§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I wish to take this opportunity of making some few remarks upon a subject which was treated yesterday, as some thought, too cursorily, but I think only from misapprehension. I believe my noble Friend the Member for Stamford is now present, and 1340 I will now make some remarks upon the course which has been taken by the Government. It has been said that I was hardly justified, when I announced yesterday the secession of three of our Colleagues, in stating that secession to have taken place in consequence of the majority of the Cabinet having arrived at a decision in favour of our original policy, because he original policy had been intimated to the House. Now, I think that criticism is not accurate, and, because not accurate, not just. On the 25th of last month, in intimating to the House the measures which a united Cabinet were prepared to recommend to Parliament, I most distinctly adverted to other propositions which it had been our wish to bring forward, but which we had not felt authorized in making. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear!] I am glad the right hon. Gentleman opposite admits the accuracy of that observation. I distinctly stated on that occasion that there were other measures which would have enabled us to deal with the borough franchise on a more extensive scale, but which we had felt ourselves obliged to relinquish. Well, Sir, in bringing forward the measure which I introduced on the 25th of February, I hope to satisfy the House that we were not influenced by any thoughtless spirit, and that in the course which we took, we were impelled only by those principles which ought to influence public men, under the circumstances in which we were placed. And here I must remark, with reference to some expressions which have come to my notice—though they were used in "another place"—that there is no foundation for the charge which has been made against the present Government, that they neglected for a long period the consideration of the important subject which now so much engages the attention of Parliament, and that it has been taken up by us without sufficient thought, with indifference, and after a delay, characterized, probably, by negligence. Now, Sir, there is no foundation for that charge. Early in the autumn Lord Derby wrote to me, and told me that, after grave deliberation, he had arrived at the conclusion that it was absolutely necessary to deal with the question of Parliamentary Reform, and that it must be dealt with in no niggard spirit. That communication was made to me by Lord Derby early in the autumn, and he requested me to give my best attention to the subject. Sir, I do not say that Lord Derby, charged with the responsibility of State affaire, and 1341 anxious, if possible, to bring to a happy solution one of the most difficult problems of modern politics—I do not say that the feelings or even the conduct of Lord Derby, in the interval between the time when he made that communication to me and the first meeting of the Cabinet, were not modified, as the conduct of every public man must be modified, by the circumstances of the time, by the temper of the nation, by observation of general or particular opinions, by acquaintance with the obstacles which he should have to encounter, and the various combinations which it might be necessary to enter into to obtain the end which he desired. He must, indeed, be constituted differently from other statesmen if his course were not modified, even sometimes arrested, by such circumstances. But this I will say of Lord Derby, that what was his first opinion early in the autumn is his last opinion, and is one upon which he is prepared to act. Sir, we had more than the hope, we had the expectation, that we should have been able to propose to the House a measure conceived in the spirit which had influenced Lord Derby when he made that communication to me in the autumn, and sanctioned and supported by all his Colleagues. After having entertained, however, an expectation of that character, we were unhappily, and I must say unexpectedly, disappointed in that hope. Sir, I impugn no man's conduct under these circumstances. I am confident, for my own part, that every Member of the Cabinet of Lord Derby, whatever his opinion on the subject, or whatever the course he may have taken, acted only in duty and in honour. That, however, being the case, called upon somewhat unexpectedly to arrive at a decision, and feeling that he had entered into an engagement with his Sovereign and with his country to bring this question, if possible, to a solution, Lord Derby sanctioned the measure which on the 25th of last month I brought before the House. Upon that measure I shall make one remark. The House must not think, because we were unable to carry into effect the more considerable measure which we had planned, that we had recourse to a scheme which we had only suddenly adopted. The measure I proposed on the 25th of February was one which had engaged our attention, and especially the attention—the mature attention—of Lord Derby. We had always been of opinion that if, unfortunately, we should 1342 not be justified in introducing the measure which we wished, that was the one which ought to be brought forward, because it could be defended upon principle. I speak of it with impartiality, because it is not and need not now be concealed that it was not the one which I myself should have preferred; but it is one, in my opinion, which I could consistently and honourably recommend to the House, because it is founded upon a principle, and between that measure and the policy which Lord Derby would have preferred there is in our belief no other course possible. The principle upon which the measure which I described on the 25th of February is founded is this—it seeks to restore, and I would restore the labouring classes to that place in our Parliamentary system which they forfeited by the Act of 1832. If, for example, it had been carried, the constituency of England would have consisted probably, allowing for double votes, of 1,400,000 persons, and the labouring classes would have possessed of that constituency exactly one quarter. Then, take the great landed proprietors and the various classes in connection with them, and give another quarter to them, and a moiety of the constituency between those two sections would have been left to the various sections of the middle class. That, therefore, was a policy which was founded on a principle, for it would have offered to the country a constituency which bore in its various classes a due and harmonious relation to each other, and which, adapted no doubt to different places and to different circumstances, would have placed the working class in the position from which they were expelled in 1832. ["Oh, oh!"] That was a measure, moreover, which we had reason to believe might have been accepted by Parliament. It was brought for ward by a united Cabinet, and we entertained an expectation that there were many influential Gentlemen opposite who would have accepted it. But what was the fact? I must say this, though individually I was not surprised at the result, that it did not give satisfaction to the great Conservative party of the country. I am not speaking merely of those influential Gentlemen who have the honour of representing the Conservative party in this House, though I have reason to believe this they entirely represent the feeling of the country in this respect; but I may say this, that not a day lapsed after the measure was brought under the consideration of the House with- 1343 out persons of the highest authority in the country, men of the greatest stake and standing, who are distinguished by what are called Conservative opinions, expressing their regret that this measure had been adopted, and that the course which Lord Derby was supposed to uphold—and which, indeed, he had, without circumlocution, taken the opportunity of intimating to his followers his wish to support, had not been pursued. Sir, there was a general feeling throughout the country, or at least, through the most important Members and communities connected with the Conservative party, that the question of the introduction of the working classes into our Parliamentary system should not be dealt with in a contracted spirit. Then, Sir, how did that proposition fare with Gentlemen opposite, on whose support in some degree we had hoped we might have counted? Why, the very next day, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lancashire called his friends together—very properly, for I do not condemn his conduct, or the decision at which they arrived—and after consultation they came to the conclusion that the proposition was unsatisfactory, and that no settlement could be satisfactory unless it were based on a £5 rating. [Cries of "No, no!" from the Opposition.] That, at all events, was the information which reached us. Probably it was not accurate, and much of the information that reaches you about us is equally unauthentic. I think, however, it will not be disputed that our proposal was not popular with the Liberal party, and that, in fact, some counter-proposition was to be made. It seemed to us, therefore, that we were fast sinking into that unsatisfactory state which distinguished last Session, when one proposition was met by another not materially differing from it, and that the attempt to bring this great question to a solution would have been fruitless in the present as it had been in preceding Sessions. But, Sir, we are conscious that there is some difference between this and the preceding Session, and we did believe and hold that if the question were not seriously and earnestly and vigorously grappled with, it would not be for the honour of Parliament or the advantage of the country. Well, Sir, under these circumstances, Lord Derby called his Colleagues together, and wished them to re-consider the course which had been pursued, and the course which he had formerly and originally wished to pursue. 