two. At the meeting it was further urged that some consideration was due to the Members for Liverpool, who had very onerous duties to discharge—duties, perhaps, more onerous than those of any other two Members of that House. But neither he nor his hon. Colleague would put that argument forward; indeed, he was content to take his stand on the three simple grounds stated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer—namely, population, property, and intelligence; and he asked the House to concede to those three large towns that share in the representation of the country which they certainly had not now, but to which he respectfully submitted they were fairly and fully entitled.
(Certain Boroughs to return three Members.) From and after the end of this present Parliament, the several Boroughs named in Schedule (G) to this Act, each having a population (according to the last Census of one thousand eight hundred and sixty-one) of upwards of two hundred and fifty thousand, shall respectively return three Members to serve in Parliament,—(Mr. Horsfall,)
—brought up, and read the first time.
§ MR. ADDERLEY
said, he wished to make a few observations on the principle of the clause. It seemed to him that the question had not been fully discussed as it was raised by the hon. Member for Wick (Mr. Laing); and he doubted whether the hon. Member for Liverpool fully understood the principle of his own proposal; for the latter hon. Gentleman asked only for one 814 additional Member for that place, and yet by his argument it ought to have four at least. That hon. Gentleman, if not in the actual phraseology of his Amendment, yet in his own mind, laid it down as a general proposition that Members ought to be apportioned to every constituency according to its numbers. That might be a good or a bad principle; but he wished the Committee gravely to consider that, if they accepted the principle involved in this clause, they would adopt a total innovation upon the old-established principle of our representation. The right hon. Member for South Lancashire said that in opposing the Motion of the hon. Member for Wick, the Government strained at a gnat; but he would ask that right hon. Gentleman to consider whether he was exaggerating the real state of the case in asserting that the present proposal was a total innovation upon our system of representation. It was the introduction of the American principle of representation by numbers, and an abandonment of the English principle of representation of places. The representation in that House always had been a local representation, the principle being that every place entitled to be represented should send a sufficient organ to speak and deliberate for it, requiring for each the same number of Members. Every constituency had always sent the same number, save in the case of the metropolis and one or two other exceptions, which proved the rule. The old writs stated that Members were returned to consult about the national interests, but, according to the new principle proposed, they were to be returned simply as counters in a division. The new principle would degrade the functions of Members of that House. For one question they discussed, which was limited to the interests of a particular constituency, they discussed a thousand affecting the national interests, and when the discussion was simply of local interests a heap of local Members were not wanted. No doubt there should be a minimum of population, below which boroughs should not be separately represented, but should be merged with the villages and rural communities returning county Members; and the House had also decided that boroughs with populations below 10,000 should have only one Member. But that fell in completely with the view he had enunciated—namely, that the principle of our representation, from the first time when Members were sent to that House, was that every place returning 815 a Member should thereby only have a voice, an organ to consult respecting the national interests in the deliberative Assembly of the nation. He had not the slightest doubt that the hon. Member (Mr. Horsfall) in making that proposal had ulterior objects in view, whether consciously or unconsciously. No doubt in fixing the number of Members at three, and stopping short of the full proposition of heaping on Members in proportion to population, the hon. Member for Liverpool had in his mind the plan of the hon. Member for Westminster for securing the representation of minorities; but he maintained that that was a question to be disposed of on its own merits, and not under cover of another proposition.
§ MR. ADDERLEY
said, that it was part of the same proposition, and nothing could be more illogical than what was called the representation of minorities. A man who stood a contest against a minority having considerable influence, when he was returned represented the minority as much as he did the majority. At the basis of the project of the representation of minorities there lay a fallacy, which was the consideration of only one public question—namely, that on which elections turned—of overlooking many other questions upon which the constituency might or might not be divided, or might be divided very differently as compared with their relation to each other on the question at issue in the election. Many of the Amendments moved in Committee had been moved with special objects in view, such as carrying this or that particular seat, meeting this, or that election, obviating this or that difficulty, securing a berth for a beaten candidate; but he asked the Committee to decide this proposition on its wide bearing—shall places cease to return representatives, and certain numbers be represented instead? Let it be remembered that the proposition would subvert the old principle of representation and introduce a totally new one. The hon. Member for Wick had used the expression that a large place should have a large voice, and the right hon. Member for South Lancashire had said that a large place should speak with proportionate weight in that House. Large places, however, were duly represented not by increased numbers of representatives, but rather by the quality of the men that they sent into the House of Commons, and the aggregate influence of the numbers who 816 sent them. They ought always to be able to send to the House men of large experience, weight and influence, and they had themselves power to give them weight. Had not the town of Birmingham its full weight in that House in the kind of representation it possessed, though by means of only two Members? It was amply represented, and had its due weight. Again, it must be remembered that the larger towns naturally exercised considerable influence over the representatives of other towns, and in this way secured a further share of political power than these for their own Members only. It was a novel principle to heap Members on a place in proportion to its population. It was a novel argument also that because a place had large local business it therefore required more representatives. The Members of a large commercial town might want the aid of more secretaries and clerks; but it was the duty of Members themselves in this House not to do local business, but to deliberate on matters affecting the national interests. The local business of a place would not be a bit better conducted with an increased number of Members, for they would not divide the business between them, but they would still continue to act in concert, and their time would be just as much occupied as ever, or they might act without concert, and increase each other's work. The probability was that the addition of a third Member for any place would simply neutralize half the influence of the other two. He was perfectly willing to discuss the question on its own merits; but he hoped the Committee would not decide the question without seriously considering that whether the proposed principle were good or bad, it was at all events a subversion of the old principle of representation. If places were to have three Members, let the areas be divided, and let us keep to the original scheme of Parliament that each area shall have the same number of representatives. The Government had not deviated from this principle in the case of Glasgow, for they proposed to divide the area of representation, as it was divided in the cases of Manchester and Salford, and Birkenhead and Liverpool, The present proposition was practically that Manchester and Salford should have five Members; but if they were to have that number, let the area of representation be divided into five. The new principle of giving additional Members to large communities would injure their influence in the House, and subvert the principle of 817 representation. If Members were to be heaped on to populous towns to count in divisions, rather than to deliberate in their names, how many such counters some places might fairly claim! It would be better to give the Representatives of large places several votes in a division than turn the Members themselves into mere counters, and degrade the principle of a deliberative assembly.
