HC Deb 12 March 1869 vol 194 cc1253-81

, in rising to call attention to the system of creating faggot votes in Scotch counties under the Reform Act of last Session said: Sir, we have heard during the debate which has just concluded a great deal about the effects of education on crime. That is indeed a very wide question, and I think we might show in reference to it that education has not yet gone so far as to stop such crimes as the adulteration of food and of drugs, and, moreover, that it has not stopped the people of this metropolis, in large numbers, from resorting to false weights and measures; while, further, it has not the effect of suppressing the manufacture of counterfeit coin. On the contrary, education has given facilities for all these crimes; and with regard to the manufacture of counterfeit coin, which at the present moment comes more within my immediate cognizance, I may state that chemistry and galvanism have been brought in to assist in producing imitations of Her Majesty's coins to great perfection. But, Sir, the counterfeit to which I desire to call the attention of this House is one of a somewhat different kind; and I think that hon. Members on both sides of the House will agree with me that this is a crime often not regarded politically as a crime at all. We have heard that in politics, as in love and in war, everything is fair. We have also heard a good deal about education in politics. The right hon. Gentleman, the late First Minister of the Crown (Mr. Disraeli) took it into his head one fine day to go down to the capital of my country, the City of Edinburgh, in order to tell us that he was going to educate us himself in matters of politics. Sir, this question of education is connected with these faggot votes to which I am about to call attention, and this is a matter also intimately connected to a great extent with the progress of the party now sitting upon those (the Opposition) Benches. I do not desire, in the matter which I am going to picture, so far as I can avoid it, to make it a party question, because I believe, with regard to the crime to which I am going to call attention, that it is one with which both sides of the House are more or less tainted—I mean the creation of what are called faggot or fictitious votes. I think history tells us that, although this has been done by both parties, it was begun by the Gentlemen who sit opposite. Soon after the passing of the Act of 1832, the manufacturing of faggot votes in Peeblesshire was commenced by gentlemen of the Tory persuasion. To use the explanation given in 1837 by Mr. Horsman, in that very able speech in which he brought before the House the question of the manufacturing of votes—he confessed that my countrymen were too honest to be bribed, and too independent to be bullied, but that in some constituencies they were not too numerous to be swamped by these fictitious votes. The party then designated the Tory party were not the popular party, or at any rate had not in Scotland the representation of the popular feeling. Shortly after the enfranchisement—the real enfranchisement—of the people of Scotland by the Reform Act of 1832, it became with that party a serious question how far they should take measures to prevent the entire extirpation of the party. It became a matter of self-preservation; and as self-preservation is a law of nature, they would say that they were justified in keeping their hold of the counties. No one can doubt that it began with the Tory persuasion in 1833. That it was tried by Gentlemen on this side of the House I do not mean to deny, and I do not condemn the system one bit the more because it came from the other side. On the contrary, we who are identified with the popular party, and are supposed to represent popular opinions, are more to be blamed than the Conservatives if we indulge in practices like these. More than that, the evidence goes to this extent, that although the thing was done by gentlemen of Whig persuasion, in self-defence, not to be outnumbered by these fictitious votes, many of them were afterwards so con- vinced of the error of their ways that they gradually bought back the votes they had themselves created. But I should rather leave to those gentlemen who have always been the opponents of popular principles the odium of having created this class of fictitious votes. Now, what were the means adopted by those who introduced the system? There was introduced into Scotland, under the Act of 1832, a perfectly free, fair, and independent franchise, and among others, the possession and ownership of property of the value of £10 in counties constituted a qualification, and the qualification included life-rents It was enacted that the actual possession of an annuity or life rent-charge of £10 and upwards upon the land was a sufficient qualification for a vote in the counties, and it is to this class of voters that I wish particularly to call the attention of the House. The system grew up, and small properties and blocks of houses were charged with life-rents—not in the ordinary way, where the proprietor parts with the fee but retains the life-rent for himself; but life-rents were created by proprietors retaining the fee themselves and granting nominal life-rents to a number of persons upon some piece of land or block of houses just sufficient to give each a vote. To show that in all these transactions there was no real bonâ fide change of proprietorship it is only necessary for me to say that most of the transactions were of this nature—A life-rent of £10 was created and sold to the person who was to be constituted a voter. No money passed, but a bill for £200 was granted by the life-renter to the owner of the fee. The interest upon that amounted to £10, and the interest on the bill was set off against the £10 life-rent. In fact, the whole transaction was a mere paper transaction; and this, supplemented by an oath before the Sheriff or proper officer, constituted the position of the voter. A very large number of these gentlemen were put upon the electoral roll simply upon the strength of these fictitious qualifications. And, mark, they were not gentlemen belonging to the county in which they got the qualification, but gentlemen residing in distant counties—in some cases gentlemen actually residing in London. It will be found, by referring to the roll of the county, that those gentlemen appear as owners of life-rents of £10, £12, or thereabouts—just sufficient to give them a vote. The ingenious method by which an attempt was made to give a semblance of reality to the transaction may be imagined from the fact that upon the register the voter is described by name, and put down as the recipient of so many pounds, one as proprietor of one-fourth of one-fourteenth; another as proprietor of one-twelfth of three-fourteenths; a third as proprietor of one-eighth of one-seventh of some wild spot. But if any Gentleman would make an arithmetical calculation, he would find that all these various fractional parts would come to one and the same thing. I hold in my hand the roll for the county of Selkirk, and I find on it the names of gentlemen who live in this part of the country, gentlemen who are writers in Edinburgh, gentlemen who are in the army serving in distant parts, but not one living in the district. Since 1832 there has been adopted a different system from that which prevailed before it. For instance, in Scotland we have what are called superiorities or feus—a system of granting feus upon a perpetual fixed rent, with the reservation of certain rights to the superior. They now grant feus, and the land is parcelled out into feu-rents beyond its value, and thus fictitious feu-rents are created. In the evidence given before a Committee of this House, it was shown that those parcels of land had been given out among gentlemen who had been brought into the county to over-ride and overpower the local vote. Whatever may be the opinion of hon. Gentlemen as to the extension of the franchise, I believe not one will defend a system which endeavours to destroy a constituency by infusing into it a large alien element which will swamp the free opinion of the constituency. Whether it be the opinions of the Liberal or of the Tory side, it is all the same for the purposes of my argument. You have no right—you Whigs especially—to go into a Tory county any more than you Tories have a right to go into a Whig county, and try to overturn local opinion by bringing with you a crop of strangers who have nothing to do with the