§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Hunt.)
Sir, I think that if the question now put were not upon the second reading, but upon the third reading of the Bill which I hold in my hand, in the terms and to the effect with which it is framed, that it would be negatived by a majority, and, perhaps, even by a large majority, of the House. I think, further, that if we were now considering the question whether the House should resolve into 473 Committee on the Bill there would be many among us, possibly a majority—and I among the number—who would entertain the opinion that unless we entered the Committee, armed and assisted by some declarations, and even engagements from the Government different from those yet given to us, the task of considering the Bill would be a hopeless one; and such an attempt, instead of tending to save time, would be the most certain means of losing time and postponing a settlement of this question. But, Sir, the rules of the House, wisely framed as they are, give us two ordinary and usual opportunities of questioning the principle of any Bill proposed for our consideration; and what I would presume to suggest to the House is that we should endeavour to make use of this occasion of the vote and the discussion upon the second reading of the Bill in order to ascertain, with greater precision than we now do, what are the views of Her Majesty's Government, so that before we come to the question of your leaving the Chair, we may have fuller means of judgment upon the point to be then considered by us—namely, the important question whether we ought to undertake the task of dealing with this Bill in detail. I therefore Sir, for one, propose, if I assent to the second reading, to assent to it as a measure for extending and reducing the suffrage, for the re-distribution of seats, and for certain other purposes either in themselves desirable, or, at all events, entitled, when proposed by the Government, to be taken into consideration by the House.
And now, Sir, I wish to describe the objects which, so far as I know, are desired or entertained either by the whole House or by a great majority of the House in reference to the adjustment of this question; and when we speak of the desirableness of a settlement, perhaps the time has now arrived when on most—possibly even, I may hope on all points—we may mean nearly the same thing by that phrase. I think then those objects, as far as I am aware of them from communication with Members of the House, are three—first, that a legislative measure should be passed without delay—that is, in the course of the present year;—secondly, that that measure should be based upon a liberal enfranchisement—I will not now undertake to define it—of the labouring classes;—and thirdly—and perhaps this is the most important of them all—that the provisions of 474 the Bill, and in particular the conditions of that liberal enfranchisement, should be so devised that the Bill may carry with it a fair and reasonable promise, if not of finality in the strictest sense of the term, yet of that kind of fixedness which is all that the nature of public legislation permits us in such a matter to expect or even to desire. Now, Sir, it appears to me that in order to realize the third of these conditions, two rules especially and far beyond all others must be observed. We must have no exclusions from the franchise that are arbitrary in their character, or that are otherwise than founded upon broad and intelligible grounds. So much as to exclusions from the franchise; but I add this second principle, that within the pale of the franchise we must have no distinctions drawn by legislation which are of either a vexatious or needless character; because these distinctions—at least so it appears to me—would go more directly than any other form of defect in a Reform Bill to destroy the hope of that fixedness which we all conscientiously desire.
Now, Sir, I desire to examine the provisions of the present Bill in the light of these propositions. Yet, before doing so, I cannot help uttering a word of regret for the loss of a production that nobody else has as yet audibly regretted—I mean the £6 Rating Bill. I know not, indeed, whether I must speak of it as a Bill, or whether I must only speak of it as a measure sketched in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but this I must say—repeating what I have ventured to state before—that that Bill did afford, in my opinion, a basis upon which a settlement might have proceeded. There were points on which I conceive that those who sit on this side of the House, and possibly on the other side, would have been at issue with the Government; but the issues were of a simple, straightforward, intelligible character; and I am persuaded that if the Government had refused to make reasonable changes, or if we on this side had demanded unreasonable changes, the public mind, perfectly possessed of the question, would have been directed to the merits of the controversy, and would by moral force have compelled either one side or other, or both, to arrive at an agreement on the basis of the provisions of that measure. I therefore regret its brief-lived existence— 475Ostendent terris hunc tantùm fata, neque ultra Esse sinent.It is gone and cannot be revived. We must make the best of the measure before us; and I wish to-night to inquire how that best can be made.
Sir, it appears to me nothing can be more discouraging than the prospect, when we survey the main heads connected with the settlement of the question. Sketching them lightly, and not attempting artificially to multiply those difficulties, I find they amount to these ten:—A Bill on this subject must, I think, to be satisfactory, contain a lodger franchise; but this Bill contains no lodger franchise. It seems to me that a Bill of this kind, professing largely to enfranchise downwards, must provide some means of preventing the traffic in votes that would infallibly arise in a large scheme affecting the lowest class of householders. This Bill contains no such provisions. It seems to me we must do away with the vexatious distinctions that now exist between compound-householders in a condition of life and society that are recognised by law as fitting them for the franchise, and those persons of the very same condition not being compound-householders. This Bill does not do away with these distinctions; on the contrary, it introduces new ones. I think that the taxing franchise must be omitted. I think that the dual vote must be abandoned. I apprehend there is no doubt that the re-distribution of seats proposed by this Bill must be considerably enlarged. I also venture to take it for granted that the county franchise proposed by the Bill must be reduced. I doubt whether the feeling of the majority of the House will allow the Government to entertain the important provision for the optional use of voting-papers. And finally, with respect to the collateral or bye franchises or special franchises—that, perhaps, is the best term for them—my opinion, I confess, is that, although on principle no objection can be made to those franchises, or some of them, yet, when we come to examine we shall find, as we obtain acquaintance with the conditions of each proposal, that the advantages continually dwindle, that the obstacles and difficulties continually multiply, and that there will remain finally either a thin and sterile residuum, or else they will altogether disappear. These are the ten main heads to which I referred. But in the discussion I shall confine myself to the subject of the borough 476 franchise, and for this reason:—It is a subject which appears to me to be involved in the greatest—nay, I will say, by the provisions of the Bill as they now stand in hopeless intricacy and difficulty; and it must depend on the assurance which may be given us by the Government with respect to the borough franchise in the course of this debate whether, when we come to the question of your leaving the Chair, there will be any prospect of really gaining ground by going into Committee on the Bill.
Now, if I look at the 3rd clause of this Bill—the great enfranchising clause—I find that it presents to me these prominent features. In the first place, it appears to convey an impression that we are now going to abandon all attempts to distinguish between class and class—to recognise the universal fitness of all classes of the community; and I must confess it appears to me, with great submission, if we do recognise that universal fitness it is not so very important—as the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer thinks it is—whether we recognise it under the name of "popular privileges" or "democratic rights." The clause begins with a statement, as if to give the public the impression that we were going to confer what is called "household suffrage." Now, without attempting to commit any man in the House, and certainly without having any exaggerated apprehension of the evil consequences that might result even from an error that we might commit in this direction—because I believe the good sense of the country and the strength of its institutions and traditions would effectually qualify and restrain the evil consequence of such an error—I must say, it does not appear to me that we are required either by the state of the population, by the wishes of the country at large, by the opinion of this House, by previous pledges, or by any single consideration that can be brought to bear on the question to assent to that very broad principle. Treating that assent as an assent that is needless, and as one that might produce in several particulars inconvenient consequences, the fact that I do not apprehend ruin and destruction from it is no reason at all for my adopting the proposal, if I thought that a better proposal could be devised. Therefore, for the present, I merely demur to that proposal—not as being one under all circumstances undesirable, but 477 as being at the present moment needless, and therefore unwise. But when I go on further in the clause, I find that this immense concession is so qualified by restraints that they absolutely stultify the concession itself. The House is asked to enfranchise, by adopting this proposal, 750,000 people, in order immediately afterwards to introduce a condition which cuts off two-thirds, or as I think I can show more, of that number. But this disqualification is itself qualified; because in this barrier of personal rating which is set up by the clause, and which primâ facie shuts out this 500,000, is introduced a little wicket through which, by a process which we will presently examine, it will be in the power of individuals to introduce themselves into the franchise. I think I shall be able to show that that portion of the clause which introduces this restraint is thereby rendered almost entirely nugatory. In this case you have household suffrage to deal with. It may be entirely nullified by the restraint, or it may be that the restraint itself is nugatory, and that the 500,000 persons apparently shut out will be brought into the qualification. But that which will be also easily shown is this, that if this Bill were to become law, it would depend upon the accidental political leanings of local authorities, or upon the exertions of registration agents, to determine whether we were or were not to be landed on the broad principle of household suffrage, or were to be restricted to the narrow ground by which only one-third of the householders below £10 are to be enfranchised.
Now, Sir, whether we are to take household suffrage as our broad basis, or our basis is to be narrowed to that adopted by Her Majesty's Government, let us, at least, take one basis or the other; let us keep in our hands the power of determining what shall be the limits of the constituencies, and do not let us hand that power over to local authorities, or to the registering agents of the several political boroughs of the country. When I examine more at large the operation of this Bill, I find that it arranges the borough constituencies in what I venture to term a hierarchy of five classes. At the head of the list stand those favoured children of fortune—those select human beings made of a finer clay than the rest of their fellow-subjects—who are to be endowed with dual votes. Upon that dual vote I shall not trouble the House, for I478 think that my doing so would be a waste of time. Next to these dual voters, before whose eyes this glittering falsity has dangled—although I am afraid they can have but little hope of grasping it—come the old £10 householders of 1832. The position of the latter is nominally entirely unchanged by the Bill. But while nominally unchanged, their position is really changed most materially; because a considerable number, stated by the right hon. Gentleman opposite to be 750,000 at the most, or 250,000 at the least. At any rate, a very considerable number of what I may call minor voters is to be introduced by this Bill into the franchise. Thus the privileges of the old £10 householders will be seriously attacked from below; while, on the other hand, from above they will be swamped by the admission of some 300,000 dual voters. Therefore, the position of the old £10 householder of 1832, although nominally untouched by the Bill, will be considerably affected by its provisions. The third class to which I will refer is that which includes the £9 householders, by which I mean all persons inhabiting a house under the £10 rental who are to be admitted to the franchise. The difference between the £9 and the £10 householder is that two years' residence is required from the former and only one year's residence from the latter; that the former is qualified only in respect of the dwelling-house, while the latter is qualified in respect of the dwelling-house, warehouse, shop, or other building; and finally, that the former must live in an entire house, and cannot qualify in respect of part of a house, as is the case of the £10 householders. But this is not one of the most important portions of the subject. The right hon. Gentleman endeavoured to sustain his proposal by saying—if I understood him rightly—that this proposal was contained in the Bill of 1854. But the right hon. Gentleman is inaccurate in his reference to Lord Aberdeen's Bill. If he will have the kindness to examine that Bill, he will find that it was prepared with the idea that a very simple measure of dealing with the Parliamentary franchise would be sufficient—namely, to cut off what I may call the upper slice of the municipal constituency, and to endow those forming it with a vote, the object being to avoid as far as possible the creation of new conditions in the constituencies. For that reason the Bill of 1854 required a residence of two years and eight 479 months. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: It only required a residence of two years.] Is that so? Well, it is not a very important point. At any rate, further experience showed that this provision in Lord Aberdeen's Bill was very defective and unwise, and therefore it was omitted from the Bills of 1860 and 1866. I merely urge that point against the Bill without endeavouring to attach to it any capital importance. But what is of far more importance is the point to which I now come—namely, the distinction that is drawn between the compound-householders who do not pay their own rates and the ratepaying-householders. The former fall into two classes. First of all, there are the compound-householders who already exist, and who inhabit houses of the value of £10 per annum and upwards. With regard to them it is perfectly true that their position is not made worse by the Bill than it is under the existing law. The right hon. Gentleman, indeed, told me the other day that the compound-householder if he could get it was to have the dual vote. That statement of the right hon. Gentleman appears to me to be inconsistent with the 7th clause of the Bill; because it there appears that the dual vote is to be limited to those who are registered as voters for the borough in respect of any franchise involving the occupation of premises and the payment of rates. Now, the present legal position of the compound-householder does not at all involve the payment of rates, and consequently he cannot in any event become entitled to the dual vote.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
The right hon. Gentleman must have entirely misapprehended me. What I said was, that if the compound-householder, having already one vote under another franchise, qualified himself for the dual franchise by paying his rates he would enjoy the second vote.
I asked the right hon. Gentleman whether the compound-householder would have the dual vote? He replied that the compound-householder would have the second vote if he qualified himself by paying his rates—that is to say, if he ceased to be a compound-householder.
Yes, but there are no rates for him to pay. There is no pro- 480 vision in the Bill which enables him to pay his own rates.
He is to be allowed to pay his own rates in the extremely rare cases where his landlord has neglected to pay them and they are in arrear. I regard this dual vote as a mere phantom; but at any rate, I say the compound-householder is excluded from it. It is said that the compound-householder is left in his present position by the Bill. But the present position of the compound householder is one of the greatest blots on the existing system, and is one of the strongest reasons for Reform. I venture to say that it will be totally impossible to pass any Reform Bill which does not improve the position of the compound-householder. Therefore, in leaving the position of the compound-householder unimproved, the right hon. Gentleman has been Conservative on a point in which it was desirable that some innovation or improvement should be introduced; because, as the matter stands under the present Bill, the compound-householder is kept in a position of inferiority, and whether he is or is not to have a vote depends on the sympathies of the parochial officers or on the well-paid vigilance of the registering agents. But the right hon. Gentleman might say with truth that the compound-householders occupying houses over £10 in annual value, if enfranchised, would form but a small proportion of the ratepaying-householders of this country; and here I am at the threshold of a portion of the case to which I am most anxious to draw the attention of the House. The fifth class of voters who are supposed to be enfranchised by this Bill are, indeed, in a deplorable condition. There are 500,000 of them, and they were told by the right hon. Gentleman in his speech of last Monday that, perhaps, they were just as good men as those who were above them, and that he would give them every facility for obtaining the franchise.
I will now examine the Bill, and see how these promises of the right hon. Gentleman are fulfilled. What is his idea of giving the compound-householder every facility for obtaining the franchise? What are these compound-householders? They are persons who, under the authority of Parliament, pay rates only in the form of rent; they are persons whom we have allowed to be excluded, and who, by the joint action of local authorities and the 481 assessors, are excluded from the actual and ordinary payment of rates; without their own consent, and without, indeed, their hearing anything about the matter. I do not at all mean to say that any injury is inflicted upon them by this course; it is even probable that they greatly benefit by the fact, but still they are excluded. Under these circumstances we promise them the franchise, and we say we will give them every facility, and how do we begin? Why, in the first place, we impose upon them every restraint borne by the present compound-householders; and I have already pointed out in general terms—I have not been able to count up the units, and therefore I do not pretend to give them with exactitude—but I have already pointed out what I believe to be perfectly undeniable, that so far as regards the personal action of the voter the present restraints upon compound-householders are an effectual bar. I call that an effectual bar which excludes 99 or 98 per cent; for I do not believe it is less than 98 of all persons it operates on. So the right hon. Gentleman, in his desire to give the compound-householder every facility for obtaining the franchise, begins with this restraint, but he does not stop there. In this memorable clause—the 34th clause—he introduces this proviso—Provided the rates to be paid by such occupier in order to entitle him to the franchise, shall be rates calculated on the full rateable value of the premises.I believe I may fairly take that clause as referring only to the new compound-householders below £10.
Now, Sir, I do not wish to take any polemical advantage. I speak the strict and literal truth, and I will proceed to vindicate it, when I say that by that clause you fine the new compound-householder below £10 if he attempts to obtain the franchise. I do not ask you to accept that proposition without further examination and proof, for it is a grave one, and it goes to the very root of the Bill. It affects 500,000 out of the 700,000 who, according to the right hon. Gentleman, are to be enfranchised. The House will observe, after setting aside the extremely rare cases—cases, indeed, never heard of, I believe—when the landlord's rate is in arrear, that the compound-householder of £10 and upwards is to be amerced in point of time and trouble only in endeavouring to obtain his enfranchisement; because 482 the construction of the law is, that if the 75 per cent, or the composition, whatever it is, has been paid by the landlord the rate has then been paid in full, and consequently there remains nothing for the compound-householder to pay. But when we come to the new compound-householder below £10, he has to pay his rates in full. Let us see what is the meaning of that phrase. I have received information which I have not had time to test, but which appears to be given in a form so distinct that it can easily be tested, and it certainly is of great importance. The case of Dodd, in the parish of Bilston, was heard in the Queen's Bench on the 8th of November, 1865, and the report is to be found in 13 Law Times, 589. The parish officer had taken in the case of compound-householders fifty-two times the weekly rent as a basis or first quantity for estimating, under the Parochial Assessment Act, the gross estimated rental free and clear from rates and taxes. The question was—to make this quantity free from rates, must you deduct the full or only the compound rate? The Court held that you must deduct the full rate. The Court held that the full rate had already been paid. The Court then held that the compound-householder had already paid the full rate. We shall not, I suppose, be told—indeed, we cannot be told—that the owners of compound houses obtain higher rents than the owners of non-compound houses, but that they are satisfied with a less profit. Therefore, according to the dictum of the Court, the compound-householder had already paid his rate, and that which he has already paid once you call upon him to pay over again before he is entitled to the franchise. ["No, no!"] Wait a moment; I have not done yet. I should have been more strictly accurate if I had said a part of what he has already paid, you call upon him to pay over again before he can be enfranchised. And what is that part? Perhaps you think it amounts to 25 per cent. Well, Sir, even if it were 25 per cent it is an extremely hard case—hard in principle and hard in practice—that he should have to pay over again one-quarter of what he has paid already in order to get the franchise. But what is the real case with regard to a large portion of the compositions of the country? It is stated that the deduction made to the landlord amounts in many cases not to 25 but to 50 per cent, and the deduction of 50 per cent is made upon the principle that the com- 483 position money is intended to cover full and empty houses alike. So that when the compound-householder comes before the parochial officer or the revising barister to make his claim, he has to pay 50 per cent more, 50 per cent having been already paid. He has to pay the full rate, according to the decision of the Court, over again; and consequently he has to pay not only for his own house, but also for the house inhabited, or which may be inhabited, by his neighbour, and in which he possesses no interest whatever. ["No, no!"] That is the strict and literal truth. ["No, no!"] What part of it is not true? There can be no doubt these compositions in many cases amount to 50 per cent; nor can there be any doubt that the rate is calculated so as to include full and empty houses alike. Is there, then, any doubt that the compound-householder would be called upon to pay the full rate-able value of the premises, which would be exactly twice that which had been paid? There can be no doubt whatever; and consequently in every one of those cases, which would be numbered by tens, and twenties, and fifties of thousands throughout the country, the compound-householder would have to make double his accustomed payment. ["No, no!"] Perhaps the hon. Gentleman who disputes this statement will explain in what respect it is untrue?
