HC Deb 16 March 1869 vol 194 cc1470-523

Sir, before calling the attention of the House to the subject of the Ballot, I must express my regret that my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol (Mr. Berkeley), whose lieutenant upon this occasion I am, feels himself unequal at the present moment, through ill-health, to the task of bringing the question before the House with the necessary attention to detail. I hope that even before it shall have passed through this preliminary stage my hon. Friend may find his health sufficiently re-established for him to resume his old position, and to crown with his own hands the work upon which for many years he has bestowed indefatigable labour. I think that we shall all hail the return to the front of a champion whose strokes were always playful, and who at a time when the Ballot was probably the most unpalatable question which could be brought before the House, invariably contrived, by the flow of his genial humour, to impart a relish to it. Sir, I fear that I cannot emulate the sparkling fancy of my hon. Friend; but I can, at least, emulate the spirit of fairness and courtesy which distinguished his speeches, and I hope that when I sit down it will be in the power of no opponent of the Ballot to say, however mud) the question may have suffered in advocacy, that the discussion has suffered in time. For, Sir, I wish it to be understood at the outset that I am not bringing this question before the House as a party question. It is clear to my mind that, in a strictly party sense, neither party has anything to gain from the Ballot. The evils which we believe that it is calculated to check are equally inimical to the interests of both parties in the country; and I am sanguine enough to believe that before long men of both, parties will acquiesce in the expediency of adopting a measure which is our only probable escape from them. But, Sir, if the Resolution which I am about to move is to be regarded as in no degree offensive in intention to hon. Gentlemen opposite, it must be accepted as equally friendly to Her Majesty's Government. No one could have been more pleased than I was with the speech which a few days ago was made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Home Department, and, as the House well knows, many other Members of the Administration—I think the majority—have already expressed an opinion in favour of the Ballot, while the remainder, in their recent utterances, have certainly not displayed that inveteracy of repugnance which would lead us to infer that their minds are hermetically sealed against argument and persuasion. I rejoice at this, because I do not believe it possible for any Liberal Government to occupy that Bench for a twelvemonth which does not make the Ballot a Cabinet question. But it may be said the question is already in the hands of the Government; why cannot you leave it there? The question is not in the hands of the Government, but of an impartial Committee of this House. I know that we have assented to the appointment of that Committee. It may be open to doubt whether the great question of the Ballot was one which ought to have been referred to a Committee at all, especially in conjunction with a number of other questions more or less irrelevant. But it is too late to discuss the policy of this course now. All I wish to say is, that we did not assent to that Committee in order to stifle discussion, in order to shelve this whole question without debate for another Session of Parliament; but many hon. Members assented to that Committee simply in order that those who were manifestly praying for more light might receive it. This is not one of those crude, undebated, ill-digested questions which we are in the habit of referring up-stairs, and then waiting patiently until the Report comes down. It is regarded by many Members of this House, and by vast numbers of persons in the country, as a question of vital and urgent importance—one with regard to which this House does not abdicate its right of deliberation to any Com- mittee for a single hour. And it has reached a stage when free discussion is essential—discussion out-of-doors, discussion, if you will, upstairs, but especially discussion in this House, the debates of which exercise a most material influence upon public opinion in the country. Now, those who have assented to this Committee are disqualified from opposing the introduction of the Ballot, on the ground that the Legislature has recently passed a measure which was adapted to put an end to the evils against which the Ballot is directed, because by appointing this Committee they have admitted the insufficiency of that statute. And evidence of this insufficiency is afforded by the universal chorus of congratulation in which at this moment the whole tribe of electioneering agents exults. Even if it were possible to construct a harmony of the Judges, just as we have constructed a harmony of the Gospels, what would such an encyclopædia of wisdom be but a handbook to the science of bribery and intimidation? Does anybody who has read the recent decisions doubt the possibility of sailing completely through the Act of last Session? No doubt the navigation in some parts will be intricate, but the intelligent navigator, armed with the judicial chart, will have no difficulty in threading the passage. Why, Sir, the Judges, when they have completed their labours, will have buoyed the channel from end to end. So much for the efficiency of our measure in putting a stop to bribery, intimidation, and treating. But I shall be told, perhaps, that the Ballot will prove equally delusive. No doubt the perverse ingenuity of man will at times evade all your precautions; but the question is not, will the Ballot put an end to bribery and intimidation, but whether it will not heap discouragement and obstacle in their way. In proportion as the bargain becomes less secure there will be less inducement to make it. The intimidator himself will tremble when he reflects that the victim of his coercion has a safe and sure revenge. You might as well discard the use of locks and bolts—because the perverse ingenuity of man can pick or force them—as discard the precaution of the Ballot on the ground that picklocks and crowbars are still left in the hands of the thieves and robbers of the Constitution. But this question will be settled by an ap- peal to facts rather than to theories. Our opponents go on arguing just as though the Ballot were a bold experiment of the political empiric. The Ballot is not a conjecture, it is a fact. The Ballot is a success. So far is it from being an innovation, that yours is almost the only free country where it is not an established institution. The moment a nation becomes free it takes to the Ballot as naturally and heartily as it takes to liberty itself. The other day a great country in the south of Europe became free. It threw off a yoke so odious and yet so long endured that men began to wonder, not only at the patience of their fellow-men, but at the long-suffering of Heaven. This newly-enfranchised nation had to choose the form of government under which it meant to live. The passions and prejudices of centuries, inflamed to the utmost by religious rancour, embarrassed and embroiled that choice. The people who had to make it had grown positively grey in the ways of violence and discord—they were children in those of liberty and order. They made their choice by Ballot. Let me read to the House the testimony of an eye-witness, of one who appears to have been no enthusiast about the Ballot, and who was communicating his impressions to a great leading journal which has never been enthusiastic about anything. Writing from Madrid, he says— I have never heard a Spaniard speak of an election in his country except as of a disreputable farce. In order to satisfy myself about the grounds for this general distrust, I attended yesterday at one of the polling places, and I must say that to all outward appearance anything more fair and exemplary than the proceedings of a Spanish election I have never seen. The spectacle of order presented by Madrid was, with very few exceptions, presented by the whole Peninsula. And what happened in Spain has happened in the case of every nation which has become free. Its freedom has been sealed by the Ballot. The country which achieved liberty immediately before Spain was Prussia. The whole nation was enfranchised after Sadowa, and as a necessary seal to their enfranchisement they have the Ballot. Retracing the history of freedom in Europe, the next name which we find upon the roll of free nations is Sweden, then Italy and the Netherlands, then Belgium and Greece. All these have the Ballot. Even Austria and France—nations which as yet have only contrived to get glimpses of freedom—have the Ballot. There are three great countries in Europe still without the Ballot—Russia, the last stronghold of medieval serfdom; Turkey, the outpost of barbarism in Europe; England, the fortress of liberty throughout the world. But why follow the example of universal civilization? The Ballot is un-English. It was not un-English in 1526, when we find it in full operation at the election of the magistrates of London. Nor was it un-English in the days of the Stuarts. James I. attempted to strangle in its cradle British power in America in obedience to the will of Spain, and by the election of his creatures as officers of the Virginia Company. He was baffled by the Ballot, and hence British America. In the reign of Charles I. the king quarrelled with the great company of traders known as the Merchant Adventurers, because by Ballot they refused to elect, to their own destruction, his nominee as their deputy at Rotterdam. It was then that that Father of English liberty proceeded to make the Ballot un-English. I am indebted to a most able speech by Mr. Hepworth Dixon upon the Ballot for a State Paper, which I will read to the House. It is Charles I.'s Order in Council against the Ballot— At Hampton Court, this 17th of September, 1637—His Majesty, this day sitting in Council, taking into consideration the manifold inconveniences that might arise by the use of Balloting boxes, which is of late begun to be practised by some corporations and companies, did declare his utter dislike thereof, and, with the advice of their Lordships, ordered that no corporation nor company, either within the City of London and liberties, or elsewhere in this His Majesty's kingdom, shall use, or permit to be used, in any businesses whatsoever, any Balloting box, as they tender His Majesty's displeasure, and will answer the contrary at their peril. Whereof, as well the Lord Mayor of the City of London for the time being, and all other mayors and head officers of corporations, as all governors, masters, and wardens of all companies in and about the cities of London and Westminster and elsewhere, are to take notice, and see this, His Majesty's pleasure and commandment, duly observed. But although Charles I. proscribed the Ballot, the use of it still lingered, after Charles I. was removed, within the walls of Parliament itself, and Commissions and Committees were frequently nominated under it. But, perhaps the House will be startled when I state that Members have been returned to thin House by Ballot. Within the last few days Mr. Boyd Kinnear has presented us with extracts from a pamphlet in his possession, dated 1688–9, signed "N. T." and entitled "Some remarks upon Government, and particularly upon the establishment of the English monarchy, relating to this present juncture; in two letters written by, and to a member of the Great Convention." I will, with the kind permission of the House, read part of one of these extracts. The writer says— It is customary in the borough of Limmington in Hampshire, to elect by the Ballot. The manner is to give to every electing burgess (their number being limited and known) a different coloured ball for every competitor, each colour being respectively appropriated to the several competitors; as suppose there should be three candidates, each elector has three small balls given him, which he so manages as to keep only that in his hand which by its colour belongs to the person he intends to choose. This being inclosed in his hand, he puts it into a close box made for that purpose, leaving no possibility to anyone to detect what coloured ball he put into it. Thus, each having put in his ball according to his vote, the balls of one colour are separated from those of another colour, and so, according to the majority of balls of one colour, the return is made. This method I know to be of great advantage where it is made use of. It prevents animosities and distastes, and very much assists that freedom which ought to be at elections. No man in this way need fear the disobliging of his landlord, customer, or benefactor, for it can by no means be discovered how he gave his vote if he will but keep his own counsel. If this or some such device were appointed to be made use of in every borough all over the kingdom, I am persuaded it would abundantly answer expectation in the many advantages which would attend it. And so a most material precedent has been established in our favour, and against the foolish cry of those who say that the Ballot is un-English. A few years before Charles I. attempted to make the Ballot un-English, the Ballot box was carried over in the Mayflower to America. I need not remind the House of the story of the Pilgrim Fathers, how, unable to endure the thraldom under which they lived at home, they left home, friends, country, fortunes, everything except those free institutions which no longer flourished in England, but which were borne by them into the unpeopled wilderness to flourish for ever beyond the sea. The Ballot was adopted by the free colony of Massachusetts in 1634. It was adopted by every other colony or State in succession in the order of their civilization—the New England States leading the way, the slave States bringing up the rear. I shall be told that the American Ballot is not a close Ballot, and in most of the States no doubt that is so. But why is it not a close Ballot? Because the relations between land and capital on the one hand and labour on the other there are such that the Ballot is no longer necessary; and the example of America shows how we may return to open voting under the Ballot the moment those conditions are removed which make the Ballot desirable. But there are other populations more nearly allied to our own even than the Americans who elect by close Ballot. In the colonies of Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, and New South Wales, all elections take place by Ballot. Its adoption has been attended with the most signal and indisputable success. The first authority which I shall cite is that of my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Childers). In the course of a speech upon the Ballot, in 1860—which, was my right hon. Friend's maiden effort in this House, and which was full of that promise which he has since so amply redeemed—he thus expresses himself— Ever since the first concession of representative institutions to Australia, vote by Ballot had been one of the measures of reform, agitated in the Colonies and their Legislatures. It was not, however, until the eve of the introduction of what is called 'Responsible' or Parliamentary government, that it met with general advocacy. About that time public attention was directed to the corrupt practices which there, as in this country, too frequently attended Parliamentary elections. The prevailing evil was not so much intimidation as bribery.…But bribery and treating, in the vulgar forms in which we know them, were rife in the town constituencies; and to check them, and at the same time to reduce the excitement and expense of contested elections, the Ballot was proposed.…The Ballot was not in Victoria as in England exclusively advocated by the popular or Liberal party, and opposed by Conservatives. On the contrary, some of its most strenuous advocates Bat on the Conservative side of the House, and unquestionably its most formidable opponents were the leaders of the extreme democratic party. And to this, I think, much of its success is due. For not being a party measure, its details were honestly discussed, and settled by the ablest men in the House.…And what, Sir, has been the result?…Why, by the common consent of almost every public man who has seen its working, the Ballot has been thoroughly successful. It came into operation in the year 1856, when I was myself elected under its provisions. I cannot speak to the number of elections in other colonies; but in Victoria I understand that about 200 have taken place since that time, They have been dis- tinguished by the almost entire absence of those practices which were previously so prevalent."