interests of the county. My Motion, as a matter of course, refers to the smaller counties, because it is obvious that in the larger counties the difficulty of working this objectionable method is far greater. It is only hi the smaller counties, that by the introduction of fifty or 100 strange voters, you can overturn the local opinion of the county. The county which the hon. Baronet (Sir Graham Montgomery) represents gives one of the most marked and notorious instances of the -working of this system. I am glad to see my hon. Friend -where he is, and I do not wish to say anything that would be unpleasant to him or his constituents: but my hon. Friend gained his election, in a constituency numbering something like 800, by the small majority of three votes, the numbers being 361 to 358; and when you come to analyze the voting, you find in the majority that there were about fifty faggot votes—the votes of people who were all strangers to the county of Peebles, gentlemen who resided in Edinburgh, and, indeed, all over the country, and who never lived in the county of Peebles in the whole course of their lives. Therefore it is quite clear that but for this half-hundred of buckram troops he would have been defeated by a majority of more than forty. Now, is it right that any constituency should be treated in that way? There is a further matter in connection with the county of Selkirk well worthy of the attention of the House. There is a notorious building in the town of Selkirk—an inn which rejoices in the name of "The Fleece." While the county of Selkirk had a separate representation this inn was a favourite property for creating faggot votes for the county, being capable of qualifying some ten or twelve. But under the provisions of the Reform Act of 1868, the town of Selkirk is incorporated with the Border Burghs and the remainder of the county of Selkirk is annexed to the county of Peebles—the two together returning only one Member. The old faggot votes qualified on "The Fleece" having thus become useless, I am informed that "The Fleece" is now for sale, and by a curious coincicidence "The Tontine" hotel at Peebles is likewise in the market, and the ostensible proprietors of "The Fleece" are about to transfer their business to "The Tontine." These are the ingenious arrangements which the extreme education of the Scotch Conservatives enables them to carry out. But the system is not confined to Selkirk and Peebles. I received this morning an exceedingly interesting communication from the town of Rothesay, in the county of Bute. It will be remembered that in the election of 1865 the county of Bute returned Mr. Lamont in the Liberal interest. Last year a Gentleman of different political opinions was returned, and the writer of this letter from Rothesay states that in the county of Bute there are about 110 faggot votes in a constituency of 1,073. Of these 110 there are not more than fifteen resident; and about eighty have been created since the Liberal victory of 1865. This is the way the system is worked. They take a house belonging to some gentleman conveniently ready to sell and, curiously enough, they happen to find for that block of a house as many purchasers as can be qualified on it. Thus, for instance, on one "house and pertinents," at Craigmore, Rothesay, there are eight voters registered as follows:—Alexander Boyle, Captain, R.N.—place of abode, London; W. S. Stirling Crawford, Esq., Melton; Charles Dalrymple, M.P. for Bute, New Hailes; Alexander Hamilton, Commander, R.N., Rozelle, Ayrshire; James Auld Jamieson, W. S., Edinburgh; Sir Michael B. Shaw Stewart, Bart., Ardgowan, Renfrewshire; William Stuart, Junr., M.P., Bedford; John Pettigrew Wilson, Advocate, Edinburgh. On another house there are six, chiefly belonging to Edinburgh; on another there are seven, almost all belonging to Glasgow; on another there are four, of whom one is the hon. Member for Lynn, brother of the Governor General of India, and so on. In all, there are about 100 gentlemen qualified in this manner as voters in the county without having lived in it in the whole course of their lives, or having any other concern with it, and that in a small constituency, where, 100 votes are no mean weight to be thrown into one scale in the course of a contest. The writer continues in this way— You may be met with the assertion that faggot votes have been manufactured by the Liberals. This has been done to the extent of only four votes on a property purchased by our late Member, Mr. Lamont, much against the wish of his best friends. These votes have now ceased to exist, being recalled by Mr. Lamont. This is all we did in Bute, and the gentleman who did it was so satisfied of the error of his own ways that he recalled all these votes. Similar attempts were made after the defeat of my hon. Friend Sir Michael Shaw Stewart, when he was defeated in 1865 by the late Member for Renfrewshire, whose death we all deeply lament. On that occasion he put between thirty and forty gentlemen upon a block of houses in Pollockshields, for the purpose of restoring the balance of parties for his own side in the constituency, and he did it so ingeniously that, although objected to at the registration court, the votes were all sustained, except in one case in which the voter did not appear to defend his qualification. Here is the statement from a paper which I believe Gentlemen on the other side are not exceedingly fond of, whose large circulation throughout Scotland has been a topic of great envy, and they have attempted, but attempted in vain, to supplant the good teaching of that eminent and distinguished publication by circulating a halfpenny periodical. But then the halfpenny would not take. Tory principles in Scotland are so little palatable that they were driven to subscribe to promote and circulate gratis a paper of Conservative tendencies; and even that, I believe, has utterly and entirely collapsed. But here is the statement which is made by the Scotsman with regard to Sir Michael Shaw Stewart— Finding that he cannot be Member for Renfrewshire through the votes of the inhabitants of Renfrewshire, he has, along with his agents, passed a resolution that he shall be Member for Renfrewshire by the votes of the inhabitants of anywhere else. The writer then proceeds to point out what gentlemen of sound Conservative principles were put upon the property in Pollockshields. It may be said, "Oh, but probably the increase of the franchise has created a larger constituency in the smaller counties, and it does not follow that we can object to men being-qualified in this way." The great objection I entertain, however, is not so much to the qualification as to the fact that they are people not connected with the county. If you took your shepherds or your factors the case would not be so strong. But I will cite a case, stated by one of your own friends, to show that non-residence is absolutely necessary for the manufacture of these votes. I will quote the evidence of Mr. John Hope, a Writer to the Signet, who was examined before Mr. Horsman's Committee, regarding thirty life-renters he had foisted upon two farms of Lord Hopetoun's. He said— None of the thirty reside in the county. I studied as much as possible to obtain the consent of persons connected with the county, but there is great difficulty in getting people to take the votes. In 1837 I went about for nearly two months, and had the greatest difficulty in getting the number I wanted—17. In 1838 I only wished two persons, and I exerted myself as much as possible, and could only obtain one; and I had to fill up the other qualification with my own name, having reserved myself for such a contingency. The agent of the party is searching high and low—not, like Diogenes, seeking for a just man—but for a man who will accept these fictitious votes, and undertake to vote always in the way in which the proprietor wishes. But it may be said that these are matters concerning proceedings under the Act of 1832. What I complain of is that under the Act of 1868 the system is now being perpetrated, and, so far as I know, perpetrated by only one party in the State. By the Act of 1868 we supplemented the franchise of 1832. We gave the franchise to persons holding property below £10 in counties, down to the ownership of property of the value of £5 a year. The object of that enactment was—and I do not think that any Gentleman on the other side of the House will contradict me—that whatever the legal wording might be, the spirit and equity of