§ MR. RICHARD
, * pursuant to notice, rose to call the attention of the House to the proceedings of certain landlords in Wales towards their tenants on account of the free exercise of their Franchise at the last Election. He had a large number of Petitions which he begged to present, complaining of oppressions practised by the landlords, and asking redress from the House. He had not taken this course on his own judgment alone. Six weeks or two months ago there was a meeting of the Liberal Members for the Principality, convened 1295 by his hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, at which, after hearing the facts which it would be his duty to state to the House, a Resolution was adopted that the subject should be brought before Parliament at the earliest possible moment. It was no pleasure to him to discharge this duty. On the contrary, he could say with the utmost sincerity that it pained him deeply to have to call in question in this public manner the conduct of any portion of his countrymen, however widely they might differ from him in his political views. But things had come to such a pass in the Principality of Wales since the last election, that he felt it incumbent on him, in the interests not only of justice and the freedom of election, but of public order and tranquility, to try to put a check upon practices which, if not checked, must exercise a most prejudicial influence on the public peace and the good understanding which ought to exist between the various classes of society in the country. He would endeavour to explain in a few sentences the real political condition and circumstances of Wales, and he might, at any rate, urge this plea in claiming the indulgence of the House, that Wales had not often intruded itself on their attention; for whilst there had been discussions on English, Irish, and Scotch questions in abundance, both in this Session and in many others, no question relating to Wales had occupied the attention of Parliament, so far as he knew, within the memory of man. The inhabitants of the Principality were thorough Liberals in their political principles, and he need only adduce in support of that assertion two facts—first, the character of the religion they professed; and, secondly, the nature of the political literature which they encouraged. The Welsh might be described as a nation of Nonconformists; and, certainly, the bitterest hater of Dissent that ever lived, if he knew the circumstances under which they became so, could hardly find in his heart to censure them very severely, unless, indeed, he were of opinion that utter ignorance, irreligion, and immorality were evils less than dissent from any system of ecclesiasticism which might happen to have been established in a country. But, being Nonconformists in religion, they were by necessary consequence Liberals in poli- 1296 tics, for a Dissenting Tory was a kind of lusus natureœ which was seldom or never met with. But it was not Nonconformists alone who were Liberals. He was happy to say that in Wales, as in all other parts of the kingdom, some of the truest and staunchest advocates of Liberal principles and policy were to be found amongst the members of the Church of England. But between Liberal Churchmen and Dissenters there was an overwhelming majority of the people who were Liberals in their political principles. The second fact he would adduce was the character of the literature circulating among the people. The Welsh had a large literature in their own language; nine newspapers were published in it, all of them advocating Liberal principles, with the exception of one which called itself Conservative-Liberal, which had a very small circulation, and was sustained by subsidies from the Welsh landowners. There were, besides, sixteen other periodicals, all supported by the Nonconformists, which, so far as they had any politics at all, were Liberal. In confirmation of this, he might refer to the report of a meeting held at Bangor last January, under the presidency of the Bishop of the diocese, with the object of promoting the interests of the Established Church in Wales by providing more churches and curates, and—as the circular convening the meeting expressed it—by establishing a newspaper in the Welsh language, on sound Church of England principles; at which Mr. Robert Isaac Jones stated that he had ten years before started a Welsh Conservative paper, but in six months he found it would be impossible to get the country to read it. An impression prevailed in England, which some landowners in Wales were willing enough to encourage, that the people had a sort of blind feudal attachment to the lords of the soil, whose lead they were prepared to follow in political matters without inquiry. There could not be a greater delusion. In a former age, no doubt, they took part in political contests less like citizens contending for their rights than clansmen battling for their chieftains. That time was past. Feudalism was dead in Wales, as it was everywhere else. Education and political intelligence had spread among the people; but that was precisely what certain classes of the Welsh landlords could 1297 not or would not understand. They would not understand that they were no longer lords over serfs of the soil, or chiefs among clansmen, but men among men, with certain advantages of wealth, station, and superior education; but surrounded by an intelligent, improving, reading, and reasoning population, who could be guided and influenced only by an appeal to their understandings and consciences, and not by feudal and social coercion. At the last election there was unusual excitement in Wales, principally owing to the fact that the political education of the people had been gradually advancing, so that a much larger number had begun to look with interest upon public questions; and, secondly, because there was then a question before the public in which it was possible to feel a deep and real interest, and behind that question a man in whose sincerity and earnestness it was possible to feel confidence. Both parties prepared themselves for the conflict—on the one side a Liberal and Nonconforming population, and on the other side the Church and Conservative landowners. The battle was fought vigorously, and he should not have had one word to say about it, except to express his satisfaction at the result, were it not that some Conservative landlords during and since the election had pursued a course, the tendency of which was to destroy all freedom of election, and to reduce the people to complete political serfdom. He wished, however, to guard himself against being supposed to bring a sweeping and indiscriminate charge against all the Conservative landlords of the Principality. Par from this, some of them had acted with the most honourable impartiality, and not only did not attempt to coerce the votes of their tenants, but took measures to let them know that they were at perfect liberty to exercise their votes according to their conscience. He would go further and say that some of those of whose conduct he complained were, apart from the evil spirit of party, amiable and kind-hearted gentlemen, accustomed to act considerately and liberally towards their tenants. But, unfortunately, they were afflicted with the monomania of believing that the franchise which the law conferred on persons belonged to the land. They looked on the vote apparently as coming within the operation of the Game Laws, 1298 something like a pheasant or a hare, which nobody was to dare to touch unless they gave permission; and if any one presumed to canvass their farmers he had no doubt they looked upon, and would like to treat him as a poacher. With this conception of the divine right of landlordism, the House would not be surprised to find that they conducted themselves in a very high-handed fashion at the last election. He would read an extract of a letter sent to him within the last few days in reference to one of the landlords of Cardiganshire. This letter stated that—Soon after the two candidates announced themselves, all the tenants on the Nanteos estate within the neighbourhood for some miles round received notice to appear on a certain day at Nanteos, which they did, all with the exception of my informant, who was well aware of the object in view. The tenants were there and then pressed hard to promise their vote to the Tory candidate. I do not know whether any threats were held out then or not, but they were sorely pressed, and with one or two exceptions they gave in. The following day my informant was working in the farmyard, and Captain Phelps, a relation of Colonel Powell, and his principal agent, happened to pass, and he cried out—'Very well, old fellow, I'll bear you in mind again after this,' alluding to my informant's absence from the meeting on the preceding day. He has had notice to quit, after being in occupation for many years.'He was sorry to have to say anything of Colonel Powell, who had sat in the House for many years as Member for Cardiganshire; but he had been more severe than any of that county, and all on his estate who had voted for the wrong candidate had received notice to quit. He had a letter, sent by the agent of another landlord to a tenant before the election, dated "Derry Ormond, Friday"—Sir,—I am given to understand that you and Mr. Oliver as (sic) been about selecting votes for Mr. Richard among the Derry Ormond tenants. What business hare you to interfeer (sic) with the tenants on the Derry Estate, and I trust you won't do so again. But mind your own business. If not, I will mind you before the 24th of next March. I am now desired to tell you, from Mr. Jones, that he expects you to vote at the coming election for his cousin Mr. E. M. Vaughan, and if you refuses (sic) to do so, you will have to leave and all others that refuse to vote according to Mr. Jones's wish.