§ MR. HARVEY LEWIS
said, he had no objection to Liverpool and other large towns having additional representatives, and he wished to state to the Committee that he abstained from voting for the Motion of the hon. Member for Wick, not because he had any objection to it per se, but because he thought if it were carried it would exhaust the available surplus of Members which the metropolitan constituencies had some claim to share. Had he thought the hon. Member for Wick wrong he would have voted against him; but he abstained from voting lest he should do his constituents injustice. If the claims advanced on the part of Liverpool had any weight, it must be self-evident that on the same grounds Marylebone had greater claims. At the last census the population of that borough was 436,000; and now it was probably 470,000 or 480,000; and probably before another Reform Bill could be thought of it would be 500,000. The population was increasing with marvellous rapidity, and all available building ground was being quickly covered with houses. Representing such a community, could he fairly be called upon to vote that other towns of less extent should have that increased representation which was denied to Marylebone? It might be a comfortable doctrine, that Members had not to attend to local business, and he sincerely wished that his own constituency could be induced to accept it, for that would take a load off his shoulders; but in a borough which contained, for instance, several of the most important railway termini, there must be important questions continually arising, and if he were not to attend to them his constituents would have reason to say he grossly neglected their interests. He had not the slightest jealousy of the increased representation of the large towns; but, if they were to receive it, Marylebone had a claim to the consideration of the House, and it was his intention to assert it at the proper time. The borough of Marylebone consisted of three parishes, and the value of the property assessed to the county rate which it embraced amounted 818 to £2,737,964. The present number of the voters for the borough was not less than 23,787, and to what extent that number would be increased when the lodger franchise came into operation he would leave the Committee to conjecture. He believed he had now advanced grounds sufficient to show that Marylebone was entitled to have two additional Members, and, when the proper time came, he intended to bring forward a Motion to that effect, which would, he trusted, receive the favourable consideration of the House.
§ MR. SMOLLETT
said, he thought the Motion of the hon. Member for Liverpool had been brought forward with a view of inducing the Committee to rescind a resolution at which they had already arrived, and without, in his opinion, any sufficient reason having been alleged why they should retrace their steps. The Government scheme of re-distribution had been before the country for months, and although no one imagined that it ought to pass without some alteration, it was at all events expected that it would have been adhered to in all its salient parts. And what, he would ask, were the two cardinal points of the scheme. First, that no borough should have its right to representation absolutely extinguished; and, in the second place, that there should be no constituency with unicorn Members. Now, to both those points the Committee had already given their sanction, and, although they had for some time been before the country, they had not met with the least opposition. The hon. Member for Wick had on the Paper of the House for a long time a Motion, the object of which was to give six unicorn Members to the largest towns, and that Motion received a considerable amount of party support; but it was far from meeting with the unanimous approval even of the representatives of those towns which were mainly interested in its success. Both the Members for Liverpool voted, he believed, in the minority in the Division which was taken upon it. One of the Members for Leeds and one of the Members for Sheffield voted in the majority, while the junior Member for Manchester stated to the Committee that he had not had a single request from his constituents to ask for a third seat for that town. The senior Member for Manchester told it was true, on that occurrence, a different tale; for he said that some of the most advanced among his constituents had requested him to call for six additional Members. When the hon. Gentle- 819 man made that statement the Committee "laughed consumedly," and as he thought with good reason; for it was no secret that it was a very difficult matter to get two local gentlemen to represent Manchester satisfactorily in Parliament. He recollected well that when, during the Chinese war, the electors of Manchester thought fit to get rid of their representatives — the present Member for Ashton and the Member for Birmingham—the first person to whom they sent an invitation to represent them was Lord Palmerston. A deputation from Manchester came to ask him to stand for that city, and when Lord Palmerston declared he would adhere to Tiverton, the offer was made to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne. The fact, as he said before, was that Manchester, like many other large towns, found great difficulty in procuring good local candidates to represent it. It had, as a consequence, often been canvassed by gallant generals and admirals, and other gentlemen utterly unconnected with it, and when the constituency was doubled there would be still greater difficulty in securing the services of good local men than existed even at present. Those great towns, in short, rejoiced to have a representative who was connected with the Ministry, in order that they might enjoy a greater share of the loaves and fishes which happened to be going. Well, the Motion of the hon. Member for Wick having been rejected, he thought the question which it raised had been disposed of, but it cropped up again, and why? Because the wire pullers of both parties had been pulling the wires for the last two or three weeks, meetings had been got up, and the League had moved in the matter. The Motion of the hon. Member for Liverpool naturally followed. All those proceedings showed in his opinion a vast amount of vacillation; but he hoped the Committee would not depart from the resolution at which they had already arrived. For his own part, at all events, he should vote as he had done before against giving unicorn Members to those large cities. He would do so for one reason because he disliked unicorn constituencies; believing that if a town was so large that it was deemed expedient to give it additional representation, the best plan would be to divide it into two parts, and let each part return two Members. But be would also vote against the proposition on a different ground—a ground which he was not ashamed to state—and that was, that he altogether dis- 820 trusted the enormous constituencies which were about to be created in those towns. The Committee were engaged in forming monster, if not mob constituencies, and in doing so they were, he believed, taking a great leap in the dark—a step which even the hon. Member for Birmingham, in his postprandial oration the other evening at Fishmongers' Hall, admitted to amount almost to a revolution. They were in short taking a step the result of which the wisest among them could not foretell, and was it prudent under those circumstances, he would ask, to give these constituencies, of whom they knew nothing, power to send a greater number of representatives to Parliament? Would it not be much better to wait to see what one or two general elections would bring about, and what were the stamp and style of men whom these large constituencies would delight to honour? That House, it was said a few nights before, was condemned to die, and the hon. Member for Nottingham seemed to think that its death would be a lingering one. But be that as it might, it was condemned to die mainly because it was declared to be effete and used up as a legislative machine. An infusion of democratic blood had been recommended as a remedy for that state of things, and hon. Members had, he believed, been drenched with the dose to their heart's content. He, for one, did not believe that the Members returned by those great towns would contribute to make a better Legislative Assembly than the present; and, indeed, he could not help thinking that the House would, year by year, after the passing of the Bill, become more unmanageable in the hands of the Ministry. Two more Members had been promised to the Tower Hamlets; and the hon. Member for Marylebone said he would move that two additional Members should be given to the borough which he represented. Now, if the electors of Hackney, that immaculate borough, were to send to the House, as one of its two Members, a Gentleman as assiduous and attentive to its interest as the senior Member for the Tower Hamlets [Cries of "The junior Member!"]