§ MR. GREENE
said, he had no objection to explain, if he was allowed to do so. It was evident that in making the composition the proprietor of cottages, having to pay rates on empty and full houses alike, took this fact into consideration, and in the shape of actual rent charged his tenant more than he would otherwise have done if the occupier paid the rates himself.
The proposition is one of extreme importance, and I thought the hon. Gentleman who called "No, no!" would point out to me some error which I had committed. I will not, however, dwell any longer upon this point. I am content if my statement is intelligible to the House. What I say is, that in cases where the composition is 50 per cent it is calculated on empty and full houses alike, and that the householder in attempting to obtain the franchise will be fined to the extent of 50 per cent for so doing. And before leaving this point 484 I wish it to be understood that I do not mean to say that in all cases this composition amounts to 50 per cent, although it does amount to that percentage in a great many cases. In many cases it is 25 per cent, in some 33, in general it varies between 25 and 50. In 50, I say, it amounts to the doubling of the rate, in 25 to less, but the principle of fine is the same—a man is in every case, according to the judgment of the law, called upon to pay over again that which he has paid already. In answer to an inquiry from me the other evening, the right hon. Gentleman said that he could not deal with exceptional cases. But what, then, is the rule, and what is the exception? The exceptional cases are twice as many as the cases under the rule according to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman himself. By his statement there are between 400,000 and 500,000 of these compound-householders below £10, and between 200,000 and 300 000 of those above £10; and now he tells me he provides for the rule—that is to say, for the 300,000—and he cannot provide for the exception, the 500,000, or about double the number.
The right hon. Gentleman says that he does not remember having made such a statement; but I listened to him very attentively, and I must say that I think his memory deceives him. Whether he said so or not, however, the fact still remains that the compound-householders below £10 upon whom this restraint and this fine are placed, are two-thirds of the whole body, while it is only the one-third above £10 to whom he shows the slightest indulgence. The Government, I think, has been led into a great error in dealing with compound-householders. They know very well that compound-householders living in houses above £10 rent are, with certain exceptions, at present excluded from the franchise, and I think the Government must have felt it would be safe to deal with compound-householders who pay less than £10 rent in a somewhat similar manner; but permit me to say that proportions ought to be taken into account. 485 I have already shown that the Government desire to introduce the element of pecuniary amercement to stop the way of householders below £10.
Now, let us look at the question of proportion. At present, in constituencies where compounders of £10 or £20 rental are to be found, discontent at their position with reference to the franchise largely prevails. It is a festering sore, though it is true the country is not actually disturbed by their discontent, because such constituencies are few in number and the compounders form a very small proportion of the electors. At present, perhaps, not more than 50,000 compounders are excluded, and they are distributed over a very small number of boroughs; thus the proportion of compound-householders now excluded is very small compared with the body of electors, whereas the proportion of compound-householders below £10 is very great. I ask, then, whether you can say to the 750,000 compound-householders who pay less than £10 rent, "We will arbitrarily take one in every three of you, and arbitrarily exclude two in every three of you," and whether you can then be under the delusion that you are settling the question of Parliamentary Reform? What I contend upon this subject is, that not the payment of rates, but the condition of a man in life, his presumable character, his presumable amount of education, and his presumable amount of independence, are the criteria which you should employ in order to ascertain who should have the franchise.
And now, Sir, I may venture to explain more clearly than I did upon a former evening a suggestion which I ventured to throw out, and respecting which I am very desirous not to be misunderstood, as I fear I then was by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Henley). I think the Government has committed a fundamental error—even assuming the test of personal rating to be the true test—in adopting our present system of law in relation to personal rating for the basis of their measure. Our rating laws are infinitely various in different districts, and the results would be contradictory in the extreme. They were never intended to be placed in contact with the question of political franchises. In the case of local Acts they represent nothing but the will and view of the local community, and in cases where the Small Tenement Act is in force—and it is in force in the large majority of in- 486 stances—it can be brought into a parish or turned out by the simple will of the parishioners. I do not wish to use strong expressions; but I say it is impossible to find anything more unfitted than personal payment of rates for the basis and limiting boundary of a Parliamentary franchise when you say, and say justly, that the limiting boundary ought to be a firm and solid one—such a one as you hope will endure. It seems to me that if you employ the condition of personal rating—and I do not deny that its employment would give great satisfaction to many, and be very useful—you must employ it quite apart from this power of voluntary legislation. If you permit this voluntary legislation to exist I defy you to calculate the effect of your franchise, or build it on anything approaching a sure basis. If I use the term "defy" it is merely to express how positive I am of the conclusions I have arrived at. I have stated to many persons during the past ten days that the personal rating clauses, as announced by the Government, cannot stand. You may go into Committee upon them, but it is impossible to accept them. This you may do, however. Leaving the rating Acts to operate precisely as they stand, you might fix a certain figure of rateable value, not touching personal rates at all, but leaving them as they stand. You might adopt a figure of rateable value, and by an enactment uniform and running through the whole country, say that below that figure no occupier shall be liable to the payment of rates; that below that figure no man shall enjoy the franchise, but that above that figure every man shall enjoy it. I am very desirous of being understood by the right hon. Gentleman, because if I am not I fear I shall have little chance of being understood by any other hon. Member.
I have spoken with regard to the question of personal rating; the question of payment of rates I take to be quite a separate question, and not of the same degree of importance; I am not quite sure what importance to attach to the question of payment of rates with regard to a compound-householder, of, say, £15 value. If the right hon. Gentleman asks me whether the compounder should be subject to the payment of rates, I say, No, certainly not. If he asks me 487 whether the ratepaying-householder should be subject to the payment of rates as he is now, I say that is not of primary importance. I was a party to the proposal to abolish the ratepaying clauses, not considering it of primary importance. The suggestion I have made, however, is of the very greatest importance. If it were adopted we should be really erecting personal rating into something that might be called a principle. But if I made personal rating a principle I must say that I would not, to gain popularity, appear to promise the franchise, and then, by regulations proceeding from my mere will and pleasure, put obstacles in the way of the newly enfranchised to such an extent as by insuperable barriers to prevent its attainment. If a man be fit to have the franchise, give it him so that he can use it in the easiest and simplest manner. If he be not fit to have the franchise do not pretend to give it to him absolutely, while you secretly hope he will be unable to use it from the restrictions with which it is encumbered. If you undertake the obligation fulfil it. If all are not to be enfranchised, the proper division of the population into electors and non-electors is between class and class. Some classes have more independence; others, unhappily, have less. Some classes have more education; others, unhappily, have less. Some of us may live to see the day when want of education will no longer be a reproach to any class in this country, or a legitimate bar to the enjoyment of the franchise. But in the present state of society, while some are dependent and some ignorant, it is right to make some distinction; and not invest all with the title to the political franchise. But let us be upright in our dealings; let us understand the lines we draw; and let us especially renounce large nominal franchises, which by our regulations and restrictions we so encumber that we actually take back again.
It has been said in this House, and out of it, that the £6 or £8 compounder cannot be a very good elector unless he is willing to pay a few shillings for the franchise. But, in the first place, I am afraid he would have to pay those few shillings every year. In the second place, in the case of electors whose payment would be 50 per cent of the rate, the shillings would not be so very few. In the third place, we must not forget what happened at the time of the Reform Act.
488 The Reform Act, which dealt with none who paid less than £10 in boroughs and £50 in counties, exacted a payment of a shilling from enfranchised persons before they could be placed on the register. The country morally rose in arms against that payment, and you were obliged to repeal the clause enacting it within a short time after passing the Act. Yet you now propose to require a far heavier payment from householders who pay less even than £10 rent. And your argument in support of the proposition is, that if they will not pay this fee they cannot be very anxious to have the franchise. I think I can see the idea of the Government, and if it were not confuted by facts, I should be far from saying it is a very bad idea. They want legislative difficulties to perform an office something like what Mr. Darwin calls "natural selection." The finest specimen of the British citizen in the humbler orders of society is to be admitted, and he is to be tested by difficulty. We have heard from our school-days upwards that difficulty is the nurse of excellence. The struggles to overcome difficulties form the most interesting biographies, and it is thought we can apply this test to the community, and say to those 500,000 householders below £10, who have unfortunately been compelled to compound for their rates, "The good are to be selected from among you by ascertaining who can overcome the difficulties with which we have surrounded you. If you are inclined to give up the state of the law, and willing to go before the parish collector or overseer, and you are content to pay to the extent of 25 or 50 per cent of your two years' back rates, then you will have proved yourself the select of the lower orders, fit for the franchise, and a testimony to the excellence of the system of selection by difficulties." I am myself inclined to say that such a man is worthy of the franchise, and worthy of a great deal more than the franchise. But that, Sir, is not the stuff of which human nature at large is made. It is too severe to require the spirit of a hero and a martyr from a man earning 4s. or 5s. a day as the condition of his obtaining the privileges of the suffrage. It is too much to ask of him. But is that the practical operation of the present law? No; you do not effect this natural selection or anything of the kind. But what you do is this—You allow your parish officers to take up the matter by hundreds and thousands. You allow the registra- 489 tion agents to come down and pay the fine to which I have adverted. I know that the Government, with a commendable intention, have said that the payment of rates for a man shall be bribery. Why, Sir, a more well intended, but at the same time more nugatory, provision than that was never introduced into an Act of Parliament. How are you to establish a corrupt intention in respect to the payment of a man's rates? You find it difficult enough now, when a man gives his vote for a bribe, to establish a corrupt intention, and even when it is established you very rarely get the penalty enforced. But to imagine that you can put a stop to a practice of this kind by calling it bribery to pay a man's rates to enable him to vote, why, you might just as well think of putting a stop to petty larceny by enacting capital punishment against it. The thing is totally impossible. Let me give the House an illustration of how the law works at present, and the House will judge how it will work when this pecuniary fine is superadded. It is the case of the parish of All Saints, Poplar, in the borough of the Tower Hamlets. It is given in the blue book of last year. In that parish there are 4,052 houses, for which the owners are rated, and it is estimated that one-fifth of them are occupied by women. Only twenty-three of the occupiers of these houses are on the register. I gave an allowance of 1 or 2 per cent as a maximum of the compound houses that got on the register; but the proportion of compound-householders who have got on the register in this case is about ½ per cent. The vestry clerk of the parish states that the average annual number of claims to be put upon the register under Sir William Clay's Act has not, during the last ten years, exceeded twenty. Let us see what becomes of these claims. There was not a single claim in 1865; and when persons have claimed to be put on the register they have failed to appear before the Revising Barrister to support their claims. The vestry clerk adds—I am of opinion that if all the persons who are entitled (under Sir William Clay's Act) to be put upon the register were to make their claim and attend to establish it, the numbers on the register would be increased threefold—namely, from 1,450 to 4,350; but the usual reply I receive when I inform the claimants that they will have to attend the Revising Barrister's Court is, 'Oh! I am not going to lose my time to go there. If you can't put me on the register I shall not trouble myself any further.'490 That is the way in which the law works; and I have taken that body of 4,000 persons because it will afford, after all, a very fair average from which to judge. Those heroic persons whom we might, by an effort of imagination, conceive going through all the pains and labour and charge which I have described do not get upon the register at all. Sometimes a benevolent parish officer, sometimes an active registration agent, performs these functions for them. And therefore what we come to is this—that, as a general rule, these people will be excluded. In particular instances they will be admitted. But whether they are excluded, or whether they are admitted, they will be admitted or excluded wholesale, and not by the principle of selection which you have in view. Now, I want to know what is the answer to this case, derived from the facts, and from the facts of our experience as they stand. Sir, all this appears to me to be grave matter for the consideration of the House. The point which I am most anxious to bring to the minds of hon. Members is this—the utter hopelessness of any idea of settling and fixing this question by such a measure as the present. You may attain a settlement, you may attain a fixity, by drawing a line between class and class if it be reasonably drawn. But if you choose to say that you will reject all such bases of proceeding, and that you will make selections as arbitrary as if they were made by lot between members of the same class, is it not plain what will happen? The excluded, if they are strong enough, will never cease to agitate until they have broken down the artificial wall of separation, and can rush in en masse.
And now let us consider the light that is thrown upon this important question by the Returns printed on Saturday last; and I hope I shall not again have misapprehended the words of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (the Chancellor of the Exchequer). About a fortnight or ten days ago I asked for this Return, and I have to thank two of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite for the diligence used in preparing and producing it. It is a most important Return—a Return which, unless I am much mistaken, contains facts and figures which may leave it open to Her Majesty's Government to choose some other method for proceeding on the basis of personal rating, but which renders this class of their proposals totally and ab- 491 solutely hopeless. The knowledge of what is contained in this Return was not on last Friday week in possession of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when I asked him, said he thought it could be given; but that his right hon. Friend near him (Mr. Gathorne Hardy) doubted if it could be so given.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I said I would inquire of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Gathorne Hardy) whether they could be given. I thought they might be given in the aggregate.
I knew the aggregates could be given, and that they were in the right hon. Gentleman's possession; but that was not what I wanted. "Dolus latet in generalibus." I may say "dolus latet in 'totalibus.'" Error lurks in totals, and it is upon the exhibition of the minute particulars and practical working of this plan that I venture—I may be bold, I may be rash in saying so—to think that it cannot become law or receive the sanction of this House. I go, then, to particulars; and those particulars which, in my judgment, are so decisive of the case, were not in the possession of Her Majesty's Government on Friday week, when I put my Question to the right hon. Gentleman. Now, from this Return, in the first place, that appears which might have been made out by hon. Members for themselves with considerable difficulty from previous Returns—namely, that as regards London, with its 3,000,000 of people—London containing one-third of the entire borough population of the country—this Bill is a nullity. I do not count the enfranchisement of a few tens or even of a few hundreds among the 3,000,000 of this metropolis as worthy of notice. I will not enter into the details of the case as respects the metropolitan constituencies. That I shall leave to others who may follow me. But as regards London, I repeat, this Bill is practically a nullity, and that for two reasons. If you wish to enfranchise people living in London, first of all it may be asked, is there good ground for doing it? It is sometimes said by those who see that the metropolitan constituencies now count their voters by many thousands, that after all there is no great object in increasing such constituencies. But that is not quite a correct way of looking at the subject. The people who inhabit this metropolis are certainly not inferior in intelligence to the average 492 of the rest of the country. London contains the flower of the working men of England, for when a good workman in the provinces wishes to rise in his calling, where does he go? To London. And here, where all these persons are associated and collected together, you have at this moment, I believe, not a larger, but a smaller, proportion of the aggregate population enfranchised than you have on an average of the boroughs in the rest of the kingdom. But if you do not intend to pass over all these 3,000,000 of inhabitants of this metropolis, how are you to proceed? There are two great barriers which prevent the enfranchisement of the population of London. The one is the state of the law as regards lodgers; the other is the state of the law as regards compound-householders. But these barriers you intend to leave without the smallest attempt at removal. This Bill entirely passes over the metropolis with its 3,000,000 out of the whole 9,000,000 of our borough population. I ask seriously any hon. Gentleman in this House, be his party what it may—any hon. Gentleman who coincides in that view which I ventured to describe at the outset of my remarks as the general opinion—namely, that there ought to be a settlement of this question by a liberal enfranchisement—I ask, is it possible to have a settlement by a liberal enfranchisement if you begin by practically excluding from the scope of your proposed enfranchisement the whole of this metropolis?
Now, after having commended this Return of Saturday last, I am going to impeach it, and to warn hon. Members that it represents the figures of the case in a manner much too favourable to the proposals of the Government. By too favourable, I mean that it greatly overstates the numbers to be enfranchised—not from any fault of the Government, or from the fault of any officer of the Government, but from this fact, that I believe there is a class of cases, more than one class, and they are very important classes of cases, where the rates of the occupiers are paid by the owners, but which do not appear in the Return.
I am exceedingly obliged to the House for its patience, and I will not trespass upon it by again going over the wearisome subject of the compound-householders. I have done with them. But I wish to point out that there is a very important supplement to that very loose body 493 of compound-householders, of which no notice has been taken in these debates. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer on Monday last said that there are 237,000 householders under £10 who are rated and who pay their own rates, and who would at once be qualified under this Bill. Primâ facie from this paper it is so; but I can show you that in some important respects that is not accurate. It was my business last year to pay some attention to this matter; and I confess I wish it had been the business of the Government to do the same. We are in this position. We are now making a piece of political furniture which we want to be steady and firm, and we have to adapt it to a great number of local inequalities, which inequalities, I believe, there is not a man in the House thoroughly aware of. Take the case of Liverpool. If you look to No. 2 of those Returns issued on Saturday, you will find that Liverpool figures for a very respectable amount of the number of constituents. There are 16,347 persons who are represented by this Return as being within the beneficent scope of the enfranchising provisions of the right hon. Gentleman's Bill. But what is the fact? That in Liverpool there are scarcely any such persons. I will not say there are not a mere handful, but I will say that this 16,347 is a figure totally and absolutely delusive. The Members for Liverpool are here. My hon. Friend the Member for South Lancashire is here. He knows the facts as well as any man living, and he will be able to correct me if I am wrong. The practice in Liverpool is this. With regard to houses under £15 rental the rates are habitually paid by the owners—I speak of the parish of Liverpool—not by direct provision of law, but by arrangement between the owners and the parish authorities. There is not one of the occupiers of those houses who would not be in the position of a compound-householder, and therefore prevented from getting the benefit of the proposed franchise; or they would be in a still worse position, because I very much doubt if any of them could legally acquire a vote even if they were willing to take all the steps and go through all the process provided for compound-householders. The case of Liverpool is the largest, but there are many others. There are many other towns in which a voluntary arrangement of that character exists, and in which the occupier would be ousted from the franchise. Will 494 the right hon. Gentleman, therefore, abide by the declaration that 237,000 persons would be enfranchised by this portion of the Bill?
Now I want to call attention to another class. I wrote to one of the rural parishes to know what is the practice there; because I suspected that in those parishes the Bill would be extremely likely to establish something very near universal suffrage in the most inexpedient form that could be suggested. The answer was to this effect—and really I am rather surprised that I should not myself have known what it would be in consequence of the arrangements which exist throughout the country. The custom is that when a farm is let the cottages on the farm are also let to the farmer, and there is but one rating for farm land, farm house, and farm cottages. Now, the persons who live in these cottages are among the male occupiers included in the numbers whom the right hon. Gentleman promises to enfranchise. They are not even compound-householders. In their case there is no composition at all. That implies previous rating; but here there is no previous rating of the small houses. They are thrown in a lump with the farm and farm-house into one rating. It is clear that all this class of occupiers must be deducted from the estimate of the right hon. Gentleman. I beg to assure the House, and I think I am as conversant as most men with these figures, that by this household suffrage scheme, you would enfranchise only about 100,000 or 120,000 persons. It was the veriest mouthful beyond what was offered by that £6 Franchise Bill which nobody seems to have any sympathy with, or care a farthing about, except myself. The distinction you seek to draw between composition ratepayers below £10 and ratepaying occupiers cannot be maintained; and if you want to bring in all personal ratepayers it must be by some other method. Passing to another point, I wish to point out to the House how astonishingly, I might say how ludicrously, the Bill would operate. There are fifty-seven towns put down as under the operation of the Small Tenements Act, and I want to show what its operation would be in those fifty-seven towns.