—Sir, yours truly,W. COTTRELLTo Mr. Rees Jones, Voilallt Factory, Lland-dewibrefi.This tenant, in spite of the threat, dared to vote in favour of the hon. Gentleman now Member for Cardiganshire, who then sat behind him, and, in consequence, he had received notice to quit 1299 his holding. He had been offered to have his holding back on payment of £10 a year additional rent, and giving a written guarantee that, for the future, he would vote for his landlord. He had another letter from a landlord, who owned several farms in Carmarthenshire, who, before the election, sent round to his tenants a gentleman named Bowcott, to desire that they would vote for the Conservative candidates. These tenants being Dissenters and Liberals, addressed a memorial to their landlord, asking, in the most respectful terms, that they might have permission to vote according to their consciences. To this the landlord replied, under date, November 20, 1868—I received a memorial yesterday, by post, with the names of my tenants, in Carmarthenshire, attached to it. Tours being the first in the list, I shall address my reply to you, and request you will make known its contents to those hereafter named. I cannot allow it to pass without remarking upon it, and first of all I must express my surprise at your making any difficulty in complying with my request conveyed by Mr. Bowcott, who was authorized by me to ask you to vote for Messrs. Jones and Puxley. As I am better acquainted with you, from seeing more of you, than I am with my other tenants, and from all you have professed for me, I feel surprised you should not have set a better example. Many, if not all my tenants, have lived with me for many years, and upon terms of confidence and good-will; and the continuance of such good understanding ought to be the aim as long as the connection between landlord and tenant continues. The severance of such good feeling, I fear, is the object of teachers who mislead them. As I said before, it is not desirable that a breach of confidence should take place where none existed before. I rarely, if ever, asked you, or either of you, to do anything for me; and as circumstances, from time of life, may prevent my ever asking you again a similar request, and as you well know my wishes, I certainly expect you will vote with me for those gentlemen.—I am your well wisher,C. R. LONGCROFT.To John Jones, E. Williams, and the other tenants.The memorial was signed by six tenants, several of whom had been accustomed previously to attend the meetings of the present Member for Carmarthenshire— who sits on this side of the House—but after the receipt of the reply five of them voted for the Conservative and one for the Liberal candidate, this last having since received notice to quit. He had also a conversation between the same landlord and one of his tenants, John Davies, who attested the statement with Ms signature. The statement was as follows:— 1300'Mr. Longcroft: Will you give your vote to Mr. Vaughan?—J. D.: I don't intend voting for anyone. I intend being neuter—I am a quiet man.—Mr. L.: Then, John, if you want to be a quiet man all your life, so far as I am concerned, give me your vote.—J. D.: I can't, sir.—Mr. L.: Then you prefer Mr. Richards to me.—J. D.: You don't state the case fairly, sir. It's not you and Mr. R., but Mr. Vaughan and Mr. R.—Mr. L.: Is it not I that gave you your vote, John?— J. D.: Yes, sir; but if you didn't, maybe I might have had it from some one else.—Mr. L.: Well, you will not give me your vote?—J. D.: I can't, sir.—Mr. L.: Then, John, you will have no vote again as my tenant.'I testify that the above is a correct statement of the conversation which took place between Mr. Longcroft and myself concerning the vote. I made the above known at the time to some of my friends.(Signed) JOHN DAVIES.He had also a letter of another Welsh landlord—a clergyman in Somerset; and as this rev. gentleman had appended his name to his letter, and published it in the newspapers, there was no harm in saying that it was G. R. Bishop, and that he held an estate in Carmarthenshire. On that estate there was a Methodist chapel, built probably by an ancestor of Mr. Bishop; but when it was known that the now hon. Member for Carmarthenshire was coming out as a candidate, Mr. Bishop sent to the trustees of the chapel a letter, in which he said—If Mr. Sartoris will come forward and announce to a constituency that has for a quarter-of-a-century returned none but Conservatives, that he will be the follower of a man who, while he extends his right hand to Archbishop Cullen, gives his left to Mr. Miall, to be drawn anywhere, places his body in a mud bath, and takes what the Saturday Review calls a dose of Finlen; if, after such inconsistencies and abject flunkeyism, for the sole purpose of being raised to an eminence from whence, in spite of his great talents and appearance of intellect, I believe he would still be unable to contemplate his own position with calm judgment and discretion; if, after that, he will be his follower, and go to the poll and win, then all I can say is, that I shall be heartily ashamed of my own native county. However, I have something further to say of a personal nature to you who are the trustees and members of the Dissenting chapel that was built upon my land as far back as nearly three-quarters of a century, under a lease of ninety-nine years, at a nominal rent of 7s. a year. Now, would you not think it very hard, if, at the expiration of that lease, I, or my next representative, would decline to renew it? And would you not consider it, moreover, a sacrilege on our part, if we proceeded to dismantle the walls of the buildings and the court-yard wherein—unless my memory fails me—I saw some tablets to the memory of your dead? Being a minister of the Church of England, and whose duty it is to defend the existence of my Church, as much as 1301 her doctrines and her formularies, I ask you not to shoot your arrows at my Church by voting for Mr. Sartoris. Learn from this to do to others what you would wish to be done by. Behold! am willing to place in your hands the scales of justice, and to say—' Whatsoever measure ye shall mete, the same shall be measured to you again.'But the dénouement of this ease was rather curious. The rev. gentleman in his haste, or acting under extreme excitement, had misread the terms of his lease; for when the poor people to whom this letter was addressed, examined the instrument, they found it was a lease not for ninety-nine years, but for 999 years—before the expiry of which it might be fairly assumed that the rev. gentleman would have passed into a pleasanter country, let us hope than even Somersetshire, from which he thought he would look back without much complacency upon the attempt he had made to coerce the consciences of his fellow-Christians. The effects of these proceedings was that hundreds of the people were compelled to vote contrary to their convictions. He himself had been down in Cardiganshire during the elections, where he was well-known from his birth, and where, in consequence, the people had opened their hearts to him, and the impression left on his mind, from all he had heard and seen there, was that an amount of mental anguish had been endured at that time which it was difficult to measure. These men were intelligent, conscientious, religious men, who knew the importance and responsibility of the duty that devolved upon them as voters, and their convictions being decidedly Liberal, they were nevertheless dragged to the poll, some of them strong, stalwart men, with tears in their eyes. ["Oh, oh!" and, laughter.] He was sorry that hon. Members on the opposite side found food for laughter in this. What had been done since the elections? Two or three months ago his hon. Friend the Member for Cardiganshire and himself began to receive letters from that county, and other Members received similar communications, speaking of the course taken by the landowners in giving notice to their tenants. One of them wrote—We are in as great a want of tenant law in Wales as they are in Ireland. Last week notices to quit fell upon the people of this county—Cardiganshire— and that of Carmarthenshire like a shower of hailstones. Nearly every Tory landlord in the county served those of their tenants who voted with the Liberals or remained neuter 1302 with a notice to quit their holdings on the 29th of September next.Another correspondent near the same date writes also from Cardiganshire—All the independent tenant-farmers about here who voted against their landlords have received notices to quit, and there is no doubt the understanding is general between the landlords of the county from one end to the other. They may not turn them out, but they will advance their rents to such a pitch that they cannot pay their way, and unless the ballot is obtained before there is another General Election, I don't know what is to become of the Liberal cause in Wales.…. There are petty revenges wreaked on the heads of poor alms-receiving old women for having dared to shout "Richards for ever.He was anxious to state, that when the communications to which he had alluded had been received by his hon. Friend and himself, they had taken great pains to investigate the cases that had been brought under their notice. They had prepared a schedule of questions asking for information on all the important points involved, such as the names of the tenants, the names of their farms; how long they had been in occupation of their farms; the names of their landlords; whether any arrears of rent remained due; whether any reason had been assigned for giving them notice to quit, except the way in which they had voted; to what religious denomination they belonged, &c. He had received accurate answers to these inquiries; and he held now in his hand the result, in a tabulated form, from which it appeared that there were forty-three cases in Cardiganshire, in which it had been ascertained, upon evidence which must satisfy any impartial mind, that all these men had received notices to quit, served upon them for no other cause whatever but that they had voted according to their consciences. He had twenty-six similar cases from Carmarthenshire, some of which were of a most touching and heartrending character. Many of the farmers had been long on the estate, and some of their families had been in possession of the farms for 200 years; but when they asked the agent to withdraw the notice, he said—"No; you thought it your duty to vote against your landlord, and you must go to your friends for farms." He found among these cases, that of a farmer who, seven years ago, had to leave another farm he held under the well-known Miss Morris, a lady who, acting notoriously under clerical