—[3 Hansard, clvi. 788–90.] Shortly after my right hon. Friend delivered this speech he gave evidence before the Select Committee on the Corrupt Practices Prevention Act. We are always having Corrupt Practices Prevention Acts, and Select Committees upon them—we are always washing our hands upstairs, but they are never clean. My right hon. Friend was asked by the Chairman, with reference to a constituency in Australia which had been notorious for bribery: "What was the result after the adoption of the Ballot as to that particular constituency?"—"I may say," replied my right hon. Friend, "that bribery became almost extinct there." "Was there treating also in the constituencies?"—"The treating used to be worse than the bribery, but treating in the towns became almost extinct." The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole) asked: "Was the intimidation of voters a common subject of complaint?"—"No; the intimidation talked of was rather mob intimidation. That is entirely done away with: the election is now conducted as quietly as a funeral." Contrast that with the scenes proved to have taken place at Drogheda. The Chairman next asked: "Is canvassing as keenly conducted as it was before you had the Ballot?"—"I think that it is not nearly so keenly conducted." The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gathorne Hardy) asked: "Have you the means of knowing whether the expenses of candidates have much diminished?"—" I should say that they have, very much, judging from popular rumour." Finally, after my right hon. Friend had given a great deal of evidence to the same effect, the Chairman asked him: "I understand you to say that you consider that that change in the mode of taking the votes has given general satisfaction in the colony?" My right hon. Friend replied, "I think it has given undoubted and universal satisfaction." Now, Sir, there is just one point in this evidence to which I would specially call the attention of the House in passing—namely, the effect of the Ballot on bribery and treating. This is most material to our case, because while almost everyone admits that the Ballot must check intimidation, there are those, as I shall; show presently, who dispute altogether the fact that it will check bribery and treating. If the House is anxious for corroborative evidence as to the success of the Ballot in Australia, I am in a position to furnish it in abundance. But I am anxious as much as possible to economize the time of the House, and therefore propose to cite one more authority only. It may be said that when my right hon. Friend gave his evidence the Ballot had only been a very few years in operation, and that his experience only extended to the colony of Victoria. The evidence which I am about to cite is not only very recent, but refers to the colony of South Australia. Mr. Anthony Forster, late Member of the Legislative Council of Adelaide, published, in 1866, a most able and interesting work, entitled South Australia; its Progress and Prosperity. He says (p. 200)— The operation of the Ballot in the Australian colonies has placed the constituencies beyond the suspicion of bribery and corruption. Speaking for South Australia, I may say that there has never been a question raised there as to the perfect adaptation of that mode of taking rotes to all the requirements of the elections. Whilst one of the last elections for the city of Adelaide under the system of open voting was simply disgraceful, requiring the intervention of the police and almost of the military, the first elections under the Ballot were conducted with the utmost propriety and decorum. The contrast was so striking as to be a subject of general congratulation. Now let me take a witness from quite a different part of the world. In an interesting book entitled From the Levant, published a few weeks ago, Mr. Arthur Arnold gives a description of a Greek election which he witnessed last year. He says— No stranger would have supposed that an excited struggle for power had commenced when the poll opened. In no city with which I am acquainted are politics so generally the subject of conversation. The people are by temperament most quarrelsome, and you will expect, as I did, that a Greek election would be at least as riotous as a similar ceremony in Ireland. On the contrary, English people do not go to their churches and meeting-houses in a more orderly manner than the Athenians did to the poll. And it cannot be doubted that this remarkable absence of anything approaching disorder was due to the mode of election—the Ballot. With the vote by voice in Athens, after the English manner, we should certainly have seen the Greek capital full of bloodshed. Every other man in Athens and in the Greek provinces every man is armed with weapons not slow to take life. Now, Sir, before I leave this part of the subject, let me remind the House that what is virtually the Australian Ballot has been resorted to in this country upon more than one occasion with marked success. "When the Maryport Improvement and Harbour Act was applied for in Parliament, in 1866, the promoters sought power to secure voting by Ballot at the election of trustees, that being the method of voting which had been practised in the town since 1833, when the first Act was obtained. When this clause of the Bill was brought before Lord Redesdale his Lordship drew his pen through it, and wrote on the margin, "I cannot consent to this fanciful legislation;" but the promoters made out such a good case in favour of the mode of voting which they had hitherto been accustomed to, that a compromise was effected, by means of which the promoters of the Bill obtained legislative sanction for the continuance of the Ballot; for, although the Act established open voting, a proviso was added that open voting should not be practised until the ratepayers found that the Ballot did not answer. Thus the Ballot continues at Maryport. The votes are taken upon the Australian system, and the Ballot at the trustee elections is held in high estimation. This opinion is not confined to people who advocate the adoption of the Ballot at Parliamentry elections; on the contrary, many of those who speak so highly in its praise are genuine Tories. They would not have the Ballot introduced into Parliamentary elections, they say; but in these local contests they freely affirm that they could not arrive at a just estimate of the opinions and wishes of the electors without secret voting. There are so many people in positions in which they would fear to incur the displeasure of their customers or employers by voting against them, or giving offence to friends that, on every side, it was confidently asserted that, if the Ballot were not in use at Maryport, but a very small proportion of the people who now vote so freely would come to the poll at all." The only other instance of an English Ballot with which I shall trouble the House, occurred the other day at Manchester. It was a test Ballot, to decide the relative claims of two candidates belonging to the same political party. Of the entire success of the experiment the whole London Press bore witness. The utmost order prevailed, although the contest was a very keen one. I need only say that having been present both at the polling booths and at the declaration, it is impossible to over-rate the efficiency of the machinery employed, which was a modification of the Victoria system. The representative of the leading journal says— There were many critical observers of the whole process, but no one has yet suggested a loophole for fraudulent evasion of the rules, unless it was by the very difficult and probably useless attempt to conceal a card and carry it away, and thus prove, at all events that no vote had been given by the person who obtained it. Well, Sir, against this array of facts, all tending to prove that the Ballot is practicable, and that it is in the highest degree salutary, we have to set the speculations and arguments of theorists. In the first place, we are told that the Ballot will not defeat the ends of bribery and intimidation, because a sense of moral rectitude will restrain men who have promised from corrupt or fraudulent motives to vote in a particular way from voting in any other way when the vote is secret. We are told that it is a venial thing to vote against one's conscience, but a crime to break the immoral promise to do so. There is shame and remorse for us in the latter case—there is only mortification in the other, and so the immoral promise must bind, but the violated conscience may take care of itself. Sir, I wonder where some people pick up their morality? What casuist affirms that a wicked or immoral promise is binding? or that any engagement to do wrong is paramount to the eternal obligation to do right? Is there any hon. Member who seriously doubts that the coerced elector will soon discover this, and act accordingly? But we are told that the Ballot would lead to lying. Whether is greater—the lie in the words, or the lie in acts? Sir, I have read with great attention the arguments of a great writer who recently had a seat in this House, and who will always have a place in the respect of Europe. I think that it will be admitted upon all hands that the argument adopted by Mr. Mill could not possibly have been more strongly stated than it has been stated by him. Indeed, he has bestowed so much care upon the exact shape into which this argument has been thrown, that he seems scarcely willing to trust himself—he, who is so great a master of expression—with any other form of words by which to convey his precise meaning, and in his work on Representative Government, has re-produced the argument in the very terms in which it is stated in his pamphlet on Parliamentary Reform, because, as he says, "he does not feel that he can improve upon them." If, therefore, we can show; that an argument so fully considered, and so carefully drawn, is unsound, it may be taken, I think, that the case of our opponents has collapsed. Now, no one regrets more than I do the absence of Mr. Mill from the seat which he i adorned in this House. I regret it especially to-day, because his presence; would have guarded mo against the possibility of misrepresentation; but in his absence it will be with a peculiar anxiety that I shall guard myself. Well, Sir, Mr. Mill not only lays down a line of argument, but he makes a great admission. I will endeavour to deal with the admission first and the argument afterwards. The admission is practically contained in these terms—that if the state of things which existed in this country thirty years ago existed now, he would still be in favour of the Ballot. He says— Thirty years ago it was still true that in the election of Members of Parliament the main evil to be guarded against was that which the Ballot would exclude [note in passing this testimony to the efficacy of the Ballot] coercion by landlords, employers, and customers. At present I conceive a much greater source of evil is the selfishness or selfish partialities of the voter himself. A base and mischievous vote is now, I am convinced, much oftener given from the voter's personal interest or class interest, or some mean feeling in his own mind, than from any fear of consequences at the hands of others, and to these influences the Ballot would enable him to yield himself, free from all sense of shame or responsibility. Sir, in one sense it is a great misfortune that Mr. Mill is cut off by the very rigidity of his principles from those sources of information which are open to less scrupulous men. If Mr. Mill had personally canvassed the great constituency which has just failed to appreciate his services at their true value, I cannot but believe that he would have re-written the whole passage which I have read. And what is the whole system of canvassing but an elaborate scheme of coercion—coercion by landlords and agents, coercion by customers, coercion by the men of a man's class or clique or sect? In how many thousands of instances may a man's vote be mathematically described as the resultant of divergent forces acting in the same plane, and all of them illegitimate; or the neutrality of voters as a statical couple, when the two forces exactly balance one another? But perhaps I shall be asked, where are the evidences of this pressure? Why, are not the newspapers filled with the complaints of men who have been coerced? Because it is the province of intimidation not only to strangle opinion, but to strangle it in silence. The hand which is strong enough to stifle it, stifles its cries. There is no offence committed by one man against the liberty of another which is so difficult of proof. What little self-respect remains to the man who has been coerced suggests every possible excuse for the base vote, except the shameful one that he is no longer master of his own actions. Men are thus made accomplices in their own dishonour, and with their own hands efface the evidences of the violence to which they have succumbed. An instance in point was brought to my notice the other day which, if it were not so pitiable, would be infinitely amusing. Four tenants upon an estate in a Scotch county promised with alacrity, and some of them with enthusiasm, their votes to one of the candidates at the last election. They were summoned to two meetings at the landlord's house, and there they were plied with such irresistible arguments that they came in a body to withdraw their pledges. But the point to which I wish to draw the attention of the House is this, that subsequently these four men—though every neighbour they had knew that they had been coerced—signed a paper to the effect that they had not. But, Sir, it is not only intimidation of this character, or the intimidation of workmen by masters, like that of Mr. Harrop at Westbury, which we have to deal with—this is a many-headed monster. We have to deal with the intimidation of mobs like that at Drogheda—where the Judge said, that beyond all doubt a system of organized intimidation and outrage prevailed on the part of agents or friends of the sitting Members which deterred supporters of the opposing candidates from recording their votes. And we have to deal with that form of mob intimidation which was practised the other day; at Blackburn. Now I have no hesita- tion in alluding to the Blackburn case, because I have just heard the issue of the Petition, which has terminated in the unseating of both Members petitioned against. The facts, therefore, which I am about to state may be taken as proved. After the publication of the result of the registration, I am informed that the following Circular was issued:— Dear Sir,—At a very influential meeting of the Conservative party, held at the Registration Rooms, Clayton Street, on the 8th instant, for the purpose of making arrangements for securing the return of Messrs. William Henry Hornby and Joseph Feilden as the representatives of the Parliamentary borough at the ensuing election, the gravity and importance of the crisis in our national history at which this election occurs was very prominently referred to, and it was decided that all millowners and their managers and over-lookers, and all master tradesmen and others possessing influence should be strongly urged to exert that influence, so as to secure in the municipal elections as well as in the Parliamentary, the success of the candidates who adhere to the constitution in Church and State," and so forth. Now, what followed the issuing of what is now known as the Blackburn "Screw Circular?" The days immediately succeeding the municipal election, and immediately preceding the Parliamentary election were marked by a series of outrages which drew upon Blackburn the attention of the whole country. On Tuesday morning, November 3rd, by a simultaneous movement, the operatives in at least half-a-score of factories expelled from the rooms their Liberal fellow-workmen to the number of several hundreds. These expulsions were aggravated by many gratuitous outrages upon the persons of obnoxious individuals. Even women were kicked, hustled about, their hair and clothing torn, and otherwise maltreated. Masters and managers when appealed to, with but one or two exceptions, refused to interfere; in some instances with slight expressions of regret and disapproval, and in others with curt discourtesy. In scarcely a single instance was a remedy afforded to the aggrieved parties, not even the customary notice of discharge. Now, I make no comments upon this Blackburn intimidation, for the obvious reason that I did not bring the question before the House as a party question, and that I should scorn to make political capital for my party out of the narration of atrocities which I am sure hon. Gentlemen opposite must condemn equally with ourselves. But it is not merely intimidation of this remorseless and lawless character with which we have to contend. There is a kind of undue influence which is infinitely safer, equally efficacious, and all but universal; the coercion which is subtle and impalpable, which never commits itself; which I may describe as being in the air, a deadly but invisible miasma. This is a species of intimidation which exists even in the face of elaborate assurances to the contrary—in the face of notices posted up in conspicuous places, to the