Now, remember, if we look for a settlement of this question it can only be on the basis of a liberal franchise. An extravagant franchise, flooding some towns with thousands and hundreds of thousands of 495 voters, and only adding a few in other towns, will not settle it. If we want to do it we must have such an enfranchisement as will be felt to be liberal throughout the boroughs of the country generally—I do not say in every borough. This I think is a moderate proposition. I say, if you want a settlement of the Reform question, you cannot settle it by a measure which floods here and floods there while it dries up in other places. But this is how the Bill of the Government will act in towns under the Small Tenements Act. I will compare the number of ratepaying householders under £10 who will have the franchise with the number of non-ratepaying householders who will be excluded, unless some benevolent angel in the shape of an electioneering agent or a parish officer gives him a chance. In Abingdon, 35 would be qualified; 574 excluded. In Calne, 25 qualified; 695 excluded. In Carlisle, 406 qualified; 3,571 excluded. In Chippenham, 20 qualified; 727 excluded. In Christchurch, 41 qualified; 523 excluded. In Devizes, 55 qualified; 487 excluded. In Dudley, a large town, in which there are many men of mental as well as of commercial activity, 232 qualified; 6,315 excluded. In Evesham, 40 qualified; 464 excluded. In Gateshead, 173 qualified; 557 excluded. I need not go through the whole of the towns; but the total number qualified in all the Parliamentary boroughs in which the Small Tenements Act is in operation will be 25,064, while the number excluded will be 139,377. You see the effect is that where a few scores would be qualified, thousands would be disqualified. Now, that would be a state of things which could not continue to exist even if you were to make it law. I will not go further. I have taken the most remarkable instances from the earlier letters of the alphabet, and these show how the plan works, the result for all the towns in which the Small Tenements Act is in operation being that by a ludicrous operation the Bill qualifies 25,064, while it excludes 139,377. Will the question be settled in this way? Will it be settled by admitting a few scores to the franchise while the thousands are excluded? I now come to the towns in which the Small Tenements Act is in partial operation. There are 98 boroughs in which this is the case; and if we take the totals they are not so unreasonable. The number admitted will be 106,467, while the number excluded will be 249,472. But when we 496 come to the particulars what do we find? That the 16,347 to whom I have already referred as being put down for Liverpool, but who, as my hon. Friend the Member for South Lancashire knows, have no real existence, form no small proportion of the entire number which are to be admitted in those boroughs. In Andover, the number admitted will be 40; the number excluded, 623. In Aylesbury, admitted, 446; excluded, 3,514. In Barnstaple, admitted, 151; excluded, 1,047. In Bridgewater, admitted, 56; excluded, 1,234. In Frome, 38 will be qualified, while 1,363 will be excluded. But let me call the attention of the House to the case of Kingston-upon-Hull. Under the provisions of this Bill the gross number of 64 will become qualified there; while the number excluded as being compound-householders will be 12,026. Is it possible that any one on the Treasury Bench can get up in his place and recommend these clauses relating to the compound-householders with all their anomalies? These clauses are postponed. Why, I know not. I presume there must be some strong argument for their being so postponed; but I now ask whether any Gentleman on the Treasury Bench will get up and recommend the adoption of such provisions as the settlement of this question.
And, Sir, here arises a point of the utmost importance which I have not yet touched, but which I believe is of itself a conclusive objection to the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman. I am certain he never can have taken the pains to inquire into the particulars on which his estimate is based. I have now been dealing with the 98 boroughs in which the Small Tenements Act is in operation, and the towns where it is in partial operation, or where there are local Acts of an analogous nature; and my objection to the Bill is that, owing to its ludicrously small effects in qualifying as compared with its operation in excluding, it cannot be called a settlement of the question. You cannot expect the people in 50 or 60 of these boroughs to admit that it is settled, seeing its inappreciable effect as regards them.
But I now come to the examination of another question. In Greenwich, which is one of those 98 boroughs, 3,497 would be admissible, while 2,069 would be excluded. In this case the numbers are in more equal proportion, and there is primâ facie no case against the scheme. But now, as we have been looking into the 497 anatomy of the country, town by town, let us look into the anatomy of each town; and, I ask, how are these numbers, in Greenwich, 3,500 in round numbers, distributed? Is it an equal distribution? Not at all. It is a distribution in parishes. It is a distribution divided by one side of the street from the other. On one side of a street, according to the plan of the Government, you are to have what is very nearly manhood suffrage; and on the other side of a street you are going to have an £8 rental franchise. I use that term because, speaking generally, the limit of the Small Tenements Act is as nearly as possible identical with an £8 franchise. Taking the whole country over, the operation of the Small Tenements Act, which is a £6 rating, is as nearly as possible identical in its effects with an £8 rental franchise; because that Act does not apply solely to tenements under £6, but likewise includes tenements which are rated at the figure of £6. In every one, therefore, of these 98 towns, half the boroughs in the country, there will be a considerable number enfranchised and a considerable number not enfranchised. You must not for a moment suppose that that shows the fair and equal operation of the Act in those towns. On the contrary, it is in those towns that the operation of the Bill will be most unequal, and that the inequality will be almost intolerable. If the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the President of the Poor Law Board (Mr. Gathorne Hardy), is about to follow me, I ask him this distinct question—whether he believes that you can divide 98 towns in this country parish by parish, and in one set of parishes establish household suffrage, coming near to manhood suffrage, and in the other set of parishes, in the very same towns, establish an £8 rental suffrage, and can have that accepted by the country as a settlement of the question?
Sir, I am sorry to say I have not quite done yet, for I must still look at the towns which have local Acts. The list is a very short one, but it is not unimportant, for those towns contain 329,000 male occupiers, or very nearly one-fourth of the whole, and how does the case stand with respect to these towns? In Bewdley you will enfranchise six persons as ratepaying householders, and you will exclude 1,080. In Birmingham the number you will enfranchise will be 2,300; the number you will exclude will be 36,177. In Brighton you will exclude 2,553, and you will en- 498 franchise 14. Is that a settlement of the question of Reform? In Kidderminster you will exclude 2,343; you will enfranchise 24. I really do not know how to argue upon such figures. If they do not of themselves carry conviction with them when they are stated, it is totally impossible to dwell upon them with the view of showing how impossible it is to entertain proposals of a nature so extraordinary. I am bound to give Her Majesty's Government credit for having been in ignorance of these facts at the time when they adopted their plan, because it is really otherwise impossible that such proposals could have been submitted to the House. What appears as a whole, taking the towns with local Acts, is, that under this Bill for granting household suffrage the number of persons who are ratepayers, and who primâ facie would be entitled to the suffrage, is 10,638, while those who are excluded as non-ratepayers is 87,744, and the expectation is that those 87,744 will sit contentedly down, and accept as a settlement of the question a measure which admits only the handful who happen to be ratepayers.
Then comes the case of the open towns, where there is no restriction whatever in the shape of compounding Acts. These ought, by rights, to be the most virtuous towns, for these are the towns in which the maxim that "England expects every man to do his duty" is literally acted upon. Now, if we look at these towns the result is very different indeed. I will show the House that, in a vast number of towns, of all the persons renting houses of under £10 clear annual value, not one-fifth, not one-tenth, and, in many cases, not one-twentieth, will be admitted to the suffrage as ratepaying householders. Take Oldham. I find that the present number qualified is 3,300, and you will add 11,800. In Rochdale the present number is 1,858, and there will be added 5,500. At Sheffield there are 10,000, and there will be added 28,000. [Mr. HADFIELD: Hear, hear!] I have no doubt my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield is in a state of rapture at the prospect of shaking hands with 28,000 additional voters every time he makes a canvass of the town. But I believe his generous nature will recoil from such a boon so long as his neighbours are excluded from the franchise. In Stockport, to the present number of 1,695, there will be added 7,257. The large figures which I have been quoting are precisely the same classes of men as those 499 which make up the numbers of compound-householders. Of course if the vestry, influenced by the persons of property who command it, choose to bring in the Small Tenements Act all these thousands will disappear, the proportion of new voters assuming the same scanty and meagre dimensions as in the other case. Then comes, lastly, Stoke-upon-Trent, where to the present 3,419 are added 15,000.
What the House has with the greatest possible kindness allowed me to state in detail is briefly this—In the first place, when I look at this Bill with regard to the enfranchising part of it, it appears to me to profess to admit a principle of needless breadth. But, in admitting that principle, I must be content, like other hon. Members, to abide by the full, honest, equal, impartial, unrestrained application of that principle. I then find that principle defeated in its application by these provisions, the nature of which I have endeavoured to explain, which cut off more than two-thirds of the whole number that we have seemingly promised to enfranchise, and, not only cutting off more than two-thirds, but distributing that proportion through the various towns in a manner that aggravates the inequality tenfold, makes it utterly intolerable, and lays the certain foundations of a new agitation. It is therefore utterly at variance with the faintest idea of settling and adjusting this long-contested question. I am bound to say that I think the quantity of enfranchisement proposed by Her Majesty's Government insufficient—I mean the enfranchisement under £10. I do not think the enfranchisement of 120,000 persons is such an enfranchisement as can settle this question, or ought to settle it. We proposed last year a measure which would have enfranchised 200,000, and I think that was a moderate proposal. I do not advocate sweeping and violent measures, but I think that that proposal was moderate; and I, for one, cannot accede to what is proposed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. I am aware that he calls it an enfranchisement of 237,000; but he must know that the introduction of new modes of statement in the statistics makes it exceedingly incomplete, because if we change the basis of our computations the means of comparison are lost. From the right hon. Gentleman's 237,000 I make all the reductions that are required, and I am persuaded that 120,000 is a sufficient estimate of those whom his Bill will enfranchise as rate- 500 paying-householders, setting aside those whom he excludes by the barriers that are placed in the way of non-ratepaying householders getting upon the register. Moreover, I must own I have not only an objection to the quantity of the enfranchisement as insufficient; but I think the quality is defective. I do not wish to give any offence to my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-upon-Trent (Mr. Beresford Hope)—for I believe there are few portions of the labouring class more intelligent than those whom he represents, and they have shown their intelligence, as far as they have the power, by returning him to this House—but in the lower strata of the 15,000 who are to be enfranchised in that constituency there will surely be a considerable number of persons who have had but limited educational advantages, who earn but small wages, and who are exceedingly dependent upon their employers.
Now, if I am to make a choice between person and person for enfranchisement, I say give me the best, the most intelligent, the most independent that I can discover among the working classes, and do not go in this indiscriminate manner and gather up whole masses of the population, and then when people are alarmed say, "Oh! we only do that in a few towns; in the mass you will see that we enfranchise only a small number." Above all, we ought not to establish artificial distinctions among men belonging to the same class. That is a practice wholly new to the British Constitution. I admit that in the present constituencies you have a distinction; because, since 1832, the practice of compounding for rates has grown up, and consequently a distinction has arisen which it is our business to recognise and adjust, but not to establish into a law. I admit that the old Constitution of the country, before 1832, recognised many rights of franchise in different towns, but nowhere did it make the smallest difference as to facility and amount of enfranchisement between those who were called upon in common to discharge a common duty in returning a representative to Parliament. That was the old principle of the Constitution. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has himself enshrined it in an expressive phrase where he says—"There was a noble equality, not of the man, but of the citizen, when called upon to discharge public duties." I ask the right hon. Gentleman to maintain 501 that equality within the limits of the Constitution as the old principle, the safe principle, and the wise principle. I feel confident this House will not depart from it. But even if that principle were not old, and if it were not in other respects safe and wise, yet I should still think there was an absolute necessity of dealing equally with men in equal circumstances, if you wish to arrive at a settlement of this question, and not to give a premium to continued agitation. If, however, there be any man who desires to avert that settlement, and to secure the continuance of agitation, I would ask him whether his imagination could possibly suggest a more effectual means of attaining it than the introduction of this artificial inequality, and the distinguishing man from man, and separating man from man in regard to the enjoyment of the franchise, not by any of those differences caused by circumstances and education, which he might look upon as a dispensation of Providence, but by enactments adopted at the arbitrary will of Parliament, and which are as worthless as the paper upon which they are written?
Now, I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman what assurances he can give us upon this subject, and first of all I will beg of him to be very explicit in his answer. ["Oh!"] I hope that he will be as explicit in his answer as his sense of public duty will permit. I mean to convey no taunt whatever by the use of these words. If it is thought that I do, hon. Gentlemen do not perceive my meaning, which is this—We have arrived at a stage when it is common and customary to decide the principle of a measure. We have been promised further explanations on the part of Her Majesty's Government.
Sir, I feel—and I feel very deeply—the responsibility of every Member of this House, and particularly my own responsibility. I know that we are bound to labour to obtain a speedy measure and a good measure. I know that the rejection of this Bill, or the setting up of another plan in lieu of it—unless such a course should be absolutely necessary—would be a great evil, because it would tend to retard that settlement which we all so much desire. I am therefore anxious to exhaust to the utmost the means of knowing whether, when in Committee on the Bill, we shall have any hope of bringing it to a satisfactory conclusion. It is merely on that ground that I address, or—if I may 502 use the word—petition the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly entitled, if he pleases, to rise in his place and to say, "I decline, until we are in Committee on the Bill, to tell you what I intend to do with regard even to the leading principles of the Bill." But the right hon. Gentleman would leave us in a very painful position with regard to the condition in which the question would then present itself; because I think I am not very far wrong in stating that a large proportion of Members of this House are of opinion that in every leading provision this Bill must undergo total, or at least substantial, alteration. Therefore, it is not the least by way of taunt that I ask the right hon. Gentleman to be explicit. It is that we may have our duty and our position clearly before us that I express earnestly and respectfully the hope that Her Majesty's Government may be disposed to give us, at all events on the most important and most difficult questions, a clear intimation of their intentions. The right hon. Gentleman was asked a Question to-night as to the time when he would propose that the House should go into Committee on the Bill, and he gave an answer which I heard with much satisfaction—to the effect that it was quite a mistake to suppose that the Government intended the material postponement of the Committee on the Bill. I presume that, even to-night, possibly, or at any rate within easy and moderate limits, this debate will be likely to terminate; and, if that be so, I venture to express a hope that we should go into Committee, or approach the main subject on the question that you do leave the Chair, some time in the course of next week, or one of the days at the disposal of the Government. If not, we, perhaps, should not be able to approach the subject satisfactorily till after Easter; and if we did not approach it till after Easter our difficulties would be most seriously aggravated, and the choice between proceeding with this Bill, or with a new Bill, would be greatly narrowed and restricted. I venture, therefore, to hope that we shall be informed by the Government whether, in the event of an early termination of this debate, their intention is to propose on Monday next, or on Thursday week—one of the two—that you, Sir, do leave the Chair for the purpose of our going into Committee on this Bill.
With regard to the enacting clauses, I hope it will not be thought that I have 503 been very unreasonable in the proposal I have made that the Government should give us some satisfactory assurance. I shall make no request to the Government in respect to many other matters. Though I regard those matters as being perfectly essential to legislation, yet, under the circumstances, even without previous assurances from the Government, I do not wholly despair of settling them in Committee. Nor will I ask the right hon. Gentleman any question as to what he will do with respect to the county franchise or the enlargement—which he must see will be necessary—of his scheme of re-distribution. But I will venture to ask three things. In the first place, do the Government intend to introduce a lodger franchise into the Bill? Without a lodger franchise it is idle to legislate. I, for one, am not willing to place myself in this position—that we should go into Committee on the Bill, that we should spend very nearly the whole of the remainder of the Session—and I cannot put it nearer than the month of July—in getting through the Bill, and that somebody, in defiance of the Government, should then bring up a clause for a lodger franchise, that the Government should be beaten, and that the Government should at that period of the Session leave the Bill, and postpone the subject till another year. I do not wish to be drawn into that difficulty. I want to know whether a lodger franchise is to be introduced into the Bill, and, if it is to be introduced, to what extent it will correspond with the general scope of the franchise we may adopt? I wish also to know, secondly, what the Government propose to do with respect to the votes of the very poor and dependent persons who are indeed householders, and who are nominally ratepaying-householders, but who are on the line or fringe between those who pay rates and those who are excused from payment of rates. I wish to know how, practically, the traffic in these votes by the registration agents is to be prevented, for I confess I do not see how that is to be done unless some limit be introduced similar to that which I myself recently suggested and explained to the House? In the third place, and above all, I ask the right hon. Gentleman—and this, in my view, is the key to what is artificial and intricate in the Bill—whether he will proceed on the principle of asking Parliament to define the outward limit of the constituency? I do not go into details. With those we 504 can deal in Committee. But will the Government undertake to remove from the Bill and from the present law all artificial distinctions—all distinctions resting upon enactment alone—between persons in the same condition of life and the same circumstances as to education, independence, and all that constitutes fitness for the franchise? If the right hon. Gentleman will accept that principle; if he will ask Parliament to determine the classes, numbers, and persons, be they many or be they few, to be enfranchised; if he will remove the artificial obstacles which now exist in the Bill; if he will strike out of the Bill the artificial distinctions which he proposes to introduce; if he will establish for the future the old constitutional principle which comes to us from the past, of the equality of all voters in the eye of the law—then, although we shall have a heavy task before us, we may hope to be able to go into Committee on this Bill. The dual vote will then, of course, disappear. The fine of the compound-householder will disappear, and the restraint already placed in their way will disappear. We shall then enfranchise those classes who are fit to exercise the franchise. We shall admit them within the pale of the Constitution upon that footing of equality by which alone we can hope to make our legislation effectual for the purpose either of improving the constitution of this House, and attaining the ends of legislation, or for the purpose of producing that content in the country without which, although we may legislate, and debate, and divide, it is vain to call ourselves the Parliament of England, vain to regard ourselves as the masters of England's destinies, and vain to suppose that we give to the work, which we send forth as our act, those hopes and prospects of duration by means of which alone it can have value in itself or draw respect upon ourselves.