—he knew of but one Member for the Tower Hamlets — as capable of taking part in every debate which arose, did anybody suppose that the usefulness of the House of Commons as a legislative machine would be increased? [Laughter.] The hon. and gallant Member opposite (Colonel Sykes) laughed at that observation—but the hon. Gentleman had promised to make a Motion 821 to add another Member to Aberdeen; and if that grand old city should send as a Colleague to the hon. and gallant Gentleman another Member equally full of statistical information, and equally ready to impart it to the House, if he could only find anybody who would condescend to listen to him—was it to be expected that at the end of a Session in the Reformed Parliament there would be a smaller number of innocents to be massacred? His impression was that under this Bill we should have the House becoming more and more unmanageable every day, and therefore he should decline to vote for the hon. Member for Liverpool—at all events, until he saw what style of men the large towns would be likely to return.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
said, he should not imitate the hon. Member who had just sat down by depreciating the services rendered to the cause of legislation by some of the representatives of large constituencies. Although he saw the formidable Amendment of the hon. Member for Maldon staring him in the face, he was not afraid to support the Motion of the hon. Member for Liverpool, though in doing so he should be returning good for evil, as the hon. Member had selected the City of London in order to compare it with his own borough. Large constituencies had many interests in common, and they were all interested in obtaining for one another a larger share of Parliamentary representation. Many questions arose in that House in regard to which the constituents of large boroughs held opinions different from those entertained by county and small borough constituencies, and therefore putting all invidious distinctions aside, he thought every representative of a large constituency ought to strive to increaes the representation of other large constituencies. It was said that the Members for large constituencies were so over-burdened with local business or special objects that they were unable to pay so much attention to Imperial questions as the representatives of small boroughs. Now, on this point, he would remark that some misunderstanding existed in regard to local business, which was, in fact, of two kinds. First of all, there was local business properly so called—namely, that which was embodied in private Bills, and which the House and the constituencies expected the Members for the particular localities to attend to. No doubt this might be considerable enough to interfere with the discharge of more important duties; but it certainly was not, as the right hon. Gen- 822 tleman seemed to imagine, business which could be performed by clerks. He did not think, however, that it was the local business, properly so called, of large constituencies which occupied so much time, but rather the special though public interests of such constituencies. In small towns there might be two or three special interests, whereas in large towns there would be thirty or forty. The representatives for Liverpool, for example, were required to take part in the debates on a vast number of questions which the constituents of the counties and small towns took no interest in. Now, these questions were none the less of an Imperial character because they affected some constituencies more than others. When large masses of men were crowded together in a small space there was sure to arise more need of legislation than in the case of scattered populations. And those questions the Members for the great towns were bound to study and to become thoroughly acquainted with, in order that they might assist in their satisfactory settlement. The demands that were thus made upon the Members required that those constituencies should have additional representation in order that their interests—which were the interests of the country at large—might be adequately attended to. The question arose — how was the population divided between their large towns, their counties, and the small boroughs? The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Adderley) had denounced the theory of population, but it was upon that the division of the counties had been proposed by the Government. The right hon. Gentleman said that if they broke up Liverpool into divisions his argument would be at an end; still it was population which he had in view. He (Mr. Goschen) bad not argued this question upon any view of party, but upon that of separate interests; and was it not true that the populations of their largest towns had separate interests?—interests in which the counties and small boroughs could take no part. Take, for example, the question of education, which would soon occupy a very large share of their attention. Now, in a small town it was quite easy for the authority of clergymen and others in a similar position to be exercised; they could go to the children's homes and force them to go to school. Hence it was that the people of small boroughs were in favour of the voluntary system, while the people of large towns, where this moral authority was of no avail, were 823 opposed to the system of voluntaryism, and held by compulsory education. Take, again, the question of food. The small boroughs were fed from the adjoining farms, but not so the large towns. He might multiply illustrations, but that would be useless. The House would remember that the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself had thought it right to make these distinctions in referring to the population of counties and that of boroughs. He would trouble the House with a few statistics. There were in England, including the metropolis, 4,250,000 of people living in towns with over 150,000 inhabitants. That was about half the borough population of England, and yet that 4,250,000 had only thirty-four out of the 334 borough representatives. If this Bill passed, out of 1,300,000 electors, 576,000, or 44 per cent of the whole, would be inhabitants of towns with a population above 150,000, and that 44 per cent would return only one-tenth of the entire number of Members. But he had not argued the question on the basis of population, or the amount of wealth. He had argued it on the various channels of industry and wealth which were to be found in those great towns. The Motion of the hon. Member for Liverpool was a step towards remedying the deficiency in the representation of large towns—a deficiency which was unjust to those towns themselves, and detrimental to the country at large. On those grounds, though the Motion did not go far enough, he should give it his support.
§ MR. SANDFORD
said, that his right hon. Friend who had just sat down was mistaken in thinking that he wished to defend the system of a large representation for small boroughs on the ground that the Members for those boroughs had more time to give to questions of general policy than could be devoted to such topics by the Members for large towns. The speeches of his right hon. Friend would alone suffice to refute such an argument; and the example of the right hon. Gentleman, in his opinion, conclusively proved that the City did not require four Members, for the right hon. Gentleman could himself discuss all questions that came before the House with equal ability, whether they dealt with foreign, social, or financial questions. But he would contend that in many of the small boroughs various interests were to be found. His own borough was partly an agricultural, partly a commercial, and partly a naval town, and it therefore appeared to him to be not over represented by two Members.