the Act meant that you should enfranchise the small artisan, the small proprietor, the small shopkeeper, living in the county and belonging to the county, whose voice up to that time had not been heard in the Constitution. And what are you doing? You are selling properties to rich merchants in Glasgow, to rich proprietors in other parts of the country, for the purpose of multiplying £5 owners, who shall swamp and not represent the feelings and opinions of the county. No less a number than thirty-four of these voters are being created in this way in the neighbourhood of Peebles alone. Now, there is a curious piece of evidence connected with these transactions. A man, to obtain a vote, must be in possession for six months at least before the 31st July. I hold in my hand a copy of the register of seisins for the county of Peebles, and I find there thirty-four gentlemen registered as proprietors and life-renters on house property in Peebles, and if you look through the list, you will find that everyone of these deeds was signed on the 28th, 29th or 30th January last, just six months before the 31st July. They are not conveyances of separate houses, but of small portions of houses, many of them being half-fiats, of the value of £5 to £7 or £8; and if any of my English Friends do not know exactly what a "half-flat" means, I will explain. It means a half-floor. These new proprietors comprise no less distinguished people than four Messrs. Kidston, of Glasgow, merchants and shipowners, who are registered upon a small house—so small that none of the tenants of the house have any vote at all. There are four rooms below and four rooms above. Each of these gentlemen owns; two rooms on each floor—each, in fact, has got half-a-flat; and that is intended as a representation of property. A gentleman who owns a couple of rooms in an attic in a back street of Peebles is; to be considered as a true and honest representative of the county of Peebles, while the people living in those same houses have no votes at all. I do not think that the House of Commons will consider that such proceedings are anything but a fraud. It never could be intended that the rich merchants of Glasgow should be registered in this way, simply and solely for the purpose of gaining a vote in counties with which; they have no connection. But there is another feature. The property is sold, most of it, by one gentleman. There is only one agent for the buyer and the seller. Who is that agent? The political agent of my hon. Friend the Member for Peebles, or the political agent of his party in Edinburgh. The whole of this, I think you will agree with me, shows distinctly the object for which these properties have been transferred and have appeared upon this register. We do not know how many more fictitious votes of different kinds may have been manufactured. They need not be produced until the registration court is held. What I hold in my hand is therefore, at any rate, the least that has been done in the county of Peebles. Now, Sir, I do not want to be too hard on one county. I propose to ask the House to grant a Return on this matter, so that we may ascertain how far this system has been carried on in the various counties of Scotland. I have given the House as much information as I have on the subject, and I think they will feel with me that, before any plan of remedying such a great defect and so great a fraud upon the legislation of this House is devised, we should have sufficient information upon which to act. But I may be asked, "What remedy do you propose?" Well, if I were to propose the remedy which I wish, it would be the remedy which was suggested on every Scotch hustings throughout the last election—a remedy to which I believe every Member for Scotland on this side the House is pledged—namely, the equalization of the county and burgh franchise. But I know there are many eminent men on this side of the House who are not prepared to go to that length. The other thing which I would propose as a remedy is the condition that residence shall be necessary in counties as well as in burghs. I have had it objected to me, "Oh, but you will disfranchise an enormous number;" and some have said I should disfranchise a very large number of my own friends. Well, the view I take is that the remedy for any special evil should be based upon a principle; and when you have once found the principle that will be the true corrective, you should adopt that, no matter whether it is at the expense of your friends or your foes. My belief is that the vote is a personal privilege, and is not the privilege of property, though property has been for many years adopted in this country as a means of testing the qualification for a vote. The Tories, on the contrary, have always maintained consistently that the vote represents property; and therefore they only adopt this system upon the principle that it is the property that should vote, and not the man. I maintain that it is the person and not the property that has the vote; and I say that by making residence the condition we should give to every man in this country only one vote, and place every individual upon the same footing of political rights. That is the only true and just principle. Why is one man to have nine, ten, or a dozen votes, whilst Ms neighbour—poorer than himself, but perhaps far better in intelligence and knowledge—is only to have his miserable one vote? The hon. and learned Member for Richmond (Sir Roundell Palmer), stated in this House on one occasion that he had votes for no less than twenty-five Members. I can myself vote for nine. In old days, before railways existed, it mattered very little how many of the counties a man had votes in, for he never could vote, except in very special circumstances, in more than one county. But now that by railways you can move about very rapidly, you have multiplied the power of voting, and have practically introduced into our political system that objectionable principle of giving votes according to the amount of property. I contend that this is not right, and I think I could refer to very high authority on this subject. An eminent lawyer, an honour to his own country and to his profession, made, in 1848, an exceedingly admirable speech upon this matter, and with the permission of the House I will quote a passage— The principle of the Reform Bill," he said, "was not to give the franchise to the property but to the electors. The possession of property was taken, not as a qualification properly speaking, but as a test. It was held to be the test of two things first, of the capacity to give an independent vote; and, secondly, of the territorial interest in respect of which a vote was given. The whole system of the Reform Bill is territorial. It does not make this or that man in any particular locality vote for all the members which Scotland sends to Parliament. Each man is to vote in his own locality. If it were desirable to go to Parliament for any remodelling of the electoral system, I am perfectly clear that the principle of residence under some modification or other is the only one that can secure true representation. Those were the principles uttered in 1848 by my right hon. Friend the present Lord Advocate, and I hope he will legislate on them in 1869. We are told it is too soon to meddle with the Reform question; and that, out of deference to the feelings I suppose of hon. Gentlemen opposite, we ought to let this matter simmer on till another Session. But if you do not legislate now, depend upon it that before next September the register will be crowded by these fictitious votes. I trust, therefore, that the Government will not hesitate, but at once find some remedy for this evil. The adoption of actual residence for county voters may be one way of effecting it, but as that may interfere with those who have long possessed votes, it would perhaps be wiser to go step by step. It may be done by enacting that all proprietors under £10 should be required to be resident in the county where they vote, or the condition of residence might be attached to those holding a qualification below that necessary for Commissioners of Supply. Others propose that a £20 or £14 qualification should be the proper limit; and with a view to test these various limits, I shall move for a I Return that shall give us the non-resident owners of each county in Scotland, the I value of whose holdings are under £100, £50, £20, £14, and £10, and then we shall see how far, by adopting any one of them, we should