effect that the tenants or the workmen, or the employés, are at liberty to vote as they please. But the tenants and workmen know better. They know that if they vote as they please they will become marked men, and men not marked for special indulgence. The tenant knows that in all probability that barn will not be built, and that there will be difficulty about the rent. The workman knows that if he votes against the master his next oversight will be followed by dismissal, and the next feast of St. Monday by a penitential Tuesday, and so these men vote as it is prudent to vote; and because the law is not broken, because there are no open menaces—nothing vulgar or ugly—everybody is delighted with the high-minded generosity of the master and the squire—I say generosity, for if a man in the position of landlord refuses to canvass his tenants personally or by his agent, it has come to this, that such conduct on his part is regarded, not as the necessary result of the least spark of gentlemanly feeling, but as the most signal proof of virtuous forbearance. But there is a form of intimidation more subtle even than this—a form of intimidation which exists in the imagination of timid men, and which very possibly is the result of a false inference. Let me give an illustration or two taken from what occurred at the last election. Hon. Members will be aware that at the city of Carlisle there are large railway works. At the last election 157 men who were voters were employed at those works. One of the candidates was a railway director. Of these 157 men, 139 plumped for the director, three splat their votes, and fifteen voted against him. Now take a county. I have here an analysis of the polling at more than a dozen little centres of population in a county constituency not 100 miles from London. First, we come to a village, the chief resident being a member of the Conservative committee. The votes polled were 21–19 by the Conservatives, and 2 by the Liberals. Then we come to a small town; the chief resident a leading member of the Liberal committee. Votes polled, 57—Liberals, 45; Conservatives, 12. Then a town, the chief resident a nobleman, who, my informant states—I know not upon what authority—is at present out at elbows with his party; the steward a Conservative. Votes polled, 127—Conservative, 93; Liberal, 34. Then a village; chief resident, a Liberal Baronet, whose predecessor was a Conservative. Votes polled, 65—Liberal, 49; Conservative, 16. At the previous election, when the Conservative predecessor was alive, the votes polled were 48—Liberal, 20; Conservative, 28. Then a village; the chief resident a convert to Liberalism. Votes polled, 45—Liberal, 31; Conservative, 14. At the previous election, before the conversion, the votes polled were 35—Liberal, 14; Conservative, 21. Then we come to two adjacent villages; chief resident, one of the Conservative candidates. Votes polled, 27—Conservative, 25; Liberal, 2. Then to two adjacent villages; chief resident, a Liberal Peer, the relative of one of the Liberal candidates. Votes polled. 53—Liberal, 36; Conservative, 17. Then to two adjacent villages; chief resident, the chairman of the Conservative Committee. Votes polled, 44—Conservative, 37; Liberal, 7. Then to two adjacent villages; chief resident, one of the Conservative candidates. Votes polled, 118—Conservative, 82; Liberal, 36. Of the 82, 36 plumped for their candidate, but not until near the close of the poll, thus helping to throw out the other Conservative candidate. Then we come to two adjacent villages; chief resident, a Liberal Peer, the relative of the other Liberal candidate. Votes polled, 71—Liberal, 62; Conservative, 9. Then to a village; the chief owner a non-resident Liberal Peer. Votes polled, 22—Liberal, 19; Conservative, 3. See how this man is respected in his absence. Then to a town parish; chief resident, a Conservative Peer, formerly Member of Parliament for the county. Votes polled, 55—Conservative, 47; Liberal, 8. Then to a village; chief resident, a nobleman's son, formerly Conservative Member for the county. Votes polled, 50—Conservative, 34; Liberal, 16. Lastly, we have a village; chief resident, a gentleman who aspires to be a Conservative candidate. Votes polled, 33—Conservative, 27; Liberal, 6. Now none of these figures include split votes. I respectfully commend them to the attention of Mr. Mill. Does he think that votes are thus swept up, and not only swept up, but swept backwards and forwards with every change of ownership, without the presence in the mind of the voter of that "fear of consequences at the hands of others," which existed thirty years ago, and the existence of which then made the Ballot the lesser evil? Now, Sir, it is very possible that Mr. Mill may say that his arguments referred to a different situation from that which exists, and that the wide extension of the suffrage which has since taken place to men in dependent positions, by immeasurably extending the area over which intimidation may be applied, has virtually restored that state of things which existed thirty-nine years ago, and under which the Ballot is the lesser evil. If this be so we shall be delighted to hail his return to our ranks; but, in the meantime, we are compelled to deal with arguments which have never yet been withdrawn. I have endeavoured to show that a state of things exists under which it is expedient to adopt the Ballot even if we must admit that its adoption will be attended by the evils anticipated by Mr. Mill. I will now endeavour to show that it will not be attended by those evils. What are those evils? Mr. Mill says that— People will give dishonest or mean votes from lucre, from malice, from pique, from personal rivalry, even from the interests or prejudices of class or sect, more readily in secret than in public. Now, I maintain that the interests and prejudices of class or sect would dictate the vote more generally under public voting than they would under the Ballot, for a mail's class or sect is his public; and even if he be desirous to vote above these petty and sordid considerations, the displeasure of his class restrains him. How does Mr. Mill think that the saw-grinders would vote under open voting when the selfish interests of the saw-grinders were at stake? Even the extreme case put by Mr. Mill of a majority of knaves restrained from repudiation by the difficulty of looking an honest man in the face afterwards may be disregarded, because repudiation is never resorted to in a civilized community without reasons so plausible that they govern public opinion, and so rob it of public disgrace; and even if this were not the case, the man who votes with a majority screens himself behind a multitude. I must strike out private malice and pique, too, for we are not a nation who care to stab in the dark. More than half the pleasure of revenge is to think that our victim knows the hand from which the blow has come. Give the Ballot and you will blunt the weapon at once. Nor need we regard the assertion that the voter may vote from feelings of personal rivalry, for it can only apply to the very limited class out of which Members of Parliament are chosen, and it is to be hoped, for the honour of our class, to a very limited fraction of that. There only remains, then, as the inducement to vote meanly—lucre; and Mr. Mill thus raises the whole question of the Ballot in its relation to bribery. It has been contended that the Ballot would act as a check upon bribery, because the briber would never know that he had value received, and because the voter could take the bribe, and then please himself, as indeed in a multitude of cases he does now, under open voting; for example, the Yorkshireman who sold his gamecock for £7 to a supporter of Mr. Ripley's, though he assured him any other cock at 1s. would answer his purpose as well, and then, having pocketed his £7, went and voted for my right hon. Friend the Vice-President of the Committee of Council. But the idea is, that the man who does not respect his conscience will respect his bargain, and that the rogue who has been bought will vote as faithfully for the rogue who has bought him in the dark as in the daylight—an idea of the supremacy of conscience among rogues which, to my mind, is ludicrous in the extreme. But I understand Mr. Mill to contend that the Ballot will positively encourage bribery, because men will take bribes under it who would be ashamed to do so if their votes were known, their previous predilections being known also. Possibly there may be isolated cases of this character, although bribery is always a secret transaction, but such a possibility is far outweighed by the certainty that under the Ballot that most outrageous species of bribery known as half-past three o'clock bribery will positively cease, because the relative position of the candidates upon the poll cannot be known, and, therefore, all the data which govern the half-past three o'clock market price of votes will be absolutely wanting. Take the recent case of Norwich as an illustration of what is meant by half-past three o'clock bribery. I will give it in the words of the Judge— The election took place on the 17th November. Up to the middle of the day everything seems to have gone on honestly. About the middle of the day there was a considerable majority in favour of Mr. Tillett and the other gentleman who stood with him. Between three and half-past three, in No. 3 ward, there were forty votes polled for Sir Henry Stracey. Between half-past three and four the number was 121. In No. 6 ward, between three and half-past three the number voting for Sir Henry Stracey was forty-three; between half-past three and four it was 103. In No. 7 ward, between three and half past three sixty-six votes were recorded for Sir Henry Stracey, and between half-past three and four 123 voted for him. It is further proved that in three public-houses at least—and it may be in many more—there were a number of men of the lowest class of voters waiting and on the 'lookout,' according to the expression of one of them. I have not the slightest doubt that these men were collected in these public-houses waiting to be bribed. I have not the slightest doubt that they were bribed, and that the great proportion of that low class of voters who voted in the afternoon of that day, between half-past three and four, were bribed voters. So much, then, for the argument that the Ballot will tend to encourage bribery; and, bear in mind, our experience in Australia is an ample confirmation in fact of the conclusions of reason. I have now endeavoured to show that the evils supposed to be incident to the Ballot will hardly exist. I have also shown the magnitude of those evils which do exist under open voting, but which the Ballot is calculated to remove. In conclusion, let me endeavour to deal with an argument which in wildness transcends anything which even the inventive ingenuity of our opponents has devised—the assertion that, if the vote be made secret the voter will naturally infer that the vote is his absolutely—his to do precisely what he likes with as much as the money in his pocket—his to barter for any private advantage—his to sell to the highest bidder—his to use in the promotion of the greedy interests of his class. This is the "false and pernicious impression" which Mr. Mill expects the vote by Ballot to make upon the mind of the elector, and the inference of course is, that instead of voting for the general good, for his party, for his colour, for the candidate of his choice, for anything which men vote for now—when he finds himself alone with his conscience he will stifle it. Or this argument is based on the hypothesis that a man's conscience is a thing outside him, something which he borrows from the public and leaves in the ante-room of the polling-booth with his umbrella. It is certainly based upon the hypothesis that the voter never reads the newspapers, never listens to the candidates' speeches, never discusses politics with his friends; that, in fact, from the dissolution of Parliament to the day of polling he is shut up in the Ballot box, for he can do none of these things without being reminded at every turn that as an elector he is the guardian of great principles, and that the very reason why the State secludes him at the moment when he performs this sacred trust, is that she may leave him alone with his responsibility. But says Mr. Mill, if the public is entitled to his vote, it is entitled to know his vote. Unquestionably in one sense it is, and know it it will, along with that of all his neighbours, at four o'clock. It is the decision of the majority that the public is concerned with. The public is much too great a personage to interrogate every individual elector and to criticize his vote. It cannot descend to such details; and if it could, it would abstain. The public itself although it has a right to demand that the vote shall be given in its interest, is in doubt upon the truth of the very principles which in the persons of the candidates are striving for the mastery. The public is divided in its own mind, and at the very moment when it would pretend to criticize my choice, it is dependent upon my choice, among many, for the way in which it is finally to make its own. If, therefore, this halting, expectant, irresolute creature-—the public, is by the very nature of things incapacitated from deciding upon the propriety of my vote, is it not a gross intrusion for it to step in and say—" I cannot trust you to vote for me unless I watch you, although I do not know as yet what voting for me means?" The fact is, that our opponents mistake the knot of persons by whom each voter is surrounded for the public. I demand the exclusion of this knot of persons, in order that he may see the real public which stands beyond. The public which stares the philosopher in the face in his closet with such intensity of expression that he can see nothing else, is absolutely shut out by the voter's entourage. Put the voter into a closet, and he may see what the philosopher sees. At present he sees his landlord with startling distinctness; he studies every line in the frown of his displeased customer; the sawgrinders' deputy peers round the corner at him. All these are realities. But the public which is on such easy terms with the philosopher is to him a distant and retreating shadow, armed neither with horse-pistols nor notices to quit. It is in the interest of that public that I speak. This is the public which you leave with the juryman when that other public is shut out. Why do you isolate the juryman? That he may consider the verdict his to sell to the highest bidder, or his to render to his country and his God? Do for the political juryman what you have done for the judicial one. Show him and those about him whose the verdict really is. When the squire is not by, and the priest is not by, and the agent and overlooker are not by, and the secretary of the trades union is not by, and all a man's customers are not by, perhaps the idea may grow up among them—the idea which has hitherto presented itself in a feeble, hesitating shape—the idea which your open voting has done its best to encourage for centuries—the idea that they are not entitled to his vote. This is the idea which I wish to see established—the idea that the vote is so sacred a thing that even a man's bosom friend has no right to meddle with it—that it is an affair of his secret conscience—a trust not only for the public, but for Him who made the public, who is infallible and just, while the public is full of error, prejudice, and passion. Enact the Ballot—establish this idea, and you will clothe, for the first time, with a sacred inviolability that which is not only the foundation of this great House of Parliament, but of the whole structure of the liberties of England. And now I fear that I have trespassed so long upon the patience of the House that I have left myself but little claim to speak to my Motion. I hope, however, that it is one which will commend itself at once and without argument to the judgment of the House, The House is no doubt aware that there are marked differences, both in principle and detail, in the mode in which the Ballot is taken in the various countries in which it is in use. Your Committee will, no doubt, examine witnesses from these countries to show the efficacy or otherwise of the Ballot. It will not add to the expense or labours of the Committee to examine the same witnesses with regard to the actual machinery by which the Ballot is taken. If the Committee should report in favour of the Ballot, the information thus acquired will enable us to legislate at once with all the details before us. If, on the other hand, the Committee should report against the Ballot, then details cannot fail to be useful to those who will discuss this question afterwards—for do not let any hon. Member go away with the impression that whatever may be the Report of the Committee this question will be allowed to drop. For these reasons, therefore, Sir, I beg to move the Resolution of which I have given notice.