instigation, sent notice to her 1303 tenants that unless they attended her church they must give up their holdings. This man was a father of eight or nine children, and as he had suffered great loss much sympathy was felt with him. Another case was that of Caleb Morris, a man with ten children, who had notice to quit. He besought his landlord's agent to let him retain the farm, but was met with a refusal, and the disappointment so weighed upon his mind that he died. After his death his widow, thinking her forlorn condition and her ten children would awake sympathy, renewed the application, but the landlord would have no word to speak to her. He had also a letter from the gentleman who was sent to make inquiries and receive statements from the lips of the sufferers themselves—The expulsion of a large number of Liberal tenant-farmers from their holdings for voting in opposition to the dictates of their landlords is also a matter of scandal and notoriety. Indeed, it is heartrending to witness, as I have witnessed, the agonizing emotions of families at the thought of having to leave the homes of their childhood, rendered dear and sacred to them on account of old family recollections. Some of these families had dwelt upon their farms for centuries, and are now, like the Pilgrim Fathers, about to seek a home in a foreign country, where they may obtain the political and religious freedom which is denied them in their Fatherland. On several occasions I was told by a weeping wife it was very wrong of the Legislature to induce her husband to believe that the vote for a Member of Parliament was his own and not his landlord's; for, under that impression, he had voted according to his conscience, and, as he thought, for the good of the community, and thereby incurred the displeasure of his landlord, and was under a notice to quit. And not only do these innocent men suffer by the outrages upon their most sacred feelings, but they are absolutely robbed, and I fear, in some instances, ruined, by tyrannies practised by their unscrupulous landlords; I know of many instances where the poor farmer had worked, and laid out for the improvement of his farm sums between £200 and £600, under the impression, and with the full belief, that he would have to remain there and enjoy the fruit of his labour. But in this he was mistaken; for, having unfortunately dared to vote for the Liberal candidate, he gave mortal offence to his Tory landlord, and this was enough to for ever sever the connection between them, no matter how long or how intimate that connection may have been. The tenant must leave his farm, or have his rent advanced, so as to make him sensible of the danger of exercising his political judgment in opposition to his landlord. I sincerely trust, Sir, you will endeavour to impress upon Parliament the necessity of bringing in a Bill to withdraw the votes ironically, under the present circumstances, said to have been given these tenant-farmers, by the late Reform Bill, or a Bill legalizing the Ballot.1304 The great hardship and injustice existing in Wales consisted in the fact that there was no law, or agreement, or custom, which would enable the tenants to obtain any adequate compensation for the improvements they effected in land. The result was that after being engaged in the cultivation of the soil for, in some cases, thirty and forty years, and after having buried their industry and capital in that land, they might be sent away at any time without having any claim for the money they had invested and the improvements they had made in the land they so long possessed. To turn a man out of his holding after so many years' possession for nothing but political reasons was, in his opinion, not alone oppression, but flagrant robbery. He considered the course pursued by those Welsh landlords was both highly reprehensible and foolish. If the object of those landlords was to keep in cheek Liberalism, surely the means taken by those persons were neither right nor likely to succeed. If they imagined they could change the political opinions of the people of Wales by this system of oppression he believed that they would find themselves much mistaken. The contrary had been the effect, as one of his correspondents stated in these words—In my opinion there has never been a, time in our history when the upper classes and the members of the Church of England were so unpopular in Wales as at present,For they had contrived to make it a question between Church and Dissent, as well as between landlord and tenant, as he found that out of the sixty-nine cases in Cardiganshire and Carmarthenshire that had been inquired into, all the landlords who served the notice were Churchmen, and, with one solitary exception, all the tenants who received the notices were Nonconformists. He believed these landlords were pursuing an insane and suicidal policy, inasmuch as they were setting themselves against the feeling of the whole country. There was an old Welsh proverb, the meaning of which they should understand, if they knew no other fragment of the language of the people among whom they lived. It said—and it was the only bit of Welsh to which he would treat the House—"Trech gwlad nag Arglwydd"— which means, being interpreted—and perhaps, it may have a wider applica- 1305 tion than to Welsh landlords—"A country is stronger than a lord." There was only one additional remark he had to make upon the communications he had read to the House. It was his pleasure and pride—as it was the pleasure and pride of all who sat in that House for Wales—to know that they represented a country which was less stained with the guilt of serious crime than any part of the United Kingdom. Maiden assizes were by no means uncommon occurrences in some Welsh counties, and notably so in regard to this very county of Cardigan, where the system he had been denouncing to-night had been most extensively carried out. Lord Chief Justice Bovill, who visited North Wales last year as Judge of Assize, expressed his delighted astonishment at the almost total absence of crime, by the remark that, so far as the natives of the Principality were concerned, there seemed scarcely any necessity for Her Majesty's Judges to visit their country at all. But if the wholesale notices that had been given were to be followed by wholesale eviction, he hoped—devoutly and earnestly hoped—that the people would remain the same quiet, orderly people that they had proved themselves up to the present. He would use whatever influence he possessed over his countrymen to induce them to be so. But when gross wrong was inflicted in the name of law, for which they had no redress, they were putting fearful temptation in the way of the people, and if any outbreak of resentment were to take place, who, he would ask, would be to blame? He would leave it to the good sense and wisdom of the House to reply to the question. He was aware that an attempt had been made to establish a sort of counter-charge by alleging that unfair and undue influence had been exercised on the other side by Nonconformist congregations and ministers. An hon. Gentleman opposite had undertaken, on a former occasion, to give the House some information respecting the character and condition of Dissenting churches in Wales, of which he knew about as much as he does of the inhabitants of the moon. He told the House there was no religious freedom in Wales; that if any man voted contrary to the opinion of the majority of the congregation he was immediately sent to Coventry—a power, he said, which was largely exercised at 1306 the last election. He was happy to have this opportunity to give that allegation of the hon. Gentleman the most absolute and unqualified denial. There was not the shadow of a foundation for it. The hon. Gentleman who had made the charge might have known, if he had thought fit to inquire—and he denied the right of any man to drag large and respectable bodies of his countrymen before this House, in order to brand them with dishonouring accusations, without first inquiring whether there was any foundation for them, and he had not made those inquiries. He would have found that the great Dissenting bodies of Wales had contradicted those accusations in the most indignant and emphatic terms that language could supply, and had challenged their accusers—a challenge which he then repeated in their name—to produce a single well-authenticated case from Cardiff to Holyhead, where the member of a Dissenting church in Wales had been expelled from his membership, or been deprived of any office he held in that community, or been subjected to ecclesiastical censure or discipline of any kind on account of the vote he gave at the last election. He would advert to another statement made by the same hon. Gentleman, that none were admitted to Welsh Dissenting churches except on the payment of money. A more absurd charge never fell from human lips. There were between 3,000 and 4,000 Nonconformist churches in England and Wales, and he would dare to affirm that there was not one among them in which a money qualification was a condition of membership. There were many of the poorest of the people who paid nothing, but were, on the contrary, helped by the charity of their brethren, but who were none the less welcome to whatever privileges the society had to confer. But then, they were told, that in some inexplicable fashion, Dissenting ministers had been coercing the members of their congregation. It was amusing to observe the widely different characters in which Dissenting ministers were made to figure according to the exigencies of political controversy. When it was thought necessary to decry the voluntary principle, that principle by which—as the hon. and learned Member for Richmond stated in his great speech on the second reading of the Irish Church Bill—Christianity conquered the world, but 1307 which had fallen into such utter disrepute in the estimation of modern Christians, that they could scarcely find language strong enough to express how much they distrusted and despised it—when he said it was thought necessary to decry the the voluntary principle, then the Dissenting minister was a mere slave, held in such abject submission to the opinions, and even to the whims and caprices of his congregation, that he dared not speak out the truth that was