disfranchise the present voters. My belief is that if we adopt the £20 limit, we shall not disfranchise a single one. Our rule should be to adopt a limit that will not disfranchise any real bonâ fide voter. The remedy in the case of the life-renters is simple enough. It is that those who receive the life-rents should be infeft in the property, and so to make it a bonâ fide possession. There should also be a provision preventing owners being tenants of the life-renters. You may limit the life-rent under the Act of 1832 to meet the case of ministers and schoolmasters, who are very proper persons to have a vote. There is another mode of multiplying votes—by creating a number of joint tenants. This might be met by requiring personal residence in every case; but, inasmuch as the Act of 1868 provides that in small properties there shall not be more than two joint tenants possessing the franchise, that practically meets the evil; but as regards the life-renters and great proprietors and owners of property, the House will agree with me that we ought to adopt some limit, and not allow the county votes to be made by fraud. I only allude to the case of the hon. Member for Peeblesshire as an example, and not personally. It is simply an instance of the working of the system. The case of manufacturing votes in England may be cited, and we may be reminded of the votes created to promote the objects of the Anti-Corn Law League, and probably the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade will be alluded to as one of the greatest manufacturers of votes. I shall be twitted with that, but I would remind hon. Gentlemen that the creation of those votes was for a great public purpose. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen may laugh, but they cannot deny the fact that the votes created by the League were in furtherance of a great public object, whereas those created in recent times by the Tories were for personal aggrandisement, and there is a great distinction between the two. ["Oh, oh."] I must further observe that the votes created by the League were, as I am in- formed, not faggot but bonâ fide votes. Be that as it may, I will go as far as any man in adopting a system of legislation which will put a stop to creating fictitious votes, and maintaining the honour and dignity of our Legislature. I hope I shall receive the support of the House in moving for the Return to which I have alluded.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, that She will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House, Return, in a tabulated form, from each county in Scotland showing the total number of non-resident proprietors qualified to vote for a Member of Parliament, distinguishing in separate columns the number of those whose property in such county as shown by the Valuation Roll is of less annual value than £100, £50, £20, and £14, and also those at and under £10 respectively; showing the nature of the qualification whether Fiars, Life Renters, Superiors, or Feuars; also the number of such County Voters resident within any Royal or Parliamentary Burgh within each county respectively,"—(Mr. Craufurd,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, that, after the pointed allusions which had been made by the hon. Member who had just sat down (Mr. Craufurd) to the two counties he had the honour to represent, he felt called upon to make a few observations upon the subject before them. At an earlier period of the evening a Petition had been presented with reference to his seat, and he could not help saying that if this question had been raised in consequence of the small majority of three by which he had been elected, he thought it would have been much more straightforward had the ordinary course been adopted which was usual in cases where the return of a Member was sought to be set aside. It had been truly represented in the Petition that there were fifty votes of the kind referred to in Peeblesshire. These life-rents were of two kinds; some, which might be called the old life-rent votes, were created avowedly by the Conservative party in self-defence, for the practice of manufacturing life-rent votes was commenced by the Whig political agent in 1835; and the proof that the Conservative votes so created were bonâ fide lay in the fact that these remained on the register till the present day, whereas the others had long ago disappeared. The other kind of life-rent votes were of a later creation, having been created by gentlemen in favour of their sons, brothers, and other near relations. In such a practice there was nothing whatever to be complained of; on the contrary, he stood there prepared to defend it. It was a right and a proper thing, he maintained, for a gentleman having sons to interest them in the political welfare of the county whore they were bred and born. And the reality of those life-rent votes had been proved on two or three; occasions, when, the holders of the life-rents having become bankrupt, the creditors seized upon and sold this interest. With regard to the counties both of Peebles and Selkirk, he could state that before the last election the business of the registration courts occupied a very long time, occasioning enormous expense to those concerned, and ending in numerous cases of appeal to the Court of Session. The lists therefore were thoroughly scrutinized, and he did not believe there was a single vote upon; them to which the character of an illusory or fictitious vote could for one moment be applied. The question of residence was, no doubt, an important one, but he should be sorry to see it made a condition of the franchise. It was a common practice in Scotland, in the smaller villages, for persons who had quitted them in early life to acquire property in them when their means enabled them to do so, without the; slightest intention of residing in them; and there was no pretence for saying that there was any collusion between them and anyone else for the purpose of supporting any political party. If residence were made a condition of the franchise, all these non-resident owners would be excluded from exercising the franchise in those localities, the connection with which they so highly valued. The hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Craufurd) truly stated that before the Select Committee in 1838 no point was more strongly pressed than the desirability of making residence a qualification of the franchise. But did the Committee adopt that recommendation? On the contrary, no one could read their Report without perceiving that they had arrived at an opposite conviction. Upon the general question as to whether the system of creating votes in support of a particular political party was right or wrong, he offered no opinion. But as a distinction had been set up in this matter between the cases of England and Scotland, he might refer to one instructive passage from the Report of the Select Committee of 1846, which considered this question as relating to England. The Report set forth that as the law stood facilities undoubtedly did exist for creating votes by granting rent-charges and splitting up small freeholds, and that such facilities had been taken advantage of by different parties at different times and in different degrees, for the purpose of increasing their electoral influence. In many cases these new electors were connected with their respective counties in no other way than by their share in the county franchise. That appeared to him quite as strong a condemnation of the system in England as anything which had occurred in Scotland. The hon. Member for Ayr referred to the proceedings of the Anti-Corn Law League; and it had been stated in the Scotch papers that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade was to address the House upon this occasion, and to declare his views. When the right hon. Gentleman did so, he trusted he would say whether he thought the Anti-Corn Law League were justified in the proceedings which they took to cut up with 40s. freehold votes the West Riding of Yorkshire, Surrey, and other counties. The proceedings of the League were all fully detailed in the Report to which he had just alluded; and if he was not mistaken, that body even went the length of advertising in the public papers, requesting persons to come forward, and make purchase of these votes. He would not father detain the House, but would express his own strong opinion that the Member for Ayr had made out no case whatever for Parliamentary interference.