said, that, in rising to second the Motion, he would offer no apology for doing so, as this was a question in which he took a strong interest—one, in fact, for which he had given his first vote twenty years before. He regretted now to see very few faces of those who then went into the Lobby with him. At that time, the question was considered to be one of great interest by all electoral reformers; but since that time, and up to the present, it had sunk considerably in public estimation. During the slack water later years of Lord Palmerston's Government, the Ballot fell very much in public estimation, but the last General Election caused it to resume all its original importance. If he wanted any evidence of the fact, he had only to refer to the Committee which had just been appointed. He agreed with his hon. Friend, who had proposed this Motion, that it was unnecessary to regard the Ballot as a party question. At the same time, when he remembered that all the influence of one description which could be exercised on a Parliamentary Election was territorial influence, he could not expect that the Ballot, or any other system of voting which was calculated to lessen that influence, would be received with much favour on the other side of the House. That was not the case, however, in other countries, for in a pamphlet, published by the First Lord of the Admiralty, it was stated that in the colony of Victoria the Ballot was regarded with favour by the Conservatives, whilst open voting was preferred by the Democrats. The power of voting in this country was conferred on certain classes, classes which had lately been very much enlarged. The members of those classes were not compelled to exercise their franchise, so that the power of voting could not, in the strictest sense of the word, be looked upon as a trust; no doubt, it was a moral trust, but not a legal one, to the exercise of which any legal responsibility was attached. Being, however, a moral trust, anything that interfered with its free exercise must be at variance with the spirit of the Constitution, and they had to ask themselves under what circumstances could a man vote freely. When he spoke of voting freely, he meant when a man voted according to his own unbiassed convictions, or as the result of legitimate persuasion and argument addressed to him by others. Now, any detail of electoral practice which interfered with either of those alternatives must be injurious to the freedom of voting. They had then to ask whether open voting, which was, in fact, only a detail of voting, did or did not interfere with those conditions; and he thought it was absolutely unavoidable that they should answer that question in the affirmative. He did not think it necessary to refer to anything beyond the events of last year to prove his affirmative. What had they not seen during the last General Election? Was it not manifest that workmen always voted with masters, tenants with landlords, and shopkeepers with customers? There was one explanation of this state of things as between the ruling and the subject classes, and that was that the latter so voted because they could not help it. If this was the case, it was a disgrace and a danger to our representative system, and, he believed, would be ultimately fatal to it. They had tried many remedies, and only one remained to be tried—namely, secret voting. Two forms of influence were prevalent in all elections, one addressed to the hopes, and the other to the fears of the voter; and those influences were known as bribery and intimidation. Which of these two was the worst? Clearly intimidation, because bribery could only be exercised on the dishonest, whilst intimidation might be applied to every member of the constituency. This was his belief, and he thought he should be able to justify it. With secret voting the first of these influences, bribery, would be greatly diminished; and the second, intimidation, would entirely disappear. It was true that men might still be bribed in batches; but for one person who would be willing to bribe in batches under the Ballot, ten would be willing to bribe in batches under open voting. But there was another kind, of bribery to which he must allude—namely, what was familiarly known as the half-past one o'clock bribery, which, in his opinion, would be destroyed, because under secret voting the state of the poll at that hour could not be known. A cheque for £200, changed for half-sovereigns at Norwich, to which his hon. Friend had referred, would not have been cashed if the persons bribing were not aware that the opponents were neck and neck; in short, bribery would be seriously damaged by the Ballot, and intimidation would be entirely effaced. He thought that this could not be too strongly stated—that bribery could only act on the dishonest, whilst the more honest the voter the more likely was he to be influenced by intimidation. They must remember that conscientious voting was the very salt of the electoral system. He believed that if it were possible to ascertain in what way the House could be constituted so as to secure the best of all combinations of parties—and to secure that votes should be so given as to effect that combination, still if the votes given for that purpose were given under undue influence the purpose must fail, the state of our Constitution would be dangerous, and its freedom must ultimately fall away. With this belief he urged the adoption of secret voting; but there were two questions to which he must address himself for a few moments. One was, could they get a plan to make voting really secret? and the other was, was the present the time that that plan should be adopted? His hon. Friend had referred to the several forms of the Ballot that existed in foreign countries. He had told them that the Ballot was in force in every country in Europe, ex- cept Russia and Turkey. He (Mr. Hardcastle) was not going to trouble the House with all the details, but he should like to refer to the manner in which the Ballot was worked in a neighbouring country. He selected France, because they were told that in that country the edifice of liberty was not yet crowned, nor was it likely to be for some time. The Ballot laboured under great disadvantages in that country, and yet it was remarkable what results it produced. In a pamphlet—about the accuracy of which there could be no question—the writer said that the Government named the candidate for every district, and even the placards and announcements were under the control of the Emperor. The placards were not like our election posters, but were official documents, signed by the prefet or his deputy, and those prefets and deputies and all the maires of communes and villages were appointed by the Government. Those officers had to approve of every address of a candidate before it was published, and all the preliminary proceedings were arranged under their orders. The police, the gendarmes, and other subordinates in their employ were used to canvass for the official candidate, and when the election took place the polling places were surrounded by those officials, who gave every possible obstruction to the candidate of the Opposition. In spite of all that, however, Paris and Marseilles were entirely represented by Members of the Opposition; let him ask, what chance would such men have had had there been open voting? Some reference had been made to Spain, and he should like to read one or two sentences descriptive of an election in that country, because it showed that in that country, and in times of great political excitement, the Ballot could be exercised in the most peaceable manner. The writer said that he went to the Ateneo, a kind of political club, where he found the President sitting with four secretaries, and each voter came in and gave his vote without the slightest ceremony, and went out as quietly as he had come in. He did not exactly know how the voting was carried on for the North German Parliament further than that it was stated in the official Register that it was taken by Ballot. It was hardly necessary to go to any other country in Europe; but with the permission of the House he would say a few words about America, because there it had been said that the Ballot was a failure. In the first place he believed that although the Ballot was originally introduced into America for the purposes of secresy, it had since been adhered to more for the sake of expedition; the fact being that all elections were not only Parliamentary, but municipal, and included the return of many classes of local officers. For this reason the printed lists were used merely to save time and where no concealment was necessary. It had been said that the elections for New York were usually the scenes of great disturbance; but a friend who had been in New York informed him by letter that he was present at an election there in 1867; that the printed lists of names were no essential part of the Ballot machinery, but were provided for the sake of convenience and to save an elector the tremble of writing many names. Electors who did not wish to conceal their votes could obtain tickets at booths, which must be 100 yards from the polling place. All that the State could do was to give the opportunity of secresy to all who chose to avail themselves of it; but if a man chose to wear a parti-coloured riband, he could not be prevented. His friend described all the arrangements as being excellent, and stated that even in the rowdiest wards the proceedings were carried on in the most peaceable manner. Each ward had its own polling place, into which the voter came, gave his name and address, and dropped his ticket into the urn, and there was not the slightest difficulty of either ingress or egress. His friend could not recollect hearing of any row, and his only means of knowing that it was election day was, that when he went into a tavern to get a chop neither wine, beer, or spirits could be obtained—a restriction which he (Mr. Hardcastle) hoped the Committee would bear in mind. It had been frequently urged that the use of the Ballot in America had not been attended with success; but the same charge could not be urged against its employment in Australia, where it had been remarkably successful. Mr. F. S. Dutton, a gentleman who had watched the working of the electoral system in South Australia for many years, and who had stood contested elections under the system of open voting and under secret voting, bore testimony to the riot, tumult, and extravagance which prevailed in the former case, and the orderly, inexpensive, and thoroughly efficient system of vote by Ballot. According to this gentleman's description the voting continued from nine till four, the returning officer and clerk sat with the Ballot box before them, and upon an elector giving his name certain questions were put, and if it was ascertained that the name appeared upon the electoral role, the vote was taken by the Ballot. There was this objection to the plan that it was impossible to scrutinize the votes thoroughly, but this was met by the sys tem adopted in Victoria and described by his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty. Then after the nomination, the returning officer sent a re quisition to the Clerk of the Peace for a number of voting papers equal to the number of electors on the roll, and the papers were handed to the electors with an instruction to them to strike off the names of candidates for whom they did not poll, and the returning officer signed his name and affixed a number to each paper. When the elector came up to vote the returning officer wrote on the back of the paper the elector's number upon the roll, and then handed it to him. The voter took the paper to a table not overlooked by the poll clerks or by the public, and after erasing the names of those for whom he did not vote, dropped it into the Ballot box. The voting papers were examined in the presence of the scrutineers, but they were so placed that the numbers could not be seen. They were then sealed up, and until an election committee ordered the seals to be broken, the votes were protected by the strictest secresy. That was about as perfect a system of balloting as the ingenuity of man could devise, and he trusted it would be the plan adopted when the Ballot was introduced in this country. The Leader of the Opposition, in his speech upon the Address, at the beginning of this Session, said in reference to this subject—"In my opinion it would be a very un wise course" ["Order, order!"]