in him. But when it was found necessary to utter recriminations against those who complained of landlord tyranny, then the slave westerns formed into the most absolute of despots, who held his people in such thrall that they dared not call their souls their own. But surely the same man could not be a slave and a despot at the same moment under precisely the same relation; the fact being that he is neither the one nor the other, but simply the chosen religious teacher of a certain number of persons, between whom and himself there exists no relation but what is purely voluntary, and which may be dissolved at any time at the will of either. He did not deny that Dissenting ministers had taken a very active and earnest part at the last election. And why not? Indeed it appeared to him that there was a little insincerity amongst them all round on the subject of clerical and ministerial interference in politics. He had heard clergymen of the Church of England censured for the active part they had taken in the last election. He must say he thought such censure wholly unreasonable. Considering how nearly and vitally the question before the country concerned them, they would have been more or less than men if they had not thrown themselves earnestly into the contest. But then, while hon. Gentlemen opposite found no fault with the vehement vigour with which the "drum ecclesiastic" was beaten on their behalf in Lancashire and elsewhere, when anything was said of Dissenting ministers or Catholic priests meddling in politics, they turned up the white of their eyes in sanctimonious disgust at such awful profanation of the sacred office. It seemed to him, he confessed, an unworthy and ignoble conception of the Christian ministry, which assumed that the man who entered it lost his rights, or was absolved from his obligations as the citizen of a free State. That was not the way he had learnt what 1308 Christianity exacted of us. If there was in politics something unhallowed or unclean, which a man of saintly profession could not touch without injuring his spiritual nature, then in what a nice case they all must be in that House. But, in conclusion, he must thank the House for the kind indulgence with which it had listened to him while endeavouring to lift his voice on behalf of his poor oppressed countrymen. He knew these men well. He knew some of the actual victims personally. He had known the class to which they belonged long and intimately, and he dared to say that a more quiet, honest, industrious class was not to be found in any part of the United Kingdom. He knew how by ceaseless toil, and honourably pursued from early morn to dewy eve, they extracted a scanty subsistence from an ungenial soil, rendered to them still more ungenial by the conditions under which, for political reasons, they were obliged to cultivate it. He knew how amid all this hard labour they nevertheless devoted no inconsiderable portion of their time and exertions, and scanty means, to diffuse education among their still poorer countrymen, and to support the religious institutions that were dear to their hearts. And, knowing all this, said the hon. Member, my bosom swells with sorrow and indignation, when I find such men trampled under foot by these little tyrants of the field. I invoke the sympathy and protection of this House on their behalf. It is not much they ask of you. They only ask that you will not permit the franchise you have bestowed upon them to be converted into an instrument of torture for their consciences, and into the means of oppression and ruin to them in their worldly circumstances. In a word, they ask that, as respects the rights you have given them, or rather the duty you have devolved upon them, and the importance and responsibility of which they feel, they shall be permitted to discharge that duty fearlessly and independently, as the free citizens of a free State. He begged to move the Resolution of which he had given notice.
MR. G. O. MORGAN
* In rising, Sir, to second the Motion of my hon. Friend, I trust I need offer no apology to the House for the course which we have thought it right to take in bringing this matter before it, for, notwithstanding the sneers of hon. Gentlemen opposite, I 1309 dare to affirm that this House cannot be more legitimately—aye, or more usefully occupied, than in guarding the purity of the sources from which it draws its own existence. But it may be asked what is there to distinguish the case of these Welsh farmers from other cases of electoral intimidation which have from time to time been brought before Election Committees of the House, or before the Judges appointed to try Election Petitions, but have never been made the subject of comment or animadversion in this House? Sir, I think my hon. Friend, in his admirable speech, has shown that the grievances which he has brought forward are not only exceptional from their gravity, but unique in their circumstances. I have often heard it said, and for aught I know it may be true, that in the districts of England which correspond to the districts of Wales to which my hon. Friend has referred—that is to say, the agricultural districts, cases of coercion by landlords are comparatively rare—and for a very good reason. There is no necessity for it. The tenant, as a general rule, has, or thinks he has, the same interests as his landlord, and his political leanings, if he has any, are the same also. Therefore, he is ready to follow without being forced. But when you cross the borders of Wales you are met by an entirely different state of things. The landlord is very often an Englishman—the tenant is almost always a Welshman—the landlord almost always speaks English—the tenant always speaks Welsh—the landlord almost always goes to church— the tenant almost always goes to chapel. When you add to this that there is in those districts in Wales no middle class, such as there is in England, to break the sharpness of the fall between the great landlord-proprietor and the poor tenant-farmer, you have enough, I think, to account for a certain divergence in sympathies and interest which exists to a greater extent in Wales than in England, between the class which owns the soil and the class which cultivates it. But I will not pause to inquire into causes, I will take things as I find them. Of this I am sure, that while nine out of ten of the Welsh landlords are Conservatives, ninety-nine out of 100 of the Welsh farmers are Liberals. Now, there was a time when, strange to say, this anomalous state of things was without 1310 any practical effect whatever; for the tenants had for ages been brought up in the belief, sedulously impressed on them from their earliest years, that their vote was a sort of fealty, or service, which the vassal owed to his lord, and they would as soon have thought of withholding it from him as of refusing to pay their rent. I, myself, when a boy, have seen the tenants on the large estates in Wales driven up to the polling-booth like sheep to the slaughter-house. Nobody even went through the formality of canvassing them. They were told to vote in a particular way, and they did it as a matter of course. But, Sir, a change has come over the spirit of our institutions. These poor Welsh farmers, like the rest of the world, have been "educated," and when at the last election they were called upon to support a cause which was unspeakably dear to them, when they were called upon to rally round a great principle and a great man, they were guilty of the unpardonable crime of daring to think and act for themselves. And then came the struggle. Now, I am bound to say that in many places the great landowners yielded gracefully, if not willingly. They "accepted the inevitable." It is my duty and my pleasure to state that in the county which I have the honour to represent (the county of Denbigh)—and I believe the same thing may be said of one or two other counties of Wales—there occurred, as far as I am aware, during and after the last election, no such abuse of territorial power as that of which my hon. Friend has complained. But, can this be said of Wales generally? So far from its being the case, I venture to affirm—and I am surrounded by Gentlemen who can contradict me if I am wrong—that in Carnarvonshire, in Merionethshire, in Cardiganshire, a large proportion of the Liberal voters, at one or both of the two last General Elections, walked up to the polling-booth with the prospect of ruin staring them in the face. Sir, there is a Petition on the records of this House which speaks volumes on this subject. It was presented three years ago by a body of tenant-farmers in Merionethshire. It prayed the House either to give them the ballot, or to disfranchise them altogether. And upon what ground did they rest this remarkable prayer? Why, upon this, that to place them in a 1311 dilemma where they must either sacrifice their consciences or their livelihood —to drive them to elect between, their sense of duty and their daily bread—was a cruel mockery, and that a vote accompanied by so hard an alternative was a curse rather than a privilege. Well, that was how things stood in 1865. Have they got better? I say distinctly, that they have got worse. Let me read to the House a printed circular which the owner of one of the largest estates in Carnarvonshire—the Gwydir estates—thought fit to send by the hand of his agent to every one of his tenants on the eve of the last General Election. The gentleman to whom I allude is a nobleman, not unknown to fame—I find from Dod's Parliamentary Companion that he calls himself "the joint hereditary Great Chamberlain of England"—Lord Willoughby d' Eresby. On the 6th of November, 1868, the agent of this nobleman issued a printed circular to the tenants of the Gwydir estate. The original is in Welsh. I have it here, and if any hon. Gentleman thinks he can make anything of it, he is quite welcome to look at it. In the meantime I will read from a literal translation, to the fidelity of which I pledge myself—Grimsthorpe, Bourne, 6th November, 1868.Sir,—I understand that the Gwydir estate tenants have been strongly solicited to vote against Major Pennant at the coming Election, and that a private letter written by me to Capt. T. L. D. Jones-Parry has been distributed amongst them for the same purpose.I feel it necessary to explain that Lord Willoughby d' Eresby is a Conservative, and gives all his support to Mr. Pennant; therefore he does not consider it right that you should allow yourself to be led by others to vote against the interest of the estate upon which you live and the wishes of his Lordship.