1344 And he expressed his strong opinion that the course which he originally wished to pursue was the only one that would lead to a solution which would be satisfactory to the country, and enable Parliament to agree to a measure, and would, on the whole, be most conducive to the interests of the country, present and future. I regret to say that under these circumstances, although a majority of the Cabinet supported Lord Derby, we had the great misfortune of losing three of our Colleagues. Sir, I know there may be some in this House who think that the circumstance of losing Colleagues, although it may be a disagreeable incident, is one which, like many of the casualties of life, must be encountered and endured. Some, indeed, think that the breaking up of a Cabinet is like the breaking up of a social meeting, and that these things are easily forgotten and passed over. But I see some right hon. Gentlemen opposite who have had the misfortune of parting with Colleagues, and I think they will agree with me that the disruption of that tie—that separation from men with whom you have long been bound by a tie of the most intense interest—that of attempting to manage the affairs of a great country in the hope that you may be contributing to the public welfare—is one of the most painful and saddest incidents that can occur. I rank it among the calamities of life. If my resignation of office could have prevented that unfortunate result, that resignation was at the command of my noble Friend. It was at his command then, as it has always been. And whether I have sat on that side of the House or on this, those who know me know that I have always said that no personal sacrifice on my part should I hesitate to make to maintain a united party or a united Cabinet. But the state of affairs would not have been bettered by my retiring from office. We lost Colleagues with whom it was a pride and pleasure to act; and my only consolation under the circumstances is that I feel certain the services of such men, whatever may become of myself, will not be lost to their country. And there is one among them whose commanding talents, whose clear intelligence, capacity for labour, and power of expression will always, I am sure, qualify him for taking a leading part in the affairs of this country. But, Sir, it is unnecessary, as I am sure it must be painful, to touch upon these personal questions. The spirit of honour and the sense of duty will maintain 1345 us, I hope, in the trial which we are now undergoing. Lord Derby, had he quitted office, would only have increased the embarrassment which public men now feel. He retains office with the most earnest determination to carry into effect the policy which he approves. I hope that, without entering into any unnecessary details, which might afford amusement to the curious, but which feeling this House has at all times repudiated, it will be thought that I have fairly placed before the House the position in which the Cabinet is placed. It is our business now to bring forward, as soon as we possibly can, the measure of Parliamentary Reform which, after such difficulties and such sacrifices, it will be my duty to introduce to the House. Sir, the House need not fear that there will be any evasion, any equivocation, any vacillation, or any hesitation in that measure. That measure will be brought forward as the definitive opinion of the Cabinet, and by that definitive opinion they will stand. The right hon. Gentleman last night uttered some prophetic deprecations of the character of that measure, which I thought somewhat gratuitous. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to be painfully afraid that its character might be complex. I know well the singular plainness of mind of the right hon. Gentleman, and how he shrinks at all times from anything that is intricate. I do not think that the measure which I am about to bring in will perplex Parliament; but of this I feel quite sure, that it will be perfectly intelligible to the country.
Sir, I hold everybody responsible for the maintenance of his own honour, whether it be personal or political. I do not know whether he is at all times the best judge of what that honour may require, because there is a species of false honour which sometimes induces him not to apologize although he knows he is wrong, and which induces him to persist in a course although he has begun to doubt the propriety of that course. I hope I have not been influenced in the course I have pursued by this principle of false honour. On the contrary, when a person has changed his opinion I honour him, Sir, for acknowledging that change and acting on it. And I confess to having altered my opinion with regard to that great question which we discussed last year. It is perfectly true, as has been stated by my noble Friend (the Earl of Derby), that when his Govern- 1346 ment was formed no pledge was given to bring in a Reform Bill. If any such pledge had been required, I certainly should not have accepted office. Since that time I have changed my opinion. I have changed it, first as to the indifference of the great mass of the people upon it. I changed it because I then thought it was absolutely necessary for the Government to bring in a Reform Bill, and that the question should be settled as soon as possible. Having come to that conclusion, I was satisfied that it could only be carried out by every one of extreme opinions either on one side or the other being prepared to sacrifice his extreme opinions. I was therefore prepared to unite with my Colleagues, if possible, in framing a Reform Bill. When I came to that conclusion I was perfectly prepared for all the sacrifices I might be called upon to go through, I was prepared to hear passages of my speech of last year quoted against me constantly, and received with cheers from the Gentlemen opposite. I am extremely sorry that by the course I have taken I deprive hon. Gentlemen opposite of any portions of the speeches they may have been preparing. There were some expressions in that speech which I deeply regret. There was one especially about the Thames flowing with blood which I have never ceased to regret. I was also prepared for another punishment, which I think the hon. Member for Lambeth very good-naturedly said, was the only one he wished to see inflicted upon me—that of walking out in the lobby in support of a Reform Bill. I am fully prepared also to undergo that. It was not until the fifth Resolution was proposed—that fatal fifth Resolution—by which it was proposed to extend the franchise down to household suffrage—that I found myself unable to agree with my Colleagues, and I then and there tendered my resignation. I objected to it in the first place on the ground that it could not be carried out in conformity with the fourth Resolution, which said that no class should have a predominant influence in the representation. I also objected to it because I thought that in many instances it would entirely overwhelm and swamp the old constituency, especially in small boroughs; but when this matter was discussed in the Cabinet I must say that the opinion of my Colleagues was unanimous, that this was a mere matter of figures—a mere question of compensation, although I must say that 1347 with regard to the compensation derived from a plurality of votes I have no very great faith either in securities or pledges. My experience of forty years in this House has led me to the conclusion that a security as a security is of no use whatever. If it is right in itself it may be maintained, but as a security it is of no use. Therefore, on that ground I objected to the extension to household suffrage. But when I was assured that it was a mere question of figures and would prove a Conservative measure, I consented to become a party to bring in the Bill—not that I had changed my opinion, but, knowing that everyone must to some extent sacrifice his opinions to carry a great measure, I consented to sacrifice mine to what I believed to be the unanimous opinion of my Colleagues. It was not until Monday morning week, or very late on Sunday night, that I heard for the first time that two of my Colleagues, in whom I placed the greatest confidence, and with whom I had acted with the greatest cordiality, had, without any communication with me, or any reference to me, come to the same conclusion as I had done. On an analysis of the figures, they had come to the conclusion that the effect of the proposal would be what I had always feared it would be—namely, that in some of the small boroughs it would swamp the constituencies. I therefore refused to take any share in the responsibility of the measure. The ground upon which I had consented to it was entirely removed, and I could no longer take upon myself the responsibility of any share in bringing in that measure.