§ MR. GATHORNE HARDY
Sir, I feel very deeply the disadvantages under which I labour in following the right hon. Gentleman through those points of which he has so complete a mastery, and which he has discussed with such ability, and I feel also how little able I am, like him, to attract or to maintain the attention of the House on these difficult and abstruse questions. There is, Sir, so much that is painful in this matter to me; it is so painful to me to see men sitting in this House, with whom it was my pride and pleasure to act, severed from myself and my friends 505 on account of this Bill, that I could well wish to be silent on this occasion. But knowing the part which I took in the preparation of this Bill, and that I have my share of responsibility in bringing it before the House, I should not be doing my duty if I were now to shrink from defending it by argument. It might be supposed from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman that the bringing in and carrying a Reform Bill was a somewhat easy task. But the right hon. Gentleman was last year in the favourable position of having a Parliament elected under the auspices of his own Government, and of having a majority of at least 70 at his back. He also proposed a Bill, considered—and, I suppose, carefully considered—by his Government; but did he find, when he brought it before the House of Commons, that a £7 rental franchise was easily rendered acceptable to the House? In 1852, a £5 rating franchise failed. In 1854, a £6 rating franchise failed. In 1859, the non-lowering by any amount of the borough franchise failed. In 1860, a franchise of the yearly value of £6 failed. In 1866, a franchise of the yearly value of £7 failed. In 1867, a scheme, which was a short time before the House, failed to obtain that cordial reception from the right hon. Gentleman which might have been expected from the affectionate manner in which he has spoken of it to-night.
In what I have now to say to the House, I will take care in one respect to answer the demands of the right hon. Gentleman. The position which the right hon. Gentleman so worthily occupies as Leader of the Opposition of this House I do not think is a more commanding one than the position which he occupied last year, and I do not understand that the right hon. Gentleman is entitled to speak on behalf of the whole Opposition. I must decline to be called upon by the right hon. Gentleman to give answers which upon the second reading of this Bill shall pledge the Government to any particular course. ["Oh, oh!"] I told the House I would be explicit in what I did say. This Bill has not hitherto been under discussion. This Bill was introduced to the House originally in the form of Resolutions inviting the attention of the House to the principles on which the Government proposed to act. They were not received with favour. We were told that they were vague and unsatisfactory. Those Resolutions, however, contained the prin- 506 ciples which are contained in the four corners of the Bill. ["Oh, oh!"] An hon. Member says "Oh, oh!" but I venture to say that, with respect to personal rating and certain other points, these Resolutions did lay down the principles of the Bill now before the House.
On coming to the preparation of the Bill now before Parliament the Government of Lord Derby was necessarily placed under very great difficulties. I will frankly own that nothing but the sense of public duty would have induced me to join in bringing it forward. I, for one, had no wish to be the medium of bringing a Reform Bill before the House; but the Government of Lord Derby were placed in power by circumstances over which they had no control. ["Oh, oh!"] I say so still. I can only say that when taunts are thrown out by hon. Members opposite, and others outside the House, as to the pleasures of office—I can quite understand the pleasure of being in office when you have a great majority at your back, and are able to carry out your own principles. But I do not see the pleasure of being dictated to by an Opposition, however strong, or of receiving lectures from the opposite side of the House as to the principles upon which the Government ought to act—I trust that I shall never look elsewhere than to those who sit behind me for the support of those measures which I advocate as embodying the principles under which I consent to act. There are, however, many hon. Members opposite who are most anxious that a Bill should be passed, and that this disquieting subject should be removed from discussion, and who will rejoice when the time comes for various great social and important political questions to be taken in hand, which are now impeded by the necessity of dealing with the subject of Reform.
I say we are entitled, having brought this Bill to its second reading, to hear the opinion of the House upon it. I quite agree with my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he said, on the night when it was introduced, that no Bill can be carried in this House without mutual concession and mutual good feeling. I entertain that opinion entirely, and so far as is consistent with my principles, I would readily consent to any alterations. But there are, no doubt, leading principles in the Bill; and if, as the right hon. Gentleman opposite has said, it be true that every one of those principles 507 must undergo alteration, then I say, distinctly and decidedly, that the division ought to be taken now. For to such alterations as involve the leading principles of the Bill I, for one, am not at all prepared to agree. The right hon. Gentleman has given the Government credit for ignorance, for he says that if we had known its effect we never could have introduced the Bill. I am prepared, taking the figures, which are from documents already before the House, to advocate the Bill in its present form. The right hon. Gentleman has said that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated on a former occasion that 236,000 persons would be added to the franchise. If the figures of the right hon. Gentleman opposite were correct, so far from 236,000 being added, the real addition would be nearly double that amount, because the right hon. Gentleman, in dealing with those figures, never made any of those reductions with are necessary to be made. He says—but I hardly know what I am to meet on this occasion. On one side I am told that I am a party to a revolutionary measure; and, on the other hand, I am told that the enfranchisement which we offer is entirely insufficient. We are told that the £7 rental franchise of last year, without the payment of rates, would have brought in men of an entirely different quality from those we now seek to bring in, and that we should give up our Bill at once on that statement. But I venture to say that if any hon. Member will take the trouble to look he will find that the £7 rental franchise would bring in men inferior in quality to those we seek to introduce by the personal payment of rates. The right hon. Gentleman says that we have no resting-place, and recommended the course he had proposed of dividing the voters into classes. But that is a principle which has been suggested over and over again, and it is because those measures which contained it have always failed that we have been obliged to look out for some new standing-place upon which a surer footing might be obtained. That standing-place has not been founded upon household suffrage, first given and then taken away, as assumed by the right hon. Gentleman. It never has been stated on this side of the House as household suffrage at all, but as a rating suffrage, accompanied by certain requirements as to residence. It is as different a thing as possible. It is not a household suffrage pure and 508 simple, but a household suffrage based upon rating—the direct payment of rates. It is a franchise given in one shape and adhering together on one system. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the five different classes appearing in the Return, and first to the householders in towns where the Small Tenements Act is in operation. Some of these he says you admit, and some of them you exclude. But we do not exclude—that is a fallacy. In the column in which he says we admit them, he has not made the necessary deductions. [Mr. GLADSTONE: I did.] I did not understand the right hon. Gentleman to say so. But that is, in fact, the answer to the whole of the argument founded on this Return. The answer to the whole of this is that we propose a certain franchise which is open to everybody occupying a house and paying his own rates. Every person who choses to pay his own rates and does pay them, and who resides long enough, is entitled to be put on the register. The right hon. Gentleman then says, "Oh yes; but how is he to get on the register? Look at the burden which is imposed upon him; look at the difficulties under which he is placed." If that is so, let the right hon. Gentleman in Committee propose that the claim shall be more readily received, and a means established by which he should be more easily put upon the register. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the parish of All Saints, Poplar, where he says a large number would be excluded. But why did he not also refer to another parish in the neighbourhood, where nearly 4,000 persons had got themselves put upon the rate book? The right hon. Gentleman says that by this Bill there would be only about 120,000 persons admitted to the franchise. Now, I am content to take the figures of the right hon. Gentleman; but there would ultimately be a considerably greater number than that. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Under £10?] Yes; under £10. Hon. Members are aware that there are numbers of persons rated over £10 who do not qualify for the franchise. Of course, there would be a still greater number of persons rated under £10 who would not entitle themselves to the privilege, inasmuch as it would be accompanied by a longer period of residence and the payment of rates. The right hon. Gentleman declares that, under what we call household suffrage, only 120,000 persons would be admitted. I must reply to that observa- 509 tion that we never called our proposal household suffrage, and never intended that it should be so called. The right hon. Gentleman then proceeded to compare a place like Liverpool with a country borough. Now, as I understood his objection the other day in respect to country boroughs, it was that we were going to admit to the franchise persons who were perfectly unfit for it, and who, living on small rural properties, were not in a position of independence. But the objection taken to-day is in the opposite direction; and the right hon. Gentleman says that he finds on inquiry that there are numbers of persons absolutely excluded because cottages are let with farms. That objection only applies to boroughs having a large margin of country district. Again, the right hon. Gentleman stated that the Bill would introduce nearly household suffrage in those boroughs were it not that there are certain checks preventing that result arising out of the mode in which property is dealt with. The answer to that statement is, that if the persons in those boroughs choose to avail themselves of the right to be placed on the rate book they will be entitled to the franchise, and if they do not place themselves on the rate book they will not be entitled to the franchise. That provision will act as a very considerable check in many cases, and it was meant so to act. Let me not be misunderstood. It was meant to find out the persons fitted for the franchise by their participation in the burdens borne by their fellow-citizens. That would be the class of persons selected, and not without reason. A man living from hand to mouth, and who neglects to put by something for the purpose of paying his rates, will be excluded; but the man who puts by money for the purpose of meeting the demand for the payment of rates, the careful, the saving, the truly independent man, will be admitted to the most important privilege of the Constitution. But the right hon. Gentleman, contradicting his previous arguments, complains that we are going to bring in the lowest class of the population as voters. Here, I think, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe) may congratulate himself on finding a supporter of that dictum of his which has of late been so much paraded throughout the country; because the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) says now that the lowest class are to be admitted to this franchise—a class which 510 would be peculiarly open to corrupt influences, and which had no real claim to such a favour.
§ MR. GATHORNE HARDY
The right hon. Gentleman declares that he said no such thing. But he stated towards the close of his speech, as well as in other parts of it, that we made no provision for preventing that traffic in votes which would naturally take place with the lowest class of voters.
§ MR. GATHORNE HARDY
With the lowest class of householders. I used the word "voters," and the right hon. Gentleman the word "householders." I really think that is a distinction without a difference. The right hon. Gentleman imputed to us that we were bringing in a Bill for the establishment of household suffrage, although no doubt, he also said, that it would not confer household suffrage; and he added that the lowest class of householders would be very much subject to corrupt influences, and that this Bill made no provision to prevent the abuses which would naturally ensue. Now, I do not know that my right hon. Friend the Member for Calne ever said anything more than that. But the right hon. Gentleman tells us that he has a plan by which all these difficulties would be avoided. He says, "Make persons rateable down to a certain figure; let all below that figure be excused from the payment of rates, and let all above it be liable to that payment."
§ MR. GATHORNE HARDY
I do not wish to misstate what the right hon. Gentleman said. I have endeavoured to take down his words as well as I could. I understood him to say that it was impossible to pass the clauses which we have introduced into this Bill, because of the Small Tenements Act and of other local Acts. But he wished that we should fix upon some figure, whether £5 or £6, or any other sum below which no one should be called upon to pay rates, and above which everybody should be rated.
So much public interest is felt upon this point that I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will excuse me for endeavouring to set him right. I never said that persons above the line 511 were all to be personally rated. What I said was that persons above the line should all be treated in the same manner with respect to the franchise.
§ MR. GATHORNE HARDY
The right hon. Gentleman's explanation does not seem to me really to differ from the statement which I attributed to him. What it comes to is this—That there should be a line drawn below which no one was to pay his own rates, while above that line all persons should be liable to be rated. But upon that my right hon. Friend the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) asked the very pertinent question whether the right hon. Gentleman meant that those persons above the line should merely be rated, or that they should pay their rates? The right hon. Gentleman says now that he does not think there is much in the payment of rates; but last year he argued against the necessity of the personal payment of rates, and he sought to alter the law upon that subject. That was my understanding of the language which fell from the right hon. Gentleman. But whether you repeal the Small Tenements Act or not such a proceeding would be diametrically opposed to the principle of this Bill, which attaches the franchise to the personal payment of rates accompanied by a certain period of residence. The right hon. Gentleman says that what we should look to is the condition of the man, and not the payment of rates.
We have now been fourteen or fifteen years considering the question, and have not yet been able to ascertain the condition of the man. I must say that the mode in which the question has hitherto been treated has not been satisfactory to the country. It has not led to any settlement. You have tried it in every aspect. A rating franchise and a gross estimated rental franchise have been proposed; but, whatever test was suggested, still the House of Commons has not passed any Bill on the subject, and now we have arrived at a point when it is necessary to see whether the House can pass a measure or not. I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that under the 34th clause of the Bill the compound-householder would be fined. Now, if it can be said that he is fined by paying his full rates, it might be rejoined that he would be bribed by being permitted to pay less than the full amount; but why should one man be put on a more favourable footing with respect to the exercise of the franchise than another? Let 512 every man stand on the same basis. The right hon. Gentleman said that the 34th clause would require the full payment of rates, and in that statement he was perfectly correct. Why should the compound-householder, whose dwelling may be worth £10 or £20, or even £30 a year, be exempted from the full payment of rates which you exact from the man who occupies in the ordinary way a tenement that is often of smaller value? I can, for my part, see no reason in such a proposal. The right hon. Gentleman says that a man will have in consequence of the provision in the Bill to pay for his vote, and he puts it on the footing of the 1s. which used to be paid for registration. But that 1s. was paid by a man for the purpose of being put on the registry, whereas the rates are paid because they are due from the man. I must also remind the House that the right hon. Gentleman has entirely omitted from his consideration that provision in the Bill under which the compound-householder, who paid his rate in full, would have a right to recover from his landlord the extra sum he had thus advanced. By that permission the compound-householder would have a right on the payment of his next rate to deduct the additional charge he had incurred; and therefore he would not in reality be subject to any fine whatever. By the 40th clause of this Bill the right hon. Gentleman will see the provisions of the different Acts relating to this subject are referred to. By the 7th section of 13 & 14 Vict. c. 81, he will also see that any occupier paying any rate or rates in respect of any tenement where the owner is rated to the same, shall be entitled to deduct from his rent, or to recover from the owner himself the amount so paid.
§ MR. GATHORNE HARDY
I can only say that they were meant to be, and that a man shall be entitled to recover from his landlord the amount he has paid. It is obvious justice requires that it should be so. Nobody will suppose that the Bill meant to make both the landlord and the tenant pay the rate. Then would there, indeed, be a fine. The provision of this Bill is, that where the occupier claims to be rated he shall be entitled to recover from the landlord the amount of rates he has paid in the rent. Let hon. Gentlemen look the fact of what is proposed fairly in the face. 513 Provision is made that any man may claim to be rated for such rates as are paid in respect of his house. We assume that those who so claim to be rated have, in almost all these cases, tenancies of a very short description, in many cases merely weekly; and the contract between landlord and tenant would be immediately altered by such proceedings. Let it not be supposed that there will be any necessity for a new claim to be made from year to year. When a man is once placed upon the rate book and so on the register, his name will be kept there as long as he continues to pay his rates. As to some of those proposals which the right hon. Gentleman spoke of as fancy franchises, we are told that many obstacles can be found in registration and other matters. Surely that also applies to the lodger franchise, to which the right hon. Gentleman has adverted more than once. The lodger franchise would involve claims year by year under any system that can be adopted; and the difficulties and annoyances to which persons may be subjected in that way would make such a franchise, however good it might be in itself, most difficult to be effectively worked. But the lodgers who seek to be enfranchised have the opportunity by the savings bank franchise, by the franchise connected with funded property, and by the payment of direct taxes, of coming upon the register. The same observation applies to a great number of the high class workmen earning from £2 to £3 a week who live in lodgings and pay income tax. All these franchises are open not to the higher classes only, but to all classes, and are not open to the difficulties of the lodger franchise. Thus will be met much of the objection which the right hon. Gentleman has founded upon the want of a lodger franchise. A lodger franchise was introduced in the Bill of 1859, and in the Bill of the right hon. Gentleman last year, but in a somewhat different form. The difficulty with respect to it was that they had to make their claim from year to year. With regard to the question of the payment of rates, it must not be supposed that the Government are introducing anything new, or that cannot for a moment stand. The ratepaying clauses of the original Reform Bill, which were attacked at first, have gradually obtained stability. For thirty-five years the country has had confidence in the good sense and reasonableness of the principle. This measure only continues that principle. In giving 514 the lower franchise we are only adopting that which the right hon. Gentleman and his Government adopted long ago. The right hon. Gentleman says we have become wiser; but that is the principle of the Bill of 1854. To a certain extent the effect of that Bill has been misapprehended, for a three years' residence was imposed in addition to a £5 rating, and the restriction, therefore, was enormous; because as we descend in amount we find the people much more migratory, changing their residences much more frequently than the classes above them.
Under the present system a deduction has to be made of 28 to 30 per cent in order to come at the number who are placed upon the register; but if we go, as in this Bill, to the lower classes, and include those who are travelling from place to place for the purposes of their employment, we shall at least have to make a deduction of 50 per cent. [Mr. BRIGHT: Hear!] I am glad that the hon. Member for Birmingham at least gives me credit for speaking frankly upon the subject. [Mr. BRIGHT: Hear!] I quite admit that these things are limitations. I have no hesitation whatever in saying that the payment of rates and residence were meant as limitations, and I think they are such limitations as this House will not readily part with. The right hon. Gentleman says that they are provisions which it will be impossible to carry. I differ from the right hon. Gentleman in that respect. I think they will commend themselves to all who look carefully at the question, and the checks of long residence and payment of rates will keep only the best of the ratepayers upon the register. I am quite aware that in all measures of this kind criticism is much more easy than the construction of a Bill. The right hon. Gentleman experienced that himself last year, and no doubt the present Government will experience it this. It is, however, most desirable that we should know—that which we do not yet know—what is the view taken of different parts of the Bill by hon. Members on this side of the House, from whom the present Government have had almost unlimited support for a number of years. To them we owe much for their constant and faithful allegiance. Same hon. Members, I have no doubt, entertain different views from those of the Government on this question. Some, I regret to say, have parted from us, though I trust only for the mo- 515 ment, in consequence of it. But I believe that the noble Lord (Viscount Cranbourne) and the gallant General (General Peel), and the noble Lord in "another place" (the Earl of Carnarvon), if they had had time to consider this question more thoroughly, would never have separated from their Colleagues. I think that upon the figures as they stand, and as they have been reviewed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, coupled with the checks introduced in the Bill, the measure is a perfectly safe one. If it differs in different boroughs, I can only say that one of the chief arguments adopted last year, on both sides of the House, against the right hon. Gentleman's measure, was that there was a disgusting monotony in all boroughs. Well, here we have, according to him, something like household suffrage in one and something else in another.