—I am, Sir, your obedient servant,R. A. WARREN.Now, Sir, I am a very inexperienced Member of this House; but if this intimation, emanating as it purports to do from a Peer of the realm, is not a breach of the privilege of this House, I should much like to know what is. Well, I need hardly say that most of the tenants to whom the letter was addressed took the hint and voted for Mr. Pennant. But some—to their credit be it said— were bold enough to record their votes for my hon. Friend who sits next to me (Captain Parry). Now, mark what followed. Last Lady Day, about a dozen or more notices to quit were served on 1312 some of the tenants of the Gwydir estate. The great majority of the persons on whom such notices were served had voted for my hon. Friend. No doubt, in two or three instances the tenants had voted the other way, and, of course, an explanation was ready. It was said that these notices were part of a great scheme for the re-letting of the estates. I do not care to enter into that explanation. I prefer to rest my case, not upon equivocal acts, which may or may not admit of explanation, but on the written letter, which admits of no explanation; and I cannot but think that the whole proceeding is a striking illustration of the argument of the old philosopher, who said that he was driven to believe in a future state, because in this world men are only held accountable for what they write, and not for what they say. Well, Sir, I will read another letter written by another landlord to my hon. Friend himself, also on the eve of the last General Election, which is certainly more unguarded than that which I have read, but not on that account less honest. It is a reply to an application by my hon. Friend for the vote of the writer. The letter is as follows:—10th October, 1868.Dear Captain Parry,—Entertaining a very strong opinion that Mr. Gladstone's measure with reference to the Irish Church is simply one of unwarranted spoliation, and but the commencement of an attack upon all property, and, furthermore, will not have the effect of pacifying Ireland, for the priests have plainly told us they will be satisfied with nothing less than a repeal of the Union, you must excuse me voting for you, as you declare yourself a follower of that gentleman; and any tenant of mine who votes in his support I shall consider as hostile to the interests of the country generally, and shall act accordingly.Now, Sir, I do maintain that to speak of freedom and purity of election in the face of such letters is sheer nonsense. However, my hon. Friend took what, I cannot but think, was a very proper course. He wrote back to say—As for your vote, you are, of course, at liberty to do with it as you please. But I shall make a point of watching your conduct towards your tenants, and if I find that they are made to suffer in any way for having voted for me, I shall act accordingly.'Sir, I need hardly say that this intimation had its desired effect, and that the excellent intentions of this gentleman were nipped in the bud. Well, Sir, I have given two instances. I might give 1313 twenty of the same sort of thing. Their name is legion. But I will not weary the House by repetition. I will confine myself to one more case, which is rather remarkable, because it shows how ingeniously this kind of oppression can be made to work, and what a length of arm and power of reach it possesses and commands. In one of the counties of North Wales there lives a freeholder, who, as he was the owner of his own farm, considered that he might enjoy the luxury of voting as he pleased, and accordingly announced his intention of voting for the Liberal candidate. But, unfortunately for him, he was a large dairy farmer, and was in the habit of churning his butter by water power, derived from a stream which ran at the foot of his farm. Now it so happened that this stream ran also through the property of a neighbouring landowner, who was a Conservative, and who had certain dominant rights over the stream. When the farmer was pressed by his powerful neighbour to vote for the Tory, he pointed with pride to his freehold, believed himself safe, and voted for the Liberal candidate. But he calculated without his host. They could not take away his land; but they could and did divert his water. But I am happy to tell the House that my friend was a man of resources, for like the hero in the ballad of "Chevy Chase"—When his legs were smitten off,He fought upon his stumps.He defied the landowners. He took down his useless water wheel, and he churned his butter by hand. Now, Sir, I do not think there is any one in this House, or out of it, who can deny that these practices have prevailed, and if they cannot be denied, I do trust they will not be defended. It is very possible that, as my hon. Friend intimated, we may be met by what we used to call at school the tu quoque argument. It may be said that if there was intimidation on one side, there was intimidation, though of a different kind, on the other. Now, Sir, I am not here to defend any kind of intimidation. I dislike it, from whatever quarter it may come, and whatever garb it may assume. But I maintain that my hon. Friend has torn this accusation as to the chapel screw to shreds, for it is childish to compare the influence exercised by these poor Dissenting preachers, who are entirely de- 1314 pendent upon their flock for support—and do not own fifty acres of land among them—with the enormous power wielded by the Welsh territorial aristocracy. At the most it is a case of moral influence against brute force. Whether it be good taste to make the pulpit a platform for the discussion of political questions is a matter upon which different men may have different opinions. But if we come to that—were the pulpits of the Church of England silent during the last election? Why, when the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) went down to canvass South Lancashire he was preached at in half the churches in the county. ["No, no!"] Hon. Gentlemen cry "No, no!" but I am speaking of what I myself have heard and seen. I remember one clergyman who drew an elaborate comparison between the right hon. Gentleman and a variety of Scriptural characters, of whom the only one that can be mentioned in decent society is Judas Iscariot. But then it may be said—Why do not you prosecute these men before the ordinary legal tribunals? Now, I need hardly point out that that would be a very invidious task, and one which few, particularly in the case of a neighbour or friend, would be heroic enough to undertake. Besides, there is another difficulty. These gentlemen have good legal advisers at their back, and so generally manage to keep on the "windy side of the law;" and the best proof of this is that, though there have been several cases of prosecution for intimidation, there has been no case, or scarcely any case, where a conviction has been obtained. The fact is that in a criminal charge it is necessary to prove strictly the improper intention in each particular case; and I need hardly point out that this may be very difficult when, as in a court of law, you are confined to the single ease in hand, whereas it may be very easy if you are allowed to look, as we are here, to other cases. In fact, it is the old story of the bundle of sticks—take each case singly and you can break it to pieces—take them together, and the inference is irresistible. Well, but I suppose we shall be told— as we have been told for the last twenty years—that "there is a good time coming;" that the time is at hand when public opinion will decide these things for itself, and when no landlord will venture to resist its powerful influence. Sir, 1315 we have waited for that time—we have waited patiently—and we have waited long; but it seems to me that we are very much in the position of the man in the fable, who waited until the running stream should have run itself out—Rustious expectat dum defluat amnis, at illeLabitur et labetur in omne volubilis œvum.No, Sir, there is one remedy, and one remedy only for this state of things, and that is the Ballot; and I am proud to think that there is not a single Liberal Member in the House who represents the Principality of Wales who does not share in that opinion. Since I have sat in this House no more welcome intimation has reached my ears than the authoritative statement of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department, made some months ago, that he was, if not actually a convert, in a fair way of becoming a convert to that measure; and if the sole result of this discussion be to assist in the process of that conversion it will not have been without its fruits. But while things remain as they are, do not at least refuse us that sympathy and support without which our condition would be simply intolerable. I have shown that there is one tribunal, and one tribunal only, to which we can appeal for protection, and that tribunal is the House of Commons. To that tribunal we confidently appeal, and we ask this House, in the exercise of its highest and most cherished functions, emphatically to condemn these unconstitutional—these cowardly practices; and to stamp them with the reprobation—I had almost said with the infamy—which they deserve. And now, Sir, I have only to thank the House, not in my own name only, but in the name of the poor men whose cause I have undertaken to plead, for the patient and indulgent hearing which it has given to their grievances; and I trust the day will never come when an elector, however poor and humble he may be, appealing to this House for protection in the exercise of his constitutional functions, will make that appeal in vain.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, in the opinion of this House, the proceedings of certain landlords in Wales towards their tenants on account of the free exercise of the Franchise at Elections are oppressive and unconstitutional, and an infringement of the rights conferred by Parliament on the people of this country."—(Mr. Henry Richard.)