Sir, since I gave my answer to the hon. Member for Nottingham (Mr. Osborne) yesterday, I have received the permission, through Lord Derby, which enables me now to speak on this subject; and the details into which my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has entered, and still more the details entered into by my right hon. and gallant Friend who has just sat down, impose upon me—although I dislike as much as any man the disagreeable egotism of these discussions—the necessity of briefly saying what my own course has been, and what the circumstances were under which I, on Monday last, tendered my resignation. At the time when the fifth Resolution—that fatal Resolution, as my right hon. and gallant Friend has called it—was laid upon the table, no detailed and definite agreement, as I understood it, had been come 1348 to. A general view was entertained; but the actual figures were not arranged, or the mode in which it should be applied. It was, as I then understood it, to be applied according to principles which I believed to be just, although I confess I did not at the time think the House would accept them. But that seemed to me a small matter. My only question in assenting to the proposal was to ask myself "Was it just? was it arranged upon a principle that seemed to be just, and which would at the same time afford an opportunity of admitting to the representation a very large class who do not now possess the franchise?" My right hon. Friend objected to that proposal, as he has told you; and it was in the hope that the figures might be so adjusted that the desire of the great majority of my Colleagues might be carried out with perfect safety to the Constitution, and in a manner that was likely to settle this much vexed and most difficult question, that I was one of those to urge him to remain. But after the speech of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the 11th of February, it became evident—at least, it was the belief of many of my Colleagues—that the original view of the application of the fifth Resolution was untenable; and proposals which to me—I only say to me—were new, were then entertained by the Government. I desire particularly to be understood here. I do not for a moment wish to suggest that my Colleagues acted in a hasty or precipitate manner. But anybody who knows the working of Cabinets will know that with so large a body matters are matured and considered in the first instance by a small number of Members, and that many, especially of those who hold offices with heavy Departmental work, such as mine was, are not in the first instance consulted as to measures which are about to be proposed to the Cabinet. Well, it was on the 16th of February, I think, that I first heard of the proposition which I believe has now received the formal sanction of Her Majesty's Government. I then stated at once that it was a proposition which to my mind was inadmissible. I believed at the time that it had been abandoned. But on the following Tuesday, the 19th, I think, the proposition was revived, and revived with the statement of certain statistics. Now, the House will perhaps allow me just to point out the special value of statistics in this particular matter. The idea of the fifth Resolution was to give an enfranchisement 1349 with a certain compensation or counterpoise. Of course, therefore, the whole value of any arrangement of which a counterpoise is to form a part must depend upon the accuracy of the calculations on which that counterpoise is framed. The figures on Tuesday, the 19th, were imperfect, and, after considerable discussion, it was, as I understood, agreed that the matter should be resumed with fuller information, to be obtained with aid from the Departments, on Saturday, the 23rd. The statement of the measure which was to be introduced to the House, it will be recollected, was to be made on Monday, the 25th. On Saturday, the 23rd, the figures were produced. I was asked whether I desired a further discussion of them. I said that they seemed to be favourable; but I am not aware that I gave any further assent to the proposition than was conveyed in those words. I say this on account of an expression that I can hardly acquiesce in which has been used elsewhere. But after we separated on Saturday, the 23rd, I naturally gave myself up to the investigation of those figures. The position was one of extreme difficulty. The materials which I had were, in my opinion, exceedingly scanty. The time which I had for decision was forty-eight hours. On the Sunday evening I came to the conclusion that although the figures, on the whole, had a fair seeming, and although it appeared, when stated in block, that upon them the proposed reduction of the franchise might be safely adopted, yet it appeared to me that, with respect to a very large number of boroughs, they would scarcely operate, practically, otherwise than as a household suffrage. As soon us I came to this conclusion, I consulted with one or two of my Colleagues, who happened to be near at hand, and then I wrote to Lord Derby to state that, with those figures before me, it was utterly impossible for me to concur in the measure which he proposed, As my right hon. Friend has said, on the Monday morning following we assembled somewhat hastily. I then naturally tendered my resignation, and implored my noble Friend to accept it; because, as I urged on him, a Government in which there were dissensions was not a likely Government to satisfy either the House or the country. But Lord Derby, actuated by a kindliness of feeling for which certainly I ought not to be ungrateful, but which I still think was mistaken, rather preferred to put it to me and the others who were 1350 dissatisfied, whether we would consent to a compromise—whether we ought not to consent to a less extensive measure which had been under the consideration of the Cabinet, and which was brought forward by my right hon. Friend later in the day. In the course of last week Lord Derby again came to the conclusion that what I had suggested originally was correct—namely, that it was not expedient to go on with a divided Cabinet. He resumed the proposition which he had urged in the I preceding week; and, of course, I again tendered my resignation. I am very glad to have the opportunity of making this explanation to the House; because, from some words which dropped inadvertently yesterday both in this and in the other House, I fear some impression might I have been created that we had acted precipitately—that we had consented for a long time to a measure which had been prepared long beforehand, and that then, at the last moment, we had unfairly come, forward with our objections. I hope the House will feel that, under the circumstances, it was impossible for me to act otherwise than I did with the conviction which I held. I need not say to all who have gone through it how painful it is to part from friends with whom one has acted, and to appear to stand in any position even of temporary antagonism towards those I with whose convictions generally one thoroughly sympathizes. But I felt that I never could consent to a measure which appeared to me to introduce into the majority of boroughs what was in effect pure and simple household suffrage. In saying this, I do not wish to give the impression that I am insensible to those considerations which acted so deeply on the mind of my right hon. Friend. My noble friend Lord Carnarvon has expressed elsewhere the sentiments which he entertain'; on this question in language which I willingly would adopt for my own; and I should be very glad if it should be possible, in spite of all these unfortunate dissensions, during the present Session to pass a measure which shall give satisfaction to those who undoubtedly are dissatisfied, and which shall remove from the arena of politics a matter of such fierce and such dangerous controversy. But I am sure that this question never would be settled if any who entertained sincere convictions against the propositions that were made allowed the suspicion to fall upon them that for any party or personal considerations they 1351 were suppressing their own convictions, and acting against them. It is only by the most perfect sincerity, and by earnestly striving each in our own sphere as much as we can to take this subject out of the category of those questions which tend to give rise to party struggles, that we can get rid of a difficulty which has become serious, and remove what has also become in effect a disgrace to the efficiency of the House of Commons.