There is one point to which I am bound to advert, and which no doubt will be considerably argued on this occasion—I mean the question of an additional vote. If I thought that that was an absurd, an unjust, an invidious, or a mischievous thing, I certainly should have been no party to having it placed in the Bill. But I am at a loss to conceive upon what ground that opinion can be entertained. There have been a great many philosophers as well as practical statesmen of all kinds who have made efforts to reduce in some way or other the powers of some great class which it was wished to admit to the franchise. One person has proposed that we should have the representation of minorities. Another that the voter should have only one vote, while a third thought that we should have cumulative votes in one person. And all sorts of schemes have been proposed. The hon. Member for East Surrey has not been afraid to publish in a pamphlet the Liberal dilemma, which was to admit as many as possible to the franchise, but still to check the measure with the old Sturges Bourne principle. Why, then, does every person turn round upon us, as if we had brought forward something inconceivably unjust in itself, and which will not bear a moment's scrutiny? I invite scrutiny for our proposal. Let it receive the scrutiny of the House, and let us know what hon. Members have to say upon it. The right hon. Gentleman has asked us on the second reading to abandon parts of the Bill, and to say that we have introduced 516 provisions which we do not mean to maintain. But let us hear what the House has to say upon it. We are reasonable men, and if we cannot support a particular provision with effect, I have no doubt it will not be pressed upon the consideration of the House. But, at the same time, let us look at the question and consider why it is more unfair to give a man who pays direct taxation in addition to rates for his house a second vote, than to draw the line at a certain figure, and to give no vote below it. Other hon. Gentlemen have proposed other compensations and other balances against the classes to be admitted. Let us hear and discuss them; but I most distinctly object to sacrificing a part of the Bill upon the second reading, and when only one speaker has addressed the House upon the subject. If there is chaff mixed with the wheat let it be blown to the winds; but let us see that those to be admitted to the franchise are qualified for the duties of citizens—that they are persons who can be found, who are not flitting from place to place, and that they have sufficient interest in the franchise to claim it and secure it for themselves. The 40s. freeholder has to claim his vote, and if objected to has to appear before the barrister. When you talk of appearing before the revising barrister, and the right hon. Gentleman speaks of the dangers of registration agents, I ask, does the right hon. Gentleman think that there are no registration agents who appear now without expense, in lieu of the men whose votes are objected to? These things are easily managed, if people wish to manage them. The fact is there are great bodies of men in this country who do not now care for the franchise; but there are also among them some whom it would be most desirable to see placed upon the register. I believe that by one of the provisions of this Bill, enabling these harmless, inoffensive, and often well-educated persons who now abstain from going on the register to vote by voting-papers, as is proposed by this Bill, a great number of them will give their votes.
The right hon. Gentleman tells us there are certain things which must be given up. Well, Sir, with the greatest respect to the right hon. Gentleman, I must decline to accept his dictum on the subject. When this Bill has been discussed we shall see. The Government are as anxious as the right hon. Gentleman to pass the measure this year. We are anxious to give 517 a liberal but not an indiscriminate franchise. We do not think we have introduced provisions which tend to prevent this from being a fixed if not a final measure. We believe it has as good a basis to stand upon as any measure that has been introduced, and we believe it has a better one. It is a basis on what may be called a household residential rating, with personal payment and continued residence. It is a basis which, I think, those above the £10 limit will accept without any fear of being overwhelmed by new voters. I think then of these new voters as of a class capable of exercising the franchise. I know there are many below the gangway who were consistent in opposing the ratepaying qualification under the Reform Act, who will, no doubt, strongly oppose the payment of rates under this Bill. We must meet that opposition. We are not bringing in a Bill to meet the wishes of one section of the community; but we are bringing in a Bill to meet the wishes of the enlightened and quiet and well-disposed portion of the community of this country. We are told we have to dread agitation. I do not wish to say a word about agitation, either in its favour or to its discredit. But it is because that agitation is represented by so large a party in this House, and has been carried so far, that the settlement of this question is imperative if it can possibly be obtained, and that we with reluctance—at least, I speak for myself—but not giving up any principle which we hold—have been parties to bringing in this great measure. I only ask hon. Gentlemen opposite for a fair and candid consideration of this question. If they think there are difficulties as to the mode in which persons would claim to be put on the register, that is a question for the Committee. I feel bound to say that the cavils of the right hon. Gentleman on different portions of this Bill, relate to matters which can neither be discussed on the second reading nor on the Motion that the Speaker leave the Chair. They can only be discussed properly in Committee, when Members can speak more than once, and fully explain their meaning. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman has made out anything to prevent this Bill going into Committee. I trust the House will send it into Committee. If the Government are met in a reasonable spirit, I believe that while thoroughly maintaining their principles, they will be liberal in the enfranchisement of the people, while not allow- 518 ing it to be unlimited and without discrimination.
said, he rose to answer the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman, and to assure him that he would give a fair, candid, and impartial consideration to the measure of the Government. He regarded the extension of the borough franchise as the most important principle of the Bill; for it could not be denied that had it not been for the defects and shortcomings in that franchise, and the admission of leading statesmen of the necessity for an alteration, the subject of Reform would not press for an immediate consideration. He would therefore make one or two remarks on the proposed new borough franchise. It had been said that the Bill proposed household suffrage subject to two checks—namely, duality of votes, and personal payment of rates. This did not appear to him an accurate statement. Judging from the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in proposing the Bill, and the manner in which the clauses were drawn, he inferred that the whole franchise rested upon the personal payment of rates, and that this was not a check upon something else, but the very franchise itself, so that if it were struck out, the very substance, life, and essence of the Bill would be gone. In that case it would be right to consider how far the personal payment of rates had entered into the past constitution of this country, and how far it ought to be adopted for future practice. This personal payment of rates was identical with the old "scot-and-lot" franchise which was one of many franchises that existed before the Reform Act. Our ancestors dealt with this subject not unwisely. They gave votes not to individuals, but to localities, and allowed the localities to choose in what manner they should send representatives to the House of Commons. In this way the personal payment of rates came into existence, and once existing as a custom it became clothed with the authority of the common law. The Reform Bill entirely swept away all these franchises and substituted one general franchise in lieu of them. That general franchise consisted of two qualifications—first, the occupation of a house of £10 value, and next the personal payment of rates; and it cannot be said that either of these qualifications was more important or essential than the other. At the time of the Reform Act these compound-householders existed, and had existed long before, and 519 whatever difficulties were now experienced were also felt at that time. In the correspondence of Earl Grey with William IV., it would be found that the subject was discussed, and that Earl Grey held many conversations with persons conversant with the Tower Hamlets, in which this particular form of vote at that time prevailed. A clause accordingly was inserted in the Reform Act of 1832 enabling compound-householders to get their names placed on the list of ratepayers, and to pay their rates themselves, and thus to become qualified for the franchise if their rental exceeded £10 per annum. Difficulties, however, occurred on the part of these compound-householders in consequence of the rule imposed upon them that they should make an annual claim, and to meet this difficulty Sir William Clay introduced a Bill to enable them to claim once for all. Earl Russell, in speaking on the Motion for the second reading of that Bill, said he should vote for it because a remedy was required; but that care should be taken that the person claiming to vote was made personally liable for the payment of the rates, and that unless he had paid the rates up to the requisite period he should not be entitled to vote. With regard to the Bill now under discussion, the first observation he had to make was that while it dealt most liberally with ratepayers, it entirely ignored the whole class of non-ratepaying occupiers. He thought this was a great defect in the Bill, since the latter class was becoming more numerous and of greater importance every day, and could not be disregarded. If the franchise was to be based upon the sole principle of ratepaying, he thought it would give rise to fresh agitation on the part of those who were unjustly excluded from the suffrage merely on the ground that the rates of the houses occupied by them were paid by the landlords for the convenience of the parish. If the House were to adopt a compulsory enactment that up to £5 or £6 the landlord should be in all cases liable for the rate, it would be nearly identical with the scheme shadowed forth by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire, and would get rid of many difficulties besetting the question. There should then be a clause which should include within it all non-ratepaying occupiers, whether lodgers or compound-householders, and the definition of tenure and duration of residence with respects 520 to this class would, of course, have to be settled. In that clause some figure would have to be inserted, and he would recommend that such a clause, while very precise, should also be liberal, and should include as few restrictions as possible. It was important that there should be a clear distinction between the two classes of ratepayers and non-ratepayers, and that the ratepayers' list should be occupied only by those who paid rates, for with respect to them there was no necessity for any figure or value of their residence, whereas with respect to non-ratepaying occupiers, some figures would be necessary. He believed a measure of that kind would be acceptable to both sides of the House, and that it would be a permanent settlement of the question. With regard to the re-distribution of seats he agreed with the Chancellor of the Exchequer that unless the electoral map could be re-constructed the extent of re-distribution which the Bill proposed was sufficient—that any further alteration might create difficulties in any future re-construction. He was, however, in favour of such a re-construction of the electoral map, and he would state to the House the nature of the plan he would himself recommend. In the first place, he thought that the present distinction between the county and borough franchise was a great anomaly. If a foreigner were shown a map of England in which the area of each borough was coloured red, the rest being left white, and were told that every householder within those small red spots enjoyed the suffrage, while in the expanse of country coloured white not one in twenty possessed that privilege, he would naturally inquire whether the residents in those small areas had superior qualifications, or what ground there was for so marked a distinction. An answer might probably have been given to the effect that although the distinction seemed an unreasonable one, it had come down from past times; that we changed our institutions slowly; and that the people inhabiting those spots having exercised their privileges fairly, we were not inclined without absolute necessity to make any material alteration. Should, however, it then be asked why, in 1867, when we revised our Constitution, we did not remove such an anomaly, we should be forced to confess that, instead of so doing, we made the distinction more marked than before; for the present Bill, while lower- 521 ing the franchise within the boroughs, did not enlarge the privileges of the rest of the country to any corresponding extent, and it thus increased the harshness and injustice of the distinction. Why should such a distinction be retained when, with the present facilities of locomotion, the inhabitants of the counties were becoming equally intelligent and enlightened with those of the boroughs. By a proper re-distribution of seats this distinction might be abolished—the occupation or household suffrage might prevail generally through the country, and this might be accomplished without any violent or undue alteration of our present institutions. In order to effect what he proposed, it did not appear necessary to make any change in respect to the counties and the larger cities and boroughs. The county Members at present fully represented the property of the country. With respect to the smaller and middle-sized boroughs, he would not altogether disfranchise them; but he would merge them in the surrounding districts. So that to continue the illustration he had before used, the electoral map would become one uniform colour, instead of being white covered with red spots. By way of illustration he would take the county with which he was himself familiar—namely, the North Riding of Yorkshire. No alteration would be made with respect to the Members for the county, nor with respect to the Members for the city of York; but there were several small boroughs within the county, and what he proposed was to expand the area of each of these small boroughs until they touched each other, and occupied the whole surface of the county. In all probability the same Gentlemen who now represented these small boroughs would come back after the proposed change representing districts with large constituencies, called by the name of the borough they now represent, so that no material change would take place in the distribution of power, or in the individual Members of the House. If a similar course were to be adopted in other counties, the result would be that every householder throughout the length and breadth of the land, who paid rates in respect of his residences, would be entitled to a vote for the district in which he resided, and thus an addition would be made to the constituency far larger than what is proposed in the Bill now before the House, and much larger also than what was proposed last year. Such a measure 522 would be conservative in the highest and truest sense of the term, not as giving power to this or that party in the State, but conservative on the score that any dangerous or impulsive tendencies in any one town or district would be checked and rendered innocuous, not by clauses of Acts of Parliament, not by jealous provisions in restraint of the franchise, but by tendencies of a different description in other parts of the country, and by the average good sense of the whole community.
said, that in answer to the impracticable scheme which the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had suggested, he thought he could add for the consideration of the intelligent foreigner the right hon. Gentleman had chosen as a witness one more problem in our representative system which would puzzle him as much as the right hon. Gentleman's. He (Mr. Headlam) stated that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in dealing with the redistribution of seats, had said there were only two methods of dealing with that subject? One was to re-arrange, and to a certain extent so to modify the existing anomalies, so as to make it possible for the representation to continue under the present form; the other to re-open the question, and start de novo. Suppose, for instance, the intelligent foreigner referred to had put into his hands a statement of the population and property of the counties and boroughs. What did they think would be his opinion of the bases upon which they stand? There were in the boroughs a population of 8,638,000—electors 489,000, and houses 1,445,000—represented by 334 Members. In the counties there was a population of 11,427,000—electors 540,000; houses, 2,290,000—represented by 161 Members. Surely such a statement would surprise the foreigner. It was proposed in the Government Bill to meet the question of re-distribution by taking away what was termed the superfluous representation of some of the boroughs. It had been considered and decided that the key to the solution of the whole question lay in the borough franchise; and it was more especially with reference to its operation in small boroughs that he wished to direct the attention of the House. When a Conservative Government brought forward a Reform Bill based on household suffrage, it was natural for those who belonged to that party to inquire what it meant, He had not much 523 difficulty in ascertaining what would be the effect of household suffrage pure and simple in the boroughs, and having verified a statement which appeared in The Economist, he would read it to the House—In 40 of the smallest boroughs, between 6,000 and 7,000 population, it would double the constituency; in 13 a vote under £5 would outvote all the present constituency; in 42 boroughs, with a population between 7,000 and 12,000, there were only five in which household suffrage would not more than treble the present constituency. In 22 a franchise under £5 would completely outvote the present constituency, and in 82 small boroughs, under 12,000 population, with 133 Members, there were 20 in which household suffrage would more than double the present electors; in 71, with 113 Members, it would double the present electors; and in 35 of these the electors under £5 would control the elections.To those who advocated Conservative principles these were startling figures; because the question arose, What was there between them and household suffrage pure and simple. In the first place, dual voting was proposed; but, after what had been stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire, they need not discuss it; and he, for one, did not believe that it could be carried into a law. With regard to the payment of rates, he must confess that it would have been more appropriately described as a clause "for the payment of rates by candidates," because he believed it was impossible to prevent bribery by penal enactments. The personal payment of rates would, he believed, though he should be glad to find he was mistaken, enable the candidate first in the field to secure a majority; and the consequence was that between hon. Members and household suffrage there was nothing but the provision which required a two years' residence—a provision which introduced inequalities between one class and another, and would therefore be a stimulus to agitation. He did not, indeed, believe that such a provision could remain for any length of time. If it was desirable that they should have household suffrage accompanied with checks, he would much rather the Government had gone boldly into the question, and if it was necessary to introduce a variety of qualifications, why had they not gone back to what existed before 1832? He did not wish to resuscitate the old franchises, or to disfranchise any; but if the Government had introduced into large towns a household franchise, and a higher franchise into smaller boroughs, he thought that every one would have been satisfied. It 524 was impossible to imagine two classes more distinct than the skilled artizans and the nondescript population of the smaller boroughs. There was great political earnestness in large towns where the artizans resided, and when they thought they had grasped a truth they were almost fanatical in the way in which they enforced it. They asked for Permissive Bills. They were not content with refraining from drink themselves; but they wished to prevent their non-abstaining neighbours from drinking a glass of ale. And, with regard to the sanctity of the Sabbath, they went so far as to seek to close public-houses, even against travellers. If the franchise were reduced in the small towns, the effect would be to increase the power of landlords over the electors. The defence of the smaller boroughs made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer was that a certain number of cheap constituencies were wanted to give opportunities to men of moderate fortune. That they thus added to the variety of the representation in that House, and introduced men of experience from India, the colonies, and the professions to take part in their deliberations, much to the advantage of the nation. But if the smaller boroughs were to be reduced to the condition he had described, they would cease to discharge their peculiar functions in this respect. Ail their peculiar faults would be aggravated; they would become the helots of the Constitution, and would be pointed to as examples of everything which a borough ought not to be. He earnestly hoped to hear from the Chancellor of the Exchequer some explanation as to the nature of the checks by which he meant to stand. He (Mr. Yorke) was not in favour of household suffrage pure and simple; but with efficient and lasting checks and counterpoises, from whatever source they came, he would give his support to this Bill. If, however, those checks were in their nature artificial, and of a character not likely to be lasting, then, much as he would regret acting in opposition to his party, with whom on most subjects he sympathized, with deep regret he should feel it to be his duty to oppose the Bill.
§ SIR FRANCIS GOLDSMID
said, that on one point he was able to agree with the right hon. President of the Poor Law Board (Mr. Gathorne Hardy), who had stated that this Bill did not propose to introduce household suffrage "pure and simple." It certainly did not, The house- 525 hold suffrage introduced by it would be complex and corrupt—that is to say, encumbered with intricate conditions necessarily tending to corruption. But there his agreement with the right hon. Gentleman ended. That Gentleman had declared it to be most inconsistent on the part of the opponents of the Bill that some of them called it narrow, and others revolutionary. But the inconsistency was in the Bill itself, which would be revolutionary in some parishes and narrow in others. Of the large field of discussion opened by the Bill he (Sir Francis Goldsmid) only desired to consider two points. Was this measure likely to settle the question of Reform? What would be its effect as to bribery? The idea that it would settle the question because, after giving household suffrage, nothing more could be asked, was utterly erroneous. That nothing more could be asked, could only be true if Parliament went beyond the Reform League; for manhood residential suffrage would still leave open the claims of those who had not resided long enough to be registered. The right mode of settling the question was not to give all that could be asked, but to give what was reasonable, trusting to the good sense of the country to support you in refusing to concede more. Then it was suggested that you were more likely to settle the question by adopting principles than figures; and that the Bill of last year did, and this Bill did not, leave room for further agitation, because there the borough franchise rested on a figure, the £7 rental value, whilst here it rested on a principle. But did the borough franchise in this Bill avoid figures? On the contrary, it would be found that its framers, in trying to avoid the one important figure of last year's franchise, had introduced several figures, and that those were figures likely to give rise to an enormous amount of future discussion. First, there was the requirement, in the second paragraph of the 3rd clause, of a residence of two years, or two years and seven months, it was not clear which. This was a figure, and one which, if adopted, would be sure to open the door to subsequent agitation. While the 40th clause left the £10 rental householder capable of ripening for the franchise in twelve months, this 3rd clause would create an inferior class of voters, who would want twice the time, or more, to come to maturity. Now, those who occupied houses at £9 and under would immediately say it was not fair that be- 526 cause they had occupied their houses a year and a half only they should be excluded from the franchise; nor would the assurance of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that they were shut out because they were "migratory paupers," tend much to console them, especially when they saw the £10 householder, who had been resident a shorter time than themselves, admitted. Then what was to be said of the 3rd paragraph of Clause 2? Although it did not mention a figure, it referred to the Small Tenements Act which did; and, in fact, this paragraph, so far its it was not modified by the 34th clause, introduced into every parish, in every borough, where no Local Rating Act was in force, household franchise, or a £6 0s. 1d. franchise, according as the vestry of the parish had decided, or might decide. Where the Rating Act of the 59 Geo. III., or Local Rating Acts, were in force, other figures would be introduced instead of the £6 0s. 1d. So we found that this Bill, which was to avoid any figure, had already introduced, instead of the one figure of last year, more figures than it was easy to count. But the matter did not stop there. The Government, frightened even by the shadow of household suffrage which they offered by their Bill, proposed, for the purpose of balancing it, more figures still in the shape of franchises of £50 in the funds, or in a savings bank. Nothing could be more certain to cause discontent than to talk of household franchise being your principle, and then to introduce as new voters only a small fraction of the occupiers who would be introduced by real household suffrage. As to the 34th clause enabling compound-householders to get upon the register by paying the rates, it would have very little effect except as an engine of bribery. It was vain to expect that the poor householder would incur the trouble and expense of claiming to be registered, and of paying the rates, taking the chance of getting, in some cases three-fourths, and in some only half, repaid by the landlord. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had called the £5 franchise a Serbonian bog; but he (Sir Francis Goldsmid) thought it a macadamised road compared with the Bill before them, which made the Act of Parliament subservient to the will of a vestry, and which was founded on the system of giving by one clause and taking away by another, of keeping the word of promise to the ear, and breaking it to the hope—a system acted on to a considerable extent 527 in the Bill of 1859, but brought to a hitherto unequalled perfection in the present measure. He (Sir Francis Goldsmid) thought he had now established that this Bill, which was said to be founded on a principle, and not on a figure, and therefore to afford reasonable hope of a permanent settlement, had in it much more of figures than of principle, and was sure to be a mere starting point for fresh discontent and renewed agitation.