§ MR. LEATHAM
said, he thought that his hon. Friend had performed an important public service in calling the attention of the House to what was taking place in Wales. For, at a moment when we were assured by writers of great eminence that intimidation was rapidly becoming extinct, and were urged on that account to refrain from insisting upon the only feasible remedy, facts like those adduced by his hon. Friend, which were wholly subversive of these comfortable premises, were a very valuable contribution to the discussion. He hoped, therefore, that the House would not consider that he was trespassing unduly upon their attention if he attempted to supplement the statements of his hon. Friend by others which had been brought to his special notice, and which would serve, he thought, to extend the area of Welsh intimidation beyond the limits within which his hon. Friend had shown it to exist. The observations of his hon. Friends had been confined almost entirely to instances of intimidation which they alleged to have occurred in the southern portion of the Principality. The instances to which he was about to refer would render, he feared, the other extremity of the Principality almost equally obnoxious to the suspicion that freedom of election had been seriously interfered with there. He held in his hand a letter which he had received from the Rev. Michael Daniel Jones, principal of the Independent College at Bala, in Merionethshire. He said—I have spent most of my life in Bala and its vicinity. In Merionethshire the land is divided chiefly into large estates, and there are two leading landlords in the county. One landlord has about 150 tenant-farmers under his control, more or less; and the other about 160, more or less. The farms vary in size from forty to sixty or 100 acres. Nine-tenths of the farmers are Dissenters and Liberals. From personal conversation with most of them, I know them to be Liberals from conviction. In the election of 1859 five tenants on the lesser estate voted with the Liberal candidate and were all ejected. Nine were neutral, and their rents were raised in every instance. I went into these cases of evictions personally with the tenants. On the other estate, out of thirty-five on the register, eleven only voted with the Tory candidates. Seven tenants who were neutral were singled out and had notice to quit—most of them were leading men in the chapels—and their farms were let chiefly to Church people. The farmers look at an election with dread in consequence of this terrorism. In the election of 1865 all the tenants on the two estates, with the exception of one, voted with the Tory candidate, and this turned the election.1317 Sir, I had no intention of mentioning any names; but, as I see the hon. Baronet the Member for Denbighshire in his place, and as I am told that one of these estates belongs to him, perhaps he will tell us if there is any inaccuracy in this statement. Now, Sir, grievous as this intimidation was, and grievous as were its consequences, there was something which was more deplorable still, and that was the perfect moral obtuseness of those who exercised it. It never seemed to occur to one of those gentlemen that in giving these notices he was committing a crime against the State. It never seemed to occur to him that there was anything mean and dastardly in forcing the conscience of a man who was his political equal in the eye of the law, and who had duties to perform as sacred and imperative as any which his own conscience imposed upon him. To illustrate what he meant let him quote a case which occurred the other day, not in Wales, but in Scotland. One of the best and largest tenant-farmers in Scotland, a man who farmed 3,000 acres of arable land, as well as pasture, and who paid his various landlords £5,000 a year, received notice that his lease, which was about to expire in a year or two, would not be renewed. The notice was given immediately after the last election. The agent declares that the landlord specially instructed him to give no reasons for the notice. The tenant states that the agent exceeded his instructions, and told him that the notice was given in consequence of his vote; but in order to clear up any doubt upon this point, the landlord, who is a noble Marquess, has written to the papers a letter, from which he would, with the permission of the House, make a short extract—It is perfectly true," he writes, "that I had many reasons for not letting the farm of Timpoendean to Mr. Scott, but I should consider myself acting unfairly if I did not say at once that among them was the Tote he gave at the election, nor do I see why I should not make this admission.Observe the exquisite naïveté of these last words! Now, he had no doubt that the Marquess of Lothian was an excellent and amiable man. He had no doubt that these Welsh landlords were excellent and amiable men. But the point to which he wished to draw the attention of the House was this—that men who were deservedly respected in all the other relations of life, men whom 1318 no one would accuse of general moral insensibility, were afflicted with a special alienation of conscience, an aberration or blindness of the moral sense, when they came to deal with the political rights of those whom the accident of territorial supremacy had placed within their power. And so it was that without, so far as he could see, one pang of remorse—nay, even with the smile of an approving conscience, as though the act were meritorious in itself—they consigned men, whose only offence was that they had dared to believe that they were free—men whose families had been centuries upon the estate, and who, in a part of the country where tenant-right does not exist, had spent their all upon the farm—they consigned these men to poverty with the same placid confidence in their own rectitude with which at petty sessions they consigned the poacher or any other offender against the law of God and man to gaol. We had abolished the feudal system in this country; but at no period, not even when the grip of feudalism was strongest, did it demand service at the hands of a vassal for his superior with a purpose more inexorable or a practice less merciful than those with which the tradition representing feudalism demanded political service now. And yet, although we were all aware of this, and although we were all ready to acknowledge that the vote was the voter's, and not the landlord's—that it was a strictly public, and not in any sense a private trust—we left the vote naked, absolutely at the mercy of the landlord; and upon what plea? That the public might see with their own eyes that the vote was given, not to the landlord, but to itself. See how our anxiety defeated itself. The vote was carried off under our eyes; it was carried off because it was left naked; and so long as it was left naked it would be carried off, because the lesson which our naked voting necessarily taught in a country where large classes of voters were in a state of dependence upon others was that the vote belonged, not to the voter, but to those whom they insisted should be present when the vote was given, and who had both the power and the will to claim it. And it was this power of claiming the vote and enforcing the claim which prevented the base tradition of political servitude from dying out. From one end of the Principality to the other this 1319 tradition was kept alive by occurrences like those to which they were calling attention to-night. And do not let the House be led away by the assertion that these notices were in the majority of instances a mere brutum fulmen; that only a small proportion of them would eventually be carried into effect. If you issued a hundred notices, as was done in Cardiganshire, it was not at all necessary, in order to produce a great moral effect, that you should proceed to eject every tenant whom you had served. An example here and there was quite enough to strike terror into all.The Emperor at Hayti," said Sydney Smith, "boasted that he had only cut off the heads of a couple of persons for disagreeable behaviour at his table. In spite of the paucity of visitors executed, the example was found to have operated as a considerable impediment to conversation.Precisely in the same way, the spectacle of the ruin of a couple of tenants overawed a whole country, insured a fictitious unanimity, and paralyzed the public voice. Now, he was one of those who thought this was a great evil, and he rejoiced that his hon. Friend should have called the attention of the House and, through the House, of the country to the intimidation in Wales, not only because he could not but believe that when the eye of the nation was turned in displeasure upon these acts, those who perpetrated them might feel at least a spurious kind of shame; but because, believing, as he did, that there was only one remedy for this kind of intimidation, he was convinced that when these and other kindred facts were before the public, whatever might be the course pursued by that House, or whatever may be the remedy of the Government, there was no power, either in the House or in the Government, which could arrest for a single Session the irresistible conviction to which the nation must come.