§ MR. THOMAS CHAMBERS
said, that, when hon. Members got up and made these Motions for giving additional Members to certain large provincial towns, he could not help remarking that though they had discussed this Bill at great length, yet that neither the Government nor the leaders of the Opposition had made up their minds as to the principle upon which this important question of re-distribution of seats should be governed; but that, on the contrary, both sides seemed carefully to avoid laying down any general principle on the subject. But if the distribution of electoral power was not to be guided by any general rule, then it became a mere question of removing flagrant anomalies, and, so regarded, the danger was that instead of doing away with anomalies they would, if they agreed to such a Motion as this, increase them. As long as large boroughs like Manchester and Liverpool had only two Members, that fact was some answer to other towns of considerable importance when they complained that they had only two Members while comparatively insignificant boroughs had the same number; but by giving three Members to certain very large towns they made the anomaly more flagrant in the case of even larger towns which were still left with the same number of Members as that returned by very much smaller places. If Sheffield, for example, was to have a third Member, it would have one representative for every 80,000 of population, whilst the metropolitan borough of Marylebone would be left with one representative for every 240,000 of population, or only one-third of the representation of Sheffield, and so the change, instead of diminishing, would actually increase existing anomalies. For, why was Marylebone to be passed over? He had heard no argument which satisfied him that, on principle, Marylebone should be left with only two Members. They were told that, in such cases, they must look not only to the borough itself, but also to the surrounding district, and see how the latter was represented. Well, if he looked at the metropolis, with its 3,000,000 inhabitants, he found that if this Bill should be carried it would have twenty Members, or one Member for each 150,000 of its population. If that were so, how would the House diminish the anomaly complained of in that debate by giving Liverpool a third Member, or by giving five Members to Manchester? [An hon. MEMBER: Manchester and Salford.] They were one place. There was no more distinction between Manchester and 825 Salford than between the two portions of Marylebone which were divided by the Regent's Canal—they were the same town — a stream, a very dirty one he was sorry to say, alone separated them. They had the same character of population, the same classes of industry, the same interests. He had no objection, however, to give an additional Member to each of the three towns named by the hon. Member for Liverpool; but he had an objection to give additional Members to Sheffield and Leeds. The hon. Member for Leeds spoke of the 200,000 population in that town, and said that it had no less than ten distinct manufactures. That was a very fair argument. But apply the same argument to the metropolis. The port of London was the greatest in the kingdom; London was the most important monetary city in the world; the metropolis was the seat of the Government, of the Court, and of Parliament, and setting all these considerations aside, or in addition to them all, it should be remembered that London was incomparably the greatest manufacturing place in the country. For ten distinct manufactories in Leeds there were 100 in London. He was not going into the question whether our plan of representation was a correct one; nor would he contend that it would be wise or expedient to lay down any general principle, or any inflexible rule of distinction; but he did say that if the House proceeded in the work of removing anomalies without laying down any such principle, or establishing any such rule, they ran the danger of affording persons the opportunity of saying that they were increasing instead of removing the anomalies complained of. They were told that if they did not settle the question now they would have it raised again in a short time, and that it was of the highest importance to make this Bill a durable settlement. A Reform Act, however, consisted of two very distinct portions, one of which should be touched only at rare and long intervals; but the other should be modified freely and frequently as the cirumstances of the country changed. The basis of the franchise should be fixed and stable; and it might reasonably be hoped that the present settlement would last for a century, but the distribution of seats was an entirely different question. Constituencies were always fluctuating in numbers, in wealth, in importance, some growing larger, others smaller; and they might resort to the old system of issuing the writs according to the circumstances and claims of the places to be represented; 826 and so by a judicious fixedness in relation to the franchise, and a judicious flexibity and freedom in the distribution of the seats, a real, full, and adequate representation of the whole country in Parliament might be secured.
I am glad that the hon. Member for Marylebone, and I believe his Colleague, have brought the question of the borough he represents before the Committee, and I hope every metropolitan Member who thinks his constituency unrepresented will also prefer its claim for more Members to the Committee. But the question which is now before us, and from which, perhaps, it may not be wise to depart, is the proposition submitted to the Committee by the hon. Member for Liverpool, in which he proposes to give to the three boroughs which he has named an additional Member each. I regret very much that he has not added the borough of Leeds to his list, for I think it would have given very great satisfaction—I mean a greater amount of satisfaction than the additional Member would seem to be worth—if it were added to the proposition which the hon. Gentleman has made. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has many theories, original, perhaps, but some of them very curious, on this question of representation. The other night he turned to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets—and an hon. Gentleman, a Scotch Member, who has spoken recently, seemed to base his arguments upon the remarks then made by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer—and said the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets seemed to have not only an appetite for work, but a great power of work, so that he was able almost alone to bear the burden of the representation of one of the largest constituencies of the kingdom. But that is not exactly all that is wanted of Members of Parliament. What the borough of the Tower Hamlets has a right to demand, and what the boroughs of Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, and Leeds have a right to demand is this—not only that they should send Members to Parliament who can keep up their correspondence, and make speeches in the House in favour of their interests, and go with deputations to Ministers—they want something more than that; when their views are laid before the House, and when the time of talking is over, it is a question of how many come in at that door and how many come in at the other; and it is im- 827 portant that those great boroughs should have a number of Members that bears some relation to their population, and their wealth, and the greatness of their interests. Well, the Member for the Tower Hamlets could do all the debating for the Tower Hamlets; and no doubt the Members for those other boroughs, if they had only one for each of them, might do the debating for that borough. But it is a very different matter when it comes to a division. I know when my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton used to bring his great question before the House five-and-twenty years ago he did not get on any occasion, until Sir Robert Peel was converted, a Division of 100 in his favour. But at that very time all these great boroughs were in favour of Free Trade, and no doubt if they had been polled a very large majority of the whole of the United Kingdom would have been found to be in favour of it. The debating was all in favour of my right hon. Friend; but what was debating alone? The Corn Laws remained until he could carry a majority in the lobby. Therefore, I repudiate altogether the theory of the right hon. Gentleman, when he supposes that it is indifferent to a great borough whether it is represented by two Members or by more. I shall not go into figures on this matter. There is no dispute about the figures. Hon. Gentlemen probably least conversant with them know that the population of Birmingham has doubled since the time of the Reform Act. Something like that—though I do not know the exact population—has taken place with regard to Liverpool and Manchester. But we all know that if representation is to be based on population or upon wealth, those boroughs ought to have a larger number of Members than they have at present. Of that there can be no dispute. But I will turn to a question which ought to interest the House much more, and especially hon. Gentlemen opposite. Now, I ask, what has brought you to the state in which you are at this moment? Why clearly the great movement that has taken place in the great centres of population during the last year on this question. It is not anything that the counties have done as counties, or that little boroughs have done as little boroughs. The movement began in this great city, and extended to Birmingham, and to Manchester, and to Leeds, and to Glasgow, and to Edinburgh; and it was being repeated at all those great centres of population, and, if you had not 828 capitulated this Session, the movement you have seen during the past twelve months would have been as a mere whisper compared with the hurricane you would have seen during the next twelve months. Well, if that be so, is it not worth your while now to endeavour at least to allay whatever there is of grievance to some extent in these great centres of population? I will take the borough of Birmingham. The Bill of the right hon. Gentleman will raise the constituency of Birmingham from 15,000, at least, I suppose to 35,000. The 20,000 new voters whom you are now enfranchising have never, up to this time, felt any very strong interest in the question of a re-distribution of seats. The prime grievance in their mind was this—that they were absolutely excluded from the franchise, and they thought it would be sufficient for them, in the first instance, not to inquire whether Droitwich should return half as many Members as Birmingham, but to obtain the franchise. But the moment they are enfranchised—as they will be when this Bill passes, and when my hon. Colleague and myself at the next election shall have to address, partly by voice and partly by printed addresses, 35,000 instead of 15,000 electors—those 35,000 electors will begin to think very naturally and conclusively, beyond all power of persuasion to the contrary, that two Members are not a sufficient share of power in Parliament for so great a constituency and so great a population as Birmingham. So it will be at Liverpool. This is not a question of Radical politics. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool and his Colleague have never been remarkable for what is called Radicalism—at least, before this Session. I want a new phraseology—I say, for the Conservative party, they have been among the most intelligent Members of it in this House. But those two Members at this moment are supported, I believe unanimously, by all those who voted for them at the last election, as they are undoubtedly by all that large party by which they were opposed. You have the very same state of things in Manchester. The hon. and learned Member for Manchester made a slip the other night here. In fact, he had not brought his brief with him, and he really had forgotten altogether what were the opinions of his constituents. I do not believe the hon. and learned Gentleman will get up to-night and say the people of Manchester do not wish to have an additional Member. If he does, I venture to say beforehand that 829 he is entirely mistaken, and that the time will come when his constituents will show him that he is mistaken. Well, then, this is not a question of this side or of that particular party in the boroughs. But if you refuse to give these boroughs any additional Member or Members, you will find the whole population of them convinced that you have not dealt fairly towards them, and in a very short time, probably in the very next Session of Parliament, you will have a proposition submitted to the House to the effect that some of the smallest boroughs should be extinguished, and their Members carried to larger boroughs. I put this, then, to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who can have no interest whatever in settling this matter unwisely, is it worth while for the sake of three or four or five Members that are now asked to be given, one each, to these boroughs—I think they should have two—is it wise to refuse their most moderate demand, they being the very centres of the agitation which has brought you to this measure this Session, and there being left by this Bill, as it now stands, a very great grievance and an increased constituency to complain of it?—and when as every man knows—I will not argue the question, it must come home to every one's mind—if the present moderate demand be not granted within a very short period, a fresh demand will come, which, I venture to say, will not be limited to the proposition of the hon. Member for Liverpool, but will be of a more extensive character; and, as in all past times when most moderate propositions were refused, you will probably be glad to capitulate and accept wider propositions. I sometimes hear Members objecting to three Members for one constituency; I cannot understand the objection: take any one of the boroughs which have only one Member—the borough of Rochdale, for instance, in which I live—take the borough of Manchester, or the borough of Liverpool, which have two Members—take the Southern Division of Lancashire, which has three—take the City of London, which has four; there is no difficulty in this. In our Southern Division of Lancashire we have contests, and we put up three candidates on one side and three on the other. On one occasion the party opposite carried their three candidates, and upon another occasion two. The City of London years ago had a Conservative party that returned one Member for many years. Now, their views have got so obsolete in the City—I mean their old views—that they cannot put a man 830 in the least position on the poll, and all the four Members sit on this side of the House. Whether you give one, two, three, or four Members, a constituency can manage the whole matter of their election without the slightest difficulty. Therefore, if you give three Members to Birmingham, three to Liverpool, three to Manchester, and three to Leeds, I have no doubt those constituencies will be able to send men to this House who will do them at least as little discredit as the present representatives. I said I would not talk of figures, neither will I talk of wealth; but I put it to the Committee in this way: You are asked to do something now—the smallest thing that can be asked — to satisfy a fair demand of the most powerful centres of population in the kingdom; from all these counties came all the force which had induced Parliament to pass this Bill; if you refuse this small measure of justice, there will remain not only that force but an increased force; and in a very short time that force will come to the floor of this House, and no doubt it will be obeyed. I am not now speaking in opposition to the Government, to this Bill, or to the policy of Gentlemen opposite; but I am laying before them a reasonable and just proposition—or rather just arguments in favour of a reasonable proposition—and I leave the decision to the common sense of Gentlemen opposite and to the wisdom of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his Colleagues. I do think if they will look on it a little in the light I have endeavoured to place it before them, there will be no real opposition to the Motion of the hon. Member for Liverpool.
§ MR. BEECROFT
said, he much regretted that the hon. Member for Liverpool had not included within the scope of his Motion the borough of Leeds, the capital of the great county of York. It was perfectly true that on the former occasion he had voted against the Amendment of the hon. Member for Wick; but at that time a very critical division was impending, and he did not wish the Bill to be imperilled. His vote had been given with an honest desire that the Bill should pass this Session, and that the time of Parliament should be no longer frittered away, as it had been, with Reform discussions impeding all legislation. He did not vote against Leeds per se; and if that borough came again upon the carpet he should certainly divide in favour of its receiving an additional Member, to which it was as fully entitled as any other borough in the kingdom.
§ MR. BAINES
said, he had to regret the absence of his hon. Friend the senior Member for Birmingham (Mr. Scholefield) from the House owing to indisposition, as that hon. Gentleman had given notice of his intention to move an Amendment on the Motion of the hon. Member for Liverpool, which would have the effect of including the borough of Leeds along with the other three boroughs to receive an additional Member. His Motion would have been to amend the words "250,000 inhabitants," by omitting the words "and fifty," thus leaving the line of population drawn by the clause at 200,000. He appealed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to accept that Amendment, reminding him that the clause of the hon. Member for Wick (Mr. Laing), which was to give a third Member to the six large boroughs having a population exceeding 150,000, was only lost by the trifling majority of eight in one of the fullest Houses of the Session. It was contrary to the rules of the House to renew, in the same Session, a Motion once rejected; but his hon. Friend would not be violating that rule if he drew the line of population at 200,000; and this was therefore the object of the present Amendment. He (Mr. Baines) was confident that if the four boroughs of Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, and Leeds did not receive each an additional Member, the re-distribution part of the Bill would be considered altogether unsatisfactory, and the acceptance of the measure by the country would be endangered. On the rejection of the Motion of the hon. Member for Wick, public meetings had been held in all the towns included in the present clause, and at those meetings the claims of the respective places to additional representation were warmly and unanimously expressed. He advocated the cause of all those boroughs, and for the borough which he had the honour to represent he might say that it possessed every recommendation for a larger share of electoral power. Its population at the Census of 1861 was 207,000; it was now 232,000, and it would soon be 250,000. The Committee would perhaps be surprised to learn that that population exceeded the aggregate population of thirty-eight of the smaller boroughs of the kingdom, which were now represented by no less than sixty-one Members. Was it possible that so flagrant a disproportion could be allowed to continue? The Chancellor of the Exchequer had referred to the population of the counties, as showing 832 no less a disproportion with the small boroughs than was shown by the large boroughs. But the case of Leeds did not suffer when compared even with the counties. There were in England seventy comities and electoral divisions of counties; and of those not less than sixty had a smaller population respectively than the borough of Leeds. There were only ten counties and county divisions possessing as many inhabitants as that borough. He had, on a former occasion, adduced the great number and variety of the industries carried on in Leeds, as a ground for additional representation; and that was a very strong ground, inasmuch as periods arose when each branch of manufacture might have special interests to present for the consideration of Parliament, and it would be difficult for two Members to do justice to the whole. There were no less than ten or twelve distinct branches of manufacturing industry in Leeds. But his borough had not merely great manufactures of its own, it was also the mart and commercial capital of the vast clothing district of the West Riding of Yorkshire; and it was not only Leeds, but Yorkshire, which claimed a representation somewhat more adequate to its wants in that House. He would only offer one further reason for bestowing upon Leeds a third Member, which consisted in the very large area of the borough, covering no less than thirty-three square miles or 23,000 acres. This large extent necessarily added to the duties of a representative. There were only nine boroughs in England possessing an equal area, and the aggregate population of all the nine did not amount to half the population of Leeds. Indeed, the combined area of the three boroughs of Liverpool, Manchester, and Birmingham, included in the Resolution of the hon. Member for Liverpool, was considerably less than the area of Leeds alone. Thus there was a combination of circumstances which he confidently presented to the right hon. Gentleman, as making out an irresistible case for the claim of Leeds to an enlarged representation; and, in conclusion, he would repeat his conviction that unless that claim was granted, it would be impossible for the measure of the Government to give satisfaction.