Before passing to the subject of bribery, he would remark that if the second paragraph of the 3rd section of the Bill, which required as a qualification for a borough voter, that he should be on the last day of July in any year, and should have been during the whole of the preceding two years, an inhabitant occupier, was to be retained at all, the Government should clear up the doubt to which he had already referred. Were the two years to count from that 31st of July, or from the 1st of January preceding? And now a few words as to bribery. The 34th section would, he contended, make bribery not only easy, but almost necessary; the election agents would surely manufacture voters by paying their rates. The 6th clause, conferring the franchise on direct taxpayers, would have the same effect; a man would be able to make all his servants voters with a very trifling expenditure. He (Sir Francis Goldsmid) approved of the provisions proposed by Government to be embodied in another Bill for preventing bribery. An early inquiry on the spot would, it could hardly be doubted, facilitate the detection of corrupt practices. And as to the proposal for allowing a candidate proving bribery and not having it proved against him, to take the seat, it must necessarily be satisfactory to him (Sir Francis Goldsmid), as he had himself had the honour to propose it in 1860 and 1863. He believed the more in the sincere desire of the Government to prevent bribery, because they did not now, as the same Gentlemen when out of office did last year, insist on strangling both the Bill for this purpose and that for Reform by tying them together by the neck. But the provisions of their Reform Bill would more than neutralize any possible benefit of their Bribery Bill. It was perfectly vain, if you passed clauses creating a gigantic machinery of corruption, like the 6th and 34th clauses of the measure under consideration, to pass at the same time another Bill threatening with punishment the bribery your own legisla- 528 tion had elaborately produced. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gathorne Hardy) said that if the leading principles of the Bill were impugned, a division ought to be taken on the second reading. But he surely ought not to argue thus, when the very ground of complaint alleged by the other side against this side of the House had for many years been that they had in 1859 divided against the second reading of the Bill of that year. He (Sir Francis Goldsmid) would, on the grounds he had mentioned, and by reason of the objectionable nature of the Bill in other respects, have been glad if a division had been taken on the second reading; but as it appeared that this was not to be the case, he could only hope against hope that when in Committee they would succeed in bringing sense, utility, and consistency into a measure which at present appeared to him to be one mass of incongruities and mischievous absurdities.
MR. R. J. H. HARVEY
said, he had, as an independent Member, called upon the Opposition last year to vote in favour of the Reform Bill, and he now called upon the present Opposition to vote in favour of this Bill in order that the question might be settled. He could not forget that last year the Ministry had resigned on the question of rating or rental. He had given the point his consideration, and had come to the conclusion that rating was the right principle to proceed on. As an independent Member he had to remind the House that it had been declared that Reform was not to be a party question. He had risen chiefly to notice what the right hon. Member for South Lancashire had stated the other night in regard to the borough which he represented. The right hon. Gentleman had said that Thetford was not a borough at all, but rather a cluster of villages—the mere rustics of the country. The fact was that Thetford was one of the oldest boroughs in the kingdom, and had anciently been the capital of East Anglia—the residence of kings. It was a mistake to say that its constituency would be peasants, for there was no cultivated country about the borough. Hares and rabbits frequented a large plain surrounding it. There were several large manufactories in the borough in which a great deal of skilled labour was employed, and the workmen paid their rates—the very class the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire thought it so desirable 529 to enfranchise. Under the present Bill they would get votes. There was a very large iron foundry and iron manufactory which sent forth engines to most parts of the world. There was a paper manufactory, and also, perhaps, one of the largest manufactories of artificial manure in the country. Under the Bill of the late Government the increase in the number of voters in Thetford would not have exceeded fifty, but under the present Bill the increase would be nearer 350. It was well known that for many years the borough of Thetford had been to a great extent a nomination borough, and although it had sent Members to Parliament who had been a high honour to the House, they had chiefly been members of two large and influential houses in the district. So far as Thetford was concerned, therefore, the Bill of the Government was entirely consonant with his feelings, as it would emancipate its voters, and make their Member a true representative. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the people of Thetford were the mere peasantry of the country; but, for his own part, he had always felt that the peasantry of the country ought to be represented; and the great defect of former Reform Bills had been that they neglected a class of people who were a great honour to England, and who were hard-working, conscientious, and religious. It was an unfair slur on the peasantry of the country to say that they ought not to be represented. Such as the Bill was, he should have great pleasure in voting for the second reading of it.
§ VISCOUNT AMBERLEY
I should not venture to rise upon this occasion if it were not in the hope that I should occupy the time of the House for a very few minutes; and I think I may say without presumption, or without disrespect to the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, that I shall treat this question upon somewhat broader grounds than he has done. I am far from wishing to dispute with him whether or not the Members for Thetford have been ornaments to this House; but I wish to make a few remarks upon the Bill before us. Whatever opinions may be entertained with regard to this Bill, I think there is one fact which must be a source of great satisfaction to all those who supported the measure of the late Government, and that is, the change of opinions and tone which has taken place upon this question between the last Session 530 and the present. I am not in the least taunting Her Majesty's Government with any inconsistency on the subject; but I think I shall be borne out in saying that those who sit on the opposite side of the House, taking them generally, speak in a very different manner from what they did a year ago. Although this is a subject of great satisfaction, I must confess that that satisfaction is somewhat diminished by the nature of the measure which the Government have introduced. Without in the least wishing to deny to them that moderation which they have claimed, I must say that the mutual concessions and co-operation which they have asked for, and which the President of the Poor Law Board has asked for again to-night, are rendered more difficult by the nature of this Bill. Her Majesty's Government, considering the subject during the comparative calmness of the recess, arrived at the conviction that on this question party spirit was a very inconvenient and troublesome element. I am not going to dispute that point with them; indeed, I am inclined to agree with the conclusion at which they have arrived, though I might wish, if I were to wish anything, that they had made the discovery a year ago. Bat while I fully admit that it is our duty to treat with moderation and candour any measures which they may think proper to introduce, I must at the same time insist that there is a point at which such moderation should cease, because it would amount to a betrayal of our public duty. We as a party have a particular, and I may say a definite policy on this subject. There are objects at which we have long been aiming, and which, to a certain extent, have been resisted by those who sit on the opposite side of the House. Having these objects and this policy, while up to the present time they have had at least no definite or intelligible policy, it is absolutely necessary that if there is to be concession, it must come from them, and not from us. We could not make concessions—at least, we could not make certain concessions—without giving up those objects for which we have contended. I do not know how far the Government may be inclined to go in concession; but to me, and I believe to many others, it would be a subject of great and sincere rejoicing if they were able to unite with us in carrying a sound, satisfactory, and large measure of Reform.
Looking at this Bill, I find that it is a Bill of considerable pretension, because it 531 professes to differ from all other Bills in the circumstance that the franchise it proposes to establish is founded upon a principle. As this principle has been considerably insisted upon, I wish to examine, for a few moments, what it is. I think I shall not be misrepresenting the Bill if I say that the principle upon which the borough franchise is attempted to be settled by it is twofold. In the first place, the Bill provides that the suffrage shall depend upon personal ratepaying, and that it shall cease when personal ratepaying ceases; and in the second, that the compound-householder shall be able to claim the suffrage when he becomes a personal ratepayer. When we are basing the suffrage upon a principle it appears to me that we ought to fix it at some point where there is a natural difference, and not where there are arbitrary and conventional differences between those who are above the line, and those who are below it. Now, I cannot see that this condition is very satisfactorily fulfilled in this measure. I do not see what is the difference between the personal ratepayer and the compound-householder—and it ought to be a very considerable difference—which makes it proper that the personal ratepayer shall vote and the compound-householder shall not. You cannot say that the compound-householder does not pay rates, because he does pay rates; but he pays them in a different shape—he pays them in the shape of rent to his landlord. Yet the Chancellor of the Exchequer told us that the compound-householder was not a proper person to vote in his character of compound-householder. I confess I was not able to gather from him what were the precise reasons which justified that conclusion.
I pass from this point to that which has been so much commented upon by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone)—the case of the compound-householder who would be subjected, in claiming the franchise, to a larger rate than he paid when he compounded with his landlord. And either the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Poor Law Board (Mr. Gathorne Hardy) misunderstood what the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) said, or I entirely failed to understand him; because it appeared to me that he did not succeed in answering my right hon. Friend's objections. What I understood him to say was that a compound-householder claiming to become a ratepayer under this Bill would be able to deduct the amount of his rates 532 from the rent which he pays to his landlord. But taking into consideration the increase of 25 per cent or 50 per cent which the compound-householder would be called upon to pay, I want to know what is the source from which that payment would come? I do not think the President of the Poor Law Board intends to say that it is to be deducted from the rent; because in that case you would impose upon the landlord the fine which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) supposed would be laid on the householder—that would merely be shifting the burden from one person to another, and not in the least removing the objection which was brought against this provision of the Bill. I think the provision is the more strange and suspicious, because in 1851 a statute was passed by which it was enacted that a compound-householder claiming to vote and claiming to pay his rates for the purpose of voting, where the composition was less than the whole amount of the rate, should not pay more than the amount payable under such composition. If I understand the meaning of that Act of Parliament of 1851, it acknowledges the principle that a compound-householder claiming to be placed on the electoral list should not be liable to an increased payment for claiming that privilege; whereas this Bill refers to the existing Act of Parliament, and it adds a provision that the ratepayer shall pay the full rateable value of the premises. Now, I venture to think that this clause might have been more clearly drawn. It refers to existing Acts of Parliament as if they were to apply, and yet at the end it states that the amount of rates to be paid is the full amount calculated on the full rateable value of the premises. Well then, Sir, we are told that the compound-householder who objects to this large increase of payment in order to obtain a vote must be supposed to be utterly indifferent to politics, and to care nothing about taking part in elections. It appears to me, however, that this is a principle that neither the Government nor any one else would venture to apply to the other classes of society. They say that the compound-householder who does not like to take all this trouble to obtain a vote is totally indifferent to it, and ought not to exercise the franchise; but would they apply this principle to manufacturers, merchants, or clergymen? Would they ask them to take all the trouble they are imposing upon the compound-householder?
533 I am quite sure that no Government would come to this House with such a proposal; and I am certain that the patriotism which they expect to find in the compound-householder they would not expect to find, or seek to find, in those of a superior station in life. Then it has been objected, and very naturally objected, that the provisions relating to compound-householders would tend to corruption. It is true that there is a clause which provides that the corrupt payment of rates shall be punishable as bribery. But what is the punishment of bribery? We know that, practically, bribery goes totally and entirely unpunished. There may be laws against it, but it is an offence which always escapes with impunity. Therefore I say that this clause is perfectly futile, and is only inserted to save appearances. The borough franchise professes to be established on some principle; but passing on to the county franchise, I am at a loss to know what principle is to be found in the sum of £15. It is in direct contravention of what was established by this House last year, and appears to differ in nothing from those vulgar and common place Bills which have been introduced before. It appears to me that we should endeavour to avoid what was done in former Bills—namely, attempting to draw any arbitrary line where no natural line exists. I will not enter into any details respecting the dual vote; but there is one principle of the Bill which has not yet been noticed, but which appears to me to be of considerable importance. I allude to the 37th clause, in which it is provided that those who pass from one Ministerial office to another shall not vacate their seats in consequence. I make no objection to this clause, which I believe was copied from the Act of 1852; but I think it a fair subject for consideration whether there is any substantial reason for requiring that those who accept offices under the Crown should vacate their seats. Circumstances have changed since the Act of Anne was passed rendering such vacation compulsory; and at that time it was an open question whether Ministers should have any seat in the House at all. Now, it is held that they should; and therefore I cannot see any reason why we should continue to require the vacation of seats under circumstances which often create very great inconvenience. There is one point which is, in my opinion, of quite as much importance as the provisions of the Bill, and 534 that is the spirit and temper in which it is introduced. If in the very act of enfranchising some portion of the labouring classes, we show ourselves afraid of the power we are about to give; if in extending to them electoral rights we show that we are jealous and distrustful, and anxious to take precautions against them, then I think that whatever legislation can effect in their favour, such a course will be futile, irritating, and vexatious. It is easy to say that this is a country of classes, and must remain so. There may be distinctions of feeling between its different classes; but I cannot look upon this as a sufficient reason for introducing legislation of an aggravating character, and maintaining injurious distinctions. We should endeavour to modify rather than aggravate such a state of things. It seems to me that if we wish to legislate successfully on this question, we must get rid altogether of the spirit of class. I cannot but believe that many of us are actuated by unnecessary fears, whilst I scarcely know what we are afraid of. If these new voters whom we are about to admit to the franchise were really possessed of revolutionary motives and were anxious to upset the Constitution of the country, is it to be supposed that they would have waited so patiently as they do now? Depend upon it they would show their anxiety for change in some more marked manner. As they do not, I am surprised to see evidences of jealousy in those devices for fencing in the privileged classes with checks and precautions of every kind. I wish that in legislating on this subject we could forget that we belong to this or that portion of the community, and remember only that we are all members of one common nation.
§ MR. BANKS STANHOPE
said, there were many details in the Bill which could be best considered in Committee; and he would therefore confine his observations upon that occasion to its main provisions. He confessed that after the reception which the duality part of the Bill had experienced, he should not be surprised if it were not proceeded with; but he believed that all the hard words which had been used against that principle were without foundation. If hon. Members examined the basis of our parochial legislature ever since 1818 they would find that the principle of a plurality of votes had been recognised over and over again, and that it was embodied in even so recent 535 a measure as the Local Government Act. With respect to the sum at which the county franchise was fixed, as he had said last year, he lived in an agricultural county, where it was a matter of indifference to him at what sum it might be fixed. But there were counties in which the character of the representation would be completely altered if the amount were brought too low. He was aware, however, that they could only deal successfully with that question of Parliamentary Reform by approaching it in a spirit of moderation and of mutual concession, and he was prepared to accept as a compromise the measure proposed by Her Majesty's Government. He entirely approved of the "fancy franchises," as set forth in the Bill. He believed that the education franchise would admit to the suffrage a number of persons to whom it was specially desirable that it should be extended. He also thought that the man who owned £50 in the funds or in a savings bank was fairly entitled to the same privilege; and with respect to direct taxation as an electoral qualification, he trusted that in that manner they would be enabled to take effectual precautions against fraud; while he felt persuaded that the contributors to the income tax in particular ought to be allowed a voice in returning Members to that House. He was willing to accept the Bill of the Government as a compromise; he was in favour of its principle. In the first place, Parliament had been trying to deal with the Reform question for the last fifteen years; and he remembered being told by an old politician that the time would arrive when that tampering with it would land them into this dilemma—namely, that it might be dangerous to deal with Reform, and it might be dangerous not to deal with it. They were at present in that dilemma. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe) had proved to his satisfaction last year all the dangers involved in any deviation from the £10 franchise; but the right hon. Gentleman had not been able to persuade him that it was safe to keep to that franchise, and refuse to depart from the settlement of 1832. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne declared in one of his speeches that the moment the limit established by the Bill of 1832 was abandoned they were standing on the side of a hill, on which they sought in vain for any sure standing ground. The simile was perfectly true, with this ad- 536 dition, that if any hon. Member thought they had found a temporary resting place, Members of the Opposition would at once do their best to deprive them of it. A small ledge or temporary platform might have been afforded by the £6 rating; but what reception had that proposal met with? Recollect that supporters of the Government, being in a minority, could only convert their numbers into a majority by obtaining the assistance of hon. Members opposite; and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire, though he might have welcomed the proposal of a £6 rating, only did so as a peg on which to hang a string of Amendments. Had the Government persevered with that proposal he felt certain that an attempt would have been made to force down their throats a measure similar to that brought forward by the late Government. Lord Derby would have been told that his mouth was to enunciate, and his hands were to pass, the very measure which he and his party chose in the previous Session to reject. A feeling prevailed both in and out of the House that such a course was not one for an able Minister or a great party to assent to. The Conservative party could not, and would not, accept proposals of which they disapproved, dictated by the party opposite. Therefore, when it became clear that the remainder of the House were not disposed to give any assistance to carry a £6 rating franchise, the Conservative party were obliged to try another stand point. Suppose they had proposed a £5 rating, hon. Gentlemen opposite would at once have cut away the ground from beneath their feet by proposing a £4 franchise. It was most difficult to support by argument the adoption of any sharp line of demarcation. He found, for instance, that in small towns a man rated at £4 owned a better house, occupied a better position, and was in every respect a more solvent and respectable person than a man living in a £5 house in larger towns. The operation of the Small Tenements Acts again would be to exclude, or to include, whole classes of residents, according to the limit imposed for the franchise. The important question then presented itself—going at once to the bottom of the hill, would it be possible to gain any security, to establish any principle according to which, by a process of self-elimination, better men in the different constituencies might rise to the surface, and inferior men sink to the bottom? 537 Having thought the question out for himself, as far as his capacity enabled him, he believed that the proposals contained in the Bill did contain pinciples, and did afford securities worthy of adoption. The residence of two years insured stability in the voter and excluded the wandering classes; while, if persons evaded the responsibility of paying their rates, he did not see why the State need go out of its way to give them a vote. Upon these principles and these securities he, as a strong Conservative, pledged his faith. He contended that in taking this view he was acting strictly upon Conservative and not upon Radical principles; and if the measure had been Radical, it would have met with more support from the other side of the House. The principle and security of which he had spoken were essential points of the Bill. And whatever the fate of the Government might be, he declared that if the principles of continuous residence and personal and full payment of taxes were weakened or impaired, he should feel it his duty to take every opportunity in his power to prevent the Bill from proceeding further. He believed that if these principles were insisted on and established the common sense of the people would make the arrangement now contemplated the basis of an electoral system for the present generation, possibly for a generation to come. No rating clauses were included in the last Reform Bill; but the common sense of the people had come round to that view. If a system of corruption might be introduced from the payment of rates, it did not belong to this measure any more than to any other. One matter would be the rating qualification. As was said the other day by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire, it was a question involving not only the honour of the House, but the good name of England, that they should keep the representative system tolerably free from bribery and corruption; and, though he did not believe they would ever be able thoroughly to stop individual cases of bribery, yet they might do much to reduce the evil as it at present existed. The act in which the House was now engaged was of the most solemn character. It was rebuilding the whole Parliamentary edifice. Men might differ as to the style of the architecture and the ground on which the building should be erected. In his opinion, however, the architect, whoever he might be, would not find his materials so good as might be desired.