said, he wished to offer a few remarks on the question before the House; because, as he had been returned for a Welsh county (Pembrokeshire) at the last election without any opposition, he could approach the subject without any irritating recollections. He had been in Parliament for many years, and for many years had taken part in contested elections; and he found that the same feeling prevailed at the end of every one of them—namely, that those who voted on our own side acted 1320 from pure conviction, while those who voted against us were influenced by intimidation. With regard to the Principality, it was extremely satisfactory to learn that, though the influence of the landlords was so perniciously exercised, still the country possessed such an exceptional state of morality that when the Judges went down there they found an almost complete absence of crime. But he had remarked that at the end of every General Election a most active trade in martyrdom was going on. Persons who suffered attributed to persecution what had arisen from the ordinary transactions of life. He had heard of a person who was charged with having sent 200 notices to his tenants, in consequence of the way they had voted; but on inquiry it turned out that only sixteen had been served, and they were altogether unconnected with elections. In all these transactions there was the greatest publicity, and that was the best security against undue influence being exerted. It was very easy to say that these evictions were the result of political motives; but a good tenant was too valuable to be lightly parted with, and, moreover, a change of tenancy was very expensive to the landlord. He must remark that it was rather an unusual thing for an hon. Member to move a Resolution and attack several gentlemen by name without having given them the slightest notice beforehand. There was a Committee sitting above stairs, and if these cases were worth being brought forward why were they not brought before that Committee? ["They were."] Well, then, what was the necessity for bringing them before the House now? The names of gentlemen were published, and a great amount of odium was incurred, which the persons who suffered from it had no opportunity of wiping away. Was the House to have its time taken up by such proceedings? If so, it was contrary to the usual practice. There were many screws more powerful than evictions, because they could be put in force secretly; and the most effectual was that which took the form of money; persons were not only afraid that the debt would be claimed, but also that it should be known that they were in debt. That was a much more powerful screw to put on a man. With respect to what had been said about the Church, he would only 1321 observe that the sacred edifices had never been, and could not be used for political purposes; and, as far as his own experience went, the sermons from the pulpits of the Established Church in Wales had been remarkably free from reference to politics. It must be remembered that all these voters were free men; their votes were in their own power. The House must not be misled by mere metaphorical expressions, such as ''electors being driven to the poll." Taken literally, the thing was impossible; how could they be driven, unless it was in hackney coaches? Was a tenant who owed money to be kept on a farm simply because he had voted against the landlord, and some persons might attribute wrong motives to the landlord if the tenant received notice to quit? The alleged number of notices in one county was forty-six, and in the other twenty-six; but the whole body of voters numbered some thousands. In the ordinary course of things a certain number of notices would be given; so that, even if they accepted the version of the hon. Gentleman opposite, the actual extent of the intimidation was very limited. He supposed that, as the hon. Gentleman had discharged his conscience by bringing forward this Motion, he would not deem it necessary to press it to a division.
§ SIR WATKIN WYNN
said, that he desired to make a brief personal explanation. The hon. Member opposite (Mr. G. O. Morgan) had admitted that at the last election nothing objectionable had been attempted upon his (Sir Watkin Wynn's) tenants in Denbighshire. But the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Leatham) had referred to something that took place, in Merionethshire, ten years ago. Now, his agent who managed all his affairs at that time was dead; but Mr. Michael Jones, his agent at the last election, had appeared before the Committee now sitting, and had given an explanation of the affair which, he believed, the Committee considered to be satisfactory. As the revival of this matter had taken him by surprise, he had had no opportunity of refreshing his memory, and was therefore unable, at the present moment, to enter more fully into details.
§ MR. RICHARDS
said, that the facts which had been mentioned by the hon. Mover of the Resolution, were brought before the Committee in the presence of 1322 gentlemen connected with Cardiganshire and Carmarthenshire, who, if it had been possible, would have answered them. He believed that the attempt had been made, but it had utterly failed.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, he wished to know whether the hon. Member was in Order in referring to the proceedings of a Committee now sitting?
§ MR. RICHARDS
said, he trusted the short time during which he had been honoured with a seat in the House would be a sufficient apology for his transgression of its rules, but if further excuse were wanting it could be found in the example set him by the hon. Baronet the Member for Denbighshire (Sir W. Wynn), whose offence was aggravated by the circumstance of long experience. It would have been well if the right hon. Baronet (Sir Stafford Northcote) had called that hon. Member to Order; the fact that he sat on the same side of the House with him was no excuse for not doing so. He could confirm the statement of the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Richard) that the notices in question were not served on the tenants in consequence of their being in arrear with their rent, but for political reasons. He might explain the cause of meetings having been held in places of worship during the contest in Cardiganshire. In two cases in the county in which halls could be had for public meetings, permission to use them for that purpose was positively refused by the authorities; the population was scattered, little accommodation of any kind was at command for the holding of meetings, and in some cases in which the only room to be had, the school-room, was found too small, an adjournment to the chapel was resolved on; but in no ease had chapels been used in Cardiganshire for election meetings except from necessity. Englishmen prided themselves on the administration of public justice in their country; but what could be said of terrorism in election contests being exercised not only by agents but by magistrates as such? He held in his hand an attested document, certifying that Mr. Bonsall, a magistrate, had canvassed a voter of Cardiganshire, named John James, in behalf of the Conservative candidate, and when he said he had promised to vote for Mr. 1323 Richards, told him it would be better for him to vote for Mr. Vaughan, because he would be sure to find himself some day at petty sessions. It was all very well for the hon. Member for Pembrokeshire to deprecate bringing such matters before the House, but what other or more constitutional means were at command for making them public? He believed, indeed, the discussion would have a good effect, and do much to discourage terrorism in Wales.
said, that as a Welsh representative, he must bear testimony to the accuracy of the statements made with respect to what took place in Carmarthenshire during the late General Election. He hoped that a state of things most damaging to the Principality would soon be remedied by the introduction of the Ballot, or some other means of protecting the electors against the tyranny of landlords.
§ MR. C. WYNN
said, that as he had been twice elected for Montgomeryshire without opposition, he conceived he had a right to complain on behalf of the Welsh Conservative Members of the manner in which this question has been brought forward. When grave personal charges were to be brought against Members, it it was usual, it was courteous, and it was only just, to furnish them with a sort of catalogue of the charges they were expected to answer. The hon. Members for Merthyr and Denbighshire (Mr. Richard, and Mr. G. O. Morgan) had not condescended to do that. Grave charges had been brought against landlords, who, by the fortune of war, had no one in the House to speak for them; but if they had received fair notice they would, no doubt, have supplied some Welsh Conservative Members with information bearing on the charges made. It had been asked what was to become of the Liberal cause if these practices were to obtain; his answer was that if the Liberal cause could be maintained only by such methods as this it had better be given up. He did not undervalue the great claims which the Liberal cause had upon the country at large; but by such unworthy methods as this it would be neither advanced nor maintained. It had been remarked how singularly peaceful and free from assault, even under the greatest provocation, these Welshmen were. As the man of peace revenged himself on his 1324 adversary by saying to the crowd—"Don't nail his ears to the pump; don't duck him," so the expressions used now would be treasured up by an excitable people, and remembered at any future election, and upon the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Richard) would rest the responsibility. He believed that bare justice had been done by the statement that not a case of violence occurred at a Welsh borough or county election. It was said that nine out of ten of the Welsh landlords were Conservative Churchmen, and that the tenantry were nearly in the same proportion Liberal Nonconformists. He believed these were exaggerations, but if they were not the hon. Member for Merthyr was only putting into the hands of Welsh landlords a weapon they were too just and wise to use. But a landlord might go to his tenant and say—"My friend, we are told by authority which you recognize that our interests are antagonistic. Now, I am not turning you out for any expression of opinion at the last election; I am not turning you out for your religion; but it appears to me it is monstrous, after what has been said, that I should put weapons into the hands of my enemies; and it is obviously better for me that my farm should be in the hands of some one whose interests are identical with my own." ["Oh, oh!"] He did not say he should approve of that course; but he said it might arise from the hon. Gentleman's language. It might be that before long the country would have the Ballot. What would be the consequence? If Churchmen were invariably and consistently Conservative, surely the obvious course for any Conservative landlord was to let his farms to none but Churchmen. It was not for him to say whether the hon. Member for Merthyr was doing his friends a service by putting the issue in this way, and it was doubtful whether the hon. Member would do any good to the Liberal cause. He would say to the hon. Members opposite, or rather those who had supplied them with information that he believed in their decalogue as well as in other people's there was a ninth commandment.