The hon. Gentleman cannot quote a speech made in the present Session.


said, he would only refer them to the speech without reading it. The right hon. Gentleman was desirous that nothing further should be done in the present Session to alter the law just introduced, and spoke in a complimentary way of the inquiries that had taken place, describing them as searching and satisfactory. He would admit that they had been searching, but very much doubted whether they had been satisfactory. He found that one of the principal results had been to make bribery and corruption more easy than it was before. He believed, moreover, that the decisions of the Judges had done very much to discourage further petitions and further inquiries, and this had been the effect especially of that most anomalous of all the petitions, the petition with reference to the Westminster election. At Bradford, Baron Martin, observing that with 21,000 electors on the roll, £7,200 had been spent by Mr. Ripley, doing no more good than if it had been thrown into the sea, declared that such an expenditure would never stand scrutiny while a Judge had to try election petitions. But in the case of Westminster the same Judge, dealing with an electoral roll of only 18,000 names, seated the respondent, who had spent £8,900 in 1868, not to mention £5,000 spent in 1865, and who had been in a very extensive and lucrative business, consisting partly of the business of a printer, and might therefore be supposed to be able to carry through many of his election arrangements at a cheaper rate than the other candidates. Immediately after the publication of the result of the Westminster petition a very remarkable state of things occurred. At the beginning of the Session there were fifty-four election petitions. From that time to the 1st of March twenty-three of the number were tried and seven withdrawn; but in the first Right days of March following the trial of the Westminster petition nine were tried and six withdrawn, so that the proportion of petitions withdrawn to those tried had increased from one to three to two to three. What were the facts brought out at this searching but not satisfactory inquiry? What he disliked far more than the expenditure of £8,900 among 18,000 electors was the kind of persons employed. Mr. Grimstone told the Judge that he had at first attempted to dissuade the hon. Gentleman from standing; but, when he insisted, expressed his readiness to become his chairman for the St. George's Ward, but required that "old Harry Edwards" should act as secretary. From the Report of the St. Alban's Commission, which led to the disfranchisement of that immaculate borough, it appeared that in 1847, out of 295 votes polled for Mr. Raphael, who came in at the head of the poll, only about thirty were not bribed, and that £3,500 was advanced to Mr. H. Edwards for the purposes of the election, of which sum the greater part was expended, with the knowledge of Mr. Raphael, in bribing voters. In 1850 £2,500 was advanced, of which the greater part was expended in bribery, and in the course of the evidence Mr. Edwards admitted that since the passing of the Reform Act about £19,000 had passed through his hands for election purposes. Election Committees and Election Commissions had been tried and had failed, and election trials having equally failed to secure electoral purity, let them see whether the object could not be obtained by the substitution of secresy for open voting.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That it be an Instruction to the Select Committee on Parliamentary and Municipal Elections, to take into consideration the various methods of taking Votes by Ballot which are at present in use in portions of the British Empire and in other Countries, together with any modifications thereof which may be suggested, and to report upon the most efficient and convenient system of Balloting."—(Mr. Leatham.)


I do not rise, Sir, to say anything against that part of the hon. Gentleman's Motion which refers to the expediency of adopting the Ballot at our municipal and Parliamentary elections. I rise to speak strictly to the Motion placed on the Paper by the hon. Gentleman, and to state the reasons which make me think it will be inexpedient that the House should consent to give the proposed Instruction to the Committee. In waiving all discussions as to the expediency of adopting the Ballot, I do not in any way undervalue the importance of the subject. I am perfectly willing to admit the evils under I the present system of voting, and am perfectly conscious of the deep interest; that is taken in the question of the Ballot by many of the largest and most important constituencies in the kingdom. The hon. Gentleman who has brought forward this Motion has said that by adopting the course he has suggested much valuable evidence may be obtained. But while advocating in his own person the adoption of the Ballot—and, of course, I am well aware that there are a great many who agree with him—he has wisely abstained from asking the House to express any opinion while we are on the eve of an inquiry on the Motion of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Bruce), with a view to inquire into the best means that can be adopted for securing tranquillity, freedom, and purity at our municipal and Parliamentary elections. Now, Sir, it is perfectly well understood that one of the subjects which the Committee will have to consider is the expediency of adopting the Ballot; and I cannot think that in considering that question the Committee will exclude that evidence which my hon. Friend wishes the House to be in possession of—namely, evidence as to the machinery by which the Ballot should be worked., supposing it to be adopted, in order that it might fulfil the purpose for which it was intended. I agree with the hon. Gentleman fully that it is not so much the Report of the Committee—the opinion of the Committee, which may be an opinion arrived at unanimously, or may be one come to by only a small majority—that we ought to look to in a question of this kind, as the evidence taken by the Committee and the authority of the witnesses by whom that evidence has been given; but it is a clear and well-understood rule in respect of Committees of the Whole House on Bills, that no Instruction can be given them to do what could be done without such Instruction, and although this rule does not strictly apply to Select Committees, it is unusual and inexpedient that the House should direct the attention of the Committee to one particular topic, to the exclusion of or in preference to others which fairly come within the scope of the inquiry, or give the Committee a particular direction to consider a matter which, without such direction, would necessarily come under its consideration. It appears to me that is a sound rule; because, if you instruct a Committee to direct its attention to one special subject, your doing so implies that you wish it to direct its inquiry to that particular subject, to the prejudice or exclusion of others. ["No, no."] If that is not your wish, why do you give special instructions? If it is not, why do you not give specific instructions to the Committee on other points? In this case, why not direct the Committee to consider whether the custom of nomination at the hustings should be continued or abolished, and, if abolished, what machinery should be adopted instead of it? The House is not asked to express an opinion as to the adoption of the Ballot, but merely to give an Instruction to the Committee to consider the question. That Instruction is unnecessary; and, as in the list of the Committee are some strenuous supporters of the Ballot, I cannot see that any good object can be achieved by the proposal of my hon. Friend, while its adoption might be regarded as an attempt to restrict the Committee in the performance of its duty of giving a fair and impartial consideration to all the topics that will come before it. I have another objection to the proposal of the hon. Gentleman. If the Gentlemen whose names have been placed on the Paper should be appointed to serve I shall have the honour of being one of the Committee. Now, I should wish to enter on that Committee with as little prejudice as possible in favour of my own opinion, and with a desire to give calm, and impartial consideration to all that may be said for or against the Ballot. I think the advocates of the Ballot, as well as those who may be opposed to it, ought to enter on the inquiry in that spirit; but if the House adopt the Instruction of my hon. Friend their doing so will have the appearance of prejudging the question. It will intimate a foregone conclusion, and convey an impression that, in respect of the Ballot, all which the Committee has to do is to inquire as to the most convenient and efficient form in which the Ballot can be adopted. The discussion raised by my hon. Friend may be useful in directing the attention of the country to the subject, and indicating the points to which the attention of the Committee may usefully be directed when it is considering the question of the Ballot; but for the reasons I have already stated I hope he will not divide the House on his Motion. When the House appoint a Committee of this kind, they ought to place full confidence in that Committee, and unless it is supposed to be failing in its duty, we ought not to restrict its action by Instructions such as those now proposed to be given.