said, the course taken by the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Craufurd) might, perhaps, be justified if he could succeed in obtaining from the House a definition of what a "faggot" vote really meant. At an indignation meeting on the subject held in a Scotch town and reported in a newspaper, the large circulation of which, according to the hon. Member for Ayr, was matter of envy to Conservatives, two definitions of the word were given; and though he did not think that either of them was strictly accurate, he would state them, as they might amuse the House. One speaker said— If you turn to a dictionary for the word 'faggot,' you get as its meaning, 'a soldier numbered on the muster-roll, but not really existing.' Faggot voters in a county I take to be men numbered on the roll of electors, but not really existing, Another speaker declared the meaning of the word "faggot" to be, "a bundle of sticks tied together for the fire," and added that "faggot voters were voters bound together by a political tie for the purpose of carrying fire and destruction to a bonâ fide constituency." The Member for Ayr said he did not bring forward this question in a party spirit, but immediately afterwards made use of this expression—"The Tories are desirous of having property, and property alone, represented." Sheltering himself under the example set the night before by an ex-Secretary of State, he (Mr. Charles Dalrymple) would venture to assert, with great deference to the hon. Member, that "a more nonsensical remark could scarcely be made." The speech of the hon. Member showed that he did not attach one iota of credit to the party lately in power for the part they had taken in the Reform Bill, or he (Mr. Charles Dalrymple) should say, that their share in that Bill ought to free them from any such ridiculous charge. The hon. Member for Ayr had alluded to the county of Bute, but was altogether mistaken in supposing that all the faggot votes there were on the Conservative side. A particular inquiry had been made into this subject, in consequence of an assertion that his (Mr. Charles Dalrymple's) return was owing to the faggot votes. The facts were these—At the last election, fifty-eight of these votes were given to the Conservative side and forty to the Liberals, the majority by which he was returned over his opponent being 165. He was ashamed to trouble the House about personal matters like these, but he was practically compelled to do so, after the course taken by the hon. Member for Ayr. It had been alleged, and truly, that he (Mr. Charles Dalrymple) was a faggot voter, but he had not recorded his vote in his own favour, although, according to the newspaper re- ports, that course, if he had thought; proper to adopt it, would have been justified by the step which the very highest authority in that House had taken, in voting for himself. There was no connection, he was bound to say, between: the recent election for the county of Bute and the creation of the vote in his favour. He would make one more remark, and that was with respect to some; of the names to which allusion had been made. None of the names which the hon. Member had read to the House were those of gentlemen who were not more or less connected with the county of Bute. The hon. Member for Ayr justified the course taken by the Anti-Corn Law League, by the assertion that they only created votes with a high political object. Well, he could assure the; hon. Gentleman that there was not a single vote made in the county of Bute which was not made with quite as high an object. After the late Reform Bill, the number of towns enfranchised was so great that the voice of the country districts was scarcely heard; so that if a landlord occasionally encourages his relations and friends to buy a qualification: in his county, even then the landlord interest in the county would be imperfectly represented, as compared with the influence of the towns. As the hon. Member for Ayr had referred to Rothesay—and he would say that it was the only large town in his constituency—and though he had received support from a large number of the new electors there, he should have no objection to return to the Anti-Reform Bill settlement, and to; make Rothesay one of the towns connected with the Ayr District of Burghs.