§ SIR THOMAS LLOYD
said, he was one of the four Whig landlords of Cardiganshire; but he had told his own tenants who wished to support the Tory 1325 candidates that they were perfectly at liberty to vote as they pleased. The same thing had taken place on his Carmarthenshire property. Considerable difference of opinion existed as to the rights of the landlord. Some of his friends said the vote belonged to the landlord, and that the tenant was only an incident in the matter. But he objected to that doctrine; first, because it was unconstitutional; and secondly, because it was inimical to the interests of the order to which he belonged. A landlord who compelled his tenant to vote contrary to his own wishes made himself a party to the violation of the law, which declared that the vote should be given unconditionally. He thought that the conduct complained of was very impolitic indeed. It was probable that the roaring tide of Liberalism was about to sweep over the country; and it seemed to him that it was only by bringing the different classes of society more closely together, and by each exercising mutual forbearance and kindness towards the others, that the changes, permanent, and not temporary in their character, that were now being effected could be made to work advantageously for the common benefit. Many of the people of Wales dreaded the coming 29th of September; but this debate would not have been in vain if it resulted in the restoration of a more cordial relationship between the landlord and tenant in that part of the country. If landlord united with tenant, and manufacturer with artizan, they need not fear that the landlord and manufacturer would lack their legitimate influence.
said, that when his hon. Friend (Mr. Richard) first placed the Notice of his Motion upon the Paper, he thought it was a premature one, considering that there was, at this moment, a Select Committee employed upstairs in the consideration of proceedings at elections; but he felt bound to acknowledge, after having heard the powerful speech of his hon. Friend, and having listened to the painful nature of the facts he had adduced, that his hon. Friend, in his desire to further the interests of those whom he desired to serve, and to vindicate the position and character of those with whom he had long lived in terms of intimate friendship, could scarcely have done otherwise than bring these cases of hardship before the House. His hon. Friend had undertaken to prove, 1326 and he believed had proved, that the Welsh farmers who, perhaps, of all others, were the most kindly disposed towards their landlords, a warm-hearted people, who, as he knew from experience, had never, except with extreme regret, found themselves opposed to their landlords, had been not only subjected, because they had acted as they believed to be right—to injury and loss, but that this had been done in the most open manner, and in the most flagrant violation of all that was considered fair, just, and honourable between man and man. The hon. Member for Pembrokeshire (Mr. Scourfield), with Ms usual ingenuity, had endeavoured to cast his shield over the landlords. No doubt many of the injuries anticipated by voters were anticipated without cause; but his hon. Friend had quoted letters and given names and circumstances in a manner that went far to prove the accuracy of his statements; and he could not, therefore join with those who censured his hon. Friend for not giving a notice which, in fact, it was impossible for him to give. His hon. Friend would, no doubt, have given due notice had he made an attack upon any Member of that House, but he had made no such attack. And, further, he had simply laid before the House facts that had already at different times appeared in the newspapers in Wales, and the answer to which could have been easily given if they admitted of any reply. He (Mr. Bruce) had no doubt that the accusing conscience of every landlord who had been guilty of these actions had told him since the Notice appeared, that he was the party whose conduct would be brought before the House; and any landlord whose conduct had already been publicly condemned might, if he had pleased, have communicated the facts of the case to any Member of his party in that House, and thus have presented any explanation in his power. He thought that the hon. Member had done nothing less than his duty in bringing forward the subject; and if no defence had been attempted, he believed it was simply because such conduct was indefensible. His hon. Friend had, however, not given notice of the terms of his Motion, and, under those circumstances, he trusted that his hon. Friend, who had gained such just distinction by the powerful and remarkable speech he had made, would not be inclined to gain 1327 what might seem an unfair advantage by pressing his Motion, but that he would be satisfied with the result he had already obtained.
said, that some years ago he stood a contest for a county in Wales having a constituency of 5,000, and he really believed that 2,000 of them would have voted for a broomstick had it been recommended by the landlords. He was of opinion that the remedy for the state of things which had been the subject of complaint that evening was a just and equitable land law protecting the interests of the tenant-farmer, and granting him that security for his property which was now accorded to the landlord. If such a remedy were provided, he believed that the Ballot would be totally unnecessary. He would give the Motion his hearty support if it were pressed to a division.
§ COLONEL CORBETT
said, he would be the last person to justify the putting of pressure upon any voter; but he thought it would have been more in accordance with fair dealing between man and man to defer bringing this subject forward until the Committee up-stairs had reported. He presumed there must be some reason for not waiting until the Committee had made their Report. An old adage stated that if you threw plenty of mud some of it would be sure to stick. Perhaps it was intended in this case that some mud should stick pending the inquiry by the Committee. It would appear as if there must be some other feeling besides a political one in the Welsh Elections, or why should the present Member for Merthyr (Mr. Richard) have been preferred to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who was quite as advanced a Liberal as that hon. Gentleman? The expressions about the same measure being meted out to certain persons as the measure which they themselves meted out might have had reference to the attack made on the Irish Church. It had been said that Liberalism was passing through Wales like a roaring tide. When he heard that expression it reminded him of another kind of roaring—of "a ramping and a roaring lion walking about, seeking whom he might devour." Spiritual terrorism had, in many cases, been exercised towards the voters. He had heard reports, on what he believed to be good authority, of very 1328 strong denunciations by the ministers of different sects in the Principality. As soon as a landlord gave notice to quit he had done his worst—he could do no more; but the case was different with ministers, who told the members of their congregation they would endanger their salvation if they did not vote in a particular way. Nor was that the only coercion that had been employed. He would mention one fact which had been brought under his notice. A small tradesman in a certain town in Merionethshire had a mortgage on his little property, and a man of some importance on the other side told him that if he did not vote in a certain way the mortgage would be called up. Again, he said that he had no wish to encourage oppression or undue influence, but there ought to be no hypocrisy in these matters, and those who lived in glass houses should not throw stones.
§ MR. WHALLEY
said, he thought the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Richard) had done good service by bringing this subject forward. A good reason for not deferring it till the Committee had reported was this—that the scope of the Committee's inquiry was a general one, extending to the whole country; while the case of Wales was peculiar to the Principality. Long ago the pressure brought to bear upon voters in boroughs of Montgomeryshire was so intolerable that in 1852 a Petition was presented, embodying substantially the statements which had been brought forward on the present occasion. The petitioners complained of habitual and systematic terrorism, and stated that it would be a relief to the people of those boroughs to be deprived of the franchise.
§ VISCOUNT SANDON
said, he wished to say a few words on this subject, on which he was very sensitive, because he held a double position, as one connected with land, and as representative of a large commercial constituency (Liverpool). When it was seen that not a single county election had been vitiated for corruption or intimidation, he thought that hon. Gentlemen opposite ought to do justice to the landed interest in this respect. He was anxious that there should be no stain either upon town or county, but the great cause of electoral purity was not advanced by these partizan attacks upon either. This was an attack upon the country, and he heard with some regret the Secretary of State 1329 for the Home Department speak as though the statements made by those sitting behind him were established facts. Now these statements had not been sifted by any competent tribunal. All the complaints of coercion which he (Viscount Sandon) had heard of in Staffordshire were made against the Liberal party, but he had always doubted the truth of these statements because they had not been sifted; and the House had a right to demand that a Minister of the Crown should not admit as true charges, which were first made in the columns of a newspaper and then repeated from the Benches behind him.
§ MR. RICHARD
said, after the appeal made to him by the Secretary of State for the Home Department, he should not press his Motion to a division, but he wished to correct one or two misapprehensions. He had not made, or intended to make, an attack upon any hon. Member of the House. It had been complained that the Notice he had given had not been sufficiently long. Now, he put his Notice on the Paper some six or seven weeks ago, and he had, from time to time, postponed it for the purpose of enabling hon. Gentlemen opposite to make inquiries and prepare themselves to rebut the charges. One of his reasons for not dividing was that he did not desire to identify hon. Members opposite with the doings he had described. He was sorry that to a great extent they had done this of their own accord.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.