§ MR. DARBY GRIFFITH
The House may well believe that I would not for a moment presume to trespass upon it on an occasion of this kind merely for the purpose of continuing a discussion in which I have no desire to interfere. I only wish to clear up a particular transaction of which an account has appeared in the public press. On Wednesday last, the 27th of February, there appeared in The Morning Advertiser, a statement in these terms—After the withdrawal of the Resolutions last night Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Disraeli had a long interview in one of the retiring chambers of the House. On that occasion Mr. Gladstone intimated to Mr. Disraeli that at the meeting of the Liberal party, held at Carlton Gardens that afternoon, it was the general opinion that no effort should be made to turn the Government out upon the Reform Bill.That statement in itself was perhaps of little importance; because immediately afterwards it was contradicted, in a manner which, I think, it is not presuming too much to say, shows that the contradiction must have emanated from the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gladstone)—We are," said the article of the following day, "authorized to contradict the report that a conference has taken place between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Mr. Gladstone on the subject of Reform. There is no foundation whatever for such a rumour.That contradiction, according to the usual practice of public life, must have come from an authoritative source, and I should have made no remark upon it had it not been for the circumstance that this morning The Morning Advertiser has another article upon it; which, after reviving the first statement, and appending the contradiction, repeats that—After the discussion on the withdrawal of the Resolutions on the 25th of February, Mr. Disraeli had an interview with Mr. Gladstone in the Ministerial retiring-room behind the Speaker's Chair. The interview was adjourned to the following day, to the room of the hon. Member for the county of Dublin (Colonel Taylor) who holds a Ministerial office.I think that such a statement having ap- 1352 peared in the public papers it ought to be further elucidated, and I submit it to the attention of the right hon. Gentleman.
Mr. Speaker—I shall have no difficulty, I think, in setting at rest the mind of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down with respect to the communications supposed to have taken place between the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer and myself on the subject of Parliamentary Reform. There is no foundation whatever for the idea that has been promulgated from certain quarters of such communications having taken place. What did take place was this—and it affords a curious illustration of the manner in which what is great may occasionally grow out of what is small. On the evening to which the hon. Gentleman referred a question of a very different nature from Parliamentary Reform was upon the paper. That question I was anxious to support, provided Her Majesty's Government would adopt a certain course, to which they already seemed inclined, and which I believed would tend to the public advantage. I spoke with the right hon. Gentleman not for twenty minutes, but for about twenty seconds, behind the Speaker's Chair. In the course of that interview I inquired of the right hon. Gentleman if they intended to pursue that course. He said they did, and I believe I then used the words "Quite proper." Probably those words were overheard, and the interpretation which was given to them by an over-heated imagination proves it to be still true that "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing." Sir, having disposed of that matter, I may turn to the statements which have been submitted to the House this evening. I do not think it would tend to the public advantage were I, at the present juncture, to comment upon the state of things which has prevailed in the Cabinet with regard to the question of Parliamentary Reform. I shall not therefore attempt to comment upon the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, still less upon those made by my right hon. and gallant Friend the late Secretary for War, and by the noble Lord the Member for Stamford, who have evidently been actuated by the desire to maintain that character for public honour in the recent proceedings from which I am quite certain no man could suppose for a moment that they would deviate. But, Sir, there 1353 is a particular portion of the statement I of the right hon. Gentleman which, even without the direct appeal of the hon. Member for Devizes, it would be necessary for me to notice, The right hon. Gentleman has given to the House to-night a defence and justification of the plan of Parliamentary Reform which was so hastily submitted and so hastily withdrawn by Her Majesty's Government, and he has distinctly and intelligibly attempted to fasten upon those who sit upon this side of the House the responsibility of having brought that project to its untimely end. Sir, I must comment upon the statement of the right hon. Gentleman that the plan of Her Majesty's Government was a plan founded upon a principle. When I heard those words fall from the lips of the right hon. Gentleman I confess I was curious to learn what interpretation they would receive from his following remarks. There are high authorities of recent date for the expression of surprise on Parliamentary occurrences, and I must confess that it was with surprise that I heard the explanation given by the right hon. Gentleman. He stated that if that plan had been adopted the effect of it would have been to raise the constituency of this country to the number of 1,400,000. Of that number one-fourth, or 350,000, would have been members of the working classes, one-fourth would have been connected with the landed interest, and the remaining moiety would have belonged to the various sections of the middle classes. I do not intend to question the accuracy or propriety of that description, to which, perhaps, I should be inclined to demur. Nor will I at present canvass the figures of the right hon. Gentleman, which, however, I should find it impossible to admit. But I come to a point which is more material—the statement that the measure was founded upon a principle because it proposed to 'admit the working classes to the benefit of the franchise in the proportion of about one-fourth of the constituency of the country. It is the first time that I ever learnt in this House that to admit the labouring classes of this country to the numerical proportion of one-fourth of the constituency could be justly described as founding a measure upon a principle. During the whole of the last Session of Parliament there was a measure under discussion in the House of Commons with regard to which the objection most commonly and constantly raised was that it 1354 was not founded upon a principle. I believe, if the arithmetical proportions established by that measure were carefully examined, it would be found that as nearly as possible it invested the working classes with one-fourth of the votes to be given to the constituencies of the country. Therefore, Sir, if the right hon. Gentleman be serious in the opinion he has expressed to-night, that the measure which was born and died on Monday evening, the 25th of February, was founded upon a principle, I can only regret that the discovery was not sooner made. Had it been made during the course of last Session, much of the trouble which besets us at present and possibly awaits us in the future might have been avoided. But what is more material is the description the right hon. Gentleman has given of the prospects and intentions with which Her Majesty's Government introduced that ill-fated measure, and also the cause which led to its withdrawal. At this point I must enter my most distinct and unequivocal protest against the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, which is, from beginning to end, full of errors, totally unintentional no doubt, but still of the gravest nature. It is necessary to point these out, because it is evident that they have been the foundation of a proceeding on the part of the Government which cannot but be regarded as of cardinal importance. The right hon. Gentleman says that if he has received inaccurate information, we also are subject to the like misfortune. That may be so, but the difference is this—we do not found our statements in Parliament upon it, nor do we, upon inaccurate information, base decisions of vital consequence in matters of public policy. The right hon. Gentleman says that the measure which he introduced upon a basis of a £6 rating franchise was introduced with either the knowledge or the apprehension that it would not be acceptable to the Members of the party who sit behind him, but that he had the greatest reason to expect that it would be favourably regarded by hon. Gentlemen sitting on these Benches.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will permit me to correct him on one point. What I said was that I believed such a measure would not be unfavourably received by hon. Gentlemen sitting on the opposite side of the House, and that it might at the same time be accepted by the House generally.