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I have so recently expressed my opinion upon this subject, indeed, I have so frequently on analogous subjects troubled the House with my views upon it, that I feel I ought to ask the permission of the 833 Committee before I repeat them. I agree with what has been said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire (Mr. Adderley), that we must not forget, in considering our representative system that we are sent here pre-eminently to represent localities and opinions. The hon. Member for Birmingham says it is very well for one or two men to represent localities and opinions, but that when we go into the lobby we want representation more proportionate to the population, industry, and prosperity of the place. But I would remind the hon. Gentleman that the influence of the town which he represents is not to be meted by the votes of the two Members who are its representatives in this House. Everybody knows very well that if questions arise in which the interests of Birmingham, or Manchester, or Leeds are concerned, it is not merely the two Members who represent the particular boroughs here, who are prepared to endorse their interests, advocate their claims, and exercise over the decision and opinion of the House a proportionate power; and so it is with the metropolis. The metropolis will now be represented by twenty Members; but we know very well that if a great question arises which actually concerns the interests of the metropolis, its power in this House is not to be measured merely by the twenty who re-present it. We know that forty, sixty, eighty Members, or many more will be prepared to act as if they had been returned from the same polling-booth as the avowed representatives in this House, as if they were directly responsible to the constituencies of the city or the borough of Marylebone. The hon. and learned Member (Mr. T. Chambers) says it is very important that we should finally decide on the principle on which the representative system of the country is to be established. I should be very sorry to do so; because I am sure that, if we do so, we shall arrive at results which will greatly disappoint the people of this country. Our ancient system of representation, which has endured so long, and is so various and so complete, has been, of course, the result in a great degree of accident, partly of contrivance, and still more of the genius of the country acting on events that have developed themselves in the history of an ancient nation; and the legislative machinery which it has produced has adapted itself as time has gone on, and as the circumstances of the country have changed, so that even this borough representation, which never was intended, as we all know, to represent the 834 various interests of an Empire such as Great Britain has become, has still, in a great measure, adequately and powerfully represented the variety of its interests, which no formal preparation could have contemplated. It has adapted itself to those various interests; and when we tamper with it and curtail its dimensions—still more when we attempt to destroy it—we are bound to see that we supply other machinery adequate to the great Imperial uses which it has served. In considering this question of redistribution of seats, we have had placed before us a certain number of seats, and we had to recommend to the House the mode in which we think on the whole it most conducive to the public interest, and to the general satisfaction of the country, in which that distribution shall take place. We have recommended in the plan that we have laid before the House that out of the forty-five seats twenty-five should be given to counties, nineteen to boroughs, and one to a University. The House was perfectly prepared, public opinion generally was perfectly prepared, that that considerable proportion which we have no doubt proposed with reference to the counties should be made. Protracted discussions, and the admissions of leading men on both sides—the result of the facts with which we are now familiar—had rendered public opinion general that the principles of political justice required, in a re-distribution of the seats, that the population of the counties should be more largely and more directly represented. Nothing shall tempt me to trouble the House any further with statistical details on this subject, especially after the experience which we may profit by of the interesting narrative of the hon. Member for Leeds in favour of the town of which he is most certainly an able representative. But there is no doubt that a majority of the people of this country do not live in Parliamentary boroughs, and that they are represented by a very small number of Members. No answer has ever yet been given to that, although the right hon. Gentleman started a new reason as regarded the inadequate distribution in regard to counties; for he said that the fallacy of my statement consisted in this, that I took no consideration of the number of constituencies, or of the character and number of the qualifications in these constituencies, though these are the elements we ought to consider, and not mere population. I was surprised that the right hon. Gentleman enforced that view, because it appeared to me to lead to 835 a train of observations fatal to his conclusions. If we take the numbers of the present constituencies, the number in the counties is larger than the constituencies of the boroughs. If we look to the qualifications the lowest qualification belongs to the county constituencies, and not to the boroughs. Therefore, even in the view of the right hon. Member for South Lancashire, there is nothing that can mitigate the injustice of more than half the population of the country being represented by 160 Members, and the smaller body being represented by double that number. When I hear Gentlemen opposite every night—as the hon. Member for the City has done within the last twenty minutes—talk of the necessity of having a hard line between the county and borough population, I can only say, are you prepared to change the relative positions of the two populations? If the boroughs were represented by 162 Members would you be satisfied if I got up and said, "Never mind that, I am against hard lines between borough and county populations; be satisfied that virtually you have the same sympathies and interests, and though you are only represented by half the number, while you have a larger population, the identity of sentiment and of interest as Englishmen renders you exactly in the same position as we are?" That I am sure would not be for a moment submitted to. I have not heard in the course of these discussions of any one who challenged the propriety of the sound policy of the general amount of the re-distribution which we have proposed. I do not wish to bind the House to details, by which we have determined to increase the representation of the counties; but I come to the question as to the boroughs. My opinion is that the plan of the Government was and is founded on sound principles, and that, in the arrangements that have been made, there has not for a moment been the slightest consideration of party interests. I repeat that, and I defy any one to show anything of the kind. As to the absurd allegation that we have taken large towns out of counties, and, by giving them representation, have increased the county representation, if large communities have arisen in counties with distinctive interests requiring representation how could we give the representation in any other way? If after that there still exists a larger amount of population in the counties than in the Parliamentary boroughs, what could we do more justly than increase the 836 representation of the counties? These are sound principles, which I am sure will be acted upon by both sides, and, as far as party interests are concerned, any petty arrangement of that kind, which we really despise, and which we believe always ends in failure, and often in absurd contrasts eventually to the intentions contemplated, has never been contemplated by us. What have we done with respect to the nineteen boroughs? We have endeavoured as much as possible to distribute the representation over the country, particularly in the North, where considerable towns have arisen since the settlement of 1832. In settling the question of increased representation as regards boroughs, we have acted upon distribution and division, even in boroughs as well as counties, whenever an opportunity offered. The hon. Member for Wick brought forward a considerable Motion the other day, and, as it appeared on the Paper, no one could doubt the object of it was to strike at the scheme we proposed. The hon. Member began by increasing the representation of a certain number of great towns; he proposed to group other boroughs, and then to add greatly to the representation of the counties, almost, if not quite as much, as we did, but on a principle which we believed would lead only to imperfect representation. We were, therefore, totally opposed to that plan, and it is one we could not have accepted under any circumstances. The merits of the scheme the Committee were not called upon to decide, because on the first portion of it there was a majority, though not a considerable majority, against the proposition of the hon. Member for Wick.