538 He would now very briefly allude to some of the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire. And first, with respect to the compound-householders—or rather the householders under the Small Tenements Act. The landlord paid the rates according to the rule of the town which had adopted the provisions of that statute, and the tenant paid such an amount as the landlord pleased to take. The right hon. Gentleman had asked whether under this Bill it was intended that the tenant should pay his landlord's as well as his own rates. To that he would reply in the negative. Nor was it provided that the tenant, under the Small Tenements Act, should pay a fine for his vote. He would only be required to pay his rates just the same as anyone who was not affected by that Act. The fact was that the tenant really paid his own rates. He (Mr. Banks Stanhope) did not mean that the tenant should pay his landlord's rates as well; but that if the rates were 30s. a year, and they were paid by the tenant, he took the receipt of the overseer and legally claimed 15s. or 20s. from the landlord. That was the only way in which the tenant paid two sets of rates. He asked the right hon. Gentleman why, because a man lived in a house under £6, he should be placed in a better position than a man who lived in a £7 house? And why, he would ask, should a positive premium be given to the man who did not pay his rates? It was argued that a compounder whose landlord paid his rates had as much right as a ratepayer to have a vote. That, however, was not his opinion; because a man who paid his rates in full naturally took some interest in parochial matters, and had an interest in keeping down the rates, which was not the case with the compound-householder, who left it with the landlord to take its chance whether the rate rose or fell. The right hon. Gentleman had objected that the Small Tenements Act was not universal or compulsory; but the answer to that was that it might be made both universal and compulsory. ["Divide!"] He was aware that he had trespassed a little too much on the patience of the House; but there were particular times and crises when personal opinion became a matter of personal character. He was a strong Conservative by birth, education, and feeling, and he asserted that in maintaining the two priciples to which he had referred, he was as keeping his chacrater as a Conservative. He trusted that the 539 House would believe that the independent Members on that side had honestly endeavoured to grapple with the difficulties of the question. They had taken what they regarded as the best course, and had adopted principles which in their judgment would be a barrier against democracy. They did not underrate in any way the magnitude of the step they had taken; but, at the same time, they were firmly of opinion that it would lead to a beneficial result.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
I rise, Sir, to support the second reading of this Bill. I wish there should be no mistake as far as I am concerned. I desire to state why it is that I wish for any Reform, why it is that I support this measure of Reform, and why it is that I expect it may be made beneficial. Before I say distinctly why it is that I support any Reform, I will state two things, one of which I do not hope to effect, and the other of which I do not desire to effect. That which I do not hope to effect is to better the character of this House. I believe, Sir, that this House, since it has been reformed—that is, since the year 1832—has produced a body of legislation such as the history of the world cannot supply. Since this House was reformed a series of Acts have been passed creating greater changes in a shorter time, safely, quietly, and for the benefit of the community, than any recorded in the page of history.
It may be said that I have all my life been in Opposition, and it may be asked how it is that I have come to such a conclusion. When I entered this House I was very young. I was very sanguine and very impatient. I am now old, and having lived a life of very wide experience, and having witnessed many remarkable events, I hope I have learnt something by it. The conclusion to which I have come is that the House of Commons, with its tentative process, and caution, and care, and prudence, has been much wiser than I was when I was young, sanguine, and impatient. I do not say that the combating of minds and of different opinions in this House is not productive of great benefit. I want the timid to meet the bold, the hasty to meet the slow, and the courageous to meet the diffident. That, Sir, has been my part in this House. I believe that the fact of urging on others who would not have gone so fast had it not been for the clash of opinions, has wrought out benefits, which one side of the House would not of 540 itself have conferred. Therefore it is I cannot hope that this House will, as far as regards the country, improve its character, or increase its wisdom by Reform. The other remark I wish to make, in order to guard myself in what I shall presently say, is this—that I am not one of those who seek Reform to carry out what is called the natural rights of mankind. I know that "natural right" is a favourite phrase with some. We are told men have a right to the suffrage. I deny the principle. Right is a creature of law. Where the law has not produced it it does not exist. If it be said the man has a right to it, that is merely giving the thing as a reason for itself. It is no argument. Therefore, though great men have talked about rights, and about natural rights, and on two remarkable occasions they have been made use of to no very good purpose, I dismiss them without further remark.
Now comes the question why I seek Reform. Sir, in the administration of justice it is not enough that the tribunal should render equal and impartial justice. Justice is not justice unless it is thought to be justice. No tribunal that does not satisfy the people is a tribunal that ought to remain. I believe that this House, though it has been more wise than any other House of Commons or any other legislative body ever was in the same time, does not satisfy the people. There are large bodies of our countrymen who are not represented in this House. Their opinion is that they ought to be. They will not be satisfied till they are. Therefore, Sir, as a prudent man, thinking that a very large number of these are in a state of mind which well fits them to be represented, I am desirous that they should be. But, Sir, would I therefore have the whole artizan or labouring class represented? Not at all. I think that of that artizan or labouring class, there is a portion who, as to character, probity, intelligence, sagacity, and every other point that distinguishes men, are quite equal to any other portion of the community. I would as soon put my faith in these men as in any whom I see around me. I say that to bring the opinions and the feelings of these men into this House is a thing we ought to do; and which we can do without danger. But there is another portion of that body who are not educated, who are vicious, who are unfit to have in their hands the government of mankind. I should fear to intrust to them the destinies of this 541 great country. Therefore, Sir, I make a distinction. I say, "We will adopt some means by which, in addition to those who are already represented, we shall admit to this House the representatives of that section of the working class who desire and deserve to be represented." That is a clear, definite purpose. I want to know from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire (Mr. Gladstone) whether he agrees in that purpose. Is that his aim? Does he want anything more. Anything more than that class shall be represented who, in short phrase, ought to be represented? If he does not desire anything more, will he point out his means for admitting them and keeping out the others? I want to keep out the others. I state it boldly. I do not wish to mince the matter. I say there is a very large class I desire to keep out, and a very large class I desire to let in. Sir, how can we do this? The Chancellor of the Exchequer has proposed a means. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire last year brought in a Bill proposing a £7 rental franchise. That failed. There is one sentiment which I fear does not extensively prevail in this reformed House, and that is the desire to see itself reformed. I do not believe that the majority of this House wish to see that. They feel that they have done their duty, and done it well. I can understand readily why they should not believe that the composition of this House would be improved by alteration. That is the state of mind of the large majority. I do not say that all will act upon it. There are influences out of doors which operate. But the right hon. Gentleman opposite has proposed a plan, and what is it? He says that many attempts have been made taking the rental of houses as a basis. All have failed. Then he comes in with one bold measure. He says, "I will admit every man who is an inhabitant householder in a Parliamentary borough, with these provisoes. He shall have lived in that borough for two years, and he shall be rated to those rates which are levied upon that house." I want to know whether that is not a wise proposal? I do not mean to say that I entirely agree with the mode recommended by the right hon. Gentleman. I have placed an Amendment on the Votes showing what I mean as to that. But why those provisoes? Now comes the object I have stated. I want to admit the worthy portion of the artisan class. The right 542 hon. Gentleman the Member for South Lancashire says you ought to make no distinction. I can not help making a distinction unless I go to manhood suffrage. Even then I make a distinction according to my hon. Friend the Member for Westminster (Mr. Stuart Mill). He says you ought to admit the women. Then, what is the mode we should adopt? "Oh!" says the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) "you ought to consider a man's worth, his intelligence, his virtue." So, Sir, I do. But I want some mark, some test of the worth, the intelligence, the virtue. I cannot go into the street and put my hand on a man's shoulder and say, I know him to be intelligent, virtuous, worthy. But I can do what has been done time out of mind by all mankind. I can judge of a man by how he lives. In that way I can tell when he is not a vagabond, when he has a stake in the country, and has lived a virtuous and quiet life. I say we judge that he leads a quiet and peaceable life by this. He lives in a society and has lived in it two years. He pays his way. He provides the rent for his house. We justly take these as signs that the man is worthy of the franchise that we are about to confer on him. I want to ask men of common sense, men of the world, whether that is not a wise test? There is no use in mincing the matter, or in going into those minute, pettifogging questions we have heard discussed to-night. Let us take a large and broad grasp of the subject. I want to know how we can admit the worthy and intelligent portion of the working class and keep out the others. That is the real question. It may be said this is not the whole Bill. Well, I have no objection to what are called "the fancy franchises." I do not see that they will do any good, nor that they will do any harm, and if hon. Gentlemen are pleased with their rattle let them have it.
As to the county franchise, I think it would have been wiser and safer for the right hon. Gentleman to have taken the vote of last year rather than a £15 rating. Then there is the re-distribution of seats. That goes on a distinct principle from that of the franchise. It relates to the mode in which the present constituency votes. I think I once heard a panegyric pronounced upon the small boroughs, and I am not at all sure that it was not a wise panegyric. I do not believe in a geometrical division of the country, and deriving your constituencies from it. What we want is 543 the representation of a variety of interests. This we get better in the curious haphazard way in which everything is done under the English Constitution than we could if we were to divide the country into squares, worked upon the map. Therefore, I am not very anxious as to the disfranchisement of towns. I do not want to increase the numbers in this House; but I do want to give an enfranchisement to large bodies of our countrymen of the manufacturing towns. This scheme, then, is one which deserves consideration. Keeping clearly and steadily before our eyes the desire we have, or ought to have, to admit to the suffrage that portion of the working class who are worthy, and to whom it may be confided safely; desiring also to shut out the unworthy, and those to whom it could not be confided without danger, I ask whether anything could be more simple than the mode proposed? Every householder who lives in a Parliamentary borough, who pays his rates, and who has lived there two years, is to have this right. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) has told us that you are putting a "fine" upon the voter who lives in a house under £10 renting; but I want to know what that is. Why do compound-householders exist? For the benefit of the State. In order that the landlord may have a quid pro quo for taking upon himself the duty of paying the rate, the rate is made less to him. But when a man, instead of having his rates paid by his landlord, becomes part of the State and enjoys the right of voting, is he to turn round and say he wishes to be in the position which he occupied before he possessed that privilege. No! We tell him, "Now you are a voter you must do as other voters do." That is but plain common sense, and the invidious word "fine" is, I think, not worthy of the right hon. Gentleman. There is no "fine" in the case. A man is simply called upon to bear his fair share of the burdens of the State. I hope that the Government will not shrink in this matter. The virtue, the intelligence, and the sagacity of the country are anxiously looking for the settlement of this question. Every hour we dally over it increases the danger by which it is surrounded. I beg right hon. Gentlemen opposite to pluck up courage. Do not let them be frightened by the terrible anathemas they hear denounced against themselves or by pettifogging cavilling cant. Let them do their 544 duty. Let them, as my right hon. Friend (Mr. Gathorne Hardy) said, act as men of sense. When the subject is well thrashed out, as it will be, let them, not stick to their preconceived notions because they are preconceived, but let them, with large hearts and willing spirits, yield where truth, knowledge and intelligence teach them to yield, not fearing the taunt that their conduct is inconsistent.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
said, that since he had had the honour of a seat in the House he had given constant support to the Government. He trusted that he might be permitted to say a few words in explanation of the reasons which unfortunately at the present time compelled him to entertain fears as to the measure which they were now asked to read a second time. Even if the question upon which he found himself unhappily at variance with those with whom he had hitherto acted, were one in which he took only an ordinary interest, he should be in a situation of no little embarrassment. But when it was to be added that he never was more earnest than he was to see an early and Liberal settlement of the Reform question, his embarrassment was increased tenfold. The basis of the present measure was what some called household suffrage; but what the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gathorne Hardy) denominated rating suffrage. He would not enter into this difference. But he would say that no great party in that House or in the country would like to see a settlement of the Reform question on a basis of pure and simple household suffrage. Therefore, the desirableness of the measure depended upon whether there were sufficient safeguards by means of which it could be made a safe one. Among the foremost of these was the duality of voting. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) held out threats of directing some special Resolutions against this particular check. He (Mr. J. Lowther) thought from what had fallen from both sides of the House that this would be much like hanging a skeleton in chains, for the duality of voting was dead already. Some objected that duality of voting was founded upon a wrong principle, others that there was great risk of it not being accepted by the Rouse, and others that it would not last. His objections to it were antecedent to all these, for he believed that, if passed, it would be found wholly inadequate to secure the object for which it was introduced—namely, to maintain a fair balance 545 of power between the various classes of the community. Then as to the safeguard of the personal payment of rates, it had been said very aptly that evening that this might well be denominated payment of rates by candidates. He (Mr. J. Lowther) was much disposed to agree that it would be almost impossible to frame any clause in the Bribery Bill to prevent the corrupt payment of rates by the agents of candidates. As to resident and fancy franchises, although he considered them good as far as they went, yet he believed that the whole of these things, if taken collectively, would be found insufficient for the purpose for which they were introduced. He feared this measure in its present shape, and still more after the introduction of a compound householder franchise, would be found to be not a Conservative measure, and that it would end in giving undue preponderance to one class. He trusted that he would not be considered as having any hostility towards the working classes, for he should equally object to any measure by which it was proposed to confer Supreme power upon any one class in the State. Without wishing to cast any reflection upon hon. Members who could conscientiously support this Bill, he himself felt that he would not be performing his duty to those who sent him there if he were to support a measure which he considered would have an effect which he was solemnly pledged to oppose. The ties of party were strong; but there were ties which were stronger still. Believing that the probable effect of this measure would be the utter annihilation of the Constitutional party, he should hold himself at liberty, when the moment should arrive, so to regulate his conduct as to entitle him to acquittal from the verdict which posterity would pass upon the party—that of felo de se.
THE SOLICITOR GENERAL
Sir, my hon. Friend who has just addressed the House is undoubtedly wise in his generation. At the same time, I trust that by-and-by, when he finds that the view which is entertained by the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) finds favour in the House, he will alter the opinions that he has expressed, and join the Government in doing what he can to support this measure. I can assure the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield that the Government are not intimidated by anything they have heard to-night or on previous occasions. They do not in- 546 tend to shrink from the responsibility of passing this measure through Parliament. It has been said in tones of loud denunciation of the Bill that it is without principle and rests upon no basis. I ask leave to show that the principle of the Bill, so far as the borough franchise is concerned, is well defined. And I ask the House not to pronounce an opinion in accordance with a fanatical hostility exhibited against every clause, but if the principle of the Bill is correct to assist us in carrying it. When we hear that the Bill is without principle let me call attention to the fact that until the Reform Act passed, in 1832, a resident and rating franchise was the common franchise of the boroughs in England. The measure of 1832 was a disfranchising measure. ["Oh, oh!" from the Opposition.] I call it disfranchising, though of course it was also enfranchising, because it took away the right to vote from those who paid "scot and lot" which right they had previously exercised. Instead of these voters the Bill created others who held the franchise by virtue of the £10 house which they occupied, upon the condition that they paid the rates incident to that tenure. They recognised no inherent right in any man or in any woman to vote. It was a privilege conferred upon certain persons, which they must earn, not a right inherited from their birth. They could not exercise the franchise unless they had resided in the borough for which they claimed a vote a certain period, and had been rated to, and had paid, the assessed taxes.
It was in 1819 that, for the first time, an Act was passed which declared that the landlord should be rated instead of the tenant in certain cases. But when it passed, so tender was the Legislature in favour of those who had a right to vote by reason of their residence in a borough, that it was specially provided that the Act should not apply to cases when the right depended upon scot and lot. Therefore the Sturges Bourne's Act, as it was called, had no reference to this particular franchise. In 1832 the Reform Act passed. That measure enacted that any person who should occupy a House of the required rental within a borough should have the right to be rated. Bat he was required to make a claim to be rated to the relief of the poor in respect of the premises he occupied, whether the landlord was liable to be rated or not. Upon his making actual payment of such rates, or tendering the payment, he acquired the right to be 547 upon the rates. If the overseer should refuse to put him upon the book he had the right to vote notwithstanding. It was also provided that the landlord was not thereby freed from his liability to pay the rates in case the tenant should make default of payment. Now, what was the effect of those provisions? In cases where by local Acts the landlord was liable to be rated instead of the tenant, the latter was still empowered to go to the overseer and demand to be rated. If the overseer should neglect or refuse to do so, he was still to have the vote; but, in case he made default in the payment of the rates, the landlord would continue liable for their payment. Since the passing of the Reform Act, then, is it or is it not the case that the whole of the persons were thus "fined," to use the expression of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gladstone), for the exercise of the franchise? Is it not the case that from the year 1832 down to the present moment—at all events, for years after the passing of that Act—persons who asked to be rated, in cases where the landlords had previously compounded for the rates, have had to pay not the compounded but the full rate, and that there was no provision for their being recouped by the landlord at all? Therefore, what force is there in the argument of the right hon. Gentleman that the present Bill proposes to inflict this "fine," when, in point of fact, it has been imposed for years past? In order to make this clearer, I will refer to Sir William Clay's Act, passed in 1851. That Act recited the hardships which then existed on certain persons having to claim annually in order to get their names upon the register. Certain householders, desiring to exercise a vote, had been obliged to make what is called in the Act a "continual claim." From 1832 to 1851 they had been "fined," they had continued to pay the rate without the power of recoupment from the landlord. The Act of Sir William Clay, condemning this practice as "inconvenient" and "impracticable," enacted that persons who had once claimed to be rated in respect of premises they occupied were not to be required to renew their claim every year; but that their liability to pay the rates was to continue as long as they continued to occupy the premises or remained on the register. I am aware that there is a proviso in the Act of 1851, enacting that in cases where, by any composition with the 548 landlord, a less sum shall be payable than the full amount of rate, the occupier claiming to be rated shall not be bound to pay or tender more than the amount payable under the composition. But I ask my hon. and learned Friends opposite to point to any provision in this Act by which the landlord was compelled to recoup the tenant for the rates he thus paid in order to exercise the franchise. No doubt this was unjust, and the Acts embodying the injustice ought to be repealed; but I ask, how is it that no hon. or learned Gentleman opposite has ever come forward with the proposal to repeal it, until the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) finds it convenient to make this grievance one of the reasons for picking the Bill of the Government to pieces? And for that purpose the right hon. Gentleman brings the point forward as if the present Government were about for the first time to introduce the grievance, or as if, on account of it, the Bill deserved to be rejected by the House. Under Sturges Bourne's Act the landlord was allowed to be rated at a much less sum than the occupier; because by reason of his paying the rate he incurred a certain amount of risk and liability which he would not have incurred otherwise. The recital of that Act shows what was the grievance which had to be remedied. The grievance which existed was that by reason of some occupiers not paying the rate the other occupiers had more to pay. If, however, a person occupies a tenement, the rates on which were paid by the landlord, and if, for his own convenience, and for the purpose of exercising the privilege of voting, he desires to be rated, what reason is there why he should only pay the same composition as the landlord, who had not the same advantage for the payment as the tenant? There was a reason for exempting the landlord in some degree; but there can be no reason why an occupier, who desires to exercise the franchise, should not pay the full amount of the rates to which the tenement he occupies is liable, just as other occupiers are obliged to do.