After the correction of the right hon. Gentleman I withdraw the remarks I made upon that point. But the right hon. Gentleman thought the measure was fairly entitled to the support of hon. Gentlemen sitting on this side of the House. I would ask, however, what reason the right hon. Gentleman could possibly have for forming such an anticipation, and founding upon it so important a proceeding as the submission of a plan of Reform to the House of Commons. In the month of June last, when I unworthily occupied the place now filled by the right hon. Gentleman, we had occasion to state our views upon the subject of a £6 rating franchise. In the name of the Government of that day, and at a time when our Ministerial existence and the settlement of the question depended upon the adoption of our views, I stated that it was impossible for us to accept a £6 rating franchise. How, then, could the right hon. Gentleman suppose when we had resigned the Government, subjected the country to the risk attending agitation, given up the conduct of the question, and indefinitely prolonged its discussion, rather than adopt it that we should submit to the same proposal when made upon his recommendation? I must say I think that was a groundless and an unreasonable expectation; and if it be true, as I infer from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, that this expectation had a material influence in determining the course of Her Majesty's present Administration on Monday last week, I can only say it shows there was not due care and diligence exercised in ascertaining the solidity of the ground upon which they were to build. But more than this. It appears that this expectation was disappointed by some proceeding which was taken by the Liberal party; that they met together to discuss the plan of the Government; that at that meeting they determined upon supporting nothing short of a £5 rating franchise; and that in consequence of that condemnation of the plan by the party sitting on this side of the House, the Government felt that its withdrawal had become necessary. I have endeavoured to re-state with accuracy what fell from the right hon. Gentleman. He has in this respect been completely and grossly misinformed. The right hon. Gentleman has not only conceived an expectation without any warrant, but he has proceeded, with respect to the sentiments of the Liberal party on the occasion to which he refers, upon some 1356 rumour and report as groundless as that to which the hon. Member for Devizes has just drawn attention. I had almost said that the £5 rating was not mentioned in the discussion upon that occasion, but that would not be literally, though it would be substantially, true. It was for a moment mentioned by a single Member, but only to draw forth from another Member, with the evident assent of those around, the observation that any mention of such a subject was altogether premature. So far from a determination being expressed to offer opposition to the proposal of the Government, what was stated, and what I may say was accepted, was that at that moment we were only in possession of the plan of the Government in the shape of a speech; that much might occur between the delivery of the speech and the introduction of the Bill—an observation applicable to all states and circumstances, and not the least to the condition in which we now find ourselves—and that until the Bill was produced it would be impossible to decide what course we should take with respect to the earlier stages of the measure. It was, however, an object of general desire among us that we should find ourselves in a position, when the Bill should be produced, to support it on the first and second reading, and on the Motion for the Speaker to leave the Chair, and then it would be for us to propose such Amendments in Committee as we might deem necessary. Under these circumstances, I put it to the House whether the right hon. Gentleman was justified in the account he has given, and in the attempt he has made this evening, the ungenerous attempt—to use an epithet I, for the first lime this Session, most unwillingly employ—to fasten on those who sit on this side of the House the responsibility of the failure of the scheme he referred to. I have only one more word to say, because I feel there is before us all a paramount duty and purpose, well and forcibly described in the closing words of the noble Lord the Member for Stamford, and the constant iteration of these collateral discussions, multiplied and prolonged as they are, create obstacles in the way of our attaining that object. I therefore refrain from further comment on what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman. I certainly do not feel it necessary to take notice of the criticism which the right hon. Gentleman has made on the infirmity of my own mental constitution. Every man who makes observations of that character 1357 —though it may be doubtful whether or not he does justice to himself, or to the House in which he makes them—confers a favour on the person who is the object of them, because to be made fully acquainted with our own infirmities is one of the most effectual means of attaining mental improvement. I have repeatedly received assistance in that respect from the right hon. Gentleman, and I sincerely return him my thanks. The right hon. Gentleman referred to expressions of mine used yesterday with respect to the nature of his forthcoming proposal, and he said that those expressions were gratuitous. I must at any rate say this—that they were deliberate, and, in my opinion, they were opportune. The vague and indefinite shape in which the Government plan, as outlined in recent discussions, has been brought before us does not load me to repent, but lather leads me to be well satisfied, that I submitted to the House those observations, the object of which was to impress on the Government a full sense of the responsibility of their present situation in respect to the proposals they may make on the subject of Parliamentary Reform. We are told that the Government are the best judges of their own responsibility, I admit it. Out it is often the duty of Members of this House, both to the public and to the Administration, at times when we think that serious issues are about to be raised without sufficient consideration of the means of meeting them to express, in terms becoming and respectful, the apprehensions we may entertain. I am supported in those observations by the pithy sentences of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the late Secretary for War, who told us that he had no faith in securities; that if securities were good in themselves they would stand, but, merely as securities, they would not. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer may have thought those expressions also gratuitous; but I thank my right hon. and gallant Friend, not only because he has sustained me in words I used yesterday, but because, in the observations he has made, be has done a public service. That is all I will say on this subject at the present moment. The time will come when we shall make another advance in our information on this question, and, as far as I am concerned, I have no disposition to prolong or multiply discussions of this nature, which have occurred before and may possibly occur again.