said, that he entirely agreed with the right hon. Gentleman (Sir George Grey) that the Committee ought to enter upon their duties wholly untrammelled by any such Instruction as that which was now proposed. He thought the high character and fair bearing for which the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had always been distinguished ought to have been sufficient to satisfy the Mover and Seconder of the Instruction that the Committee would be an impartial one. He regarded the Motion as an improper endeavour to fasten on the Committee a preconceived opinion. During the many years he had been in that House he had heard the subject of the Ballot discussed very frequently without ever having said a word on it himself; but after the extraordinary speeches of the Mover and the Seconder of the Motion he could not remain silent. The hon. Member who seconded the Motion (Mr. Hardcastle) had taken, he must say, a most narrow-minded and one-sided view of the question. He had said a good deal about; the expenditure at the Westminster election, but not a word respecting the money that had been squandered at Youghal. What were the facts? At Westminster, with a constituency of nearly 20,000, the hon. Member (Mr. Smith) had spent £8,900; at Youghal, with a constituency of 120 voters, £5,000 had been distributed; yet to the latter expenditure the hon. Gentleman—that consistent Ballot man—had not a word of objection to offer. For himself, he must say that he had been in the House thirty-three years, and he had never before known a case of such extravagant election expenditure in so small a constituency, and by one who was a total stranger to it. The only connection between the Borough and its representative seemed to be that the one had money to spend, the other votes to sell. On looking through the list of those who had supported the Ballot in that House, he found the name of the only candidate who, in the trials since the last General Election, had been pronounced personally guilty of bribery. If the Ballot had been in use, the probability was that gentleman would now be in the House and amusing his hon. Friends with accounts of how he had paid his money and secured votes. The hon. Gentleman who seconded the Motion had abstained from any reference to these facts. All the stress had been laid on the expenditure at Westminster. He never remembered a more marked instance of straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel. The Ballot was advocated, not because it would prevent bribery, but conceal it; and for that very reason it would never receive his support. The House had been told how well the Ballot worked in France, where, in such towns as Paris, Marseilles, and Lyons, Opposition candidates were returned, notwithstanding all the influence of the Government; but the hon. Gentleman who cited these examples said nothing about those remote districts in which the French Government even prevented the names of Opposition candidates from being published. In the rural districts the Ballot was the purest farce, the grossest fallacy, and the direct cause of coercion, intimidation, and falsehood. The hon. Gentleman said he thought intimidation worse than bribery. Of course a man who liked secret voting would not wish public opinion to be brought to bear upon public crime, but he thought that the more secret the crime the more dangerous it was, and intimidation could not be so secret as to escape notice. Did those who supported the Ballot honestly and sincerely wish to put down bribery, or did they desire by means of secresy to secure its continuance, and to protect those hon. Members who owed their seats to its influence from those little inconveniences to which, if they now resorted to it, they were exposed? After sitting for thirty years in that House he had come to the conclusion that there was no sincerity upon the subject, and that hon. Members tad no real desire to put an end to bribery. ["Oh !"] He would give them good reasons for his belief presently. It would be useless to mention names in this matter because those whose names he could give, as having been declared guilty of bribery, were those who had been detected, and who were well known in that House. But those who now desired the Ballot wished to protect themselves from the risk which had been run by their poor friends who had been found out. An hon. Gentleman who had been found out during the last Parliament made a manly appeal to the House. He said—"You know these arrangements are well understood; don't you pretend that you don't do the same;" and this statement was met with cheers. He had known instances where men who professed the most spotless purity had been guilty of the most systematic and the most corrupt bribery. Of course the hon. Gentleman who had brought the question before the House had investigated the matter, and was well acquainted with the cases to which he alluded in this distant manner, in which those who had been the most guilty had successfully concealed the facts from the public. He begged to enter his protest against this systematic hypocrisy. While denunciations were hurled against Tory corruption thousands of pounds were sent down to the local bank in a feigned name for the purposes of corruption on the Liberal side. But when such a case was made public, did any of his fellow-Ballot men declare that the guilty party had lost his social position because he had obtained his election by corrupt means? And this brought him to the point to which he wished to draw the attention of the House. He wished to say that it was the hypocrisy of those who pretended that they wanted to secure purity of election by means of the Ballot that had kept up the system of bribery in this country. ["Oh, oh !"] Ah, he knew they would not like it, but he would prove his point, though he would not bring the blush of shame to some of their faces by mentioning names. ["Name, name !"] He declined to mention any names, because, by so doing, he would be only holding up the man to general disapprobation, whose chief fault was—not that he had been guilty of the crime, but that he had been detected—and detection did not prove he was worse than his fellows, but merely that he was less experienced and skilful. It was notorious that when bribery had been the most barefaced the constituency, afraid of being disfranchised, had managed, by means best known to those who desired secret voting, to get the petition withdrawn from the cognizance of that House, and thus the parties bribing escaped the punishment they deserved. ["Oh! oh!"] They said "Oh!" did they. Well, of course they did not like to be probed in a sore place, and no wonder at it. The reason he disliked secret voting was that, in addition to the crime, disgrace, and immorality of corruption, they would have the baseness of hypocrisy superadded. In a free country, possessing a free Constitution, a free Press, having free institutions, and affording perfect freedom of action, if there was any real desire to put down bribery, bribery could not exist. Instead of skulking into the secresy of the Ballot box, let them improve the moral tone of the community, and elevate public feeling upon the subject. If they were really sincere upon the subject, they would have the remedy in their own hands. Let it be announced publicly that any man guilty of bribery shall be excluded from the pale of society as though he were a swindler or a thief, and they would hear little more upon the subject. Instead of doing this they listened with complacency, and perhaps, enjoyment, to the tales of the successful dodges by which bribery had been perpetrated with impunity. As long as they admitted men having the moral stain of corruption into their society, he did not believe in the sincerity of their wish to put down bribery. The late Mr. Coppock was one of the most successful Liberal bribers and corruptors that ever lived in this country. He was the life and soul of the Reform Club. He was in the habit of receiving enormous sums of money from gentlemen at the Reform Club, and then he went down to the country and bribed any constituency that was willing to accept his bribes. One of the best instances of that gentleman's practices was at the borough of St. Albans. There was a very respectable gentleman of the name of Mr. Bell, who in an evil hour fell into the hands of this purist, Mr. Coppock, and who said to him—" If you will give me £4,000, I will get you a seat in Parliament." The boldness of the man appeared in this, that he used to send the money from the Reform Club direct, and he never sent bank-notes-—he always sent sovereigns. In this case Mr. Bell's address was printed in that fine glowing tone which Ballot men use; then came denunciations of Tory bribery; then came a layer of sovereigns—then came another layer of denunciations of Tory corruption—and then another layer of sovereigns—this was all stated in evidence and can be seen in the Library—and the whole was packed up together and sent down to St. Albans. The affair was managed so badly however that Mr. Bell was unseated, and the borough was disfranchised. He had alluded to these circumstances to show that a high assumption of purity was not always truthful. A friend of Mr. Coppock had told him that Mr. Coppock had said that if they could get the Ballot he would be answerable for every borough in the kingdom. A man, he said, who was prepared to give £3,000 or £4,000 for the chance of a seat, with the possibility of an election petition, would be quite willing to pay £5,000 or £6,000 for a safe seat. And once the Ballot was adopted, his course would have been to open negotiations with the leading Liberals of a borough, and give them to understand that he had a friend, and, if he were returned to Parliament, that it would be in his power to place £5,000 or £6,000 at their disposal; but that not one farthing would be given till the time for petitioning had expired, and the seat was perfectly secure. In that way Mr. Coppock declared that with the Ballot he could answer for almost every borough in the kingdom. To attempt therefore by a preliminary discussion to create the impression that the advocates of the Ballot had any disinclination for corruption or bribery was a delusive proceeding, against which he felt it right to enter his protest. If in a free country public opinion could not raise the moral tone of the constituencies, and lead them to look with scorn upon the demoralizing and disgraceful practices of corruption, it was hopeless to expect that good would be effected by the adoption of a secret system. Nothing was supposed to prevent misconduct and robbery at night so effectually as gas lamps. Let society therefore turn the indignant blaze of enlightened opinion upon conspirators in their dark holes and hiding places, and a remedy for this degrading practice may be secured. But the Ballot once adopted criminals would rejoice, and purity of election would be further removed than ever.


said, he feared he was one of those who would fall under the sweeping denunciation of his noble Friend opposite, for he was an advocate of the Ballot. But the House, he thought, was placed in a somewhat false position by the proposition of his hon. Friend near him (Mr. Leatham). For what did he propose? That the Committee should be instructed to do that which it was its bounden duty to do—that which it was stated it intended to do, and that which, in fact, formed one of the reasons for its appointment. Yet, if Gentlemen opposed the Motion from a wish not to place the Members of the Government—who were the advocates of the Ballot, and who would contend that the Committee should be left free—in a false position;—then, they might be suspected of not being true to the principles which they professed; on the other hand, if, as advocates of Ballot, they supported and carried the Motion, they would merely leave the question in precisely the position in which it stood at present—without having obtained any new advantage. He would therefore ask his hon. Friend to withdraw at least that part of his proposition which contained an Instruction to the Committee. He spoke the more freely on this subject because he did not entirely approve of the course adopted by the Government. He thought the country was the Committee on this question. Vote by Ballot had been canvassed through the length and breadth of the land for many years; and he, for one, should not obtain any light or instruction or any sanction for his opinions from whatever Report this Committee might deliver. Those who were in favour of the Ballot had no need for the resolution of any Committee on the subject; they never told their constituents that their opinions were not formed, and that they waited to see what a Committee appointed by the Government would think of it. On the contrary, they said—"We are in favour of the Ballot; we have reflected upon it, and we are in favour of that mode of ascertaining the opinions of the electors." He thought then the Government Committee was not required, but he thought also the present Motion was superfluous; it could do no good, and might do harm by giving the appearance of a division amongst those who were in reality united. He had not intended to trouble the House with any observations on the general question, but having risen, he would venture to point out to the noble Lord (Lord Claud Hamilton) the conclusions to be drawn from his own observations. The noble Lord, in alluding to France, had said the Bal- lot succeeds in all large towns where the influence of public opinion was felt; but in the country, where the force of public opinion did not exist, the Ballot was a failure. What stronger argument in favour of the Ballot could possibly be addressed to Englishmen? Where were the remote towns in England in which public opinion did not exist and make itself felt? He ventured to say that there was not a great town and hardly a small town—not even Tamworth, which he himself represented—in which there was not as strong a public opinion as in the great centres of France, to which allusion had been made. He had always been and was in favour of the Ballot—not from party motives—for, though he believed it would be a great individual benefit, he did not think it would much affect the condition of parties. But he was in favour of the Ballot because he thought it a simple act of justice. He could quite understand how gentlemen might differ on the question as to who should vote for Members of Parliament and who should not; he could quite understand how the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade might be wide as the poles asunder as to a proper constituent body; but when once you had given a man a vote you were bound to see that he could vote as he liked, without injuring himself by doing so. The duty of an elector was to vote conscientiously, and the duty of the Legislature was to see that he could vote conscientiously. In fact, it was the peculiar province of the Legislature to make it easy for a man to do his duty; and if an elector could not vote without incurring the loss of employment or of the habitation in which he dwelt, it was for the Legislature to see that this danger was removed from him. Nay, if such was the case formerly, it was much more the case now, for we had been adding immensely to the constituencies from those classes of our population who were most dependent. What benefit was conferred upon these electors by the extension of the franchise if they were not protected in its exercise? It was no advantage to men to be placed in a position where they had to choose between their interests and their opinions. Hon. Members doubtless had called before now at a shop and been told by the proprietor—" Well, I think you are a very good sort of gentleman and I should be very glad to vote for you, but my customers are all on the other side;" or -at a cottage where the occupant had said—" I think you made a very good speech at the Crown and Anchor the other day, and I should be glad to vote for you; but if I did I should have to walk out of the door by which you have just come in, and my wife would never forgive me if we were turned out of the house where all our children have been born." Candidates might, perhaps, wish that the electoral body had the spirit of martyrs, but they could not expect such spirit—and. the law which had to deal with men must deal with them as they were, and not as it might be desirable that they should be. He would not, however, be led into a speech on the Ballot on this occasion, because he thought the question before the House was not that of voting by Ballot, but that of instructing the Committee to consider the various modes of voting by Ballot. If the Committee adopted vote by Ballot it would naturally do this; if it did not, there wouldbeafairopportunity—no earlier one having been taken—fortheHouse to pass its own opinion on the general question. He therefore again ventured to advise his hon. Friend, since he did not propose a Resolution which would decide the Main Question, to leave the details of it to that body which would have, when it made, to justify its Report.