Sir, with regard to the Petition which has been presented this evening, the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Graham Montgomery) must have laboured under a misapprehension in supposing that there is any idea of raising the questions as to his title to sit in this House upon that Petition. The petitioners were, however, in my opinion, fully justified in setting forth the grievances under which they laboured in consequence of the large number of non-resident voters, who turned the scale in their unfortunate county, or rather counties. I say un- fortunate, because that part of the country enjoys the unenviable notoriety of having been the scope upon which this battle of faggot votes has been fought for the last thirty years. I remember it being stated to me by a friend who is now no more, and who contested Peeblesshire thirty years ago, that if all the resident voters in that county had voted for him, there were enough of non-resident voters to turn the balance. Without examining very closely the accuracy of that opinion, which may, perhaps, be open to doubt, I find some proof of the statement in the Report of the Committee which sat on the question of fictitious votes nearly thirty years ago; in which the register of these two counties was referred to, and it was stated that the constituency was almost doubled under the system which had been put in operation. I will not enter into the question as to who began this system. I think that from whatever quarter it was begun it deserves our condemnation, and that it ought everywhere to be received with reprobation, in order that it may be checked in future. I trust that this House and the Government will think that now is the time when they should be alive to the necessity of taking steps in this matter. I am justified in saying this, because I made an appeal to the last Parliament on this subject. Although the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Dalrymple) says that it is not a party question, I was opposed to a man by hon. Members opposite. I made my attempt both upon the English and Scotch Bills, but, although I was unsuccessful, I predicted that the question would, in Scotland at least, crop up again. I admit that this question does not now occupy the same position as it did thirty years ago. The system as it then stood was full of the grossest abuse, and has been described by my hon. Friend (Mr. Craufurd) as almost amounting to an interchange of bonds which might be destroyed in the following week; but such a system could not exist under present circumstances, and the scrutiny which follows the voting. It is obvious that wherever we have low property qualifications the desire will be felt to Tiring persons from a distance as purchasers, in order to overbear the natural constituency. I think there is no class of people who feel a stronger interest in the franchise they possess than the residents in the Scotch counties which are the subjects of this discussion. I wish to impress upon the House that there is a strong disposition to get rid of the evil. Public attention has been attracted to this question and to the system by which property is registered in such a manner that the public can ascertain where and how they pass from one hand to another. In the present instance many of the properties are created by gentlemen connected with Edinburgh and Glasgow, who have no connection with these counties; this being so, the object of the manufacture of these votes is perfectly plain. It is a singular fact that in the Petition which has been sent from these counties, fifteen out of the 300 signatures are those of gentlemen who voted for my hon. Friend (Sir Graham Montgomery) at the last election. With regard to the remedy, I think that the application of some such test as you take in boroughs would be advisable. I think that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ayr has taken the right course in moving for Returns which will be of service to the House in considering this matter.


said, that although he was now an English Member he had been the representative of a Scotch constituency; and, perhaps, because he did not now represent a Scotch constituency, he might speak more freely of the system of creating faggot votes. It was not often that Members were converted by arguments used in a debate; and he confessed that, when the hon. Member for Ayr rose, his idea was that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Craufurd) would have done well to recollect the maxim quieta non movere. He must admit, however, that he had been convinced by the arguments he had heard, and especially by those used by hon. Gentlemen opposite. They confessed that there was a vast number of faggot votes, but they contended that they represented the true and intelligent opinion of their constituencies. No doubt this was the case; but, if so, they had much better be returned by the intelligent voters of the district than by votes created in this manner. It was highly advisable that faggot voting should be discontinued, for the system neither reflected credit upon the hon. Members who were returned by it nor upon that House. He did not concur in the remark of the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Craufurd) that a person possessing a large territorial position ought not to possess more influ- ence than one who possessed merely a cottage. He thought that the territorial magnate must necessarily be in possession of more political influence than one who, to use a common saying, "had a lesser stake in the hedge." But, at the same time, he did not think that the creation of fictitious votes could by any possibility conduce either to the purity of election or to the honour of that House.


said, that after what had dropped from hon. Members opposite, the statement of the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Craufurd) that this was not a party or personal question could hardly be said to have been substantiated. It had been said by hon. Members, that whenever a nonresident was registered on a £5 qualification, the vote must be taken to be a fictitious one. Now, he could only say he had several applications from gentlemen, of whom he had never previously heard, who happened to have originally belonged to the county he represented (Wigtown), requesting that his political agent might find properties on which they could secure a vote. [A laugh.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite might laugh, but, perhaps, it would not be very pleasant to them to be informed of the reason given for those applications. It had also been said that strangers had no business to possess votes in small Scotch counties; but if strangers might not vote in small Scotch counties, was it proper for large Scotch counties to be represented by Members who had no title in the county at all? If the principle were carried out, where would the hon. Members for Perthshire, Renfrewshire, and also the gentleman who sought to represent Dumfriesshire, now be?


said, he must remind the noble Viscount (Viscount Garlies) of the fact that the hon. Members (Mr. Parker, Mr. Bruce) to whom he had just alluded had been returned not by faggot votes, but by the free and unbiassed liberal voters of the counties. That was deyond all dispute. The noble Lord objected to them because they were Englishmen—["No, no!"]—well, because they did not reside in the counties they represented; but if that was an objection in the eyes of the noble Lord, it was no objection in the estimation of the whole of Scotland. The fact only showed that, failing to secure good and true Liberal representatives in those counties they looked outside for them, and there could be no doubt those who had been selected did them the highest credit. With reference to the more general question, he did not envy the position of the hon. Gentlemen who had addressed the House from the other side on that occasion. In default of a shadow of argument in support of the present system it had been asserted that it was an admirable system by which a gentleman could assist his sons, nephews, and other near relatives to obtain votes in the county in which he lived. But the lists did not fulfil the hon. Member's own conditions. It appeared from the roll for the two counties of Selkirkshire and Peeblesshire, that the faggots were not sons and nephews of proprietors in those counties. They had not the most remote connection with those counties, but were per sons from Berwickshire, East Lothian. Aberdeenshire, Edinburgh, Dumfriesshire, and other counties; and the parties had even gone as far as the county of Fife to import from that distinguished county the Conservative agent and his son. [Sir GRAHAM MONTGOMERY: There is not one of them on the roll yet.] He only hoped the Government would take such steps as would prevent their ever getting on the roll. Public feeling in Scotland was undeniably strong on this subject and was daily becoming stronger. The intention of the Legislature in passing the Reform Bill was that the bonâ fide opinion of the Scotch constituencies should be made known in the election of their representatives; and he contended that where a large body of non-resident voters were brought into a county, they swamped and destroyed the voice of the electors, and prevented a free expression of their opinion. He strongly advised the Government to deal with the matter with a bold and unsparing hand, and if they did so, he could promise them the support of every liberal-minded man in Scotland.