§ MR. LOWE
There is one cause, Sir, which no one seems to have any interest in defending, and with respect to which I ask permission to say a few words. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire (Mr. Gladstone) naturally supports the £7 rental franchise of last year, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer as naturally supports one of the two franchises, between which he has divided his affection—a £6 rating or household suffrage. I want to point out to the House, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer states that there is a principle in his proposal of a £6 rating franchise, that this principle is only a translation of the £7 rental franchise of last year into a £6 rating franchise. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, therefore, by implication admits that there was a principle in the Government measure of last year. Such being the case, the right hon. Gentleman has the onus thrown on him of telling us on what principle he assisted those who laboured so hard and so successfully to destroy the measure of last year and the Government with it. I have no doubt that most of the supporters of the Government measure of last year supported it because they believed that the £7 rental franchise was a point at which they could rest, and that it carried with it a sufficient safeguard. I believed that it did not. I believed that it was only a stage on the road to that household suffrage which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced. I wish, therefore, Sir, on behalf of myself and of those who voted with me on such grounds, that we should not be confounded with those who suppose that a measure containing no principle at all in one form acquires it when stated in another, and that we should not be assumed to be turning round with the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and, after opposing the £7 rental franchise of last year, acquiesce in his view to-night, when, for the first time, the Minister of the Crown pronounces the fatal and ominous words, "household suffrage." If we wanted this household suffrage our way to it was very plain. We might have got it much more easily than by placing the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues in office, with much more facility and much less expenditure of time. Of course, there is no "understanding" in such matters—no indenture drawn, no engagements interchanged, but I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite whether it was for the purpose of bringing 1359 forth household suffrage that we combined with the right hon. Gentleman last year to defeat the Government measure. And here I feel it my duty to pay a tribute to the hon. Member for Birmingham, who, at meetings called in favour of manhood suffrage, manfully resisted giving his adhesion to that principle, and always declared his opinion to be in favour of household suffrage. The hon. Member for Birmingham approached that point from below; the Chancellor of the Exchequer approached it from above: at last they have met. You might try in vain to draw any practical distinction between the policy of the right hon. Gentleman who leads the Conservative party and the policy of the hon. Member for Birmingham.So like they were, no mortalMight one from other know.The one resisting pressure approached household suffrage from below, and the other dropped down from above upon it without any compulsion at all, but from a natural attraction and affinity which exist between the two. We have now an alliance of a new kind.These be the Great Twin BrethrenTo whom the Dorians pray.Home comes the Chief in triumph,Who, in the hour of fight,Has seen the Great Twin BrethrenIn harness on his right.Safe comes the ship to haven,Through tempests and through gales,If once the Great Twin BrethrenSit shining on its sails.I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite, with whom it rests whether this alliance shall take effect or not, what they have to say to it. Are they consenting parties to it? Do they agree that the victory attained last year for the principle that the ancient constitution of the country should be preserved in its integrity, shall give way to the alliance between the hon. Member for Birmingham and the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer? The decision rests with them; the country and all of us pause to see what decision they will pronounce. I could not help saying this, because it appears that the majority of last year has now nobody to defend it. We cannot expect defence from those whom we defeated, while those whom we placed in office, those to whom in an evil hour we intrusted the destinies of the country, have underbid those whom they then opposed for going too far, and placed themselves in a position which differs from their opponents only in this—that it is infinitely 1360 more democratic. I have only one more word to say. We have heard a great deal about figures, and about the construction which noble Lords and right hon. Gentlemen, who sat up all Sunday night to read them, put upon them. We are told we are to have a Reform Bill on the 18th, that then the matter is to be hurried on with the greatest possible speed, and that after the next stage the House is to sit de die in diem. Sir, we have had delays enough for want of information on this matter, and I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that if he really wishes the House to form a decision on his Bill, the best thing he can possibly do is to place on the table, without loss of time, those very figures which have been the subject of discussion. At present we have them not. We have the book of last year, in which we find a number of statements in regard to the municipal franchise; hut, as is shown by an excellent letter in The Times the other day, written by the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Schreiber), there are only seventy-three boroughs which have conterminously the municipal and Parliamentary franchise, and where we can make comparison between them. It would be a great service to the House, therefore, if the right hon. Gentleman would, without loss of time, furnish us with the opportunity of going through the process which three Secretaries of State have gone through in order to see the real effect of the measure proposed. If we are to have these figures after the Reform Bill is brought in we probably shall not be in a condition to go on with it as the right hon. Gentleman wishes. Therefore, I do hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give us some means of judging of the proposal he intends to submit, that we may not always be in the position of receiving communications, but unable to act upon them for want of information. I thank the House for allowing one evidently of a past generation—who represents that which was a power last year, but which has been taken over by the right hon. Gentleman to the other side—to say a few words on this subject. The truth is, what was a conflict last year has become a race this year, and two parties are trying not which shall attack or which shall stand up for existing institutions, but which shall pass the other in attempting to reach first the goal of a perfectly level democracy.
I wish to offer a word of explanation with regard to a re- 1361 mark which has fallen from my right hon. Friend (Mr. Lowe), an inaccuracy not at all intentional, but which was the result of a very natural misapprehension. He said at the commencement of his speech that I had supported tonight the £7 franchise proposed last year had no intention of entering into a defence of that franchise. The meaning of what I said was this—that as the right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) appeared to me to found his claim for a principle in the measure of last Monday week upon a numerical relation, it appeared to me that it would have been just as applicable to the measure of last year.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Perhaps, in explanation, I may just observe that there were two misapprehensions by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) on which, in fact, his speech was mainly founded. In the first place, when I referred to Gentlemen opposite, I did not refer to the front Opposition Bench, the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues, but I meant to speak generally of the party opposite. It was clearly my intention to refer to the Benches opposite. My Friends around me know that I had no intention to refer to the right hon. Gentleman. The second misapprehension was, that the right hon. Gentleman thought I withdrew the intended measure in consequence of the assumed want of support from the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends. On the contrary, I stated that the main reason why we withdrew it, was the general discontent of the Conservative party.