, having sat on every Committee which had been appointed to consider the Corrupt Practices Act, said, that to the best of his recollection no Instructions of any kind had been given to such Committee, and he did not see any reason why the Instruction now proposed should be given.


said, that he entered the House without any intention of speaking on the present debate, and should not have done so but for the attack made upon him by the noble Lord the Member for Tyrone (Lord Claud Hamilton). He could not in justice to himself and to the constituency which he still represented allow the noble Lord's observations to pass unnoticed. He felt certain the noble Lord could not have read the evidence given on the trial of the election petition against him, or the judgment of the learned Judge who had tried the case. Had he done so, he would not have made the remarks of which he rose to complain. So far as he (Mr. C. Weguelin) was personally concerned he wished to take all the blame that was justly due for any folly that he had committed; but those who knew him, and the position in which he was placed, were well aware that if he had sinned it had been more through ignorance than corrupt intention. As for the opinion of those who did not know him, or the circumstances in which he was placed, he confessed he was tolerably indifferent, but he did protest against a supposed criminal being tried twice over. He had always thought that when a man had been fairly tried the judgment of the court should be final; and, as that House had elected a tribunal for the trial of cases which it had before tried by its own Committees, he could not help thinking it was bad taste on the part of any Member of that House to call in question the judgment of that tribunal. He would only say that in spite of the large expenditure at Youghal—which no one deplored more than himself—after a trial of ten days, the Judge declared that not one single case of bribery had been, in the smallest degree, established. He was charged with personal bribery in seventeen cases, but they did not dare to ask him one question in regard to any of those charges, and the Judge declared that the witnesses by whose evidence the charges had been attempted to be substantiated had all grossly perjured themselves. The Judge said he had been asked to declare that corrupt practices had extensively prevailed in Youghal; but he declined to do so, and said it would be a gross injustice to the town if he did so. How, then, did it happen that a larger expenditure took place than had ever occurred in any constituency of the same size? Those who had read the evidence would see how the money went. It was not proper for him to say more about it. It was recorded in the evidence, and he believed the Judge was convinced that he sincerely and to the best of his ability during the whole course of the election—and it lasted four months—did all he could to stop it, and he could assure the House that he had no intention except to win his election fairly and honourably. Members were too prone to accept the garbled reports about his elec- tion which had appeared in the London Press. They seemed to have been made up from the speeches of the counsel for the petitioners, but every one of those allegations was disproved by the evidence. The hon. Member concluded by thanking the House for the indulgence with which they had listened to his explanation.


begged to assure the hon. Member for Youghal (Mr. C. Weguelin) that, when he came down to the House, he had not the slightest intention of alluding to him; but that the reference made to the Westminster election by the hon. Member for Bury St. Edmunds (Mr. Hardcastle) induced him to place the case of Youghal in contrast with that of Westminster.


said, he earnestly hoped that, whether the Instruction proposed by the hon. Member (Mr. Leatham) were accepted or not, the inquiry by the Select Committee would be a most full and searching one, because his vote on the question of the Ballot would entirely depend upon their Report. He had voted against the Ballot, and his reasons for being unable hitherto to support it were not so much theoretical, but because he saw very great difficulties and dangers in the way of secret voting. In the first place, the very worst form of corruption—that of personation, because it was accompanied with perjury—was liable to be increased. If an election were carried under the present system by personation the wrong could be amended by means of a scrutiny, but with the Ballot that became more difficult. He could not at present understand how the evidence could be obtained that was to justify a scrutiny. Another objection was that the election might not depend upon the votes actually given. In America this result had occurred, and the manufacture of a new phrase, "ballot stuffing," seemed to denote a very common habit in that country. The hon. Member (Mr. Leatham) told them that the Ballot had passed the age of experiment, and had been adopted by the whole civilized world. But was independence always obtained by it? All over the Continent it appeared that when a Sovereign called a new Minister to his Councils, that Minister obtained a large and overwhelming majority at the elections. That, he thought, proved that the Ballot did not, as practised in those countries, secure the independence of the voter. With regard to America, it should be remembered that, in by far the greater part of the United States, secret voting was unknown. It had been adopted in Massachusetts after long discussion and much opposition, and the advocates of secret voting were permitted to draw up the Act. But a year afterwards it was discovered that there were things to be amended, and they had gone on amending the Act until it had become a large and bulky statute. At last, so complex and difficult were the necessary arrangements found to be, that though the Act was not abolished, a clause was added to enable any elector to vote either according to the complex and secret system or the open system of Ballot. From that day, as he was informed, not a vote was given by secret Ballot. They had been told that in Australia the difficulties and dangers to which he had alluded had been successfully met. He hoped it was so; but he should like to see a very careful inquiry before we should follow the example of Australia. We ought to remember that Australia was comparatively a new country, and it was just possible that the arts and sciences of electoral corruption had not been there so fully developed as they had been here; and, perhaps, neither the candidates were so rich, nor the voters so poor. If the Report of the Committee should prove, as he hoped it would, that the evils which he feared would be avoided, he should joyfully hail the result and accept the Ballot as the means of getting rid of the practices which now disgrace our elections.


said, the noble Lord the Member for Tyrone (Lord Claud Hamilton) had made a statement in which every one would concur, and that was, that if human nature should be very much changed for the better in this country, and we should get rid of all those inclinations which induced men to intimidate and corrupt, the Ballot would not be needed. The noble Lord had illustrated at considerable length the benefits to be derived from open voting, for he said that no mode for checking burglaries and crimes of that description had been found so effectual as to throw a flood of light on everything. But the misfortune was that in this case light was not thrown on the landed proprietor who coerced his tenantry, or the man of wealth who bribed his fellow-man, but on the victims. It was quite clear that the noble Lord had mistaken the scope and object of the Ballot, as well as its effects. The object of the Ballot was to screen the person who might be made the victim of intimidation or corruption; it was not in any way to protect the briber or the person who had recourse to intimidation. He would very briefly describe the manner in which the Ballot had been put in operation in Australia, and state from his own personal experience how effectually it had remedied the mischiefs of which, we complained at home. In the first place, it was evident that the show of hands was entirely inconsistent with the Ballot, which would at once do away with the necessity of the Bill proposed to be introduced by the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett), for there would be no hustings, and none of those expenses of which the hon. Gentleman sought to relieve the candidate. What was done in Australia was this. The candidates were prohibited from addressing the constituencies for forty-eight hours before the day of election. On that day the returning officer attended at the court house, and two citizens presented to him in writing the name of the candidate whom they wished to nominate and second. If the number of candidates was not greater than that of the vacant seats the matter was at an end, but if it was, a Ballot was had recourse to. The poll book of the district had been prepared several months before the day of election, and was kept in the custody of a Government officer. Another Government officer of high character was sworn to take charge of the Ballot box, and in addition scrutineeers were appointed by the different candidates. The business of the scrutineers was to examine the different voters, and they were selected because they knew the district well, so as to be a check on personation. As each voter came up he mentioned his name, and the scrutineers had an opportunity of seeing that he was the right man. Care was taken to have a sufficient number of polling places, and that made it all the easier to get scrutineers who knew the faces of the persons who came to record their votes. The penalties against per- sonation were very severe, and that together with the scrutineers prevented anything of the kind. The voter on coming to the poll received a card, on which was printed the names of the candidates, and he walked into a place like a sentry-box, and with a pencil scored out the names of those for whom he did not wish to vote. He then came came out and dropped the card into the Ballot box. When the Ballot box was opened the scrutineers overlooked the counting of the votes. Every step in the process was checked. He had himself been elected under this system, and as an elector had frequently used it in voting for members of both branches of the Legislature, and could certify that the system did not conduce to personation, nor had it been attended with the mischievous consequence which had been predicted concerning it. He would give a practical proof of what he advanced. The hon. Member who had introduced this subject (Mr. Leatham) quoted, from a work oil South Australia, a passage which referred to two elections which had occurred in the city of Adelaide. At the first election, which was carried on by open voting, a great deal of bribery and violence had been practised; at the second election, which was conducted by Ballot, no bribery or intimidation of any kind occurred. He was present on both occasions. On the first, he saw many broken windows and broken heads, men carried by on stretchers, and a great deal of drunkenness. He had it from the mouth of one of the candidates that his expenditure amounted to nearly £2,000. He himself was a candidate at the next election, which only cost him £200, and it was conducted in so quiet a way that a stranger passing through would probably never have observed that an election was going on. There was not the smallest disturbance, and the expenses were mainly incurred in the hire of committee-rooms to address the electors in. It was said that there was now no secret voting there; but it should be recollected that there were certain medicines which produced no effect whatever on a healthy body, but were very useful in expelling a disease when the system stood in need of medicine. Such was the effect of the Ballot. When applied to a community as corrupt as that of Australia had been from bribery, intimidation, drunkenness, and violence, it operated very effectually. But after a few years the very idea passed out of men's minds of trying to coerce their neighbours or bribing them. The thing was looked upon as utterly disgraceful, and then all might acknowledge how they intended to vote. The machinery of the Ballot was still availed of, though men at public meetings came forward and said they would vote for Mr. So-and-so. Let them contrast that system with the one which obtained in this country. The evidence placed on the table showed that extensive drunkenness and ruffianism prevailed at elections. In some places Right women out of every ten in the town were drunk on the polling day; in others, men were brought to the polling-booth in such a state of intoxication that they could not utter the name of the candidate they wished to vote for. Sometimes a voter declared that he would "vote for the brewer." In the course of his own canvass of the borough which he represented the gentleman who accompanied him on his rounds again and again told him that it was of no use calling at one voter's house because the man's wife was a bed-maker at a College, nor at the house of another voter, who was himself a cook at a College, for neither of them would dare to vote for him. He did not believe the superiors of those Colleges and ecclesiastical establishments would exercise the amount of coercion which people in the town believed they would exercise; but the dread of it prevailed among the electors. Many tradesmen had told him—" You may place my name on your reserve list, and if your return is in danger I will come up and vote for you; but I shall not vote unless you really require my vote, as I should injure my business in voting for you." Those men should be protected from such influences. Having himself voted repeatedly under the Ballot in Australia, and having also been elected there by it, he could state that, although not a perfect specific in all matters, it operated as a complete remedy for intimidation and undue influence, and it likewise put a check upon bribery. He did not; wish to over-state the case for the Ballot. Bribery might still occur where the electoral districts were very small, because a candidate might send down a very large sum of money to be distributed in a borough in the event of his being returned. But that was done at this mo- ment. To his own knowledge that practice prevailed in a small borough not far from where he lived in the country. The hon. Member for that borough had been in the habit, for years, of sending down to it a very large sum of money—he was informed £4,000—and then there was no contest; but if he did not send the £4,000 then there would be a contest. He did not regard the Ballot as a party measure, for although it might exempt certain voters in the country districts from the coercion and undue influence of their landlords, and thus diminish the power of the great territorial magnates, on the other hand, it would operate in a very salutary way in the boroughs. When they considered the organization of the trades unions, there was ground for serious alarm lest, under the influence of their different executives, who were absolutely despotic over those who joined those trades unions, the expression of individual opinion might not be entirely annihilated among the various trades of the country. The Ballot would protect them from that danger; and with such a shield the decrees sent forth by the executive of a trades union, ordering the members to vote in favour of particular candidates, would have no effect. When any candidate was proscribed by one of those bodies, the workmen, under the system of open voting, durst not vote for him, for if they did none of their fellow-workmen would enter into any employment with them, and they would thus lose the means of earning their bread.