Sir, the hon. Baronet who has just sat down has said that it is an unjustifiable act on the part of any person to increase his interest in the political condition of the county in which he resides by giving votes to his sons, nephews, and other relatives. I do not think that the hon. Baronet has given fair interpretation of what has been said on this side of the House. No one on this side has maintained for a moment that he has a right to create fictitious votes. The existence of fictitious votes is what is denied. Having long represented the Selkirk constituency, I can safely say that, with the exception of those votes which were put on the roll in 1835, and which are certainly open to the charge of being fictitious, there have been no such votes created in the county of Selkirk. In the Report of the Committee of 1838 on the fictitious votes in Selkirkshire, it is stated that it was not to be wondered at that in a small county whore the parties were so equally balanced, they should struggle for the mastery; and they began—which made the first start it was immaterial to inquire—by creating fictitious votes; but these votes are now nearly exhausted by death, bankruptcy, and other causes. We have since had a certain number of voters imported from the neighbouring counties. They have bought properties, and paid for them with their own money, and they have a fixed bonâ fide interest in these properties. If you are going to alter the Reform Act, and say that a man shall not have a vote for any place except where he is resident, that is another question. That would be altering the Reform Acts of 1832 and 1868, providing that the county representation should rest upon property, and, however much the arguments of the hon. Member for the Ayr Burghs (Mr. Craufurd) pointed to manhood suffrage, I am glad those Acts did not assert that principle, and I hope the principle of a property qualification will always be maintained in the electoral franchise. If it can be proved at this moment that any man is a fictitious voter, let him be struck off. This is surely a, matter strictly for the registration courts. Very recently, in the county of Midlothian, seventy joint proprietors in a small oil factory claimed to be placed on the register; they belonged to the Liberal party, but were objected to as fictitious, and the names were struck off the roll. I maintain that that is the proper way to deal with them. The Liberal party, although anxious to cast odium on their opponents in reference to the creation of fictitious votes, did not scruple to try and sustain those votes in the registration court. I only hope the Returns moved for will be given, because they may be of use to both sides of the House. The question should not be dealt with as affecting particular cases, but should be decided on a broad principle applicable to the country at large.


Sir, the hon. Baronet who represents two counties of Scotland (Sir Graham Montgomery) is quite mistaken in supposing that I was anxious to address the House on this question; but he made some observations which I may be justified in attempting to reply to. He quoted, as an authority for what is now complained of, the course taken more than twenty years ago by the council of the Anti-Corn Law League. It may be a sufficient answer to the hon. Baronet to say that on that occasion the whole of the Conservative party in this House utterly condemned the course which was taken by the Anti-Corn Law League. I say, therefore, that unless hon. Gentlemen opposite have entirely changed their opinions on this matter, they must utterly condemn the practices to which our attention has been directed to-night. A Committee was moved for, I believe by the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), and an attempt was made to show what bad things the Anti-Corn Law League was doing. One of the cases referred to in it was brought before a court of law—I think before the late Lord Chief Justice Tindal. He not only supported the vote, but declared that it was quite within the purpose and privileges of the British Constitution that the franchise should be extended by those means which were sanctioned by the law. But bear in mind that there was this distinction: the votes made by the Anti-Corn Law League were real votes, not sham votes like these which are being manufactured in Scotland. What we did was to ask the population of the counties, who, under the £50 tenancy clause had almost no representation, to avail themselves of the 40s. freehold franchise, and to purchase qualifications and become electors in their counties. I do not pretend to say there were no persons who bought votes in other and adjacent counties. I will not overstate the case at all, but the general course was to advise the populations of Leicestershire, Yorkshire, and Cheshire to buy properties in the counties in which they lived, and thus to enfranchise themselves. But judging by the statement of the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Craufurd), and other Gentlemen who have spoken, it is quite clear this is not the course which has been taken in Scotland. When you buy, or obtain these faggot votes, you cannot give me one of them; I am of different politics. It would be a breach of trust if I were to ask and you were to propose to give me one of them. You cannot sell them even, at least, if you were to propose that, you must sell them to one of your own politics. I can quite understand that that Gentleman who ran to and fro upon the earth—to find two or three different persons whom he could qualify—might have found great difficulty in discovering any specimens of the Tory persuasion in Scotland. If he had been willing to have as electors persons of Liberal opinions, no doubt he could have found persons who could have qualified without going out of his own village. Therefore, the difference is all the difference in the world. In our case the votes were real votes, and we held the property which could be sold, and could be left by will; but in your case your property—if it be a property—has none of these qualities, and in point of fact is no property whatsoever, and the vote is no real vote according to the principle of English law, and is a sham vote. You are doing that which the English law would most certainly condemn. I look upon it that making votes in this way, coming in among a constituency so small—they have in fact no large constituencies—as those county constituencies to which reference has been made—is really making war on the British Constitution. There are many ways of disfranchising a constituency. You may pass an Act and get rid in that way of all the electors; but if you introduce persons who are not resident in the county, and have no property in it, you may just as effectually get rid of the constituency, and as completely disfranchise it as if you passed a Bill for the purpose. Hon. Gentlemen opposite profess to defend the Constitution. I think if they consider the matter as it has been debated to-night they will feel that the course is not only foolish, but that it is wrong, and Gentlemen returned by votes of this kind must feel that they would much rather be returned by the uncontrolled expression of the real will of the whole constituency. The House has done a great thing within the last three years upon this question of the representation. It is, I believe, resolved, having given a wide suffrage, to endeavour to make the suffrage pure and real; and we have got rid of the foolish and ignorant idea of past years, that there was something injurious in having real representatives of the people in this House, Having come to that conclusion, why should not hon. Gentlemen opposite take the course which some gentlemen in Scotland, who would sit on this side of the House were they in it, have taken, and give up a practice which they themselves must condemn, and which whenever they speak of it as practised by a Liberal they condemn just in the same manner as we condemn it. If it should not be abandoned, it will, I should think, become the duty of Parliament to take some steps by a short Act or by the introduction of some words to make this fraud impossible? If you send a man to gaol for stealing a pocket-handkerchief, what should be done to a man who, in the face of the noble representative Constitution of this country, invades a county, and by means which the law never intended to sanction, and the principle of the law emphatically condemns, shall defraud the whole resident population of the county of the franchise, and of the electoral power which the law has conferred upon them?