§ MR. HORSMAN
Sir, I was not aware that any discussion was to take place, or that any explanation was to be given this evening. The noble Lord's statement has rather taken us by surprise. If personal explanations only had taken place, I should have borne no part in the discussion; but I must say I agree with what has been stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire, that it is very difficult to sit still under the provocation given to us by the speeches of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. What we have heard to-day from the noble Lord the Member for Stamford, and the right hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite, makes a great change in the situation. The Liberal party, I trust, will not withdraw from the resolution they expressed to give the Government every assistance to settle the question of Reform. But I must say that we give that 1362 assistance under different feelings every day, under greater difficulty and under greater responsibility. When a Ministry, in a confessed minority in the House of Commons, undertakes to carry a Reform Bill, such a state of things can only be tolerated because that Ministry make up, in character or ability, what they want in numbers, or because they are supported I by an opinion which is in itself a force. Is that the case with the present Government? Sir, they are the weakest Government that ever in our time has sat upon those Benches dealing with the greatest question of the day. And how are they dealing with it? There has been a general determination on this side of the House to give effect to the very judicious counsel which was tendered to us by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Lancashire at the commencement of the Session, to combine for two objects—namely, to effect a settlement of Reform, and to effect it, if possible, without a displacement of the Government. But I must say that every speech which we hear from the Chancellor of the Exchequer renders the reconciling of these two results more difficult. The Ministry have undertaken to deal with the question of Reform, and how are they dealing with it? The revelations which have been made to-day, following on all that has occurred this Session, show us that so far as official confusion and legislative weakness go, there has been everything on our part to complain of; and now, in addition to that, there is apparently an abandonment of principle and a breaking down in credit and in character unexampled, I in the modern history of Parliament. What is the next step? We learn that a Conservative Government, existing upon sufferance, is about to launch what they themselves would last year have termed a democratic Reform Bill. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (General Peel) says that he has changed his opinion, and that he respects men for changing their I opinions. But let us consider for one moment the value of a change in the circumstances in which this was made. In 1859 the present Cabinet changed their opinion and brought in a Reform Bill. They had been anti Reformers up to 1859. They brought in, I say, a Reform Bill in 1859. But the moment they abandoned office they abandoned their conversion to Reform, and it was only after a lapse of nine years, when they returned to those Benches, that the convictions which they had left in their 1363 red boxes were again found when they reopened them, and we then had a second conversion. Now, I do not hesitate to say, that I hold it as a rule, and an invariable rule, that any great party holding itself free, the moment it finds itself in office, to turn round upon the opinions it has consistently and persistently maintained in opposition, is politically wrong and morally indefensible. I do not know of any instance which history gives us which is not a confirmation of that opinion. Even those cases which are relied on of the Duke of Wellington and Sir Robert Peel rather confirm than shake this opinion. The Duke of Wellington, who was the most powerful and popular man of his time, having passed Emancipation was driven from office, which he never resumed; he lost his influence, and, for the time, broke up his party. A common danger, however, united the party once more in a common defence, and, nine years afterwards, Sir Robert Peel, by a rare union of sagacity and skill, reseated them in power. But he brought forward free trade, and once more he was driven from office: his party was broken up, his influence was gone, and he never regained the position he had lost. But there was this great difference. Those Ministers commanded great Parliamentary majorities, and they were sincerely converted. If the Duke of Wellington had been driven from office before the passing of the Emancipation Act he would have voted for it in opposition. If Sir Robert Peel had been driven from office before the passing of the great free trade measure, he would still have been a free trader. But the present Government, driven from office in 1859, changed their opinions, and opposed the Bill of the Government of 1860. ["No, no!"] I repeat they opposed the Bill. After six years they return to office. I ask what proof have we that the second conversion is more sincere than the first, when we learn that their new conviction is that Reform is not a question which should decide the fate of Governments, and that they have given us a choice of measures, with perfect indifference as to which we take, acting not so much as Ministers as auctioneers, knocking down the Constitution to the loudest bidder. I will not refer to the £6 rating franchise Bill, which fell stillborn. Forty-eight hours after its appearance, we heard no more of it. But we hear immediately afterwards that the Government return to their original policy—a policy 1364 which, if there be any truth in language, there was not one Member in the Cabinet who did not, twelve months ago, loudly and earnestly declaim was, in his inmost conviction, a policy of revolution. This may I be supposed to be the road to popularity. In my opinion, the road to popularity in England runs parallel with that of political morality. It should always be borne in mind that any Government to be popular in England must commend itself to the morality of England, and political power I in this country must be based on personal and political respect. I do not think that the course which the present Government are taking is likely to secure for them that respect. We respect rather the right hon. and gallant Gentleman (General Peel) and the noble Lord (Viscount Cranbourne), who have abandoned their places for their principles, than those who retain their places by abandoning the principles for which they have so long contended.
I will not, Sir, occupy the attention of the House for more than one or two minutes. The speeches of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, and of the right hon. Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe) have been founded upon the same idea, which is an utter misrepresentation of the intentions of the Government. The right hon. Gentlemen have spoken as if it were the intention of those who sit upon these Benches to go in a more democratic direction than even Gentlemen opposite would be inclined to take, and to bring in a Bill which would reduce the franchise to an almost unlimited extent. I say, plainly and frankly, that I can conceive no circumstances which would render the adoption of such a course by us in our position, and with our antecedents, either expedient or honourable, and certainly we shall not follow it. I say this distinctly, because I wish to save some hon. Members on that side of the House disappointment. If the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne, or any of those who sit near him, believe seriously that it is the intention of the Government to bring in a Bill which shall be in accordance with the views which have always been so ably and so consistently advocated by the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), they are greatly mistaken. I hope the House will recollect that they are discussing a mea I sure which is not before them, of which they have heard no statement from those who are to introduce it, of the effect and purport of which it is impossible that 1365 they can know anything, or can accurately judge, even by the aid of any casual criticism which may have been applied to some portion of it by Gentlemen speaking in explanation of their own conduct. We are perfectly ready to stand or fall by the judgment of the House and of the public upon the measure we shall bring in; but I do ask you for ordinary fair play, and to wait until the measure is before you, before you proceed to pass an opinion upon its merits.
I shall not prolong the discussion more than two or three minutes; but I cannot help saying that I think we have had a very instructive evening. If hon. Gentlemen opposite, and, perhaps, some right hon. Gentlemen on this side, could have seen in vision a year ago what they sec to-night, possibly the results of our deliberations in the last Session of Parliament might have been different. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe) admits that he is pretty much out of court, and that he ought not to be hero at all. But he was the great adviser last year to certain weak-minded Gentlemen, and to certain very passionate and fierce politicians who now sit in a very meek state opposite. Recollect his speeches: the violent, and I will say, notwithstanding their eloquence, the illogical things which he said, and which he much regrets to have said. [Mr. LOWE: NO!] Then the things which I very much regret he said. The right hon. Gentleman fanned the flame of discontent among a number of right hon. Gentlemen, for, somehow or other, nearly all the leaders of the discontent were those who, in former times, had been in office, and these, combined with Conservative party spirit, threw out a Government which had offered to the country a measure which the country distinctly approved. When I say the country, understand me. I mean that if there were any who did not approve of that Bill, they did not signify their disapprobation; but the multitudes at whose request or demand the Government now propose to act, did in some hundreds of public meetings signify their approbation of that Bill. I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite to dismiss for ever from their councils the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne. He once led you into a great difficulty, and if you take his advice now, he will greatly increase that difficulty. He is against extending the franchise by any reduction of it, to any portion of his countrymen. That is not the opinion held, as he himself 1366 admits, by any other individual in this House. If that be so, as this is clearly the question of the Session, he is out of court as adviser, and if he does not withhold his advice in the future, I recommend you at least not to follow it. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman) is very angry with the Government. But he has not so much reason to be so as I have. Nobody grieved more than I did at the conduct of hon. Gentlemen opposite last Session in contributing to the failure of a Bill which I greatly wished to see passed. But what did the right hon. Gentleman expect, when he coalesced with Gentlemen opposite to drive out Earl Russell, and to bring in the Government of Lord Derby. Had he so little knowledge of the state of public opinion as to believe that Lord Derby could hold office and refuse to deal with the question of Reform? The Chancellor of the Exchequer knows, Lord Derby knows, and every man in this House knows perfectly well that, if the Premier had met Parliament and declared he had no measure of Reform to offer, and should resist any proposal for the extension of the franchise, the first week of the Session would have been to him and his Government a week of extermination. His Government would have been at an end now and for ever. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Horsman) is very angry because the word household suffrage was mentioned. Why the right hon. Gentleman has a household suffrage Bill in his pocket, and I came down to-night with the expectation that it would have been brought on. But we scarcely know, under the leadership of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne, and the right hon. gentleman the Member for Stroud, where we are or where we shall be. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud has a Bill for household suffrage with certain limitations, and I am not sure that it has not been under—what shall I call it—under the examination of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Lord Derby. The right hon. Gentleman has been taking it first to St. James' Square, then to Carlton House Terrace, and there being no market for the article—which I am not at all surprised at—he tries to damage the wares of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Now, let me say one or two words to Gentlemen opposite. You know that what the right hon. Member for Calne has said is true—that I have, so long as I have discussed this question, thought that household suf- 1367 frage was in boroughs the true basis of the franchise. I have been willing to support measures in that direction, and I am willing to support now, if the House could not agree to that, a measure short of that; but I believe that is the just foundation of the borough franchise of this country. You have been accustomed to have a dread of a large increase of the number of votes at elections. You have a constituency narrow and contracted, and you have some sort of idea that the things which are safe in the hands of 1,000,000 would be unsafe in the hands of 2,000,000—as if the second 1,000,000 of your countrymen would not be filled with the same ideas as the first 1,000,000, and would not have the same interest in the well-being of the country. There is no other country in the world in which the monarchy, or the aristocracy, where there is one, or the ruling classes of whatever grade, are afraid of numbers of votes at elections. Whether you go to America, or Australia, or to the kingdoms of Europe, you never find discussions in their legislative bodies such as we have here. The legislators in those countries have no dread of their countrymen, and they have no fear that giving votes would be destructive to the interests of any order of society, or of the constitution under which they live. I ask you whether last year the great body of the workpeople who met to express an opinion respecting Lord Russell's Bill were not moderate and judicious in the course which they took in regard to that Bill, and in the judgment they expressed upon it? I venture to say they took a part which was much more patriotic in its results than that which you were unfortunately advised to take by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lowe). I will undertake further to say that such is their moderation and such is their comprehension of this question, that they will judge with great fairness any measure which the present Government shall lay before the House, or if they should fall, any measure which shall be brought forward by the Government which will succeed them. You know I am not speaking in the interest of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire, or of his friends who may hereafter occupy these Benches, or in the special interest of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with whom I have no political connection. I speak in the interest of a great cause, and of the millions of people who, from day to day, read every syllable uttered in 1368 this House on this question. And I ask you to deal with them as one class, party, or section of a people should deal with every other section of that people, with a generous and liberal estimate of their character and that which is due to them. Do not try by any tricks to hinder them from obtaining that which they have a right to expect from the declarations which you have made. If you cannot go so far as I want to go, let it be something less; but let us have it simple and distinct, so that the people shall know that what you profess to give they will really receive. If I understand aright, the measure which the right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) intends to introduce is rather the product of the brain of Lord Derby than of his, and Lord Derby is not supposed to be rash in his conduct, or an innovator on the institutions of the country. Well, Lord Derby is in favour of that wide extension of the suffrage which it is hoped Gentlemen opposite may, by-and-bye, consent to. I recollect, in the demonstration which was held a short time ago—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne says the demonstrations left no echoes behind them (I think Lord Derby could tell a very different story)—well, in that demonstration there were flags carried along the street, and upon one of them, which was carried by the carpenters, there was a motto which, though it is not in the choicest English, will still be understood by many present, and I commend it to the attention of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and of the House, as conveying in it all the wisdom which I could possibly hope to put into any number of words. It was—"Deal with us on the square; we have been chiselled long enough."
§ MR. SMOLLETT
Sir, I simply rise to say that as many Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House have endeavoured to extract the opinions of Gentlemen who have the misfortune to sit on the right hand of your Chair, I wish, as an independent Member, and as one on whom the ties of party sit very lightly, to put a question to hon. Gentlemen opposite, to which I hope I shall receive a distinct and explicit answer. The question I wish to put is, why docs not the great Liberal party, seeing the very unsatisfactory manner in which they believe Reform has been dealt with by this side of the House since the commencement of the Session—why does not the great Liberal and united party opposite take serious action in the matter, 1369 bring forward a Vote of Want of Confidence in the Ministers of the Crown, assume the responsibility of office, and deal with Reform in the way which they think will redound to their credit and to the satisfaction of the country? I am astonished to see the amount of forbearance shown by hon. Gentlemen sitting opposite, and I think their disinclination to assume office should be explained to the House and the country, and that it should be made clearly to appear why they do not take the responsibility of, and settle this question in a proper manner. But I have heard it said by hon. Gentlemen opposite, whom I do not now see in their places, that there is no unanimity in their party. They said they had a very satisfactory meeting in Carlton Gardens, but that in reality there is no unanimity amongst them. When asked why they do not take action in the matter, their answer is that they distrust their leaders—that they have no faith in them, and that they do not believe if they were transferred to the Government side of the House they would produce a satisfactory measure of Reform. If that be the answer I shall receive to-night, all I can say is that it will be most unsatisfactory. I shall be sorry to hear that the leaders of parties in this House are so sunk in the estimation of their followers that no faith can be placed in them. I therefore trust that I shall receive a clear and satisfactory reply to the question why hon. Gentlemen opposite, having a great numerical majority, do not transfer their leaders to this side of the House, and obtain from them a Bill which shall be satisfactory to the country?
§ MR. BANKS STANHOPE
I must, Sir, express my great regret and surprise at the position in which the Reform question is placed. We are met on a most solemn occasion, not for one party to taunt the other, but for both to endeavour to carry out, by mutual concession of opinion, a settlement of this difficult question. As one of those who opposed the Bill of last year—and I in no way regret the step I then took—lean tell you clearly the reason why I approach the question in a different spirit from hon. Gentlemen opposite. You have taken the ground from under us. I will not express an opinion on a measure which is not yet before the House. In common fairness we ought to wait until it is produced in its integrity; but I will say at once, as a follower of Lord Derby, that I see no reason to believe he would run 1370 any race towards democracy. I see no reason why a measure should not be introduced, founded on some permanent basis. At the same time, responsibility will be thrown upon each of us, individually and collectively, to provide, after due consideration, just and adequate protection to the property and capital of the country.