said, he wished to contribute a few facts to that discussion without entering into any argument. He desired to place his own experience of the Ballot in opposition to what a noble Lord on the other side (Lord Claud Hamilton) had said of its operation under some mischance in some backwood State of America. He came to that House fresh from the ranks of the people, having taken a most active part in political measures during the last twenty years—and he believed there was no measure of so much political importance, and which would give so much satisfaction to the country as the Ballot. He had seen the Ballot in operation in America, and he had watched with the eye of a student of political economy the last contest but one in that country, when Abraham Lincoln was elected President for a second time. He went, accompanied by the British Consul and Mr. Cyrus Field, to fourteen different polling-booths during that contest and noted the whole conduct of the voting; and what was the result? Why, that in New York, which had been agitated to the greatest extent for the previous six months, on the day of election all was as quiet and orderly as could possibly be conceived. The people went to exercise their suffrages as if they were performing a great moral and religious duty. It was true the public-houses, the gin-vaults, and the beer-houses were closed—a regulation which we might well imitate; and it was also true that they were spared the riotous proceedings of the nomination day—another precedent which this country might advantageously follow. He denied that a person could bribe, control, or intimidate under the Ballot. He believed the mode of voting by Ballot in America was as near perfection as they could expect any human institution to be. The American voter's landlord might walk before him, and his employer behind him, without either of them being able to intimidate or coerce him. He could likewise, as the result of twenty years' experience in elections, confirm the opinion of the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Leatham) that bribery, intimidation, or undue influence prevailed over two-thirds of the electors of every borough and county in this country, such practices not being confined to politicians on one side only, but being resorted to by the friends on both sides. It was a very difficult thing to convince employers that their workmen ought not to accept their advice in political matters. He had asked an employer why he would not favour the Ballot, and that employer could not understand why an employer of labour should not have more influence over those he employed than anyone else. That employer could not understand why his workmen should not believe that his intelligence was superior to their own, and accept his judgment on political questions in preference to their own. He (Mr. Chadwick) said to that employer—"I would venture to place the political intelligence and experience of any half-dozen of your foremen against your own," and he Mr. (Chadwick) dare say that in point of intelligence, experience, and knowledge of political economy they would be superior to that employer. A vote was in his opinion a right and not a trust; but, however that might be, it ought certainly to be given with perfect freedom. It was as unjust as impolitic, and as wrong, to interfere with the voter in the exercise of his vote as it was to tamper with a juryman in the box. There was no political question of half such importance as that of purifying the mode in which Members of Parliament were elected, and he hoped therefore that the hon. Member for Huddersfield would persevere with his Motion.


recommended the noble Lord the Member for Tyrone (Lord Claud Hamilton) to read at his leisure the speech which was delivered by the present First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Childers) on the 9th February, 1860, shortly after the right hon. Gentleman first obtained a seat in the House. The noble Lord did not advance a single argument against the Ballot, but contented himself with saying that it meant secresy, and that secresy meant deception. If the noble Lord looked at the report of the speech referred to, he would find that in Australia the adoption of the Ballot had not produced the evils he so much dreaded. He entered Parliament about seventeen years ago, with a determination to do all he could to make the House in reality what it was in name—the House of Commons. The Conservatives were then adverse to extending the suffrage, fearing that a disturbance of the settlement of 1832 would tend to Americanize our institutions. He found, too, that most of the Leaders on the Liberal side of the House, with the notable exceptions of the present Prime Minister and Earl Russell, were afraid to make any change in our electoral system. Lord Palmerston professed himself content with the settlement of 1832, although if the people had clamoured for an extension of the suffrage he would have acquiesced in it rather than resign Office. He did not, however, believe—when he was well off with things as they were—in building up a wall to run his head against, and was determined "neither to burn his bridges or destroy his boats." After Lord Palmerston's death, however, the Leaders on both sides of the House found it impossible to resist the demand for Reform, and for his own part, as far as the extension of the suffrage was concerned, he was very well satisfied with the change which had been effected. But every man upon the electoral register should have the power of voting as he liked, and should not be controlled or compelled to vote in a particular way by somebody else. They were told that a vote was a trust, and that the way in which it was used should be published to the world. But now that every householder had a vote that argument lost much of its force, because the trust, if it was one, could only be exercised for women, children, and lodgers. But if it were a trust, why could not the voter be trusted with it? Could he not use it better if allowed to vote as he thought right than he could by being compelled to vote as some one else thought right? An hon. Friend of his, who was a Member of that House and a large landowner, once said to him, "I have never any trouble about the votes of my tenants. When a farm is to let, my manager tells the applicants that it is the farm which gives the vote, and not the tenant; that he can put in any tenant he likes, and that there must be no misunderstanding whatever about the vote. Consequently I have no trouble with my tenants, who go to the poll like sheep." But that was altogether wrong in principle; if it were not, it would be better for the landlord to have all the votes of his estate in his own person and for the tenants to have none at all. He himself was a large manufacturer, but he had no desire whatever to have any influence over the votes of the people in his employ. He was in favour of the Ballot, because he believed that under that system we should have no more chance of personation or of bribery than existed at present, and we should get rid of intimidation and of the disgraceful turmoil and riot that too frequently occurred now at election times.


I can very well understand the object of my hon. Friend the Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Leatham) in making this Motion, and in raising the discussion which he has raised. There was undeniable truth and force in his objection that the appointment of the Committee, which, however, he did not in other respects criticize or condemn, has the effect, so far as public debate and public indications are concerned, of consigning the question of secret voting, in which he feels so deep an interest, to silence for a considerable length of time. I cannot wonder, therefore, nor can I make the slightest complaint that my hon. Friend should have thought fit to invite the attention of the House specifically to this subject, while I am bound to admit—in common, I think, with all who heard him—that he performed his task in a speech of remarkable ability. I do not know, from the desolate state of the Benches opposite, whether it be true that it is the business of an Opposition in this country to oppose the existing Government. If so, I do not think, in the present state of those Benches, that they are sufficiently performing that duty. With the exception of that specially independent portion of the House which sits below the Gangway, I might say that in this debate we have had the matter almost entirely to ourselves, and that we can discuss it as persons who are united for the most part in a common object—a common object as regards political purposes for which we are associated, and the subject of this discussion. There is not, I believe, a man sitting on this side of the House—and certainly I am not he—who will deny or question, for one moment, that it is our absolute duty, as has been so well said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Sir Henry Lytton Bulwer), to give every facility we can to the voter for the proper discharge of his duty, and to take out of his way, if it be in our power, all impediments which lie in the way of the attainment of that object, and to secure, on his behalf, the means by which he can exercise his right of suffrage with perfect freedom. It is in that spirit that I, for one, am disposed to look at this debate; and undoubtedly I think my hon. Friend has considerable reason to feel grateful to the more strenuous opponents of secret voting, most of whom are to be found on the other side of the House, for the manner in which—with little more than one single exception—they have left him this evening in the possession of the field. Having said this much, and having fully recognized the legitimacy of this discussion, I can well account for the earlier part of the Motion of my hon. Friend. With respect to the latter part of that Motion—namely, the Instruction which he proposes should be given to the Select Committee the House is about to appoint almost immediately—I hope he will permit me respectfully to make a few representations. He proposed the Committee should take into consideration the various methods of taking votes by Ballot, which are at present in use in various portions of the British Empire and in foreign countries, together with any modifications thereof, which may be suggested, and report on the most efficient and convenient system of balloting. As I have said, I look upon this debate—with which my hon. Friend has no reason to be dissatisfied—as the main object which he has in view; and therefore I feel the less difficulty in urging upon him, or, at least, in laying before him some considerations which appear to me to show that his Motion should not be pressed. I am sure my hon. Friend will feel that this is a Committee which has some peculiar claims on our consideration. It is a Committee which will be formed of Gentlemen of great weight and ability, who have been carefully selected, and who possess every qualification necessary to enable them rightly and fully to discharge their duties; and it is a Committee which derives its title from a paragraph in the Speech from the Throne. In that Speech it was recommended to Parliament that an inquiry should be instituted "into the present modes of conducting Parliamentary and Municipal Elections," and that we should consider "whether it may be possible to provide any further guarantees for their tranquility, purity, and freedom." The terms in which the Committee has been appointed follow precisely the language of the Speech from the Throne, and require the Committee to conduct their examination with the view of promoting, if necessary, further guarantees for tranquillity, purity, and freedom of election. I understand my hon. Friend, however, in this Instruction, to have before him an object which I conceive to be perfectly legitimate, that is to say, to make sure in the face of the House and of the country that the subject-matter which he covers by his Instruction will unquestionably form a part, and a very important part, of the investigation of that Committee. I think I may venture to assume that if my hon. Friend feels satisfied in that essential point he will not desire to lead the House somewhat out of its usual and more convenient path, as was well observed by my right ton. Friend the Member for Tamworth, in instructing the Committee with regard to what, if I may use the phrase, it is already of itself instructed. The Committee is to examine into the necessity or possibility of further guarantees for tranquillity, purity, and freedom of election. Is it possible to adopt words comprehensive in their character and not therefore narrowly or exclusively directed to secret voting, but which must, by a moral compulsion, if that should be necessary, lead the Committee to inquire into everything connected with the subject of voting? What are your great objects in regard to secret voting? They are these—first, to provide better guarantees against bribery; and therefore the Committee has to inquire whether it may not be possible to provide better guarantees for purity of election. Your other great object is to provide guarantees against intimidation; and therefore the Committee has to inquire into the means by which the freedom of election can be better secured. There cannot, I think, be the smallest doubt that this is the obvious duty of the Committee, and I would point out to the House that it is clearly right we should presume that duty will be performed. I do not by any means question the propriety of the rule which allows a Member to move an Instruction to a Select Committee, because it may often happen that when a Select Committee is appointed the precise province within which it is to act may not at the moment be distinctly understood, and it may be extremely desirable to remove all doubt upon that point. But I think that is not the case in the present instance. If I refer also to the speech in which my right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Home Department (Mr. Bruce) moved for the appointment of the Committee, I think that had there been a lingering doubt upon this point that speech must have effectually removed it. My hon. Friend, therefore, has the fullest assurance that the very thing which he desires to do will be unquestionably done, but subject to this condition, that if we are to suppose that Committee to be free we must suppose it capable of forming an opinion on the other side; and if it were to form a judgment adverse to secret voting, I do not suppose that my hon. Friend would be very anxious that the same tribunal should investigate the matter with a view of discovering the best mode by which secret voting could be carried out. On the other hand should the Committee find—and I have no doubt my hon. Friend is sanguine upon that point—that secret voting is desirable, there cannot be a doubt that the very words "providing further guarantees" direct them not to a mere abstract discussion of what system may be the best on the whole, but to a careful consideration of the practical means whereby that system shall be carried into effect. I would venture to add one more consideration which appears to me to be of no inconsiderable weight. In the former evening, when this Committee was proposed, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. G. Hardy) expressed a hope that the Committee would enter into a real and impartial inquiry, and was not merely to be a cover for a foregone conclusion. That is, I fear, a reproach to which this Committee may in the end be subject. The time may come—and especially if the Committee gives the engagement which my hon. Friend desires and anticipates—when we may be open, unjustly but possibly, to the suspicion or imputation that this Committee was a Committee of intrigue—that it was devised for the purpose of covering and hiding the accomplishment of an object which we did not like openly and manfully to avow. I only mention that because I think it is a reason for our abstaining from a proceeding which might appear to give colour to such an imputation. My hon. Friend. I think, may be satisfied with the fair meaning of the reference to the Committee, together with the construction which the Government, as the Advisers of the Royal Speech, and as the Movers of the Committee, have put upon it. I do not, for a moment, question the wisdom of the course which has been taken by my hon. Friend in raising the discussion this evening with the view of bringing this great and important question under the notice of the public. But I am convinced that he will, if I may use the expression, exercise a wise discretion if he will take the advice he received in the course of the debate, not only from a friend, but from a veteran friend of secret voting—my right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Sir Henry Lytton Bulwer)—and if he will not ask the House to en- large the Committee by specific instructions, but will leave it to exercise its freedom in full confidence that that freedom will be rightly used.


said, that after the full and satisfactory explanation given by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government he felt that he should best consult the convenience of the House by withdrawing his Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.