said, he had not intended to take part in this debate, but the vehement expressions of the right hon. Gentleman opposite induced him to make one or two observations. As one hon. Gentleman after another had risen and declaimed against the practices they were considering, he could not help making the reflection, "What hypocrites we all are!" The right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down said that when the creation of faggot votes was instituted by the Anti-Corn Law League—


No. I did not say the Anti-Corn Law League created faggot votes; I said exactly the reverse.


said, he was sorry if he had misinterpreted the right hon. Gentleman, but he certainly understood him to say that the Tory party condemned the creation of faggot votes by the Anti-Corn Law League. That was the impression he had given the House. ["No!"] If the right hon. Gentleman did not mean that, it was impossible to say exactly what he did mean; he stated that when the Council of the Anti-Corn Law League suggested the creation of faggot votes the Tory party objected. ["No!"] He (Mr. Hunt) thought they should not be unfair to one another; each party, no doubt, did its best to secure a predominance in the constituencies by every means the law allowed; when the effect was against the Opposition the Opposition complained of the practice; when the reverse was the result the other side complained. His hon. and gallant Friend behind him, (Mr. Dalrymple) had said that fifty-eight faggot votes had been polled for him and forty for his opponent; and no doubt if the numbers had been reversed his hon. and gallant Friend would have remonstrated against the practice. Judging from the vehemence of hon. Gentlemen on the Ministerial side of the House, he presumed the balance of advantage through the practices referred to was on the Conservative side. It was, therefore, natural that right hon. Gentlemen opposite should make themselves out to be monopolists of public virtue and patriotism, and that their opponents ought to be reprobated. His experience had been that Conservatives of great territorial influence in counties were met by energetic Liberals getting up land societies and enabling cottagers to become freeholders by paying 1s. a week or 1s. a month until they purchased their houses. He had been present at registration courts when the question was fought out whether the freehold in question was worth 39s. 6d. or 40.s. Now, what did the landed proprietor do to counteract this endeavour to upset his legitimate interest as the owner of 5,000 or 6,000 acres? Determined not to be beaten by the Anti-Corn Law League, or some other society in London, he thought that, as his eldest would some day inherit his property, there was no harm in his becoming possessor of a portion of it at once; so he made over some land to him, and perhaps did the same by a younger son, that both might throw their votes into the scale and defeat the ends of the land society, who, under the pretence of benefiting the poor man, designed to deprive the landed proprietor of some of his proper weight in the county. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had said that Chief Justice Tindal had laid it down that these votes were within the purpose of the law. [Mr. BRIGHT: Real votes.] But the question was what votes were real. If these practices ought to be put an end to let them have a Committee on the subject and see what should be allowed and what not. In his opinion they had wasted a good deal of time that night in raking up personal questions between this great man and that great man. The debate had not added much to the dignity of the House, for the question, if raised at all, ought to have been debated with much less acrimony and party spirit.


said, he did not at all agree with the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, in thinking that the debate had not added to the dignity of the House. On the contrary, he thought that his hon. Friend (Mr. Craufurd) had done good service in bringing the subject forward, and that the right hon. Gentleman had also done good service by the tone in which he had discussed the proposition before them. He agreed, however, with the right hon. Gentleman that the question ought not to be discussed in a party spirit, and further, he admitted that those on his side of the House were not entitled to assume that they were the sole depositaries of electoral purity. He recollected the beginning of this system in Scotland, and a more disgraceful or degrading system it was impossible to imagine. It was put in practice by both parties; he would not say by whom it was commenced, because he did not know. The question, however, ought not to be who began it, but who was to put an end to it. He hoped that would be the only question that would be asked in future. He had been in hopes that the system had come to a natural termination. The noble Lord who had addressed the House a little while ago (Lord Henry Scott) was quite right when he stated that since 1836 no fictitious votes had been created in the county which he represented. The practice had died out altogether since that time until 1865, when it was revived, and the other day indications were given that it was again going to commence. It was in vain to go back to the past, and to bandy recriminations in the matter; hon. Gentlemen could not but see that the times were changed, and that influences which were looked upon with a lenient eye before would not be tolerated now by the enlarged constituencies. The last Parliament had given a great boon to the people which had been received with gratitude and enthusiasm, and it was the duty of Parliament to see that the boon was protected and not abused. There was one great evil in the system complained of, and it was this—that it was as near a system of corruption as anything in which honourable men could engage could be. Parliament was trying to prevent electoral corruption, and yet, by this system, they would import into a county a set of voters who must in honour vote one way. In Scotland that evil was felt much more because the constituencies were so small. In large constituencies like the English counties the representation could not be affected by such a system; but in Selkirk and Peebles, if they were to allow non-resident voters to come in, they would over-ride the resident constituency. He would not say anything about the Anti-Corn Law League and its Council, further than that there was a great difference between their case and that which the House was now discussing; but this he would say, that he had always held that it was far more constitutional and far better for the country and the people to leave voting and the acquisition of qualifications to the natural course of things, and not to interfere in one way or another to increase the constituency. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hunt) had suggested that a Committee should be appointed, and that the matter should be inquired into calmly and deliberately. Whether that course ought to be followed, or the Government were to attempt to legislate upon the subject; or they were to wait to see what effect the expression of the opinion of the House might have upon the country, he would not at that moment attempt to say. But this he would say, that the course complained of could not be continued, for the people would not submit to it. It might be that the landed interest in Scotland was not so fully represented in that House as the landowners and perhaps some others might wish. But he could only say that territorial influence was to be acquired by other arts and other means—by sympathizing with the people, by feeling as they felt, and sharing in their sentiments. That was what would give the landlords an influence which they never could acquire by such a system as that which had that evening been brought under the notice of the House. He would beg his hon. Friend to withdraw his Motion, and the Returns would be granted, as a matter of course, if he would move for them on Monday.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.