The principle of accumulating representatives for places, counties or boroughs, I believe to be a wrong principle for the reason which my right hon. Friend near me has stated, and to which I have often referred in this House. If I saw any prospect of building up our system of representation on that principle, I should augur the very worst results for the character of this House. But so far as the distribution of those new boroughs is concerned, I perfectly agree that if you bring forward a great measure like the present, which is not brought forward as a party question — which never would have been advanced to its present position without the assistance of both sides — you must meet all these questions in a spirit of compromise and of mutual concession. I freely admit that if we can meet those claims in a way that will not affect the arrangement 837 we have made to give a more adequate, though not a complete, representation to counties—if we can, by a re-arrangement of the plan on the table with respect to boroughs, meet the views of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, I am perfectly ready, on the part of Her Majesty's Government, to waive any objection we may have as to the principle by which the number of representatives for the whole of England may be determined. I believe there is not the slightest danger of that principle being carried to that excess which he thinks erroneous and perilous; and I am willing to admit that it is only by a spirit of compromise that we can carry this measure to a successful conclusion. I shall be prepared on the part of the Government, if my proposition is accepted in the same spirit, to accede to the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, reserving to myself, on the part of the Government, the necessary right of remodelling the Schedules so far as the intended necessary borough representation is concerned. With regard to what fell from the hon. Member for Marylebone, who to-night has enforced a great increase of the representation of the metropolis, and has founded his claim on the plea of the hon. Member for Liverpool, I beg to remind him that there is an increase in the representation of the metropolis by the Schedules in the table to the amount of four Members. I am not prepared to offer any plan for distributing those seats, or settling the representation in any single principle of universal application or practice; and, feeling that all our arrangements must be of the character of compromise, I must say that the metropolis has no cause to complain of the general arrangements we have made. So much with regard to the three additional Members to Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool.
Now, although it would have been sufficient for me before I sat down to have expressed on the part of the Government our wish to meet the claims embodied in the Motion before the House, I must say that, considering the noble rivalry which exists between the industries of Yorkshire and Lancashire, I think it would be most unwise of us to confer an increase of representation on the two great cities of Lancashire, and not to acknowledge the claim of the great city of the rival industry—I mean Leeds. I shall therefore, on the part of the Government, be prepared, at the fitting time, to make such changes 838 in the Schedule as would give an additional representative to each of these four constituencies. But I wish it to be distinctly understood that Her Majesty's Government are only prepared to give that increase of representation to those places by remodelling the Schedules upon the table; and I must add that if Manchester is to have three Members, Salford must be content with one, while the additional seats for the three other cities must be withheld from those boroughs whose claims for increased representation we should otherwise have recommended to the House for favourable consideration—for those are the only sources at our disposal for achieving that end. We make this offer to the Committee on the part of the Government in the spirit of compromise, in the spirit of mutual and reciprocal concession; and we do it with the sincere hope that we shall by this means advance and expedite the cause of the great measure now under our consideration.
I voted against this proposal when it was brought forward by the hon. Member for Wick, and I shall vote against it now that it is brought forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool. I opposed it when brought forward by the Member for Wick from no party motive; for I have no intention of sharing in the responsibility which will attach to, or being included in the censure which will be passed hereafter on, the great Conservative party for their conduct in regard to this Reform Bill. If I admitted the correctness of the principle on which you have established the franchise, I should be prepared to go much further than you do with respect to the re-distribution of seats; for there was not a single argument brought forward in support of the franchise that would not apply with equal force to the formation of electoral districts. My right hon. Friend the Member for Oxfordshire took strong exception to the franchise being called "household suffrage pure and simple;" and although the only reason he gave at the time was, that it was such a "mouthful," I was sure that he had other objections. I can easily imagine his having a conscientious scruple to its being called "pure;" but its "simplicity" is equalled only I think by that of the hon. Members who sit around him, who are prepared to accept it as a great Conservative measure. I am afraid when they have swallowed the camel they will find it very difficult to digest. How long do those hon. Gentlemen think this re-distribution of seats will 839 last with household suffrage? I predicted—it was hardly a prediction, for it was fulfilled almost as soon as uttered—that the securities you relied upon would be swept away; and I now predict, with equal confidence, that this re-distribution of seats will not last through the next Parliament. Whether the proposition for overthrowing it will come from those who now hold office or from those who sit on the Benches opposite I cannot say; but of this I am certain, that this re-distribution of seats can never exist with household suffrage. What are the principles upon which you established this household suffrage? It was to prevent the establishment of any "hard and fast line"—a mouthful we are indebted to my right hon. Friend the Member for Oxfordshire himself for — but what line can there be established so hard or so fast as the boundary line of your boroughs. How long do you think that those who live just outside the boundaries will be content to see the "residuum and migratory paupers"—recollect this is your description and not mine of a portion of the new constituency you are about to form—possessing three votes, whilst they have none? Depend upon it, this will not last. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire very emphatically reminded the Chancellor of the Exchequer that this Bill is no longer the Bill of the Government. Upon my word I do not know whose Bill it is. As the word "compound" is no longer required for the householder, we may as well attach it to the Bill, for it is "compounded" of every Amendment that has been proposed to the House. I, for one, am not prepared to share in the responsibility of passing it, and shall vote against the third reading of it. There are three things which I have—I will not say learnt during the progress of this Bill, but with respect to which my preceding opinions have been confirmed: the first is, that nothing has so slight a vitality as a "vital point;" the second that there is nothing so insecure as "securities;" and the third that there is nothing so elastic as the conscience of a Cabinet Minister.
I do not think it is my duty to follow and to comment upon the remarks which have just been offered to the Committee by the right hon. and gallant Member opposite. His position and ours are very different, seeing that he entertains a conscientious objection to the body and substance of this Bill. The body of this Bill, as I ventured to state 840 the other night to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has become such that, as far as I am able to form a judgment, the opinion of the great majority of this House is that it is a matter of vital importance to the public interest that this Bill should pass as soon as possible. Under these circumstances, the measure assumes a character and an aspect which would justify me in saying that its progress no longer depends upon the influence of the Executive Government so much as upon the desire of the House. It is, therefore, not for me to make any proposal which might have the effect of delaying a consummation which I think, for the public interest, ought to be arrived at as shortly as possible, but I am obliged to say a few words to prevent any misunderstanding. After the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I cannot but help contrasting it with that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Staffordshire, in which he announced that the proposal of the hon. Member for Liverpool was a portentous innovation, which would inevitably lead to a total subversion of the representative system of this country. It is not, however, necessary for me to occupy the time of the Committee by any argument upon that point after the acceptance of the hon. Member's Motion by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the part of the Government, coupled with his gracious compliment of making a similar concession on behalf of the borough of Leeds. There were, however, words used by the right hon. Gentleman that, for fear of some misunderstanding, I cannot pass without some observation. It is unnecessary for me to follow the right hon. Gentleman through his argument respecting the controversy between the boroughs and the counties, beyond disclaiming entirely the representation he gave of my statement, and for this reason, that we are not to-night involved in a controversy between the representation of the counties and the towns. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that in order to obtain the seats necessary to carry out his concession he shall be compelled to take them from those boroughs to whom additional seats were to have been given. But it is not from the counties that we should propose to obtain those seats—the question lies between the representation, not of counties and of boroughs, but between different classes of towns. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says that this concession is made in a spirit of compromise; but were not the propositions of the hon. Member for Wick and 841 the hon. and learned Member for Portsmouth also put forth in a spirit of compromise? The Motion of the latter was most moderate; his proposition would have taken the number of seats required from the smaller boroughs to the number proposed by the Bill of last year, within one. I do not think that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has even yet taken a broad view of the question; because, as was said by the right hon. and gallant Member opposite (General Peel), with so large an extension of the suffrage, the re-distribution should have been correspondingly extended. On an occasion like the present, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer has kindly offered us a boon, it really seems invidious to do anything else than to accept the proffer with thankfulness, and to let the morrow shift for itself. I should have been prepared to have so acted, had it not been for the fair and candid, but explicit manner in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer explained that he should be compelled to take the seats he gave to these four large towns from other large towns, that he would not meddle with small towns of 2,000, 3,000, or 4,000 inhabitants, or even with towns of 10,000 and 11,000; for he distinctly intimated that no more was to be had from that source, but that the means of satisfying the demand of the hon. Member for Liverpool must be found in a modification of the Schedules—that is, in withdrawing Members which he had proposed to confer on boroughs having a population of 20,000, 30,000, and 40,000. It would not be candid to allow that statement to pass without saying that I, for one, am convinced that no such arrangement can be satisfactory. I earnestly trust that when the right hon. Gentleman proceeds to carry out his concession, so satisfactory in itself, by a reconsideration of the Schedules, that he will propose some enlargement of the number of disposable seats.
said, he hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would so re-model the Schedules that the great towns in the North of England would not monopolize the whole of the representation. Bristol, it should be remembered, was little inferior in wealth, importance, and variety of interests to any other city having the same number of Members, and certainly should be among those having three.
§ MR. CRAWFORD
said, he wished to ask the hon. Member for Maldon what he intended doing with regard to his Amendment proposing to reduce the Members for London to two?
§ MR. SANDFORD
said, that he had been taken by surprise by the decision the Government had come to, and was in a position of considerable difficulty. The right hon. Member for Staffordshire occupied the position of what was commonly known as "a nine-pin;" he seemed to have been put up in order that he might be bowled over. He would, however, be happy to withdraw his Amendment if it would be more pleasing to the Committee for him to do so.
§ MR. BAZLEY
said, he wished to thank the Chancellor of the Exchequer in behalf of his constituency; but entreated him not to revoke his promise of an additional Member for Salford, in redeeming his promise of a third Member for Manchester, as the interests of the two places were quite distinct.
§ MR. SERJEANT GASELEE
said, he regretted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had put up a Cabinet Minister to denounce a proposal which he conceded at the last moment. It might be characterized as an act of conciliation, but he (Mr. Serjeant Gaselee) did not accept it as such, and he was prepared to vote against it. In his opinion, the re-distribution scheme of the Government, bad as it was, had been made worse by the sudden giving way of the right hon. Gentleman, and he believed that in a Reformed Parliament it would not last a month. But as the right hon. Gentleman had yielded on the proposal of the hon. Member for Wick, he trusted that he would also give way on his. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman, after consulting with his Colleagues, would accept that latter most moderate suggestion—namely, to disfranchise all boroughs with less than 5,000 inhabitants. He brought it forward, not because he thought it was a measure which ought to be carried, but because he considered it was the only measure which, considering the temper of the House, had any chance of success. He warned the Government that if they did not take his advice, the new House, instead of being content to draw the line at 5,000 and 10,000, would not stop at 10,000, or even at 20,000.
§ MR. CHEETHAM
said, he much regretted that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, after having inserted the borough which he represented among those that were to got another Member, should now take that Member 843 away and give him to Manchester. He begged to give notice that he should oppose this part of the scheme.
§ MR. LAING
said, he wished to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether he would be prepared to-morrow, when the next clause came on, to state specifically the means by which he proposed to get the four seats he had now given to the boroughs? The Committee could then decide between his proposal to group certain boroughs, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer's proposal to deprive certain boroughs of an additional Member.
§ MR. HORSFALL
said, that after what had fallen from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he would not put the Committee to the trouble of dividing. He would withdraw the clause. ["No, no!"]
said, it was desirable to know what further direction the discussion would take. The Committee was very much in the hands of Her Majesty's Government. If the Government would produce a clause by which could be determined the whole question of enfranchisement of large towns, he should not object to the withdrawal of the clause.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
The course which I shall take will be to put in the most practical and business-like shape some proviso that will secure this additional representation to the four large towns; but I cannot at this moment say how I shall do it.
I do not see what other answer the right hon. Gentleman could give. But the right hon. Gentleman might be able to mention to-morrow in what way he proposes to make provision for the additional seats.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
It does not appear to me that the question would naturally come on to-morrow.
said, that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire had requested that the amended list of boroughs might be produced; but there had been no return at present of the area of population, and until this was done it would not be advisable to determine which boroughs should be omitted from the Schedule.
§ MR. BAINES
said, he thought the object of the hon. Member for Liverpool would be obtained by adding Leeds, and he proposed to leave out the number fifty, which would include that borough.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
The best plan will be to read 844 the clause a second time, and then to report Progress.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the said Clause be now read a second time."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 297; Noes 63: Majority 234.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
I wish to ask whether there is any chance of our hearing to-morrow at two o'clock what are the proposals which the right hon. Gentleman intends to submit with respect to the disfranchisement of boroughs to supply seats to the large towns?
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE
I must put my question in another form. Will the right hon. Gentleman be prepared at two o'clock to-morrow, when we meet again, to state the manner in which he proposes to find the four additional Members?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I shall be prepared at two o'clock to-morrow to proceed with the Reform Bill.
§ House resumed.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.