I maintain, then, that the present Bill is founded upon a principle, which was well explained by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he asked for leave to introduce the measure. It has been said, and we believe, that a great number of the people desire to exercise the franchise who are now excluded from it. We believe, also, that they will exercise it fairly, honestly, and 549 intelligently. Therefore it is that the Government have, in the fulfilment of their duty, brought forward a measure in the hope of settling the question which has hitherto remained unsettled. They propose that every man, being a householder and residing in a borough, who desires to be rated, shall be rated; and when he is rated, or has paid his rates, or has shown that he is not a mere migratory nomad, but has resided for a certain time within the borough for which he claims, that he shall then be in a position to exercise the franchise. It cannot be the wish of any one that the man who is here to-day and gone to-morrow should have a vote. The Bill, therefore, wisely provides that a residence for a certain period shall be one of the requirements that must be fulfilled before the franchise is conferred. It also provides that the occupiers shall pay the impositions incident to the property he occupies. Is there anything unreasonable in this? It is an intelligible and well-founded principle. Then, if it be an intelligible and well-founded principle, we come to the next question—Can it be carried into effect by the provisions of this Bill? If there are provisions in this Bill which do not satisfy hon. Members that the principle can be carried out, then I ask them to devote as much time as they can to make it perfect for the purpose. But when I hear it said that the Bill as it stands, or as it will stand, can never by possibility carry that principle out, it appears to me that you mock the whole intelligence of the House of Commons, which, agreeing upon a principle, cannot find means to carry that principle out. I know it may be said there is a difficulty in carrying out that principle by reason of the Small Tenements Act. But those difficulties are much more imaginary than real. The Small Tenements Act which applies to this question is the Act which regards the rating of premises down to the limit of £10. Below that limit we have a class of cases between £10 and £6 which are not touched by any public Acts. When we get to £10 we have the Small Tenements Act, which was passed without reference to the franchise. The right hon. Gentleman says that if you pass this Bill you will place the tenant under the control of the vestries. I deny it. If you pass this Bill you can tell the tenants that they will have a right to be rated and to pay the rates, notwithstanding the Small 550 Tenements Act. They will have a right to do that which the £10 householders, by the 2 Will. IV., are entitled to do—namely, to go to the proper officer, and claim the franchise by paying the rate. Now, what has the overseer to do with that? He has nothing on earth to do with it. When I see this Bill so severely criticized, and hear it said that no proper provision is made to carry out this principle, let us turn to the enacting part of the Bill, and see whether this criticism is just. It says, "Every man"—by which I mean every male, not as the hon. Member (Mr. Stuart Mill) suggests it should be "every woman"—shall be entitled to be registered as a voter, and when registered to vote for a Member or Members to serve in Parliament for a borough who is qualified as follows, that is to say:—First, is of full age, and not subject to any legal incapacity. Second, is on the last day of July in any year, and has during the whole preceding two years, been an inhabitant, occupier, as owner or tenant, of any dwelling-house within the borough. Third, has during the term of such occupation been rated in respect of the premises so occupied by him within the borough to all rates (if any) made for the relief of the poor in respect of such premises; and fourth, has before the 20th day of July in the same year paid all poor rates that have become payable by him in respect of the said premises up to the preceding 5th day of January. Then I turn to the 34th clause, which tells such occupiers that they are precisely in the same position as the £10 householders who have possessed the franchise since 1832. We tell them that they may claim to be rated in the same manner and under the same conditions as the occupiers under the existing Act of Parliament. I maintain that this is a just and fair principle, notwithstanding Sir William Clay's Act which enacts that the occupier, in order to obtain the franchise, has only to pay the amount which the landlord heretofore paid under the composition. I say that this principle of the Bill is fairer than that of Sir William Clay's. Voters under the Reform Act were content to claim the franchise by paying the rates, though they were not recouped by their landlords. If the principle we contend for be right, we ask you to frame a clause in the most stringent way possible to carry it out. Frame it so as to prevent the danger of the exercise of any influence by the landlord; but do not 551 tell me that when the unenfranchised classes come forward and say we want to possess the privilege of voting, they will not take the trouble which the £10 householders have been in the habit of taking to possess the franchise under the Act of 2 Will. IV. So far as the claim itself is concerned the occupier will not be required to make continual applications, as has been suggested. They will be placed precisely in the same situation as the £10 householders under Sir William Clay's Act. They can make their claim once and for all, and can exercise the privilege without all that trouble which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) with immense ingenuity has imagined. I deal with the Bill before the House. I maintain that the provisions are just, fair, and reasonable.
I decline to discuss the question in reference to any other Bill which is not before the House. I do not know what the £6 rating would do. It was not in the Bill of last year. It is absurd to press such objections as we have heard against this measure, and to say, "Oh, if you bring forward another Bill we will be happy to support it." If Her Majesty's Government had proposed a Bill with a £6 rating franchise we should have been met with a series of other objections from hon. Members. They would have said, "Oh, that does not satisfy us. We should prefer household suffrage." If there be a sincere desire to pass a Bill of this character, surely it is better not to take objections upon those points to which I have referred. It is better not to suppose that the House of Commons is so weak in its powers of legislation, that even when they intend to confer the franchise on a householder of two years' residence who pays his rates, they are unable to frame a provision in the Bill which would carry out their object; and as I have shown to those who are desirous of obtaining the franchise, the amount of trouble it will cost them will not be greater than that imposed upon the £10 occupiers under the existing law. When it is said that under the present Bill they will have to pay the rates twice over, I deny that any such difficulty is thrown upon them. The evil will remedy itself. Under the Small Tenements Act the tenant agrees to let his landlord pay his rates on the condition that he pays a larger rent. If you pass this Bill a large class of electors will be added to the present 552 constituency, by the power which it gives them to obtain the franchise by the payment of the rates themselves, which the landlord has hitherto paid, the rent of course being reduced in proportion. It will be much more to the interest of the landlord to enter into this arrangement than to continue paying the composition rate. There will be two classes of tenants under this measure. The one class, who, deserving the franchise, will make new contracts with their landlords, and pay their own rates; the other, those who, not caring for the franchise, pay an increased rent in order that the landlord may pay their rates.
This is the whole history of the Bill, so far as the borough franchise is concerned. The ingenious arguments used by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) against the Bill are utterly inapplicable They do not even find favour with other hon. Gentlemen on his side of the House. This is a question of principle. It is not a question of difficulty, nor is there a "newfangled" principle in the Bill. The principle is as old as the Constitution itself. You have the principle laid down in the scot and lot voting. If you are really desirous of passing a measure of Reform, and say you cannot frame provisions to carry out your objects, then I say that the House of Commons will in effect be saying that they are unable to exercise their functions as legislators. That is the great attack which is made upon the Bill.
I pass by some of the fancy franchises, because nothing has been said against them. Then I come to the 6th clause, upon which some observations have been made. I need hardly comment on the £50 savings bank clause; because I find it was contained in the Bill of 1854, which was introduced on the responsibility of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone), and again in the Bill of 1866. It is therefore hardly possible that any objection will now be made to it.
I now come to that part of the clause upon which a great deal was said the other night, and which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bright) designated as the "rat-catcher's franchise." In order not to be outdone, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) described it on Monday night as the "three-legged £3 horse franchise," and said that a miserable jade of this kind might be passed round to 365 persons in the year, and by the transfer manufacture as many votes. I was surprised to hear that argument used; be- 553 cause in the Bill of 1852 I found a similar franchise, but of 40s. instead of 20s. This kind of franchise was again introduced in the Bill of 1854. I do not know what great difference there is in principle between a 40s. and a 20s. direct tax qualifition; because if one was a rat-catcher's franchise, or a three-legged, £3 miserable jade franchise, the other was also. But if any one had got up in 1854 and had made such a statement, he would have been told that he was adopting "a tone of levity upon a serious question." You cannot laugh a Bill out of the House. You must argue it out, and it cannot be done by mere ridicule.
The right hon. Gentleman says it is perfectly true that if we look through the Bills to which he has been an assenting party some things will be found of which he has since repented. But he says that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is merciless in making past errors suit present purposes, ought to have found out that these were fancy franchises, and were bad and new-fangled. I have heard they might be new, but that they must not be new-fangled. I was therefore curious to discover what was the distinction between them, and, on looking into a dictionary to ascertain the distinction between the two, what I found was this, that "new" meant "recently invented," and "new-fangled" meant "newly found out." The apology for these new fancy franchises I found in a small blue book. One would have thought that during the last Session the right hon. Gentlemen would have warned us to avoid these franchises. But the right hon. Gentleman then said he would briefly allude to those franchises which were new to the Constitution, distinct from tenure and occupation, but which had sometimes been pilloried with scoffing and irreverent names, but which might be called special or bye-franchises. A number of them he said were proposed by Lord Aberdeen's Government in 1854, and again in 1859. So far as the Bill of 1854 was concerned, the right hon. Gentleman said that many of those who formed the then Government were responsible for it. The right hon. Gentleman added—
We have considered very carefully the nature of those franchises, and the numerous considerations that bear on the policy of their introduction, and we have come to the conclusion that they are not suitable or adequate as a general basis for extending the franchise; at best they are only auxiliary, and while they do not admit 554 any large number, they have a great tendency to complicate the system, and thereby to multiply and increase expense, already very heavy.["Hear, hear!" from the Opposition.] I am much obliged to hon. Gentlemen for their "Hear, hears;" but if, instead of arguing against the present Bill as the right hon. Gentleman has done, he had said it was unworkable, as he did in reference to the same subject in 1866, I could have understood him; but I cannot understand the right hon. Gentleman's objection that the clause is a three-legged £3 horse clause. Now, when the right hon. Gentleman tells us that the franchise which he proposed in 1854 and in 1859 was withdrawn, because it was found to be so unworkable, so wretched, and so unsuitable to the times, that it was not to be introduced in a subsequent Bill, we ought to expect some warning against its adoption. But I do not find in the right hon. Gentleman's speeches of last year that any of these predictions that these franchises would lead to bribery and the manufacture of faggot votes, were then put forward; but only that they were inconvenient, and would not add a large number to the franchise. I have already said that I assume you are legislating for a large body of the unenfranchised classes who honestly wish to exercise it; and if the Government frame a Bill for that purpose, it is no answer to its provisions to say that those who desire the franchise will commit the grossest possible corruption and bribery. It does not apply to the new franchise only, but to every other class of franchise. If men wish to be corrupted they will find men ready to corrupt them; and if a man wants his rates to be paid, he will find an electioneering agent ready to do so. We do not legislate for such persons, but for those who honestly desire to obtain the franchise and honestly exercise it. If an election agent should hereafter act upon the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman with reference to the transfer 365 times of a three-legged horse, with a 20s. tax, he would be liable to the penalties of the law, and if found out he would have to stand in a criminal dock on the ground that he had committed a misdemeanour in acting contrary to the provisions of the Bribery Act.
I now come to the question of duality of voting. It is argued against on the ground that it will set class against class, and light a flame throughout the length and breadth of the land which will never be extin- 555 guished. Another argument is that you will have a class of Dives and a class of Lazarus, and that this will never be allowed. But I adopt the argument of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Gathorne Hardy):—"Is it more disagreeable to be excluded altogether, or to be included with others who are to have a second vote?" I should have thought it more disagreeable or worse to be excluded altogether. There is an axiom that half a loaf is better than no bread. Is it the first time that persons have been told in this country that they are unfit to exercise the franchise, and that it should be taken from them? By the first great disfranchising statute of Henry VI., some freeholders, who theretofore had the right of voting, were told that they should no further exercise that right because their voices were not equal to those knights and esquires, who were entitled to vote for knights of the shire. The statute of Henry VI. disfranchised certain classes of voters, and yet there was no flame created throughout the length and breadth of the land. It was the first Act which gave to 40s. freeholders only the right to vote in counties, which continued to the Reform Act. Then as to plurality of voting. It should be remembered that Sturges Bourne's Act enabled persons to vote in parish meetings according to the value of their property, some persons having as many as six votes, so that while one man has only one vote, others have six. That Act has been in operation some years, and has not created any flame in the country or excited any war of classes. I admit that duality of voting has never yet been tried; but before you can say that it is wrong the beginning to the end, you should at least state your reasons for coming to such a conclusion. The hon. Member for Malden likened the dual voting to Dives and Lazarus. Let us examine into this point a little. It is proposed by the Bill to give the dual vote to a man who occupies a house, who pays his rates, and who pays 20s. per annum in direct taxes. Well, this man living in a small house is Dives, while the man who lives next door to him in a house of £50 per annum, but who pays no direct taxes, is Lazarus, and the latter is the man who, we are told, is going to bring the country to the verge of a revolution because his neighbour has a dual vote.
You have now before you the Bill, which has been brought before you honestly and fairly, for the purpose of settling this 556 long-vexed question of Reform. Ingenious arguments may, and doubtless will, be raised against it; but I think you will find, upon examination, those arguments to be more ingenious than solid. I ask hon. Members to take the Bill into their hands and to examine it carefully; but I ask that the same measure of justice that was asked at the hands of the House of Commons last year by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, may be accorded to us. I would use the language of the right hon. Gentleman himself, when he said that the interest in the successful solution of this question was an interest common to the whole House of Commons, and to every party and section of a party within its walls. Therefore I think that hon. Members, instead of meeting the Bill with implacable hostility, should co-operate with us in our endeavours to bring to a successful solution this most difficult problem. We have asked you to accede to the principle that a person who occupies a house for a certain length of time, and who pays his poor rates, shall be entitled to be admitted to exercise the franchise. If you accede to that principle, we further ask you to aid us in carrying that principle into practice. In so doing you will earn the thanks of the country, and will settle the question of Reform upon a sound, permanent, and constitutional basis.
§ MR. A. PEEL
said, he was glad to find that, instead of discussing vague Resolutions that might mean anything or nothing, the House was now considering the debate of a Bill that was supported by the authority of a responsible Ministry. The problem before the House was how they were to admit to the franchise large classes who were now excluded, and who, if not admitted, might become hostile to the Constitution, and how they were to admit them without impairing the due representation in Parliament of the other classes of the country. In his opinion the Bill of 1866 effected that change most admirably by admitting the industrial element. He was aware it was said that that Bill was drawn up on no principle. The great feature of the present Bill was that it claimed a monopoly of principle, and it was asserted that while the former Bill rested upon the shifting quicksand of a figure, this was based on the firm rock of an unchangeable principle. Since the Act of 1832 the representation of the people had been in the hands of the upper and middle classes of the country, and 557 what was now required was a measure which should admit the humbler classes to a fair share of power in the representation. With regard to the principle of the ratepaying qualification, he might observe that that qualification was adopted in the Reform Act of 1832 for the purpose of identifying the bonâ.fide occupier, and not as a proof by itself of his fitness for the franchise. But if there were a principle was it not a shifting one. In fifty-eight boroughs the Small Tenements Act was entirely in force; in ninety-eight it was partly in force; in forty it was not in force at till. With regard to the dual vote, he thought it would only be desirable as a check in the event of universal suffrage being adopted. It would be very invidious, moreover, for persons to be ticketed as inferior and degraded voters by being allowed only half the electoral power of those a little above them in social rank. Another proposal to which he objected was the requiring a longer term of residence for the poorer class, for this would operate very unjustly on the most skilled and industrious working men. These were more migratory than others; because, instead of remaining in a particular place, they carried their labour to the best market. With regard to rating and rental, he maintained that the gross rent which a man paid was the best criterion of his position and qualifications, and he should have preferred a £5 rental franchise. As the House had been warned off that so-called dangerous ground, he thought a settlement might be found in a modification of the Small Tenements Act, and in the definition and demarcation of compound-householders—compounding being limited to £5 and under, while all occupiers above that sum should have the franchise. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in that most readable volume which he had recently published, which contained a collection of his speeches, had pointed out the various phases which a question went through in this country. At first the opinion or crotchet of an individual, it gradually enlisted supporters and became a public question. In time it became a Parliamentary question; and then, being taken up by the Government of the day, it became a Ministerial question. There seemed a danger at one time of Reform becoming an open question; but a Bill had now happily been framed on the responsibility of the Government, and he hoped that they would hereafter be able to look back on the 558 present Session as the period when this long-pending question was settled, and the representation of the people placed on a surer because broader basis.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he hoped that the debate might be taken to-morrow. The hon. and gallant Member for Sussex (Colonel Barttelot) had a Notice on the Paper; but he trusted, under the circumstances, that he and the other Members who had Notices of Motion would give way.
§ COLONEL BARTTELOT
said, though it was difficult for a private Member to get a day for bringing forward any Motion he might have to make, yet when so important a question as that which they had been discussing was before them he had no hesitation in saying that he, for one, should not stand in the way of the renewal of the debate to-morrow.
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow.