HC Deb 22 June 1871 vol 207 cc401-90

Order for Committee read.


rose to move— That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to make provision therein for the better prevention of bribery and corruption at Elections. ["Order, order!]


It is proper that I should inform the hon. Member that it will not be necessary for him to move the Instruction he proposes, as it will be in his power in Committee to propose any clauses or Amendments on the subject of bribery which he may desire. As the hon. Member has reminded me that in 1860, on the Bill to amend the laws relative to the Representation of the People in England and Wales, an hon. Member (Mr. Hunt) moved an Instruction similar to that which he now proposes, and that the same course was taken in the year 1866, I looked back to both Bills. They defined the right of voting in counties and cities and redistributed seats. There was no reference whatever to bribery and corrupt practices or the means for suppressing them. Now, in the Bill before the House this evening there is a series of clauses—from Clause 22 to Clause 28—relating distinctly to corrupt practices—that is to say, to bribery, treating, and personation, to which other clauses might be added. Under these circumstances, the hon. Member will see the great distinction that exists between the two cases. The hon. Member will see that in the present instance an Instruction to the Committee is unnecessary, and, therefore, that it is contrary to the Rules of the House that it should be moved.


said, he was perfectly satisfied with the right hon. Gentleman's decision, and more especially so since he understood that he was at liberty to move clauses relating to bribery and corruption. Acting upon this understanding, he begged to give Notice that he should move such clauses in Committee.


rose to move— That it be an Instruction to the Committee that they have power to provide for the redistribution of the seats now vacant through the disfranchisement of the Boroughs of Beverley, Bridgwater, Cashel, and Sligo. The hon. Member said, he thought there could scarcely be any serious objection to this proposal. Without detaining the House with any lengthened argument in its favour, he must remind hon. Members that although the question did not come within the scope of the Preamble it certainly did within that of the Bill, which was entitled an Elections (Parliamentary and Municipal) Bill, although for some inscrutable reason the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister invariably termed it the Secret Voting Bill. The subject-matter of the Instruction he proposed was one that urgently demanded the attention of Parliament, especially that part of it which related to Ireland, the representation of which suffered more severely from the suspension of two of its seats than did that of England. The noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland, in reply to a Question from the right hon. and learned Baronet (Sir Colman O'Loghlen) the other day, said— The Government were desirous, as soon as possible, of providing for the allocation of the vacant seats; but he declined to give any pledge on the part of the Government as to the time when and the manner in which the Government would attempt to dispose of them."—[3 Hansard, cevii. 195.] Nothing could be more contrary to the spirit of the Constitution than that representation should be withhold for an unlimited time without some definite reason being assigned for such suspension. It was true that certain seats were suspended in the representation of England in 1861; but, although at that time every public man in the kingdom was distinctly pledged to an early consideration of the question of Parliamentary Reform, which was a good reason for refraining from giving those seats to other constituencies, the House, acting upon the constitutional principle to which he had referred, distributed those seats, although the new constituencies were unable to avail themselves of their privilege until the next dissolution, which did not occur until four years after it had been conferred upon them. Parliament should determine either that these seats should be re-apportioned, or else that the Members of that House should be reduced. He did not intend at that moment to enter into the question as to what use the Committee ought to make of the power he proposed to confer upon them, as in the event of the House agreeing to his Motion he should have another opportunity of discussing that subject. Having expressed a hope that Her Majesty's Government would not put him to the trouble of dividing the House, the hon. Member concluded by moving the Instruction of which he had given Notice.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That it be an Instruction to the Committee, that they have power to provide for the redistribution of the seats now vacant through the disfranchisement of the Boroughs of Beverley, Bridgwater, Cashel, and Sligo."—(Mr. James Lowther.)


seconded the Motion, and complained that Ireland, possessing as it did so small a share in the representation of the United Kingdom, should have been so long deprived of two of its seats. He did not mean to suggest that Sligo and Cashel had been improperly disfranchised; but as the county of Cork had more than 16,000 electors and only two representatives, he thought Queenstown, which was a place of great commercial importance, was entitled to one of the vacant seats.


There are two questions which arise in connection with this matter. First, whether an attempt ought to be made at this particular juncture of affairs by Parliament to dispose of certain vacant seats; and, secondly, whether such a proposal ought to be carried out by means of the Bill now before the House. As regards the first of these questions, I think the hon. Member (Mr. J. Lowther) has stated a proposition of greater breadth than it is easy to sustain. It is quite true that, in 1861, Parliament proceeded to dispose of the then vacant seats; but it is far from true that there was then any expectation of dealing with the subject of Reform. On the contrary, when the Bill of 1860 was dropped, it was under circumstances which rendered it doubtful whether it would be revived at an early date. When Parliament met in April, 1861, not only was it expressly announced that the Government had no intention of introducing a Bill on that subject, but there was no disposition on the part of any party in that House to press them to do it. It was under these circumstances that, in 1861, certain seats were disposed of. But in 1862, when the Government of the day made a proposal to dispose of the seats then vacant, the House determined, by a large majority, that the proposal was not of an urgent character, and might very well wait until a more fitting time arrived for it to be carried into effect. The hon. Member states with truth that the disfranchisement of two seats in Ireland tells more sensibly on the representation of that country than it does upon that of England. But he appears to have misunderstood the reply which the noble Lord the Chief Secretary gave the other night to a Question which had been put to him in reference to the intentions of the Government as to bringing in a Bill for dealing with these seats. The noble Lord on that occasion said it was not the intention of the Government to bring in a Bill dealing with these seats separately, but rather one to effect a general redistribution of the Irish seats, under which these seats also would be dealt with. It was upon this ground, therefore, that the noble Lord declined to pledge himself to introduce a measure dealing with these scats alone, and by so doing he by no means intended to convey that the Government regarded the matter as insignificant, or that it would bear indefinite postponement. I frankly admit that the re-distribution of seats in Ireland is recommended by many considerations of great public importance. The main point is, whether the Bill now before the House offers so manifestly proper and convenient an occasion for dealing with that matter, that an Instruction ought to be given by the House to the Committee for the purpose of enabling and requiring them to deal with the subject. The hon. Gentleman expressed some surprise that I have been in the habit, as he says, of calling this Bill "a Secret Voting Bill." It is a Bill of which that certainly is not a very adequate description. Its title is a long one, relating to the procedure at Parliamentary and municipal elections. I adopted the phrase for shortness, and if I did not adopt a still shorter one and call it "the Ballot Bill," I am aware of no better reason than that I recently perceived a Parliamentary usage of speaking of a secret Ballot, and not of a Ballot simply, and I assure the hon. Gentleman that the use of the words he has mentioned was accidental on my part. I contend that this is not a convenient or suitable occasion for attempting to deal with this case. With regard to filling up these seats, although the case is very different from Ireland, and partly because it is different from Ireland, I am aware of no urgent reason why the House should at present deal with the subject at all; but to deal with it in connection with the present Bill is, I think, a proposal recommended by no one circumstance of propriety. The matters connected with the constitution of this House branch out into several parts. There is the great question of the franchise. Many of us may think that great question may advantageously receive, at an early period, further attention. There is the question of the distribution of seats. There is the question of the boundaries of boroughs. These are all very large questions, and perhaps hardly any of them have been settled entirely to the satisfaction of the whole House. Then, why are we to force this particular subject into the present Bill? Is it because we have arrived at the 22nd of June? Does the hon. Gentleman think that we should really have such a superfluity of time on our hands when we have disposed of the matter that is in this Bill that in order to fill up our vacant hours it is either expedient or necessary that we should proceed to introduce into this Bill other very important and interesting questions relating to the constitution of Parliament, but which do not specially relate to the subject of this Bill? Our reason is very plain: it is that the hands of Parliament are too full, and the time of Parliament is too limited. If we force this subject into the Bill, we may force into it a number of other subjects, which have as good a claim as this; and upon the practical consideration that Parliament has already as much as we can fairly expect to do, to get through, in a manner becoming the dignity of this House, the proposals that are already before it for consideration, we decidedly object to the needless multiplication of subjects therein.


complained that Ireland had not been so well treated by either side of the House with regard to this matter. At the same time, he did not think it expedient to take up the time of the House with the subject at present. He protested against the course adopted by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Downing), who represented a county that had four-fifths as many Members as the province of Connaught.


The object of the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for York (Mr. J. Lowther) is a legitimate one, for it is not proper that vacant seats in this House should be left unfilled, and that representation should remain incomplete. It is one of our first duties to complete the representation of this House, and I think that our legislation will not be satisfactory to the country if we get into a chronic habit of allowing the representation of the country to be incomplete. But, at the same time, I think the hon. Gentleman will, on reflection, see that it is very difficult to effect his object by connecting it with the present Bill. Because the Bill really relates to proceedings at Parliamentary and municipal elections, and that limit is an obstacle to the course he recommends. At the same time, I must say that I listened to the speech of the Prime Minister with considerable apprehension. It seems that the right hon. Gentleman is determined that this country shall never have rest or tranquillity. I should have thought that the experience of this Session, which began with so much ambition, has proceeded with so much discomfiture, and will probably end with disaster, if not with disgrace, would have induced the right hon. Gentleman to have been a little more reserved in his projects and plans of legislation. Considering the great subject which he has unsuccessfully attempted, and looking to the important matters that he still has on hand, it was hardly discreet to announce to the people of this country that they must prepare for the question of the franchise and the distribution of seats being again discussed and again settled. If those expressions on the part of the right hon. Gentleman are to afford a sort of dram to the flagging energies of the Liberal party, I am not sure that they will produce the effect that was perhaps contemplated. I would observe to the Liberal party, here and elsewhere, that dram-drinking is a very dangerous practice, and it sometimes occurs that when a violent stimulant is taken, the result is only a condition of increased depression. I do not believe that the country generally will receive this intimation on the part of the Prime Minister of England with any satisfaction. I believe that there is throughout this country a conviction that the question of Parliamentary Reform, as regards both the franchise and the distribution of seats, was largely considered and largely dealt with; and that there is a general indisposition that we should again, or at least for a considerable time, apply our energies to the discussion of these subjects. However, after the intimation that has been given, we must be prepared, of course, for all conjunctures and events. I had hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would have felt, after the experience of this Session, that it should rather be the object of a wise Minister to tranquillize the public mind. He has contrived, in the exuberance of his energy, to array almost every class in the country against the Government—to make a very considerable portion of the people feel alarmed lest they were about in turn to be attacked. And now, when we are approaching the termination of our labours, that we should be authoritatively informed that the highest questions concerning the distribution of power in this country are probably again and speedily to be submitted to our consideration, is, I think, a course greatly to be deprecated; and greatly deprecated especially at a period of the history of the world when questions concerning the re-distribution of power and the form of Government are so very rife, and when, as I should have certainly thought, a wise Minister would have felt it rather his duty to rally round him those feelings in the country that look with respect upon institutions which, though they may be old, have at least provided that, at a moment of trial and exigency, this country, compared with the condition of others, need not be ashamed.


I rise to explain that I entirely disclaim the statements and the announcements which the right hon. Gentleman has made.


said, he hoped that the hon. Member for York (Mr. J. Lowther) would be satisfied with the statement that had been made from the Treasury bench. It had long been felt in Scotland that the representation of the country was inadequate; and he held that a re-arrangement of seats was necessary in the interests of Scotland and of the kingdom at large.


I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman if my right hon. Friend did not correctly interpret the arguments he brought forward against the proposal of the hon. Member for York (Mr. J. Lowther) what was the meaning of his speech? The right hon. Gentleman unquestionably argued that the Motion of my hon. Friend ought not to be proceeded with now because there were three great subjects connected with the representation which were likely to be raised for discussion, These three subjects were—the franchise, distribution of seats, and the re-arrangement of the boundaries of boroughs. If the right hon. Gentleman now tells us that he meant nothing by his statement, his argument against the proposal of my hon. Friend falls to the ground. If, on the other hand, he was intimating that he seriously contemplated further legislation on these three important and grave questions, then, of course, the argument of the right hon. Gentleman stands on a very different footing. Unless we hear that the right hon. Gentleman has abandoned or never entertained those schemes of further reform, I must say that the statement we have just heard demands more explanation.


said, he would much rather rest satisfied with the present state of the question of the distribution of seats than re-open it; but whenever the seats were re-distributed, he hoped the undoubted claims of Ulster to further representation would not be overlooked.


I think the short debate we have already had on the Motion of the hon. Member for York (Mr. J. Lowther) is a pretty strong proof that if we were to yield to his wish and adopt his Instruction, there would be very little chance of our arriving at a decision with regard to the real objects of this Bill in the present Session. We see clearly that anything which affects a re-distribution of seats brings up Members from all sides of the House to advocate, as might be expected, the special interests of their constituents, and also brings up the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire and the noble Lord opposite to speak upon great and important constitutional questions. I think that what has passed must convince the hon. Gentleman that to deal with the subject of his Motion would prevent a fair consideration of the Ballot question by Parliament this year. With regard to the observations of the noble Lord opposite, I wish to remind him that my right hon. Friend did not state that there was any desire on his part to bring all the questions mentioned by the noble Lord before the House; he simply stated that if the Instructions of the hon. Gentleman were adopted it would be quite competent for any Member to bring up any one of those questions.


I venture to say that in the speech of the Prime Minister there was no allusion to what propositions other people might bring forward. The right hon. Gentleman stated that he proposed soon to bring before the House the three subjects mentioned by my noble Friend. [MR. GLADSTONE: I beg pardon; I said nothing of the kind.] Whether the right hon. Gentleman intended to say so it is not for me to determine, but whether he did say so is quite another thing; and in proof that, at least, he was supposed to do so, I need only refer to the shudder which he caused among hon. Gentlemen on his own side of the House.


observed, that whenever they put forward the claims of Ireland to just representation they were told that it was the wrong time; and therefore he hoped the hon. Member for York (Mr. J. Lowther) would press his Motion to a division. He could not understand why the supplying of the deficiencies in the representation of the people of Ireland should be postponed to that indefinite period at which a new Reform measure was to be introduced.


stated that when the Reform Bill was passing through Parliament, the question of re-distribution in Ireland was not dealt with in consequence of the state of that country at the time. He thought that this was also an inopportune time to consider it, and therefore he could not support the Motion. Still he could not vote against it, because that would be tantamount to saying that there ought not to be a redistribution of seats. He should, therefore, abstain from voting.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 145; Noes 254: Majority 109.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."


, in rising to move, That this House will, upon this day three months, resolve itself into the said Committee, said, the Bill contained so many provisions to regulate the procedure at elections, both Parliamentary and municipal, some of which were good, some indifferent, and some altogether bad, that it was, perhaps, puzzling in the first instance, to know how to meet such a Bill; but, on second consideration, he came to the conclusion that he ought not to ask how many of its smaller provisions were good, bad, or indifferent, and that it would be better to avoid dealing with minor points, and to discuss its vital principle contained in that part of the Bill, the striking out of which in Committee would be fatal to the Bill itself—namely, whether or not secret voting should for the first time be introduced into that country. He did not desire to deal with the Bill in any party spirit; he cordially concurred in the hope which the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council had expressed at the close of his remarks on introducing it, that party feeling would not enter into the discussion. So far as his side of the House was concerned, that hope would be realized, and he trusted that hon. Members on the Ministerial side of the House would treat the measure in an equally impartial manner, and that if the Bill was to be considered independently of party on the one side of the House, it would also be considered independently of party on the other side—that they would deal with it, in fact, as their consciences directed, and not vote for it simply because it had been submitted to the House by the Prime Minister. The question was really and truly one of very grave importance, quite independent of party. Some hon. Members with whom he had had the pleasure of speaking, treated the question first of all on the ground of how it was to affect their own seats. That might be a very important question to hon. Members themselves, though not so vital to the country at large. Some treated the question before the House as one merely whether the one party or the other would gain—a very important question for party purposes, though, perhaps, not so vital to the country at large after all. The grave question before them was—how could the House best secure, consistent with the full representation of the people, the best constitution of the House of Commons, ensuring to the voter the giving of his vote freely and purely, and free from temptation; and, at the same time, ensuring to the country that the voter should give his vote according to the dictates of his conscience, and for the benefit of the country? He also agreed with one or two observations which fell from the right hon. Gentleman—that they might rely on the people because they had faith in the instincts of the people. But in legislating on that subject, they had to take care that they did not lose sight of the general good for the purpose of remedying one or two particular evils which it was difficult to lay their finger upon. He was willing to abide by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman—that they could trust freely to the instincts of the people. No man was more willing than he to keep the people in the exercise of their vote free from illegitimate influences which might affect their vote, to which the right hon. Gentleman had referred—the illegitimate influences of the priest or landlord, or employer—and it was his desire to secure for the voter the full force of all those legitimate influences to which the right hon. Gentleman had also referred, arising from the education, the character, and the tone of those with whom he lived, and likewise to assure to him the privilege of knowing how all those persons whom the voter looked upon as worthy of his respect and admiration, voted on the questions involved in any Parliamentary contest. It was at the same time his earnest desire to protect voters from the illegitimate influences to which the right hon. Gentleman had not referred—first, that of mob orators, who were in the habit of travelling through the country making statements easy enough to refute at the proper time, but difficult enough, or even impossible to refute when used to a mob by men who did their best to create false impressions and to distort facts; and, secondly, it was also his desire to protect them from another illegitimate influence, one equally dangerous, though of a different character—and that was exercising that which was simply for the common good for the promotion of a private end, which was frequently contrary to the best interests of a nation. Let hon. Members consider, on the very threshold of the question, what was the nature of the franchise which had been given to so many of their fellow-subjects. It used in former times to be argued by Lord Palmerston, and those who had made this question their study, that the vote was a trust exercised by the voter for the good of the country at large; but he found of late years it had been said that that was an exploded doctrine. In recording his change of opinion on that subject, the Prime Minister had said— In substance, the change which has been made in the constitution of our Parliamentary system within the last few years is the basis of the change which will be made in my conduct with regard to secret voting."—[3 Hansard, cciii. 1030.] That, if it meant anything, meant that because they had enlarged the franchise the voter was no longer a trustee for his fellow-subjects. But the right hon. Gentleman, as, he was sorry to say, was occasionally his practice, had argued upon false premises. Surely the voter was at all events a trustee for the remaining members of his family, for the women and children, and for the unenfranchised and disfranchised throughout the country. The voter exercised his vote as a trustee for the nation, not of his own free will for his own private benefit and advantage, but actually and practically for the nation at large. On what other ground did they deprive him of his vote in case of his using it corruptly; on what other principle did they disfranchise the freemen in Dublin, or deprive other boroughs of their share in the representation of the country? And if, as it was said before, when the franchise was less extended, property was a trustee for numbers, they now had a perfect right to say that numbers holding votes as they did, were to be regarded as trustees for the property of the country. But if the vote could not be regarded as a trust, at all events the exercise of it was to be regarded as a public duty, to be performed by the voter like all other public duties openly in the face of day, and subject to the criticism of enlightened opinion. There was no stronger motive which could influence the mind of any person who had any public duty to perform, be it a magistrate, be it a Judge, be it a clergyman, or a Member of that House, than to know that public opinion was at hand to see that he discharged his public duty honestly. That that was formerly the opinion of that House was evident, for in a Resolution passed in 1628, it was stated— That the elective right is a franchise not in the nature of a possession, or of privilege, but of service for the public good. The Prime Minister evidently to a certain extent was of the same opinion, for he further said— I should greatly prefer the public to the private discharge of every public function, and therefore I am not able to treat secret voting as an unmixed good. I look upon it as a choice of evils."—[Ibid. ciii. 1031.] But surely it was evident by a comparison of the number of voters, with the number of inhabitants in some of our larger towns, that the vote was still a trust. Leeds, for instance, with a population of over 300,000 according to the Census of 1861, possessed only 37,000 voters; Liverpool, with 443,000 inhabitants, had only 39,000 voters; and Manchester, out of a population of 357,000 inhabitants, had only 48,000 voters. In accordance with these facts, he hoped that the House would come to the conclusion that he was right in those two propositions as to the nature of the franchise—first; that if it was a trust before the last Reform Bill, it was still as much a trust as it was then; and, secondly, that it was a public duty which it was for the interests of the country that the man holding the franchise should discharge in the face of day, in the face of the criticism of public opinion, and with all the forces acting upon him which acted upon every public functionary who had a public duty to perform. Primâ facie, therefore, he maintained that the arguments were against the introduction of the change now proposed. And, moreover, that was practically admitted by the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council himself, because in introducing this Bill he said— I am quite aware that objections may be raised on both sides of the House upon the principle of it, as being contrary to their feeling that an election should be performed with publicity, and in concurrence with established English practice. That is, no doubt, a primâ facie objection.—[Ibid. cciv. 544.] Now, what were the arguments which the right hon. Gentleman used to overcome this primâ facie objection? He argued that in the conduct of Parliamentary elections in various parts of the world experience was in favour of the Ballot. No doubt, it would be a very strong argument in favour of the proposal now made if the right hon. Gentleman could show the House that absolute secret voting had been established in many other countries subject to the same conditions as ours, and that in those countries it had answered and proved so advantageous that we should be warranted in following the example. Before the Committee, of which he (Mr. A. Cross) was a member, they had had a very large number of witnesses called for the purpose of giving them the benefit of their experience in other parts of the world. But they should remember that the question now under discussion was not the Ballot, but what the right hon. Gentleman himself had called "secret Ballot" or "secret voting," for if they lost sight of the distinction between the two, they would not reap that advantage from the evidence taken before the Committee which they otherwise might. Now what was the character of the Ballot established in those countries held up to us as an example for us to imitate. In France, the Ballot had been established for a long time, but there was no secret Ballot and no secret voting in France, and as was shown very fairly before the Committee by the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea, voting in France was not, practically speaking, any less open than with us. But even if there had been, in the present unfortunate state of that country and in its previous condition under the Imperial rule, he could see no reason why we should look upon the state of things there as one worthy of example for this country. America had frequently in former days been instanced as a case where the Ballot had been successful. In latter years he was aware that that notion had been exploded, for there was now no more secret voting in America than there was in France. Nothing could be worse than the present system. In most of the States secret voting did formerly obtain, but State after State repudiated it, and in no single State of America did secret voting now exist. But even if America had secret voting, was she a country whose example we should wish to follow in the conduct of our elections? Personation was there extremely rife, and the frauds engendered by secret voting were so great, that it was not often that the return represented public opinion; the evidence adduced before the Committee upstairs went to show that the prevalent cry from North, East, West, and South, in the United States was—"Vote early, and vote often." He did not know that that was a practice they would like to follow, and he might observe in passing that the repudiation of the State Debt by the State of Mississippi would never, it was stated by a competent authority, have come to pass but for the facilities afforded by secret voting. The country, however, which was mainly relied on by the supporters of the Ballot—because France and America had been practically set aside—was Australia. It was pointed out that there, at all events, the system of absolute secret voting had answered; although in former times elections had been attended there by as much bribery and disgraceful conduct of every kind as had ever prevailed in England, at present nothing could be more orderly, pure, and satisfactory than the mode in which elections were carried on in that colony. He would, however, venture to remark that the whole condition of Australia was so entirety different from that of England, that no fair conclusion could be drawn from her case to influence the House in coming to a decision on the question under their consideration. First of all, as to the state of society both social and political:—In Australia, for instance, there were no old traditions of bribery. Mr. Fitzgerald stated that, although there might be individual cases of bribery, it was impossible that it could be carried on to any extent. Another witness had given evidence to a similar effect, and that being so, he would put it to the House how many Members were constantly unseated in this country after every General Election, while in Australia, before the introduction of the Ballot, Members were unseated very rarely, if at all. Under those circumstances, there being no old traditions of bribery—no Gatton, no Old Sarum—Australia could hardly be set up as an example. Again, as was clearly shown on unimpeachable testimony, there were in that colony no clearly defined political parties, and there was not, as a consequence, the same anxiety with respect to elections displayed by either candidates or voters. One witness distinctly stated that parties did not exist there in the same sense as in England, and that there was no such thing as Conservative and Liberal parties. His views upon that point were strongly corroborated by the Reports which the Governors of the Australian colonies sent home, and which had lately been laid on the Table. Sir James Fergusson said— I think that to the absence of any division of parties upon principle must be attributed a certain indifference to acquiring or to exercising the right of voting. He added— I do not instance these facts as effects of the Ballot, but in illustration of the absence of partisan ardour, which must he noticed as at least an equal cause, with the Ballot of the quiet with which the elections are conducted. Secondly, as regarded persons who became candidates:—The candidates—instead of being eager, as candidates were in this country, for their own purposes, to secure a seat in Parliament, and to obtain which they would spend almost any amount of money—were, according to the evidence which had been given by the hon. Member for Cambridge himself (Mr. R. Torrens), in a great measure composed of members of a squatting class, who did not care to waste their time in serving the public, preferring to increase their means, so that they might as soon as possible be enabled to come back to this country. Thirdly, there were the voters themselves, who were so well off that they were not open to be bribed in the same way as some of the lower classes here, who did not earn such high wages; there being, consequently, a great amount of independence among them, as was shown by the Reports of Mr. Du Cane, who said that— Owing to the general circumstances of the Colony, there was no reason to suspect the existence of any organized system of bribery or personation at elections; but that if party spirit ran high, and a wealthy candidate were determined to spend money corruptly, the system of absolute secrecy would not prevent his doing so, but would only tend to throw difficulty in the way of his subsequent detection. And Viscount Canterbury, writing of the Colony of Victoria, said— The immunity which this Colony has hitherto enjoyed and enjoys from the offence of bribery is not attributable to secret voting, but to some other cause; nor is it difficult to discover a sufficient cause in the independent position, with comparatively few exceptions, of the voters. On these three grounds it was clear that the whole condition of Australia was so totally different from their own in every circumstance and way, that whatever might be the experience of Australia, they could judge nothing, and draw no conclusion from it, which should influence them in coming to a decision on the matter now in dispute; and there were but two other countries to which the advocates of the Ballot had recourse in support of their views before the Committee. One of those was Italy, which was, comparatively speaking, a new country, where everybody had but the one wish—that of keeping the country one united Italy, and, consequently, there was an entire absence of party; and the other Greece, which was not seriously to be called into account in discussing the question. He thought, under those circumstances, that the example of foreign countries might altogether be dismissed from the consideration of that House, for it could hardly be contended that that example was such as to establish the superiority of secret over open voting. But the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council said that the only way in which the voter could be protected was by taking away the temptation to bribery, as would be done by means of the Ballot. He, however, would put that proposition in a different way, as it had been put in a remarkable paper published in 1852. It should, in his (Mr. A. Cross's) opinion, be shown first that it was necessary to have recourse to so severe a remedy; secondly, the right hon. Gentleman must go further, and show that if they had recourse to it, it would attain the object which he had in view; and then there was a third point, which was of equal importance, and that was, that the effect of the remedy should not be to produce more serious evils than those which existed in our Parliamentary system at the present moment. He was quite willing to admit, in the language of the Report of the Committee which had been made to the House, that there still existed, in some places to a great, and in others to a comparatively small extent, bribery, intimidation, treating, and corrupt practices. But whose fault, he would ask, was that? If any hon. Gentleman who had sat in that House for a long series of years would add up the amount of money which he had paid in the shape of election bills, could he say that he believed that it had been spent honestly and purely? If he would only say that he was determined, cost what it might, to spend no more, there would very soon be no question of the Ballot, and bribery would cease. At the same time, although he admitted that there was bribery, corruption, and treating to a certain extent, he asked the House to compare the present state of things with that which existed a century ago. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of Oxford (Mr. Cardwell) might, perhaps, be aware that it was only about 100 years ago since the Corporation of that city sent word to their Members of Parliament, just before an election, promising to return them again provided they paid the debt of the corporation, amounting to £7,600. He would also remind the House that it was only 100 years since that occurred to which Lord Chesterfield alluded when writing about a seat he wished to secure to his son. He offered £2,500, but the people in the borough in question laughed in his face, and told him the price of boroughs had risen in consequence of the rich men who had come over from the East Indies, and that in some cases not even £5,000 would buy what might have been purchased for £2,000 a few years before. To the case of the Christian Club at Shoreham he need hardly refer. All these facts showed that, bad as elections might be now to a certain extent, they were by no means as bad as they were in former times. In this respect, indeed, they had gone on steadily improving. He was old enough to recollect the great riots in the time of Henry Hunt—the threat to burn the houses of people in his own town, tar-barrels placed against the doors, and the threatened houses marked with a red cross. All this was altered now, and anyone who narrowly examined the history of their elections during the last 100 years would find that a steady advance had been made in the direction of purity and freedom of voting. The reason why their progress had not been more rapid was obvious. It was stated generally by Sir George Lewis, who said it was because the public refused to ratify the statute law, and the broad sense of the English nation could not be brought to stigmatize electoral corruption as an infamous crime; because in the society in which Members of Parliament lived, and moved, and had their being, the standard of morality regarded it as a venial offence; and because, in a word, the great and only tribunal whose sentence they feared, while theoretically frowning on the sin practically absolved the sinner. That was the true reason why their advance towards freedom and purity of election had not been more speedy. If further proof were wanted of the great advance actually made in that direction, he would call attention to the fact that after the General Election of 1852 some 76 Petitions were presented against the return of Members, and 36 Members were unseated; but after the Election of 1868, when the cry raised certainly roused the feelings of the people more than many other cries which had been raised in previous years, 73 Petitions were presented, and only 17 Members were unseated, notwithstanding the fact that the Petitions were scrutinized more carefully by the Judges than they were before by Select Committees of the House. But if they wanted to judge of the present state of electoral Corruption in this country, he could refer the House with the greatest confidence to the opinion of gentlemen who, by education, were far more competent to form a correct opinion than most of them—he meant the Judges who tried the Election Petitions, and he believed that the general impression of the amount of bribery that existed was greatly exaggerated. Baron Martin said— I have formed a very decided opinion that the general impression with regard to bribery is exaggerated, judging from the cases I tried. … . With the exception of three places, bribery did not exist to any great extent. …. In a very great number of cases the charge was perfectly ridiculous. He was aware that hon. Gentlemen opposite complained of the increase, not of bribery in its grosser forms, but of intimidation. ["Hear, hear!] Well, the same arguments and facts applied both to intimidation and bribery. Intimidation was less extensive and less common than it used to be. Baron Martin was asked—"Well, but did any cases of intimidation or undue influence come under your notice?" and his reply was—"Very few indeed, and I think they all failed." Now, let them go a little further. If ever there was a man of calm judgment, who merely looked straight before him in the execution of his duty, that man was Mr. Justice Blackburn. The question asked him was—"Has any evidence of undue influence been submitted to you?" And his answer was— Very little evidence of undue influence was submitted to me. There was only one case in which it was proved to my satisfaction. It was alleged in all the Petitions, but I think that in every case it broke down, the evidence being very contemptible. In fact, the cases of intimidation might be fairly said to be frivolous and vexatious—all of them. In the excitement of an election words were often used which, being misinterpreted and repeated from one person to another, led to charges of undue influence being preferred; but when such cases were sifted in Courts of Law they almost invariably broke down. This happened in the case of the West Norfolk Petition, tried by Mr. Justice Blackburn, who said that nothing could be larger than the amount of undue influence which was charged, but the petitioners, in his opinion, wholly failed to prove it. Hon. Gentlemen opposite urged that there was a kind of intimidation and undue influence which no law could touch, and which could not be brought into Courts of Justice. He would, however, remind the House, in the words of Mr. Justice Willes, that too great caution could not be observed in accepting the statements of voters who complained of undue influence, because it was often found that a servant was discarded or a tenant evicted totally irrespective of the way he voted, although he afterwards charged his master or landlord with having exercised undue influence. Among the witnesses examined by the Committee gentlemen from Wales and Scotland made the loudest complaints against landlords; but the latter always denied the allegations, and the Committee found it impossible to investigate each particular case, and for that reason discarded the use of such evidence altogether. He thought that bribery, treating, intimidation, and undue influence had, at any rate, greatly decreased; and for three reasons—first, because of the enlightened public opinion of the country; secondly, because of the spread of education. In Scotland there was as much excitement at elections as in this country, but within the memory of man scarcely a single Scotch election had been declared void on account of bribery. This, he believed, was due partly to the superior education of the Scotch people, and partly to the fact that the representation had been more changed from place to place than in England. When the seats in Scotland were re-distributed, the old places where bribery had prevailed were got rid of; but this was not the case in England. So far as the example of Scotland was concerned, he looked to the Act which the right hon. Gentleman carried last year as a much greater safeguard against bribery, corruption, and intimidation than this measure was likely to be. And the third matter which had been at work in reducing the bribery, &c., was the gradually growing independence of electors themselves. He believed that one good resulting from the last Reform Act which had not yet been perceived was that those who were not voters before, but who were voters now, were, to a great extent, men who promoted all the mischief at former elections; and as they were now intrusted with votes they would year by year become more independent and more willing to exercise the franchise as they ought to do, and to join the former voters in saying—"Come what may, we will exercise the franchise purely." The right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council was wrong, then, in saying that secret Ballot was necessary for the putting down of corruption and intimidation; for the other influences that were at work would do much to diminish them before that Bill could have any practical effect. The right hon. Gentleman had next to show that the Ballot would effect his object—that he could not do. One provision which would do more than anything to put them down was not to be found in that Bill. The main reason why bribery went on as it did was that there was great chance that it would escape detection, because when an election was over it was the feeling of Englishmen to say—"We have had our fight; we have done all we could; we have lost the battle; we will shake hands, and we will not bring discredit on our town." What was wanted, therefore, was a public prosecutor. Could it be expected that that Ballot Bill would effect its object with the bribable populations of some of their old traditionally corrupt towns—with men as ready as the old traditional rich East India merchant to spend any amount of money to get into Parliament, so long as they did not spend it themselves? Other things would do it; public opinion, the independence of voters, the spread of education would do it; but that Bill would not do it, and to his mind, instead of being an advantage, it would, be a great disadvantage in one respect. It might change the form of bribery, but it would not stop it. It might to a certain extent stop individual intimidation, individual bribery, and undue individual influence, but it would only cause bribery to take a different form. The judgments of the Judges on Election Petitions showed what form bribery had taken at different places in the country. The right hon. Gentleman must not think that his Ballot Bill would effect its object in the same way as the Act of last year affected the education of the country, for last year the right hon. Gentleman was dealing with innocent children, and now he was dealing with wicked men, and the right hon. Gentleman's heart was so full of natural goodness that he did not know how bad they were. If he thought the Ballot Bill would stop bribery he was quite wrong. He would not say who now-a-days represented that rich East India merchant of the past, but such a man would not bribe individuals, but would bribe generally. Having fixed upon the borough which he wished to represent, his first object would be to get an introduction and go down, and his second to make himself popular, and he could do that in various forms and ways. He could do it by nursing it in the way which was alleged against the hon. Member for Beverley; he might become the chairman of a great shipbuilding company; or he might start a manufacture, and become an employer of local labour; but he would not do one or the other for the sake of the pecuniary benefit he was to receive. He had one purpose in his mind which he was determined to carry out, and that to become Member of Parliament for the borough. So he would go down there, spend his money there, and make himself popular; and what was that but bribery, and bribery almost in the grossest form? Then, take general breakfasts, such as were given at Hereford; the opening of publichouses and the employment of watchers, as at Bewdley; and the lavish expenditure that took place at Bradford—what was all that but bribery? It might not come under the particular form, but it was the same fault, the same crime we wanted to put down; and what would the Ballot Bill do in these cases? Then, at Bridgwater, a large number of voters hung back and asked what was going; and the promise was given that the earliest voter as well as the last should be paid. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to have forgotten the main principle of his Education Bill—namely, "payment by results." That would be precisely what would be paid for under the proposed Bill. Men would cease to follow what was called "the stupid form of bribery," and, instead of giving £10 to secure a man's vote, they would offer money to secure vote and interest, and would not pay if they did not get in. That was the form of bribery which that Bill would suggest, and would not stop. The one thing of all others that would stop bribery, corruption, and intimidation was the certainty of being found out; and that Bill would take away that only engine of detection by allowing men to vote in secret. He did not say they could not trace bribery in the same way they did now; but the trials of Election Petitions showed that the first question counsel asked of witnesses was—"For whom did you vote? "The answer to that question at once set them on the track of the bribery. Voting was practically only the last of a long series of acts. The political inclinations of a man were known, and if, at the end of the election, it was found out that he had not voted as his follow-workmen expected he would, that showed that he had probably been bribed, and it at once set you on the track of the bribery. If this safeguard were to be removed; if the only way in which it could be found out whether a man had been bribed or not was to trace the money from hand to hand were taken away, they would never be able to detect bribery. It was not shown that the Bill was necessary, and it was not shown that it would effect the object in view, and unless these things could be shown there was no justification for altering the law. He said nothing of forms of bribery which could never be detected at all, such as abstention from voting and the spoiling of a polling paper. Then, how was spiritual intimidation to be touched? It was all very well to say there was none, but he would show that there was spiritual intimidation, and that the strongest that could be used. Mr. Justice Willes said if you asked a child whether he would be whipped or see a ghost, the ghost would frighten him more than the whipping; and if a priest said to a man going to the poll, as was said at Drogheda—"You may vote for anybody you like, but if you vote for So-and-So, I would advise you when you go home to think of what will become of your soul." That was a form of spiritual intimidation that would have more effect upon a man than almost any other undue influence you could bring to hear. Well, but that was a species of intimidation which the Ballot could never affect. They had not, then, shown that the Ballot was necessary, or that if they carried their Bill it would affect their object. He wished now to show that it would introduce infinitely worse evils than any which existed under the present system. The right hon. Gentleman in introducing the Bill felt that that was a difficulty which he undoubtedly had to get over, and he said that there were three evils likely to occur, but when the House read the provisions of the Bill it would find that it contained ample securities against those evils. The first evil was that of tampering with the votes. He would not go at length into that subject, but he would like the House to consider whether there were not ample facilities in the Bill for fraud on the part of the presiding officer; and if there was one thing more than another which ought to be guarded against, it was that there should be in a constituency a general impression of foul play on the part of the returning officer. Take the case of such an election as had occurred in his own town of Warrington, where an accusation was brought against the Mayor of foul play. When the case came to be investigated by the Judges the whole charge fell through, and the Mayor was fully acquitted. But the very fact of allegation of foul play disturbed the town for years, and he doubted whether even now the ill-feeling generated, untrue as the charge turned out to be, had entirely passed away. But it was not only the returning officer himself that would be thus open to suspicion. He had to appoint deputies at the different stations, and all of these would be equally liable to be suspected. The returning officer had to decide on the validity of the Ballot paper, and had to deal temporary voting papers to men not on the register—a most dangerous power. All he would say was, that there was ample opportunity, despite of all provisions to the contrary, for non-voters to get those Ballot papers to put into the box, and therefore an opening to the second of the evils so much dreaded—that of forged voting papers being used, a practice, which under the provisions of secret voting, they would find it impossible to identify or prevent. As to the third evil—that of personation, they all know that in America it was carried on by wholesale, and he believed if the Bill were passed personation would be carried on here to a great extent. The right hon. Gentleman proposed to meet this difficulty by providing that if the agent of any candidate induced a man to personate a voter, the election should be void. That might be very good in its way, but the right hon. Gentleman, having acknowledged the danger, absolutely took away by the system of voting he proposed, the means of finding the personator out. Putting aside, however, all those mere fringes of the question, bad as they were, and serious as they would be found, there was a more serious evil still. The votes would be given in a more irrational way, not thoughtfully, not in many cases truthfully, certainly not under the influence of public opinion, nor the sense of deep responsibility. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman what effect the Ballot would be likely to have in that unhappy country, Ireland? Was it likely to improve the representation of Ireland? When the men of Westmeath knew that they could give their votes not under the influence of any public opinion, but simply at their own will, was it likely that the representation of that part of the country would be improved? There was another great evil which had not been yet alluded to, and which had been seriously felt in Australia; it was this—that in the different boroughs they would, to a great extent, get rid of party spirit at elections. Some hon. Members opposite thought that would be a benefit, but he believed men would then vote according to some particular crotchet or fancy, and that they would not be controlled by the leaders of parties, but would let some private matter in which they felt an interest override great public questions. Take the case of the Sunday Closing Bill, or of the Conventual and Monastic Inquiry, or of the Permissive Bill, when an election occurred very probably persons who took an interest in those questions would not allow them to be made subordinate to general public questions. The result would be, as had been seriously felt at the last election, especially on the Liberal side, that there would be a large number of candidates offering themselves in different towns with no great difference of opinion on general questions, but influenced by some local advantage which they thought they might obtain. What would be the effect on that House? That House would reflect the feeling out-of-doors, and the same broad party distinctions would not be kept up anything like so clearly as at the present time. What was the case in Australia? A witness before the Committee was asked— Do I understand that now the elections are not divided into two parties as they used to be? His answer was— Not exactly. I would rather divide parties in Australia under the universal suffrage into Ins and Outs, for generally the people in office try to hold it, and all who are not in office try to put them out, and the result is a change of Ministers, probably every seven months. Again, this question was put— Could parties range themselves under distinct colours as they do here, denoting any particular shade of opinion? The answer was— Yes, but they are constantly changing banners. The man who has been turned out of office on a particular measure will immediately take up that measure when he comes in and carry it. That was the result of not having Parliament divided into two strong political parties. He regretted that House was not divided into two great parties now as strongly as it used to be; and as it was not only a Legislative Assembly, but also possessed supreme control over the Executive Government, it was essential that the machine for the purpose should be kept in proper working order, and, in his opinion, that without party government Parliamentary government was in this country impossible. They were asked to pass that Bill on the recommendation of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, who was himself a recent convert to its principles. But it was not usual, in such cases, to follow the advice of converts. They did not go to a man who had recently changed his opinion in religion to ascertain whether it would be wise to follow his example, nor would they ask a recent convert to teetotalism for an impartial statement of the merits of that controversy. He was very much obliged to the House for the patience with which they had listened to him. He would ask them once more to remember the words that the right hon. Gentleman had used in reference to the Bill—that it was a choice of evils. That was all—it was not a positive good, but only a choice of evils. In choosing what course they would take, he besought them to consider the question irrespective of party considerations. They were asked to take their choice of evils. There were evils on the one side and evils on the other. But the evils on the one side they had already fathomed to the bottom — the evils of bribery, corruption, and intimidation — and deep, and dark, and stormy, and troublous as they had found these waters, they had happily been enabled by the breeze of an enlightened public opinion to reach, at all events, somewhat shallower and smoother water. There might still be some rocks and shoals to encounter; but looking at the vantage ground that they had gained, they might say that they were at all events in sight of land, and that the Education Act of last Session would help them on their way to the haven of pure elections which they were seeking to find. But the evils on the other hand were unknown. No examples had been brought before them to show that they could safely apply to our institutions and habits the remedy that was now suggested. They were asked to embark on an untravelled ocean, and to throw away what he believed to be the only compass which could possibly guide them safely through the storm—he meant the public responsibility of every voter voting for the public good, under the public eye, and guided by the wholesome and legitimate influences of public opinion. He begged to move, That this House will, upon this day three months, resolve itself into the said Committee.


There are many Members, I daresay, in this House, Sir, who were as much astonished as I was when they heard the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council say, on introducing this Bill to the House, that it was not necessary to discuss the principle of its Ballot clauses, because upon that this House had already declared. I should be very glad if the right hon. Gentleman would tell us when that happened. He told us, however, what the essential principle of his enactment was when he stated that he intended to establish complete and absolute secrecy in which there should be no means whatever of tracing any vote. Now, is there any hon. Gentleman in this House who will assert that this is what this House assented to when it accepted last year, without a division, the second reading of the Bill of the hon. Member for Huddersfield? And will the right hon. Gentleman himself say that there is not a most vital difference between the possibly open Ballot of the hon. Member for Huddersfield and the secret Ballot which, existing in no other great nation, he now proposes for the first time for the acceptance of this House and of the country? Sir, I rejoice, with my hon. Friend who proposed this Amendment, that the Government propositions intrusted to the right hon. Gentleman are such as to bring before us the plain question of openness or secrecy. The issue need not be encumbered with arguments drawn from the convenience of taking votes by ticket, or from the orderly character of elections so conducted, but we are called upon to say Aye or No to this: Is it desirable that every voter should be compelled to give a vote which, except from any statement of his own, shall be, under all circumstances, absolutely secret? Sir, it is because I believe that the answer to this question should, for the sake of the honour and the interests of the country, be most emphatically No, that I ask the indulgence of the House while I give a few of the reasons which induce me to second the Amendment of my hon. Friend. The only reasons, Sir, which the right hon. Gentleman adduced, on proposing this Bill, for the principle of the secret Ballot, were, in the main, twofold. He said, in the first place, that the best way to prevent a crime is to stop the motives for that crime, and he conceived that the Ballot was by far the most likely mode of removing from men the temptation either to bribe or to intimidate. In the premises, Sir, of the right hon. Gentleman I most readily concur, it being, undoubtedly, the first principle of all good government to remove, so far as legislation can do it, the motives for crime. But I confess I am at a loss to perceive how, by removing the temptation of which the right hon. Gentleman speaks, you thereby remove the motives for crime. The right hon. Gentleman has, as it humbly seems to me, supposed the real motives for these crimes to lie in the imagined special facility for committing them offered by the present system of open voting. The hon. Member for Huddersfield made last year the same confusion between motives and opportunities for crime; but I will take leave to maintain that the motive which it is hoped by this secrecy to remove lies far deeper than those who use this argument seem to fancy. The hon. Member for Huddersfield argued last year that "wherever one man has power over another, that power he will use in times of public excitement." Now, without going so far as the hon. Member, I think that it is beyond dispute that there will always be men who, having such a power, will be anxious to abuse it; but you cannot deprive these men of their power, and you cannot seriously thwart their exercise of it by any machinery of wooden or glass boxes. You may diminish—and I will grant that—the facilities for the less guilty, the unpremeditated form of crime—that form, in fact, which will most readily succumb to improved moral feeling and public sentiment; but the more serious form of it will continue to brave the law with the additional security afforded by the reduced means of detection and the diminished watchfulness of public opinion. The other argument, Sir, used by the right hon. Gentleman was that the State has no right to impose on a man the duty of voting, and then not to protect him in the exercise of that vote. Well, Sir, everyone will admit that the law should protect the voter. But how does the Ballot do so? Supposing it to secure absolute secrecy, what protection is that in the case, as we are bound to imagine, of a man wishing to vote in opposition to the will of someone who has power over him? Why, it enables him to lie without detection. That is to say, the State admits its inability to protect against oppression: it confesses its impotence and abdicates its proper functions, and while it pays this tribute to intolerance, which involves the forfeiture of our right to be called a free and law-abiding people, it allows, nay it must from the nature of the case force the voter to acquiesce in the abandonment of his own right of publicity. Sir, if freedom of opinion be a right, freedom of expression is no less so; and to impose secrecy, which you do by this Bill, is as much treason against the liberties of the citizen, as it is treason against the State to intimidate him in the exercise of his franchise. This leads me, Sir, to observe an argument which has been much relied on by opponents of the Ballot, and which has been urged with great force to-night by my hon. Friend beside me, that the elector, as representing non-electors, should perform his trust openly before the public, and so be amenable to the class for whom he exercises that trust. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister used to believe in that argument; but he now thinks that we have so extended the electoral system as to have established practically a personal manhood franchise, so that that responsibility no longer exists. Now, it is quite evident that until you have absolute universal suffrage, with no restriction of sex, the argument, if it ever was a good one, is a good one still. But, in the extended constituencies, it is at least, I think, more clearly seen that the franchise can only, strictly speaking, be a trust, in so far as it involves the duty that a man should vote according to his convictions. He is bound to do that, and so long as bribery and coercion are illegal, you protect him by the law in so voting; but the ultimate test of his honesty can only be his own conscience, and not the public. So far, therefore, as regards this trust argument, I, for one, am not willing to rely upon it as a bar to the proposition now before us. But, now, what is this system of voting expected to accomplish? It is, in the first place, expected to make bribery so difficult and uncertain as to be not worth trying. With regard to what is called "afternoon" bribery I shall say nothing, because it is admitted that that can be stopped by other means; but, in respect of systematic bribery, the hon. Member for Huddersfield argued last year that the evidence showed that people would not go on paying for what they would not be certain to get. Sir, I have gone carefully through the evidence taken with that view before the Committee; but I find no facts to bear this out. I find, indeed, opinions going both ways, and amongst others I find that of the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea, who is as conversant as most men with the working of various electoral systems, and who thinks that the contingent form of bribery, which would under the Ballot be the only form possible, would increase, and would be the most successful as it is in theory the best form of corruption. It is quite true that the hon. Baronet's evidence was coloured on this point by his dislike to small constituencies, where such bribery would have most effect; but it is to be remembered, on the other hand, that in the large constituencies their very size tends to make bribery almost impossible, and it is the small boroughs, if we are to maintain them at all, which are supposed render necessary this extraordinary means of enforcing purity upon a corrupt population. The hon. Member for Huddersfield, Sir, is very fond of quoting to us the example of other countries which have used the Ballot—and he has, I have no doubt, studied history to support his view. I am the more surprised, therefore, that on this point he should have failed to remember that in republican Rome, where alone of all free governments that ever existed, is there to be found any parallel to the venality and corruption which the hon. Gentleman and his Friends represent to exist here, there was a well organized system of contingent payment. In the election of magistrates there was a rigid Ballot as strict as that proposed now by the Government, and, let me add, almost identical with it; but the hon. Gentleman will find, in looking back to the pages of his Cicero, that not only did agents look after particular voters, but a wholesale system existed of paying money contingent on success to large bodies of doctors. Is human nature different now from what it was then? Is there, so far as bribees are concerned, less honour among thieves?—and are there not agents now equal to the task achieved then? Sir, I cannot see how bribery of this sort—the sort, remember, which we want particularly to undermine—is to be put down by secret voting; while it must not be forgotten, on the other hand, that under such a system, you give the bribee a direct interest in the success of his corrupter; you make him a canvasser for the benefit of his own pocket, and it is his interest to see that no interloper obtains money under false pretences. Then again, even should you succeed in stopping bribery of voters, you let loose money to bribe officials: and it certainly does not lie in the mouth of those Gentlemen who advocate the Ballot to deny the possibility of this happening, for the very groundwork of their argument is the existence of widespread venality and corruption. It is confessed, indeed, on all hands, that under the ballot you must have confidence in officials; but will more honesty be practised where detection of fraud is impossible, and what sort of confidence will be felt by the more violent portion of a constituency after their favourite candidate has been defeated? Those candidates themselves are, as we all know, not too ready to admit that they have been beaten on their own demerits, and is it to be supposed that in the absence of public guarantees large masses of disappointed men, in a country were political feeling runs so high as it does here, will readily acquiesce in the fairness of their defeat? Sir, it is not in the nature of things that they should do so even in this country; but what is to be expected of Ireland where the inhabitants, whatever be their virtues, certainly do not repose much confidence in Government officials? And can that be said to be a desirable reform in the existing state of our relations with that country which would in any degree weaken the guarantees which a disaffected portion of the community are still compelled to place in the constituted authorities? Well, but the Ballot is to stop coercion and intimidation, and I suppose this is generally allowed to be the strongest part of the case in its favour. Now, how is it likely to prevent mob intimidation, and how will such scenes as take place in their perfection in Ireland, and signalized for example the return of the junior Member for Waterford, be checked by enabling a man to conceal his vote? Why, all parties are known and recognized, men's opinions are no secret in the district, and they are mobbed and prevented from voting: and, on the other hand, if a man have voted and refuse to say how he has given his vote, that very refusal is sufficient to condemn him in the eyes of an intolerant and hasty mob. Then, as to landlords and employers of labour, the hon. Member for Huddersfield endeavoured to make a great deal out of the now historical Timpendean case; but I should like to know, taking that as a typical case, how he can show that Mr. Scott's vote would in any way have been protected by the Ballot. It is very much the fashion, Sir, for certain persons to be continually misrepresenting tenant-farmers as much as they misrepresent landlords. There is no independence they say on one side, and no liberality of dealing on the other. In the case, for example, of that strange attempt at legislation introduced by the hon. Member for the Wick Burghs, they would have us believe that the majority of tenant-farmers are unable to enter into a contract at all, and now in the matter of Parliamentary elections, I suppose we are to believe that men of the position of Mr. Scott are likely to spend their lives in one continual state of reticence as regards political matters; that they will go to no farmers' clubs, no chambers of agriculture, no market ordinaries—no place, in fact, where farmers are now in the habit of openly discussing matters of vital interest to themselves and their landlords; or, that if they do so, they will talk only in the interests of their landlords, whilst entertaining different ideas altogether. Sir, it is idle to suppose anything of the kind: but what earthly protection in these cases is compulsory secrecy of voting if it do not carry out the still further tyranny of compelling a man in this hitherto free country to conceal his political opinions from his neighbours? and if he do not so conceal them, how can anything but public opinion prevent a landlord from dealing hardly with a tenant because they do not agree in politics? Sir, I should be sorry, indeed, to think, representing, as I do, a large agricultural constituency, that there were any landlords in it who, to put it on the very lowest ground, would be so ill-judged as to act in this way; and I should be as sorry to think that there was any tenant in it, who having a cause, real or fancied, to complain of unfair influence on the part of his landlord, would wish so to lower himself as to seek protection—by what? By a contrivance which is to enable him, indeed, to perform the duty of a citizen at election time; but which can only be of permanent use to him if it be supplemented by a life of reticence at all events, if not of hypocrisy. Well, but I am told, Sir, that there are thousands of voters who abstain from forming an opinion, because they are never likely to be able to vote freely, and that secret voting will encourage them to form such an opinion. This, I believe, was the reason given by the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary for his change of view on this question. But if this argument be worth anything, it goes against giving the franchise to a class of men who, by your hypothesis, have nothing worth calling a conviction. Sir, I maintain that in using this argument in favour of secret voting, you are using the new electors whom you have created, as an excuse for lowering the tone of the older constituencies. You give the franchise to people who are, you say, politically uneducated, and then to enable them to form an opinion you drag down the rest of the voters to a confessedly lower level. But, Sir, the formation of opinion does not depend on the mode of taking votes; it depends on the spread of education, on the influence of the Press, and of the better educated and more thoughtful men in each class—on the open, healthy, and fearless manner in which political matters are discussed in this and in every free country. What is the worth of political opinion hatched in secret, and formed without any reference to the responsibility which even in private affairs every man owes to the society in which he lives? To compare smaller and greater things, it is like the crotchets which the philosophers who bristle round the hon. Member for Waterford, to his infinite annoyance but to the amusement of the House, are so often accused of forming in the recesses of their studies. But it is infinitely more mischievous, because it has a tendency to reduce the power of voting to a mere sense of privilege to be exercised on personal considerations, and must, therefore, infallibly lower the whole tone of political morality. Sir, I am sorry to say that tone is low enough already; but will anybody assert that it is not improving? Will anybody maintain that if Election Petitions had been inquired into by Judges at a similar period after the Reform Act of 1832, such evidence would have been possible from the Judges who tried them as was given before the Committee two years ago? I do not desire to attach too much weight to opinions formed judicially upon evidence produced in Court; but it is, at all events, upon record that Mr. Baron Martin, who tried 13 petitions, stated that though there was a good deal of treating, bribery was exaggerated, and that no cases of intimidation or undue influence came under his notice. Mr. Justice Willes, who tried 16 petitions, stated that there was undue influence at Blackburn and Westbury; but that such practices were not common. Mr. Justice Blackburn stated that the only case of intimidation that came before him was by a mob at Stafford. If, in answer to such evidence as this, it be urged that petitions are not easily originated, and when originated do not easily get at the truth, what can be said sufficiently strong in condemnation of a system of voting which shall make them more difficult to originate and less able to get at the truth? You have passed an Act which, in the opinion, at all events, of Mr. Baron Martin, has brought a wholesome fear of detection to bear on would-be breakers of the law, and now you are proposing by this Bill to make the obstacles to the efficiency of that Act greater than they are already. That certainly is not a method of improving morality, which, whatever be the exigencies of party, can be called statesmanlike or even prudent. Sir, the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister has admitted that this Ballot is a choice of evils. He is, if I understand rightly what he said last year on the subject, as willing as anyone to allow that it is not only desirable but natural that every man should wish, were it possible, to vote openly. But he is in despair of this possibility, and he points to the growth of public opinion since the Reform Act of 1867 in favour of this measure. It might, Sir, possibly be argued that the increasing desire for some purity of legislation, even so violent as this, was in itself an evidence of its not being necessary; but I should wish to ask, in what does this growth of public opinion consist? Is it apparent in the more highly educated part of the Press? Certainly not; the reverse is more nearly the truth; and even among what are called the more popular papers there was one, at all events—that one, I think, with which travellers by rail are familiar as having "the largest circulation in the world"—which asserted the unimportance of the Ballot, except as being one of the Shibboleths of the Radical party. Then, is there any real growing adhesion to it among non-official Members of this House, even among those who, I regret to say, support this Bill because they think it may be of use to them, at all events temporarily, in their own districts? It is notorious that there is not; but that a vote of this House, which should really be a vote expressing its opinion, would reject this part of the Bill by a large majority. Then, as regards the Parliamentary history of the Ballot. Introduced by Mr. Grote after the Reform Act of 1832, it did not grow in the favour of Parliament even in his hands. From the memorable year 1848 up to 1861, Mr. Berkeley was beaten by majorities increasing from 5 to 125; and now, again, after the last Reform Act, when you get as before a large class of newly enfranchised electors, and more democratic demands clamouring to be satisfied, there comes from the same source a renewed cry for this remedy, and an intolerant desire, almost as bad as that expressed in the Bill of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle, that the minority should protect itself at the expense of the majority. The time, Sir, has gone by when so much stress is laid, as there was formerly, upon the adoption of this system abroad. Without attaching too much importance to the fact that this absolutely inviolable secrecy exists nowhere except in New South Wales, it certainly cannot fairly be denied that the evidence given before the Committee was not of so encouraging a character to the supporters of the Ballot as they had expected it to be. But even if this mode of voting, so far as it is secret, be the cause of the more orderly manner in which elections are generally conducted abroad—which I am not prepared to admit, but is, on the contrary, as I believe, disproved by the evidence—I maintain that that is not of itself a sufficient reason for introducing it here. Let it be conceded that it has been, or is, regarded in Germany, Italy, or France as the bulwark of growing liberty against bureaucratic, priestly, or Imperial power, I will yet take leave to assert that we, who already assured of that liberty, have altogether a higher ideal of public life, which so far as purity of election is concerned is being more and more secured by the development of public sentiment still more strongly in that direction; whereas by this imposition you are, for the sake of the ignorant and underhanded, belying the national custom and the national conscience. It is for these reasons, Sir, and not because I will allow myself to be afraid of any individual or party disaster which some prophets assert may follow from the adoption of the Ballot, that I most cordially second the Amendment of my hon. Friend.

Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House will, upon this day three months, resolve itself into the said Committee,"—(Mr. Cross,)—instead thereof.

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


said, if open voting could really be practised, he should prefer it to secret voting. But the evidence taken before the Select Committee showed that many voters could not really vote openly according to the dictates of conscience. The prevalent evils connected with the present system were bribery, intimidation, coercion, eviction of tenants, riot, and drunkenness. Now, he was not sanguine enough to suppose that the Bill before the House would at once sweep away every trace of bribery, but it would tend to check the practice, for a candidate would not like to part with his money until he was sure that he got value for it; and a voter who was ready to accept a bribe would not readily give his vote until he received the bribe. He regarded the clauses abolishing the nomination and declaration days as excellent clauses, for it was on those days that the greatest rioting and drunkenness prevailed, as evidenced at a recent election, where the candidates were pelted with stones, snowballs, and other missiles, and where the successful one had even to be escorted to his committee-room as a place of safety by the police. He also looked upon the clause prohibiting the use of publichouses for committee-rooms as a capital provision, because drunkenness was the cause of many of the riots. He gave to the Bill his most hearty support, and he trusted the Liberal party would unite in voting for it, and though there were many Amendments on the Paper, he hoped that in a short time they would fade away and disappear. Let hon. Members use their best endeavours to get the Bill passed this year, and thus take the first step to make their elections an example instead of a disgrace to civilized society.


said, he had not the honour of a seat in that House when the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland brought forward the Ballot Bill, and he now wished to trouble the House with a few observations in explanation of the course which he was about to take. He believed that both sides of the House would agree to this observation—that the Ballot now occupied a very different position from what it did when he first entered Parliament, and even five or six years ago. He remembered the time when it was brought forward in the Chartist days—when Mr. Feargus O'Connor presented a monster Petition in favour of the "Five Points," the Ballot being one of them; and much more recently, when Mr. Berkeley introduced his annual Ballot Bill, anyone who was supposed to vote for it, or who advocated it was supposed to hold the most democratic opinions. It was bound up in popular opinion with the most democratic ideas. That time had gone by, and the Ballot now might be fairly discussed on its own merits, and as was observed by the hon. Gentleman the Member for South-west Lancashire (Mr. A. Cross), who had moved the Amendment, he hoped that it would not now be regarded as a mere party question. He responded to that wish, and did not desire it to be in any sense considered a party question. What were the present circumstances of the case? Three years ago that House passed a Reform Bill, and he believed that measure had materially changed the position of the question of the Ballot. With respect to the Reform Bill, he approached the consideration of that question and supported it with the greatest mistrust and the greatest fear, and therefore his conduct might appear inconsistent. ["Hear!] He said so most freely. He bore testimony to the fact that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli), and the noble Lord the Member for North Leicestershire (Lord John Manners), had always been consistent in the course which they had followed. From the earliest time at which he had the honour of their acquaintance they had always carried out Conservative principles. He did not allude to that as applicable to persons sitting on one side of that House or on the other, but in the highest view of the word "Conservative," as respecting order and respecting the rights of property. Having passed the Reform Bill, it seemed to him impossible to stop short, and the sensible course was to show confidence in the people by now conceding the Ballot. That was a natural corollary and sequence of the course which Parliament had adopted. Nothing was more painful for him, in one respect, than to take the step which he was now doing, knowing that he was acting in opposition to the sentiments of hon. Gentlemen with whom he had uniformly acted; but nothing could prevent him from taking what he considered right and just views, and carrying them out when he believed them to be right. It would be impertinent in him, having only recently adopted those views, to urge on the House his own arguments in favour of the Ballot, because if those arguments were good now, they were equally good before, when he did not admit their force. His present views, however, had resulted from recent circumstances. He was much struck last year when he canvassed the constituency which he represented by the statement of a very important and distinguished gentleman—a man of great influence, employing 7,000 workmen. That gentleman told him that the majority of the men in his employ were Conservatives, and he added—"Believe me, Mr. Cochrane, the working classes are Conservatives, and that proves that Mr. Disraeli was right when he passed the Reform Bill." He (Mr. Cochrane) then asked how, if the working men were such consistent Conservatives, the action of trades unions and the influence which demagogues exercised over the minds of the people were to be accounted for? The reply he got was—"It is simply because the demagogues live with the working classes, mix with them, and work upon their minds. The gentlemen do not mix sufficiently with the working classes." He thought that observation was very much sustained by the graceful remark of the French author of the Memoirs of the Grand ArmyWhen you read of soldiers, you only know their faults; but when you live with them you know their virtues. The other day, in the neighbourhood of a great city, he was shown over some large works, where 7,000 or 8,000 workmen were employed. He asked the manager what were the politics of the men, and was told that they all "voted Radical." He remarked—"Then, they are all Radicals." But the manager replied —"No, I never said so; they vote Radical, but three - fourths of them are of Conservative tendencies." He (Mr. Cochrane) then asked—"How do you account for this apparent inconsistency?" whereupon the manager answered—"The minority, consisting of thinking, busy, active, energetic men, form themselves into committees and clubs, and they exercise an almost inconceivable tyranny over the minds of the majority. I have seen these men driven up to the poll by these minorities, by the power which minorities do manage to exercise over majorities." History confirmed the truth of that. They should look at the history of France and her various revolutions. Who, at such times, were the people who exercised authority in France? On each occasion it was a minority binding and pressing upon the majority and conquering its will. There was a passage in one of Mr. Mill's pamphlets which drew attention to that point, and confirmed it, and which was as follows:— Protection against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough; there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling—against the tendency of society to impose by other means than civil penalties its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development, and, if possible, prevent the formation of any individuality not in harmony with its ways. One reason why he (Mr. Cochrane) had changed his opinion on the Ballot was, because, having recently met many of these working men, and having listened to the opinions of those who were thrown into a larger sphere of action, he had begun to believe in the strong Conservative tendencies of the working classes; not using the word Conservative in its party sense, but in its legitimate sense, as meaning the love of order and the maintenance of the rights of property. In talking to these men he had learnt how much excellence and goodness there was among the working classes, and he believed that, while the history of the benevolence and kindness of the rich to the poor found admirers, the benevolence and kindness of the poor to the poor were even more worthy of admiration. But what was the state of things now to be found in France? In that country both Universal Suffrage and the Ballot were institutions, and what had been their result? Remembering the terrible events which had lately occurred in Paris, one might expect that the result would be the upholding of Socialism and Communism; but it had been nothing of the kind. On the contrary, Socialism and Communism were the work of the minority. Out of a population of 2,300,000 in Paris, the number of Communists never amounted to more than 80,000; there being 400,000 or 500,000 other men, who, if they would have fought, might easily have put them down. Nor were the people of France to be wholly blamed for what had occurred in Paris; for it should be borne in mind that among the Communists were people of all classes and countries congregated together in that city, and advocating what they called international views. But what had been the result? France had returned the most Conservative Assembly ever returned by free election. Out of 89 Departments, 75 had returned Conservative and Monarchical candidates, and at the present moment four-fifths of the Chamber now sitting at Versailles were in favour of Monarchy—surely an extraordinary result to be brought about by Universal Suffrage and the Ballot. And what had been the result of the school board elections in this country? In the Metropolis those elections had been conducted by Ballot, and the constituencies had returned not such men as might have been expected under the circumstances, but such men as his noble Friend (Viscount Sandon), who was possessed of great industry, extensive knowledge, and high merit. What was true of London was also true of the whole country. On the other hand, what was the result of open voting? He had been more saddened than amused the other day by reading the account of the Bilston election of a clergyman. In that case, which should have been one of the most solemn among all cases of election, inasmuch as it was the election of a clergyman, every evil connected with contested elections was carried on under the system of open voting. It was an argument much used by those who opposed the Ballot that secret voting tended to forward the work of secret societies, and the binding up of men in an entanglement of oaths and obligations. But he maintained that one advantage of the Ballot would be, that it would strike at the root of these evils, because the influence which was exercised by the fact of men acting in common, and of their marching to the poll in procession to advocate extreme opinions would be done away with. In that respect the Ballot would do infinite good, and would rather check than extend the influence of secret societies. As to the argument that the Ballot was un-English, if he might use the phrase, that was more clap-trap. He did not often approve of Prince Bismarck's utterances; but the Prince, when conferring with M. Favre relative to the surrender of Strasburg, did make one excellent observation. M. Favre said that the honour of France would not allow the surrender of that fortress, whereupon the then Count Bismarck said—"I did not know that French honour was different to the honour of any other country, and other nations have had to part with their territory." How could a thing be un-English when it was in daily use in all their colonies and in America? And if un-English, why was it that a sense of degradation did not apply to the use of it in their clubs? The argument was perfectly futile, and he trusted that they would hear no more of it. Then it was said that the Ballot must be dangerous, because all the Liberal party supported it; but he had not that great dread of hon. Gentlemen opposite which some people seemed to have. Certainly many men acted simply on habit, and no doubt there were some hon. Gentlemen who would say—"We do not like the Ballot, but we will vote for it as usual." While there were others who might say—"We are not a bit afraid of it, but we shall vote against it." To speak frankly, if he himself had not thought much upon this question lately, and been abroad and seen the working of the Ballot, he should have been strongly inclined to act upon that feeling which led men to go on consistently voting as they had voted in former years. But there was an old Italian proverb— The world so quickly changes that we often find, The man who would be constant must often change his mind. When these changes were proposed, the consistent man was the one who looked the question fairly in the face, and said—"Having carried a large measure of reform, I must now be consistent, and prove how great is my confidence in the newly-enfranchised, by giving them the Ballot and perfect freedom of action." The hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles Dilke), in his excellent book of travels, said that in Australia the term Conservative applied less to any party than to the whole population; and Sir A. Elton, in one of his able pamphlets, characterized the Ballot as a Conservative measure—using the term Conservative in a higher than a mere party sense. For himself he regretted, however, that the Government had not brought in a pure and simple Ballot Bill, unencumbered by complicated provisions or by proposals for throwing the expenses of Parliamentary elections upon boroughs and counties. The only means they now had of preventing candidates from trifling with constituencies was by making them pay their share of the hustings and other necessary expenses; and it would be most inexpedient to remove that one remaining indirect qualification. He would therefore advise the Government so far to alter their Bill as to give those who thought the Ballot in itself a wise and Conservative measure an opportunity of voting for it, without calling on them also to vote for something else to which they much objected. Certainly, if they went to a division, he should feel a great difficulty in voting for that Bill unless the extraneous provisions to which he had referred, and which were not contained in the Bill of last year, were withdrawn. If those were withdrawn from the Bill, he should cordially support the measure, placing his full confidence in the good sense and excellent conduct and the Conservative principles of the country.


said, he must congratulate the hon. Member for South-west Lancashire (Mr. A. Cross) on the very able speech that he had just addressed to the House. But first and foremost he congratulated him on one remarkable feature in that speech. The hon. Member was the first man who, in the course of an hour's speech against the Ballot, had not denounced it as an un-English institution. Now, he (Mr. Osborne Morgan) thought that omission marked a very satisfactory advance in the history of the question, and, let him add, a very favourable starting point for that debate—for it showed, he hoped, that they had had enough of that going about in the spirit of the Pharisee in the parable, and thanking God that they were not as other nations were, For his part, if he was told that the spectacle of "free and independent electors" standing about in the market-place, as the Attorney General last year described them as doing at Beverley, like cattle waiting to be bought, or driven, as he himself had seen them, like sheep to the polling-booth, and the spectacle of candidates pitched into waterbutts, and future Chancellors of the Exchequer going about with bloody noses and broken heads; if, he said, he was told that those spectacles were very English, all he could say was that the sooner they were denationalized the better. And he ventured to put it that the issue before the House was, not as the hon. Gentleman put it, whether they should conduct their elections like foreigners, or like Englishmen, but whether they should conduct them like reasonable beings, or like raving maniacs. Now, he would not cross the Atlantic to America, and he would not accompany the hon. Gentleman to the Antipodes—he would take two elections, both held in the same country, and for the same purpose—the one with, and the other without a Ballot. They all remembered the London School Board election; he voted twice in that contest [Laughter]—he meant, he recorded his vote in two districts, for each of which he was entitled to vote. Everything was conducted with the most perfect order. He saw no rioting, no confusion; on the contrary, the whole proceedings were as decorous, and, he might add, as dull as the proceedings in that House just before a count-out. Now let him contrast those proceedings with the proceedings in another election held for the same purpose in one of the most peaceable towns in North Wales. At that election, where the Ballot was not used, the experience was just the reverse, and if they had let loose all the winds of heaven, all the wild blasts of hell, and all the wild beasts in the Zoological Gardens, in order to create the utmost possible noise and confusion, they would have a faint conception of what occurred. But his hon. Friend would say a vote was a public trust, and therefore it ought to be publicly exercised, and the hon. Member for Whitehaven (Mr. C. Bentinck), wishing, he (Mr. Osborne Morgan) supposed, to improve on that idea, had actually given Notice of his intention to move as an Instruction to the Committee that, if the Bill be passed, votes in that House should be taken by Ballot. Now, it was easy for them sitting there, with no greater fear than the fear of losing their seats, to indulge in that view of pleasantry. It was easy enough, he said, for a magistrate who had just come from a capital breakfast to lecture a poor starving wretch on the enormity of stealing a potato, and it was as easy for his hon. Friend (Mr. C. Bentinck), who was the incarnation of independence, who could rise proudly in his place and say—"he cared for nobody, and nobody cared for him," to denounce as a cowardly hypocrite the voter who was afraid to proclaim his political opinions on the housetops. But, possibly, if the hon. Gentleman's dinner for the next six months, or for the rest of his life, depended on the vote he gave, he, too, might not be sorry to shelter himself under the protection of the Ballot. And as to hypocrisy, was there no hypocrisy in a man going up to the polling-booth and openly recording his vote in favour of a candidate whose principles he disliked or distrusted? Then the hon. Gentleman who seconded the Motion (Mr. Ridley) said but not only did he object to secret voting, but that the Ballot would not give them secret voting. But surely that argument cut the throat of the other argument completely; for if, as his hon. Friend (Mr. A. Cross) said, their objection was to secret voting, and if, as his Seconder contended, the Ballot would not make voting secret, what became of the first objection to the Ballot? But he returned to his hon. Friend and his speech—his hon. Friend laboured very hard to show that the Ballot would not extinguish bribery. Who ever said it would? They demanded the Ballot in order to extinguish intimidation, and you replied—"Oh! but it would not extinguish bribery." It reminded him of the conversation which Lord Macaulay said he once had with a body with whom he was endeavouring to discuss the character of Charles the First. Macaulay complained that the King had broken his coronation oath. The only answer he could get was—"Oh! but he kept his marriage vow." The answer was quite as logical, and as much to the point as that which they got from the hon. Gentleman. Now, he (Mr. Osborne Morgan) went even further—he believed that neither the Bill nor any other legislative enactment would ever extinguish bribery. On the contrary, he believed that so long as they had poor men who looked upon a vote as a marketable commodity, and so long as they had rich men who were willing and able to buy that commodity, so long would money find its way from the pockets of the one to the pockets of the other, as naturally as water flowed from a higher level to a lower. When once it was generally considered as disgraceful to attempt to bribe a voter as to bribe a Judge or a Member of Parliament—and there was a time when better Judges and Members of Parliament were freely bribed in this country—then, and then only, would bribery become a thing unknown. But if the Ballot would not extinguish bribery, it would put a stop to one very prevalent form of it altogether—he meant what was called "afternoon bribery." And he did believe that it would do much to check, if not to extirpate the evil generally; because he was sure that Englishmen in general had a knack of liking to see which way their money went, and that they would not care to throw away large sums in the dark. And as to what his hon. Friend called "bribery by results," it would have to be conducted in so vast and wholesale a scale that it was certain it would not be generally resorted to. But then his hon. Friend said — "If they made the voting secret, they took away the possibility of punishing bribery." But that, he (Mr. Osborne Morgan) apprehended, was an entire fallacy. For they punished a man not because he voted for the man whose bribe he took, but because he took the bribe. That was the corpus delicti; and in order to bring it home to the culprit it was not necessary to follow the vote. But he came now to that which constituted the real case for the Bill, and upon which the demand for it must rest or fall—the prevalence of intimidation and the chance of the Ballot stopping it; and here they were met by two objections. On the one hand it was said that intimidation did, not exist, and on the other that if it did the Ballot would not stop it. Now, as to the first point, that was a question of fact, and each person would answer it according to his own experience. But there was one piece of advice he should like to tender to any hon. Member who felt sceptical on the subject. Let him come down and canvass a Welsh constituency. He (Mr. Osborne Morgan) would answer for it, though he might be a perfect infidel to start with, he would be converted before his labours were half ever. Had the House forgotten the story of the Cardiganshire evictions? His hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr (Mr. Richard) brought that matter before the House. They dragged into the light of day nearly 100 cases of men who had been evicted from their holdings and turned adrift into the world for no other fault than that of having voted according to the dictates of their consciences. They proved each case as clearly as it could be proved in a Court of Justice. The House gave them sympathy; but it could give them no redress. The matter, however, was not allowed to rest there — so strong was the feeling in the Principality for those oppressed and injured men that a sum of nearly £4,000 was collected—not merely in large sums, but in half-crowns and shillings, and even in sixpences and pence—to start them afresh in the world, and to provide some of them with the means of emigrating from the country. Now, was it not a monstrous thing that poor tenant-farmers and even labouring men should be called upon in that way to put their hands in their pockets and contribute out of their hardly-earned incomes, to redress a wrong done to their neighbours by men who claimed a right to dictate to them? And did not the fact that they were willing to do so prove that the story of those wrongs was not a trumped-up tale? So far from intimidation being on the decrease, he believed there never was an occasion in which intimidation of every kind, and under every form, was practised so extensively and so unblushingly as at the last General Election. Then as to the question whether the Ballot would stop intimidation if it existed. On that question, at any rate, they had on their side the evidence of nearly every witness who was examined before the Select Committee, or who had since given evidence on the subject. Let him take that of one gentleman, whose Report on the subject had just been placed in their hands—Mr. Du Cane, the Governor of Tasmania. Mr. Du Cane, when a Member of that House, was the zealous and uncompromising opponent of the Ballot; but what did he say of its effect in stopping intimidation after four years' practical experience of its working? His views were summed up in these remarkable words— Taken in connection with the system of nomination by voting, it secures perfect order and tranquillity during the progress of the election, and permits every voter to record his vote for the candidate of his choice without fear of hindrance by intimidation of violence of any kind. And he might add another indirect testimony which was not without significance just now. At the very time when the Liberal journals in this country were agitating for the adoption of secret voting, the Communal papers of Paris were agitating for its abolition. And why? Because, as they put it, with open voting the pressure of public opinion—they all knew what that meant—could not be brought to bear on bad citizens? He was not going into the details of the Bill now—it would be time to do that when they got into Committee; but this he would say, that, taking it all round, a better or fairer and a more thorough Ballot Bill was never laid on the Table of that House. But before he sat down, let him say one word on the present position of the measure. The Ballot was the oldest question before the House and the country. They had gone on discussing it for a whole generation. The very first time he entered that House, now more than 30 years ago, he heard that distinguished man who had just passed from among them — Mr. Grote — make one of his masterly speeches in support of the Ballot; and, if he recollected rightly, the arguments advanced against it then were precisely the arguments that had been urged against it that night. From that day to this the question had been brought forward every year. If they could not make up their minds in 30 years, when would they be able to do so? But there was a further special reason why the settlement of this question should be no longer delayed just now—they had already sat there during the average period of a Parliament's duration. In another Session they would be getting into the "scre and yellow-loaf" of their Parliamentary life. It was high time that they should set their House in order, and make their testamentary dispositions. Now, he was not going to lecture the Ministry—it was a cheap and easy way of getting up a cheer from yonder benches. On the contrary, he admitted that the Ministry had behaved loyally to their party in this matter. But he might fairly ask, if they did not pass the Bill, what would be the net result of their labours this Session? Putting aside the University Tests Bill—which was a fait accompli from the first—their legislative triumphs would be confined to a Coercion Bill and a Dog Bill. [An hon. MEMBER: The Army Bill.] Yes; but what sort of an Army Bill? A mutilated torso, without arms, or legs, or head, or tail, or anything else. Now, he maintained that under those circumstances the honour of the Government was bound up in passing this Bill—they could not delay it even for a Session without a loss of credit which might be fatal to them. And he could not conceive any result more disastrous to the whole Liberal party, or more damaging to the character of party government generally, than that it should go forth to the world—as it certainly would go forth to the world if that measure be thrown over for another year—that the only power in this country capable of carrying the Ballot was the power which carried the Reform Act—a Conservative Government belying their own principles in order to secure the support of a Radical Opposition.


said, there was a time when the country might have had good grounds for resorting to the Ballot in consequence of the evils of coercion by landlords, employers, customers, and others. But there was very little of all that left now, public opinion having been for some considerable time exercising its proper influence. A great change had come over the governing power of the country, the higher and richer classes not being now in exclusive possession of it, as the middle classes had come in to share the power with them. Hence had arisen a free action among the electors themselves. Public opinion was doing its work steadily, and when it acquired its proper weight the only argument in favour of the Ballot—namely, that it would prevent intimidation—would be disposed of. So far as bribery was concerned the Ballot never could eradicate it, and would indeed, in his opinion, tend in an opposite direction. What now prevented votes being given for personal and class interests but the dread of coming under a ban amongst a man's friends? Give the Ballot, and the venal voter could at once surrender himself without any fear of shame to any course that corruption might dictate. Let them look at the working of the Ballot in America. Were they satisfied with its results there? Was it not a fact that men there were brought up in bundles to vote, and were not paid unless success was secured? Had it not led in that country to such complete corruption that in that boasted land of liberty there was less of practical freedom than in almost any of the monarchies of the Old World? In a morning paper of December 18, 1858, a letter appeared from the then President of the United States, in which he anticipated the time when the voters in the United States would become so affected with corruption that the foundation of free government would be poisoned in its source and end in a military despotism. England, where men voted openly before the world, had hitherto been regarded as the land of freedom, and he believed that public opinion was the best corrective for those evils which it was sought to cure by the Ballot. The Ballot would introduce into the British Constitution the spirit of the Star Chamber, and although no one would be more ready than himself to rejoice in the destruction of any unfair influence, yet he could not conceal from himself what the most ardent supporters of the Ballot dare not ignore, that it would not limit clerical influence. He did not allude merely to the Roman Catholic clergy, for he had known some of the most arbitrary and unscrupulous interference proceed from ministers of religion belonging to persuasions other than Roman Catholic. The Ballot was especially unsuitable to Ireland, being opposed to the character and habits of the people, and as a fact very few Petitions emanated from that part of the kingdom. The Ballot would tolerate all the evils at present in existence, and would create others. The elector should perform his duty in the light of day, and any other course was, in his opinion, unmanly. Therefore he felt he should be performing his duty in the best manner to his constituency by voting against what he would not call un-English, or even un-Irish, but which was nothing less than a secret, silent, and insidious system.


Mr. Speaker—I should suppose that few hon. Members of this House listened with greater pleasure than I did to the speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South-west Lancashire (Mr. A. Cross). Knowing a little of this question, I found his speech a great intellectual treat. But skilful and augmentative, and marked by high ability though it was, I question whether the opponents of the Ballot have any great cause to feel grateful to my hon. Friend. But for him and his speech it might have been forgotten that, by so many fallacies, the party, of which he is a distinguished Member, have withstood this great constitutional reform. In one sense that speech was a synopsis of failure. Every argument which he adduced, every assertion which he advanced, every appeal which he made, every standard which he raised—I hope for the last time to-night—but under which in times which are past, the party has marched confidently enough—all those have become already the spoils of common sense—and my hon. Friend has decked out a huge trophy with them, not, as he very well knows, to adorn the coming victory of his opinions, but to grace the triumph of those who have vanquished them. The Ballot is immoral; the Ballot will teach hypocrisy; the Ballot will promote bribery. These are the assertions which have been brandished in our faces any time during the last 40 years, and in defiance of which this question has grown out of its obsecurity until it fills the whole of this side of the House, and has taken possession of the Cabinet itself. My hon. Friend argued that intimidation is rapidly on the decrease. I can easily believe that there are few hon. Members less likely than my hon. Friend knowingly to commit an oppressive or unjust act. But the mischief is that we cannot help ourselves. We may protest as much as we please. Tradition is too strong for us. Our very presence at a contested election is pressure, and what is the whole system of canvassing but a system of organized pressure. It is not necessary for landlords to write letters recommending a particular candidate, as they do in Wales. It is not necessary to send the agent round with them to their tenants from house to house, collecting votes as he might collect rents. It is not necessary to send long strings of cars for one's tenants, as they do in Ireland, with a military escort, whose duty it is to see that these free and independent electors do not escape. It is not necessary to go about the streets armed with scythes, as they do at Limerick, or with your pockets full of stones, as they do at Bristol. These forms of intimidation are coarse and brutal, and, except at election times, they shock everybody, although your law either cannot or will not touch them. There are forms of coercion, equally cogent, which wear quite another exterior. There is a form of coercion which goes about bland, and smiling, and bearhended—which grasps its victim warmly by the hand, and only says—"I know, Mr. Smith, that you will be with us on Thursday" — but which drives, compels, coerces as surely, more surely, than armed mobs and ruffianly agents, and all the posse comitatus of overt intimidation. Sometimes it takes the name of the just influence of property. Men expect their tenants to vote with them because they always have voted with them. And what happens? Why, what happened in Mid-Cheshire; where a Cheshire landlord told us that tenants "think it rather safer to know nothing, since they must vote as they are told." Now with all this staring him in the face; with every instance of coercion with which that Blue Book teems—coercion by landlords and their agents; coercion by masters, overlookers, and fellow-workmen; coercion by customers, by priests, by armed mobs, by the soldiery—coercion exercised by almost everybody who has the power to coerce over everybody who is powerless to resist coercion—the irony is a little too bitter when an hon. Member sitting for a division of the county of Lancaster—the county of Stalybridge, with its anti-screw association; Blackburn, with its screw circular; and of Ashton, with its victim fund—rises from the perusal of that instructive volume and talks of intimidation as though it were almost extinct. But my hon. Friend says that the Ballot will teach hypocrisy. Do not yon teach hypocrisy now? What happens when a man votes against his conscience, as thousands do at every General Election? Do you think that he will candidly admit it? When he is twitted by his comrades with giving the coward's vote or the menial's vote—will he calmly acquiesce? No, Sir, he will brazen it out. He will advance any plea for the base vote, except the true and shameful one. Gratitude to his employer, fidelity to his master, affection for his landlord—and when the object who inspires these gushing emotions has turned his back, he will shake his fist after the master of his fidelity, and curse between his teeth the landlord of his love. But perhaps he is a calculating hypocrite. Why, then he will go about for weeks and months preparing for his base vote, praising the candidate whom in his heart he despises, and shouting until he is hoarse for the man who he hopes to see at the bottom of the poll. It is your open voting which is the true school of hypocrisy. It is there that the man in dependant circumstances learns already those lessons of hypocrisy which my hon. Friend expects the Ballot to teach, and he learns them under the tuition of his betters, and in the name of courage and manliness and truth. But the main argument of my hon. Friend was that the exercise of the franchise was the exercise of a public duty, and that every duty affecting the public must be publicly performed. But I want to know where this monstrous proposition comes from, or upon what precedents it is based? In a free State there is no public duty more important, or more supremely affecting the public, than the duty of the man who undertakes to warn and instruct the public mind; to tell the public what is for its good, and what is not; who are its friends and who are not; to criticize, and, if need be, to condemn the character and conduct of our public men. Will it be contended that the simple duty of the citizen transcends in importance or in responsibility to the public the duty of the man who attempts to mould public opinion, and to dictate from his oracular penetralia the policy of the nation? Now, apply your theory. Demolish the anonymous shelter of the public writer, and what becomes of the liberty of the Press? Observe, then, your inconsistency. The hand which moulds public opinion must be concealed, the hand which contributes its paltry unit to the glorification of Jones, or the discomfiture of Robinson—two rival candidates—must be exposed. The man who persuades me to vote for Jones and disappoint Robinson must wear a mask. I, who vote for Jones, simply because for the time being I am possessed by the mind of the man in the mask, must wear no mask, for, if I do, the social edifice begins to tumble in pieces, and my hon. Friend will be found sitting, like Marius, a ruined man among ruins. But I want to know where my hon. Friend's precedents come from. Does he find them in the Council Chamber of the Sovereign, and among the responsible advisers of the Crown? What happens when, upon these 15 men, devolves the exercise of their prodigious responsibility to the public? Let us suppose that it is a question of the first magnitude—a question of peace or war—and that the Cabinet are pretty evenly divided in opinion, that seven are for peace and seven are for war. Upon the vote of the fifteenth depend the most gigantic issues to his country. Is that vote given publicly? No, Sir; a wise and impenetrable secrecy shields the voter. The country may be betrayed in the dark, but the man who dares to thwart the burning ambition of Robinson must do it in the daylight. But perhaps my hon. Friend thinks that he may find comfort in the Law Courts. He spoke of magistrates and Judges. No doubt the judgment or sentence of a Judge is publicly pronounced. It would be hard to see how it could be otherwise, but behind the Judge stands the whole authority of the realm. He is protected by the arm of the Sovereign, and if there be any risk to the man who wears the ermine, that risk is abundantly compensated for in the dignity and emoluments which attach to the office. But who ever heard of harm coming to an English Judge because he gave an upright decision? Yet harm comes to the upright voter every day. Now, there is a Court of Law in which those who sit in judgment are not supposed to be quite so hedged about with inviolibility as an ordinary Judge. It is assumed that consequences in some degree resembling those which attend the decision of a common voter attend theirs. Is their vote given openly? Every member of a Court Martial, when he takes his seat, takes also an oath, that at no time and under no circumstances will he divulge the vote of any other member of that Court. But take the case of the common juryman. In Scotland, where the vote of the majority rules the verdict, the vote of individual jurymen is secret. In England, where the fiction of unanimity still prevails, this is virtually the case, because all the deliberations of the jury are in secret, and the public never knows who is the stout juryman, with, the capacious stomach or the capacious pockets, who starves his colleagues into submission. Look then, in whatever direction you will, all precedent is against my hon. Friend—all precedent is on our side; and it proves this—that wherever the State does not step in to remunerate the man who discharges a risky public duty, for his risk she calls in secrecy to the aid of conscience. And now, Sir, let me turn from the region of theory to that of fact. The Ballot is no novelty. We have ample experience of its practical working. My hon. Friend spoke of the Ballot in Australia. He laboured hard to show that everything in Australia was not precisely the same as everything in England—that people are a little better educated, or a little better off—or that their political condition differs from our own. Now, if everything in Australia were precisely the same as everything in England—if Australia were simply a slice of Great Britain—my hon. Friend would not have a leg to stand upon, because the success of the Ballot in Australia is absolute. My hon. Friend cited evidence from Australia with the view of showing that bribery and intimidation scarcely existed there before the introduction of the Ballot. Now, no doubt, the colonists spoke as favourably as possible of their friends; but the utmost which any of them would say was, that before the Ballot bribery and intimidation were not general or extensive. Yet some of them distinctly stated that they were. "I recollect a good deal of bribery also." "It was notorious that a certain portion of the electors were open to bribery." "Before the Ballot landlords would act very much as landlords do in this country, but now such a thing is never heard of," said my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Mr. R. Torrens). "I think that there was a great amount of bribery before the Ballot, and a great deal of treating and intimidation also," said Mr. Muir, for 15 years returning officer at Melbourne. There is one point, however, upon which all the witnesses agree, and the colonial Governors agree with them—namely, that there is neither bribery nor intimidation now. Now, why is this? We say that this result is mainly due to the Ballot. My hon. Friend attributes it to education. But he forgets that, if education has reached a higher limit in Australia than it has here, the suffrage has reached a lower. But what says Mr. Dutton— According to the last Census Return, out of 25,929 electors in South Australia, 2,273, or 9 per cent, could not read. And further on he says— During the time of open voting the principal expense of the Candidates was to keep a number of publichouses open. He speaks of as much as £4,000 being spent by one candidate mainly in this way. That does not argue a very high state of education. And what says my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge— Under the old system everything went on precisely as it does in this country, the same row and screaming, and shouting, and stone-throwing, and rotten eggs, and all that sort of thing. This does not look like a high state of refinement. But my hon. Friend says that wages are higher and people are better off, and, therefore, not venal. But, speaking of Tasmania, Governor Du Cane states that "the circumstances of the colony are in a very depressed state," and I read the other day in an Australian paper of a bread riot at Adelaide. The fact is that people are liable to the same vicissitudes in Australia as in England. But my hon. Friend ekes out his argument by the assertion that there is no party government in Australia, no party organization, or party questions. This only applies to the colony of South Australia, where, however, great political questions occasionally arise. But, generally, there is a good deal of political indifference, coupled, however, with strong ambition on the part of candidates to obtain seats in the Legislature—a condition of things highly conducive to bribery. When, however, you come to the colony of Victoria, you find a state of things clearly analogous to that in this country. Mr. Verdon was asked— Is there much excitement about the elections often?—Yes, intense excitement, but it is the excitement caused by the political questions which are being discussed. Do a large number of the electors generally give their votes?—Yes. Is it the rule, or the exception, for a contest to take place?—The rule. Do politics run high there?—Yes. Are parties divided by a strongly marked line?—Yes. Is there any regular party feeling as there is in England?—Yes. Do parties continue to be opposed to one another on definite grounds?—Yes; parties who have been opposed continue to be opposed to one another for the last 10 or 12 years certainly. Then the government of Victoria is by a system of party precisely the same as it is in this country?—Precisely. Well, Sir, what then becomes of the assertion that there is no true analogy between the social and political conditions of these populations, and that therefore the argument based upon analogy fails? Now let me turn to America. My hon. Friend told us of the abuses which exist under the Ballot in America, and he referred to a series of letters compiled by a committee of gentlemen in this country avowedly hostile to the Ballot. I said compiled, but I might almost have said concocted, for any method less likely to arrive at genuine American opinion upon the working of the Ballot it would be almost impossible to devise. For how did these gentlemen proceed? They selected 12 correspondents from the United States, upon what principle of selection does not appear; but, since this was a political matter, probably upon what Mr. Darwin would call the principle of natural selection. To each of these 12 gentlemen a string of most suggestive questions was sent, and apparently that there might be no mistake as to the answers which they were expected to return, Mr. Mill accompanied the questions by a note, in which he did not pretend to disguise either his own or the committee's opinion with regard to the Ballot. But, in order that the House may estimate—I scarcely know what to call it, but certainly not the impartiality of the committee—let me remind them that, although there are 37 States in the American Union, the majority of these correspondents were selected from three only; and what three? Why, precisely those, in some of the chief cities of which, through the existence of a large Irish vote and a most imperfect system of Ballot, some of the abuses which attach to open voting prevail. Two were from New York, three from Pennsylvania, and two from the City of Boston. Now, the correspondents who wrote from New York and Philadelphia explained that the Ballot in these States was really no Ballot at all, and, therefore, of course, the abuses which belong to open voting are to be found there. When we come to Massachusetts, however, we find the history of the Ballot in that State to be of a most instructive character. Originally the name of the candidate was written on each vote, but when the State became populous these written Ballots were found inconvenient, and printed Ballots were substituted. This, as Mr. Amasa Walker explains—"very unfavourably changed the character of the Ballot, because the printed votes could be recognized at the polls." But the Ballot was absolutely destroyed by a subsequent law, which provided that "all votes should be deposited open and unfolded." "The consequences soon became painfully apparent." "Intimidation and coercion were extensively used." Eventually, in 1851, the close Ballot was adopted—that is, every Ballot was placed in a sealed envelope, and with what result?— It was found economical, convenient, and expeditions; a perfect security against fraud, and a full protection to the voter. Operatives and all others in dependent positions were emancipated by it, and voted with as much freedom as the most powerful classes. Finally, in the year 1853, the reactionary party came again into power, and "emasculated the law" by providing "that any voter might use the envelope or not as he might choose." Well, Sir, letters were received from five other States. Mr. Colfax, Vice President of the United States, speaking specially for Indiana, spoke most highly of the success of the Ballot. In Illinois and Rhode Island the Ballot is optional, and the protection to the voter therefore imperfect. In Virginia the Ballot had only been introduced six months before the correspondent was asked his opinion, but, true to the instincts of one of Mr. Mill's special correspondents, although he admitted that he had no experience whatever of its working, he recommends that gentleman "to avoid it as he would the small-pox." Lastly, we come to the only State into which the committee penetrated in which they appear to have an absolutely close Ballot, and what do we find? That intimidation does not exist. Sir, I think that I can afford to make my hon. Friend a present, and not a very liberal or generous present either, of all that he can get out of these letters for his case against the Ballot. But before I sit down, let me invite the attention of the House to a short extract from an essay contributed by Mr. Morse, an American writer, well known in this country, to Fraser's Magazine. He says— In the matter of corruption, I feel no hesitation in asserting that it is a thing almost unknown among the voters of the United States. For this he suggests two reasons—the great number of the voters and the Ballot. He says— Another fact which is operative at all elections, without exception, is that no man who purchases half-a-dozen votes can ever be sure how the majority of them will be cast. It is an utter impossibility for a person who buys votes to assure himself of their delivery according to the contract of purchase. He is obliged to depend upon the honour of a man whom he has himself proved to be dishonourable. But I shall be told, perhaps, that the American citizen scorns to hide his vote, and that an equal scorn ought to rise in the breast of the English citizen at such a proposition. No doubt the American citizen scorns to hide his vote, but he scorns also to lay his hand upon his fellow-citizen and to say—"Your vote is mine." Until an equal scorn is ours, it is in vain for us to pretend to American manliness, for there is no cowardice, to my thinking, more unmanly than that of those who first trample down the helpless and then taunt them, as I think I have heard them taunted, even in this House, because they are not brave. The American citizen does scorn to hide his vote. In dealing with the American people you are dealing with a nation whose political limbs had been free for generations. The American citizen walks with a firmer tread among his fellows; the whole American nation marches with a bolder mien before the world; and why is this? Not because there is anything in the American character which is naturally more manly than anything in ours. I rejoice to think that we both belong to the same great and manly race. But all that is manly in the English and American character has been developed by the institutions which surround it, and among them is one framed for a time when the instinct of coercion, inherited from ourselves, was still strong, but which has triumphed over the instinct itself—I mean an electoral system, the first teaching of which was that the voter was absolutely free. I desire to see the character of our people crowned by an equal independence. I desire to see this notion of coercion—which, through the teaching of the Ballot, has wholly died out in Australia, which, through the teaching of the Ballot, has all but died out in America, through the teaching of the Ballot—die out here. For, Sir, I am convinced that the death of the old feudal arrogance on the one hand, and of the old craven submission upon the other, will be the birth of a manslier carriage in our people, a bolder policy in this House, and a nobler spectacle of freedom for the world.


said, the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Leatham) had pronounced an eloquent panegyric on the American character, but it was a little inconsistent with his previous statement. The hon. Member said that the American citizen scorned to hide his vote; but a short time before he had told the House that in more than one State the Ballot was necessary in consequence of the coercion which was exercised. Before entering upon the question now before the House, perhaps he might be allowed to explain why he had dropped the Motion which had been so long upon the Notice Paper, and why he intended supporting that of his hon. Friend the Member for South-west Lancashire (Mr. A. Cross). His Notice was levelled against secret voting, and it was so limited because there were other provisions in the Bill to the principle of which he was not opposed. And although the success of his Motion would, undoubtedly, have been fatal to the Bill, still the objections felt to the measure by a large number of hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House were so strong that they preferred a Motion on the face of it more hostile to the whole proposal. He cheerfully bowed to that preference, and, as he would rather give up the provisions to which he did not object than accept them in conjunction with the Ballot, he had no difficulty in supporting the wider Amendment. Perhaps, however, after what he had said, he ought briefly to specify the points on which he concurred more or less with the Government measure. In the first place, he was very much inclined to welcome the proposed change in the law, and he might say the change in the opinion of the Government, with reference to nominations and declarations of the poll. Riots on these occasions were not confined to the North of England. Though he had faced such accessories to elections, and was ready to face them again, still they were not pleasant. The right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council had mentioned, in his opening speech, an episode in the election of the right hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Sir Henry Storks); but he could assure him that the flints of the Southdowns and oyster-shells of the South coast were not softer than Yorkshire granite, and perhaps less easy to catch. On one occasion the declaration of the poll at Shoreham had been interfered with by the conflagration of the hustings. He ought to say, for the credit of his constituents, that they attributed these unruly proceedings to the supporters of the hon. Members for Brighton, where he understood that the roughs made a Shoreham election a close holiday, and came over in force. He was a little doubtful of the complete success of these provisions, and perhaps the right hon. Member for Bradford might find that the public meetings in Yorkshire would change their character, and be interrupted by the noisy element he would shut out from the hustings. Coming to the provision for throwing the necessary expenses of elections on the rates, about which also the Government seemed to have changed their minds since last year, theoretically this might be right; but the present system had afforded some protection against an excessive number of candidates, against men standing from mere vanity, or for the purpose of giving trouble, without the slightest chance of success, and he feared that in that way a very heavy expense might be thrown upon the ratepayers. After all, the grievance to the poor man was rather sentimental than real. The charges of the returning officer formed a very small part of the expenses of Parliamentary life, and he had known many cases on both sides in which constituencies wishing to elect a man to whom expense was an object had, to the honour of both, subscribed every farthing, even to the ticket on the railway. Of vote by Ballot there were two kinds: the one used for convenience, the other intended to secure absolute secrecy. To the principle of the first he had no objection. It afforded protection against that worst of all kinds of intimidation—that of a mob on polling-day, whose violence, usually exerted against the most respectable portion of the constituency, rendered it absolutely impossible for weak, timid, or elderly people to record their votes. So far he went with the Ballot, and he believed the Ballot itself practically went no further in most of the countries in which it was used. There was no question of principle between that kind of Ballot and open voting', and he agreed with the conclusion arrived at by the Vice President of the Council, after comparing the two systems, that "peace, order, and quietness are much in favour of the Ballot." But could not even this object be attained in another way? He thought it could, and he believed the closing of publichouses, the multiplication and proper regulation of polling-places, the admission only of a certain number of people, as at present in the Inns of Courts and Universities, so that voting should be safe and private, but not secret, together with the prohibition of declaration of numbers till the close of the poll, would do all that was necessary to prevent violence, and—the last especially—much to prevent bribery. He believed, also, that magistrates should treat rioting and mischief by mobs much more severely, for they were too apt in many places to look upon it as venial license, all fair at election time. But coming to the real object of the Bill—the framing a scheme of voting which should render it absolutely impossible for anyone to know which way any particular elector had voted—he would pass over briefly the objections which were not those of principle, but of detail. Those, however, were by no means unimportant. The right hon. Gentleman admitted that with secret voting scrutiny must be abandoned; but he said that scrutiny was rarely resorted to. This was perfectly true; but why? Simply because the watchfulness of agents and friends of candidates during polling was a perpetual scrutiny. Take away that, and there was nothing to prevent personation, particularly as it would be no one's interest to follow up a vote without knowing which way it had been given. The papers from Tasmania were very instructive on that point. There would be the danger of forgery, and of bribery of and tampering by officials, the last, perhaps, might not be very probable, but people would always question a return which went much against their expectations. In a recent election in Connecticut it was proved judicially that the returning officer had suppressed a bundle of 100 voting papers on one side, and returned 500 instead of 600. The genuineness of the French elections was credited by few, and even the admirers of the Ballot in Australia confessed that there "it had not felt the strain of trial." The first question naturally was, what were the present evils against which this revolution in our ancient constitutional practice was levelled? Were they increasing, or had they attained such magnitude as to induce them to run any considerable risk in order to get rid of them, and was the particular method by which it was proposed to obviate them fraught with so much mischief and danger that they would be acting more prudently in bearing the ills they had than in adopting it? The weak points of the present system of voting in such a way that their votes might be produced—for he gave up the barbarous system of what might be called voting under fire, amid a shower of brickbats and abuse—the weak points were corruption and intimidation. Nobody could deny that these existed in a very considerable degree; but, at the same time, no one could deny that within recollection they had enormously diminished. The change of tribunal from Committees of the House to the Judges had no doubt done much, and would do more. There had certainly been a great change in public sentiment since men openly avowed that they had a right to the opinions of their dependents. Who could see the way in which farmers' clubs, for instance, spoke out on questions touching what might be called farmers' politics, without being convinced that the coercion of landlords had no terrors for them? At election times especially many changes of tenancy were attributed to political reasons. He remembered the late Sir. Berkeley telling a story in that House of a landlord turning out a tenant for such reasons, and saying—"You have a Roman nose; I object to tenants with Roman noses." So, on the other hand, if a tenant received notice on account of bad farming, for instance, he frequently attributed it to political persecution. It was notorious that such was the character of many cases in Wales, of which much political capital was made at the last election. There was legitimate as well as illegitimate influence, though the hon. Member for Huddersfield refused to admit this. He believed the Ballot would increase the latter and weaken the former; and he would rather see a voter follow a landlord whom he respected, and whose opinion he would take in many matters besides politics, than see him vote under the influence of the speeches of demagogues at excited meetings, which would sway the uneducated and half educated more than ever, and though full of mis-statements and false imputations were cleverly adapted to the prejudices of the audience, based as they were on the axiom that he who went about descanting on grievances would never want hearers. He admitted that in small places tradesmen, especially those without strong political feeling, had a disagreeable time at elections in the wish to oblige customers of both sides, and that the Ballot might enable them to do so more easily. But would the Ballot prevent that worst form of influence and intimidation — worst because it was ever present, sleepless and relentless—that of fellow-workmen. If it prevented that, it could only be by the victim acting as well as speaking a lie every day of his life. As a respectable man in Paris was obliged to shout "Vive la Commûne" to save his life, so the English workman who dared to think differently from the mass would have to deny the opinions he cherished, and denounce the candidate for whom he intended to vote. "I wish," said the hon. Member for Huddersfield, "to get rid of that low morality which makes a man amenable to that false and variable criterion, the opinion of his fellow-men." As long as human nature existed you could not get rid of it, but you might add hypocrisy, which the hon. Member would admit would lower even that low morality. Mr. John Stuart Mill, in one of his books, said, that "all nations were given to lying; but that the English were ashamed of it." He was afraid the feeling of self-preservation would remove or weaken the feeling of shame, and, if so, they would attain purity of election at the expense of the national character, and the remedy would, indeed, be worse than the disease. He confessed to the belief that the influence of public opinion was the best security for the due exercise of political rights; and he feared that secrecy would destroy that wholesome public opinion—would make respectable people careless about politics; and by bringing about among them that political apathy which prevailed for other reasons in Berlin, would give strength to the wild anarchical views of an insignificant party which public opinion kept in check. They had been told that it was unfair to oblige a majority to forego the legitimate use of intoxicating drinks because the minority could not refrain from the abuse of them; but here it was proposed to deprive the great majority of the power of making known the way in which they had discharged perhaps the only political duty they had the opportunity of performing, in deference to the timidity of a small minority. Again, he said the remedy was worse than the disease, and was to be applied when the disease had been almost cured by other means. The practice of the clubs was frequently adduced as an argument in favour of the Ballot. He ventured to say that that was a confusion of ideas between public duty and private convenience. Moreover, he should be unwilling to import into political elections many of the motives which influenced the members of a club, and which too often savoured of malice and uncharitableness. Even in clubs promises and votes did not always correspond. Most hon. Members had heard the story of the Kildare Street Club and Lord Fitz-Gerald—how every member promised severally to vote for his candidate, and how on the day of Ballot the only white ball was his own. A similar experience is said to have converted against the Ballot Mr. Williams, the late Member for Lambeth. One of the worst results of the system was, in his opinion, the destruction of all confidence between man and man. Canvassing could never be prevented—the papers from Victoria proved that—weak people could never be prevented from promising, especially when they were not to be called to account. The result of the election would be, therefore, more disappointing than ever to the beaten candidate, and whereas now in many instances hands were shaken, and a frank admission made that a fair fight had been fought, the unsuccessful man would henceforward retire with the conviction that his neighbours and familiar friends had played him false, and some one would not be wanting to suggest that even his own committee must have turned against him. As they seemed likely to have the nuisance of perpetual elections all over the country for school boards, for financial boards, for parochial councils, and what not—all, he presumed, to be by Ballot eventually—what a disruption of neighbourly confidence this would produce! It was said that the different classes in this country never knew the real feelings, the inner life, of each other; that there was a reserve they never penetrated. That was a misfortune which this new element could not fail to intensify. As illustration was sometimes more convincing than argument, perhaps the House would allow him to mention a circumstance which once came within his own knowledge, and which he thought was somewhat instructive on that point of destruction of confidence between man and man. He was once canvassing a place in the South of England—he need not mention names—and on coming to a publichouse in one of the streets the persons who were with him said—"You need not go in there; the landlord is a red-hot Ballot man." However, he went in, and said to him—"I am come for your vote; but I suppose I shall not get it." "Are you for the Ballot?" the landlord asked. "No," he replied, "certainly not." "Oh, then, I'll vote for you." "I am surprised," he said, "for I heard you were a red-hot Ballot man." "So I was," the man rejoined, "till lately, but I've found out what a base thing the Ballot is." He (Mr. Cave) saw that he had a story to tell, so he sat down and let him go on. "A few weeks ago," he said, "there died the landlord of a neighbouring publichouse, in which a friendly society held its meetings. Myself and another publican each wanted the society to come to our house, and the members agreed that it should be decided by Ballot. We both canvassed; there were 30 members, and I got 20 promises, so I thought myself sure. When the time came I got 10 votes, and lost. But that was not the worst of it, for in the course of the day the whole 20 came in, one after the other, and said—'My dear fellow, I am so sorry you did not win; you know I voted for you.'" [Ironical cheers.] Yes, he understood that cheer, and of course he knew it might be said that a few instances of that kind would prevent canvassing altogether, and leave people free to vote as they liked; but even if that were to be so, which he very much doubted, especially after the evidence to the contrary from Victoria, at what a price would this freedom be purchased! No less than by corrupting and paralyzing the character of the nation. In that country they were supposed to have the right not only to their own opinions, but to the expression of them. Take away the last and they took away the boldness to discuss public questions which certainly existed at present—the open resistance to oppression and wrong which in itself was ennobling—and what did they get in return? They got the character which cringed to their face and struck them behind their backs. They made it impossible to distinguish an honest man from a knave, and therefore they destroyed at least one of the inducements to honesty. Public spirit would be gone. Public meetings would pass resolutions one way and vote another. There would be no more faith in politics than in horse-dealing. So keenly was that felt in Massachusetts that, when an Act providing for secret voting was passed there in 1851, a large body of electors mot for the purpose of denouncing with indignation what they repudiated as unworthy of free men, and so strong was the feeling that the Act was repealed the next year. The corruption and profligacy of elections under the Ballot in New York had long been notorious. He found some time ago a remedy proposed in The New York Herald—not mere open voting, but that "then should be a registration, by which no man should sail under false colours, or deposit his vote at an election, unless he belonged to the party to which he professed to belong." It was not fair to subject weak people to such temptation. Even in that House, if they extended the protection to hon. Members, according to the proposal of the hon. Member for Whitehaven (Mr. C. Bentinck)—and they certainly required it as much as any other class—they might sometimes see a marvellous discrepancy between the debate and the Division List. He had said nothing of the party aspect of the question. He did not inquire whether it would benefit one side more than the other. On that there was a wide difference of opinion, as the debate had shown. They were told, indeed, that Her Majesty's Government should secure the Ballot, and then they need not fear a dissolution. Well, it might be so; but he doubted its aiding the Imperial Parliament to govern Ireland, and he doubted its assisting the Chancellor of the Exchequer in maintaining his balance between direct and indirect taxation. However that might be, it was because, while not blind to the evils of the present system—which, however, he believed, were disappearing from force of circumstances—he thought the proposed remedy worse than the disease, and that the character of the whole nation was too precious a thing to be imperilled for the sake of a crotchet, or sacrificed to the exigencies of party government on one side or the other. It was for these reasons that he could not give his consent to this great change in the election of the Parliament of England.


said, he experienced great satisfaction at the course the debate had taken on this, the first occasion on which there had been a favourable opportunity of discussing it. The hon. Member for South-west Lancashire (Mr. A. Cross) had placed the issue to be decided plainly and clearly before the House. That hon. Member had addressed himself to the principle of secret voting; and he was glad to say that the subject had been discussed throughout, without reference to party feelings, and with considerable independence of thought. In spite of the Amendment of the hon. Member, he had a confident hope that this measure would pass into law. Before he addressed himself to the arguments of the previous speakers, he would ask leave to state to the House what he believed to be the various views and standpoints taken by those who had offered opinions upon the question. In the first place, there were those who stood upon the ancient lines who objected altogether to the Ballot and to secret voting to be enforced, even only on the day of polling. Those were not the views of the hon. Member who brought forward that Amendment (Mr. A. Cross), who did not appear to him to rank himself among those who opposed the Ballot in the belief that on political, constitutional, and moral grounds, it was unnecessary and mischievous; and when he turned to the Report of the Committee, of which the hon. Member was a very active and influential member, he did not find that that hon. Gentlemen, or any member of that Committee, Liberal or Conservative, took such a ground as that. What he found was that the hon. Gentleman moved an Amendment which was confined to the objection to what that hon. Gentleman called permanent secret voting. He found also an objection moved by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Northamptonshire (Mr. Hunt) which implied approval of the system of Ballot as applied only to the day of the poll. [Mr. ASSHETON CROSS: As a means of taking the votes.] As a means also of preserving order and tranquillity upon the day of the poll. He did not know whether he might class that hon. Gentleman with those who stood on the ancient ways and objected to the Ballot in any shape, or with those who occupied an intermediate position, and had satisfied their own minds of the undoubted utility of the Ballot in absolutely securing order and tranquillity upon the day of election. There was a second class of opponents—those whose conversion had proceeded a certain distance, though not very far—and who had become convinced that secret voting on the day of the poll, subject to publication afterwards, would be of immense value, because it would absolutely prevent a knowledge of the state of the poll, and would, therefore, prevent what was well known as "three o'clock negotiations" and the traffic in votes that it was worth while to buy. The advocates of the Ballot might be classified under two heads—there were those whose views were represented by the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Bedford, and accepted by the Committee, which Amendment was as follows— That, in recommending the adoption of the Ballot, we desire to express our opinion that in order to secure the benefits we anticipate from its introduction into this country, it is necessary that the secrecy of the vote should be inviolable, except in the case of any voter found guilty of bribery, or whose vote in due course of law had been adjudged invalid; and there were those whose views were expressed by the Bill before the House, and by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council upon its introduction. The difference between these two classes of advocates of the Ballot was very narrow, and was not at all a difference in principle. The reason why his right hon. Friend the Vice President of the Council, and why the Government, on full consideration, had come to the conclusion not to retain that power of publication which would only arise in case of a scrutiny of the election, was that the case was very rare and the remedy very costly and the effect of it very small; while, on the other hand, the advantage of perfect secrecy in the minds of those who believed in the Ballot was so great, and the importance of the conviction in the public mind that secrecy had been fairly secured was so overpowering, that they had come to the conclusion that it was not worth while to observe that distinction, and they had laid on the Table of the House what he believed had been called a clean Ballot Bill. The hon. Member for South-west Lancashire, and the right hon. Gentleman who had just resumed his seat (Mr. S. Cave), had objected to the Ballot upon very high grounds. They had spoken of the Ballot as a system which would demoralize the community. They had said that the franchise was a trust. The hon. Member for South-west Lancashire had said, if it was not a trust, it was at least a public duty which ought to be performed in public, and subject to the control of public opinion. Well, he (Mr. Stansfeld) for one, did not under-appreciate those considerations. He would endeavour to reply frankly to that argument as one who had always been in favour of the Ballot. But before he addressed himself to those more abstract considerations, he would ask leave to direct the attention of the House to the facts of practical interest. It appeared to him to be important that they should come to an understanding among themselves as to what was already admitted with respect to the utility and efficacy of the Ballot, because he did not think any hon. Member would deny that there had been considerable change and progress of opinion on the subject of the Ballot, or that many things were now admitted in its favour which were not admitted in former times and in former debates. It was now admitted that the Ballot secured order and tranquillity on the day of election, and it was also admitted that it prevented intimidation. The right hon. Member who spoke last (Mr. S. Cave) had admitted so much, though, at the same time, thinking other means might be devised for attaining the desired ends. He (Mr. Stansfeld) would, however, remind the right hon. Gentleman that no means could be in any way as effective as the Ballot, because under it the state of the poll would never be known until it was too late to alter it. The only objection made by the opponents of the Ballot in the Committee which sat last year was to the statement that the Ballot was a cure for every form of corruption; and no division was made by them on the assertion that it also prevented intimidation. [An hon. MEMBER: No, no!] He would endeavour to convince his hon. Friend. On the Motion of the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Leatham), the Committee adopted the following Amendment:— That the evidence leads to the conclusion that this change in the mode of voting would not only secure order and tranquillity both at municipal and Parliamentary elections, but would also protect voters from undue influence and intimidation. The hon. Member for South-west Lancashire said the Ballot was a severe remedy which ought not to be applied unless its absolute necessity was demonstrated, and he said he denied the necessity on the ground that the evils of intimidation and corruption were largely decreasing in this country. He confessed he was surprised to hear that statement from the hon. Member. It did not entirely agree with the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shoreham who spoke last, who, while agreeing with the statement as to the decrease of those evils, admitted their extensive existence. Now, he appealed to the conscience of the great majority of hon. Members of that House, whether the evils of intimidation and corruption were not sufficiently enormous to induce them to try some remedy better than those which had been hitherto applied. The hon. Member for South-west Lancashire said there was no reason, judging from the effects of the Ballot in America and France, why we should be so anxious to adopt it in this country. But the hon. Member answered himself, because in the very next breath he told the House that the Ballot in France and America was not a secret Ballot. Then he referred to the Ballot in the Australian colonies, and to the Report which had been lately laid upon the Table upon the subject of the Ballot in those colonies. He (Mr. Stansfeld) would endeavour to show that the hon. Gentleman had not fully and accurately represented the evidence from the Australian colonies. He would read one or two passages from those various Reports. He held in his hand a memorandum upon the subject from the former Prime Minister of New South Wales, Mr. Cooper, who placed this opinion on record— With regard to secret voting there can be no doubt whatever that it has effectually prevented bribery"—not merely intimidation it should be observed—"and further, that it has already superseded the canvassing for votes. He came next to the colony of Victoria. Lord Canterbury was, he believed, an opponent of the Ballot, and it was true he did not express any conviction of its utility; his opinion was rather of a negative order; but still he recorded the fact, which was of very great importance to this discussion, that whatever the causes might be, intimidation and corruption were unknown. Lord Canterbury was disposed to seek elsewhere for the causes, with this exception—that he did believe— That the existing system under which votes are given and received has exercised a continuous and valuable influence in maintaining order and tranquillity during contested elections. ["Go on!] He saw nothing in what followed to modify that opinion. Lord Canterbury held that other causes also contributed; but he admitted, as the words just quoted showed, that the system of which the Ballot was a part did exercise a valuable influence in maintaining order and tranquillity during contested elections. He came now to South Australia, and here he had to complain of his hon. Friend who had quoted Sir James Fergusson's Report as unfavourable to the Ballot, on the ground that there was such apathy in the colony that the Ballot was not put to a fair test. But what did Sir James Fergusson say? Though Sir James Fergusson did not think the test complete in the colony over which he ruled, he was so far convinced of its value that he believed— If trying times were to come, the evils of corruption and intimidation would be mitigated if not prevented. ["Go on! and "Order!] He was perfectly ready to read on; but he would submit to hon. Gentlemen who invited him to do so, that he was not in the habit of endeavouring to produce a false impression. Sir James Fergusson went on to say— That it must be remembered that, few as were the opportunities which that system afforded for the entrance of such evils, it could not be said as yet to have felt the strain of trial or to have brought to bear upon it the ingenuity of zealous and unscrupulous persons. [Opposition cheers.] Precisely so; he agreed in that opinion; but it was not at all inconsistent with the statement that, in more troublous times, the evils of corruption and intimidation would be prevented by the Ballot. But what said Mr. Baker, the Attorney General of South Australia, a still more important witness than Sir James Fergusson, from his greater experience? He said— Bribery, as the word is understood in England, is unknown. Treating and conveying electors to the poll have been resorted to to some extent, and one Member has been unseated for that conduct. Mr. Baker concluded in this way— Few persons, if any, could be found in this colony who would advocate a return to the old system of open voting, and some of the most strenuous opponents of the introduction of the Ballot would now be found among the opponents of such an alteration. And such, he believed, would be the case with hon. Gentlemen opposite, when they had some experience of the working of the Ballot. He came next to the colony of Tasmania. Governor Du Cane said that, taken in conjunction with the system of nomination by writing, it secured perfect order and tranquillity during the election, and permitted every voter to record his vote for the candidate of his choice without intimidation or fear of violence of any kind. Governor Du Cane went on to say that if party spirit ran high, and a wealthy candidate were determined to spend money corruptly, the system of absolute secrecy in force would not prevent his doing so, but would tend only to throw difficulties in the way of his subsequent detection. But, in the last paragraph, Governor Du Cane asked only for some arrangement which would make a scrutiny possible, so as to bring to light any act of bribery or corruption. The memorandum of Mr. Wilson, Prime Minister of Tasmania, was most important and interesting, because most appropriate to the present discussion. Mr. Wilson said that the Legislature had provided sufficient preliminary precautions against personation to ensure the rejection of any unqualified claimant; that bribery, treating, undue influence, intimidation, &c., were dealt with in some highly penal clauses; and that any Ballot paper marked otherwise than by striking out the name or names of the candidates, or otherwise defacing it, so that it might be subsequently identified, must be peremptorily rejected by the returning officer. It might well be imagined that some few years hence, after the passing of this measure, the statements of Prime Minister Wilson might be made by his right hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham, in conveying to some foreign Government his experience of the operation of the measure. These conditions and results of the Ballot were either admitted or were satisfactorily proved. It was admitted that the Ballot secured peace on the polling-day; it was not denied that it prevented intimidation; it was proved by the evidence from Australia that corruption, bribery, and intimidation had been banished from elections. He admitted that the franchise was a public trust; that the exercise of it was a duty to be performed ill public, subject to the control of public opinion; but, while admitting this promise, he differed from the conclusion that had been drawn from it. When they talked of a trust, and of the way in which the faithful performance of it was to be best secured, they must ask and answer the question—What is the real nature of the trust? The hon. Member for Northumberland (Mr. Ridley), in a speech of great thought and ability, to which it was to be regretted that so few listened, said truly that the trust imposed upon the elector was to give an honest and a conscientious vote. The question, therefore, was—Under what conditions did they most enable him, and make it most probable not only that he could, but that he would, conscientiously fulfil that trust? He would not shrink from saying that the franchise was a trust confided to the elector, under a sense of public duty to give a free and independent vote; and, practically speaking, they could not do more to secure the fulfilment of that public duty and trust than by securing the freedom and independence of the voter, by freeing him from the necessity or the temptation of considering what he might lose or gain. As to unmanliness and hypocrisy, he would frankly admit that he resorted with unwillingness to secret voting—that one's first instinct was in favour of open voting, and that a man of moral courage needed to be convinced by an exhaustive process of reasoning before he adopted the Ballot. But experience proved that the Ballot did not work in the way opponents feared it would; it did not promote cowardice and hypocrisy, but the reverse. It was stated that under the Ballot men did not care to conceal their votes, and the reason was that when, by a system of secret voting, they had made it impossible to intimidate and difficult to bribe, they created in the minds of bribers, as well as of those who might be bribed, a conviction that the thing was useless as well as immoral; the practice stopped, moral courage reasserted its sway, and men ceased to conceal that which was no longer necessary to conceal. Therefore that seeming paradox was a convincing demonstration of the success and of the moral and beneficial influence of the Ballot. He had congratulated the House on the fact that that question was not discussed as a party question, and to his mind it was not a party question. There might be a party vote; it might happen that the majority of Conservatives would vote against the Bill; but there was nothing in the Ballot which was un-Conservative. It would be an eminently Conservative measure; it would protect all those who required protection; it would protect the tenant against the landlord, the workman against the employer; it would also not fail to protect the tradesman against the customer, the workman against the tyranny of his class, and all men who were in minorities against the tyranny of fanaticism and faction. Opinions were changing on the opposite side of the House upon that question, as evidenced in the case of the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. B. Cochrane); but he was glad to say that, even on that, the Ministerial side of the House, they were gaining converts. The reason why there were converts was, that in former times there were intelligible reasons and arguments against the Ballot, which swayed many men, but now they had complete evidence of the efficacy of the Ballot. Formerly, its enactment would have made it impossible to rest upon a restricted suffrage, so that it was a Radical measure; but now that the suffrage had been extended, it had become a Conservative measure. It was for reasons such as those—because he believed the efficacy of the Ballot to have been conclusively proved by experience, because he believed the time for its adoption had arrived in consequence of the recent large extension of the franchise, and, lastly, because they were firmly convinced that it would not, as some feared, beget cowardice, but would secure freedom and independence in the exercise and performance of a public duty, that they asked the House to enter into Committee on that Bill.


said, he was one of those who wished to stand on those ancient ways upon which the argument against the Ballot had trodden for so long, and upon which the Prime Minister had been content to travel for more than 30 years. As regarded the exact point at issue that evening, he did not think it necessary to argue at present the narrower question as to whether a temporarily secret Ballot would be a desirable measure, because that was not the measure they were now called upon to discuss, for the measure proposed by the Government was an absolute and final secret Ballot. There were two considerations which appeared to him to meet them at the threshold of the inquiry. The first of those was that this measure had never been advocated on any higher grounds than as a choice of evils; the second was that during the 30 years that this question had been before the House and the public the weight of authority up to last year had been most decidedly hostile to this proposal of secret voting. It seemed to him that there never was in the history of this country a time when the evils for which the Ballot was prescribed as a remedy were so few, or when the evils it was calculated to produce were so perilous; that there never was a time when it was so little demanded by the call of justice, as there certainly never was a time when we were so strongly warned against its adoption by the suggestions of prudence. What was the argument formerly urged in favour of the Ballot? It was advocated as a means of checking the bribery and corruption practised by the rich and of putting an end to the intimidation exercised by the powerful. It was said to be scandalous that these evils, which the law forbad, should practically bid defiance to the law, and that immunity from punishment should encourage offenders. That was to a great extent true under the old system of the investigation into corrupt practices. Under the old election Committees witnesses had to be brought from remote places in England and Ireland, and had to be examined before a Committee composed of men wholly unskilled in such inquiries, and many of whom, moreover, were suspected to have a sympathy, prospective as well as past, in the practices they were called upon to condemn. But all that had now been changed. They had sent down the Judges of the land, men carefully educated and trained to sifting evidence, and they had armed them, moreover, with inquisitorial powers such as were conferred upon no other Judges in this country. To that they had added the infliction of heavy penalties, and the result was that the former seats of corruption and intimidation had become almost completely purified. ["No, no!] Hon. Members said "No," but he would venture to assert that the testimony of the Judges themselves on this point was likely to carry the greatest weight. Three of the ablest Judges in England were examined before the Committee which sat upstairs in 1869, and he would ask the leave of the House to refer very shortly to the evidence they gave, as exhibiting their experience of the new Act. Baron Martin told the Committee that he had tried 13 petitions, in five of which the Members were unseated. In these inquiries he had not any cases of intimidation. But in answer to the first question asked him—namely, what was his opinion of the amount of corrupt practices which prevailed at the election of 1868, he said—"I have formed a very decided opinion that the general impression with regard to bribery is exaggerated, judging from the cases I tried;" and he adds, shortly afterwards, that in all the 13 cases he tried in which bribery was alleged in only three of them did it exist to any extent, and that it was, in his own language, "in a very great number of cases perfectly ridiculous." He added afterwards that, having gone to these trials expecting to find much difficulty in enforcing his jurisdiction, the direct contrary was the case, and that he believed there was very little perjury attempted before him, and he accounted for this absence of bribery by saying "that persons were much more afraid of this new tribunal that of the old Parliamentary Committees." Next came Mr. Justice Willes. He had rather to deal with cases of intimidation. He tried ten petitions. In two only of those were the seats vacated—namely for intimidation, and, save in these two, Mr. Justice Willes said there was nothing to make him believe that such practices were common. Mr. Justice Blackburn, the third Judge examined, made some valuable suggestions for improving the method of inquiry—but to such vulgar expedients the advocates of the Ballot would not condescend—but his evidence plainly showed the charges of illegal practices, where they were at all substantiated, were much exaggerated—that, with the exception of Stafford, he did not believe that in any case there existed a much more general system of bribery or corruption than was submitted to him formally. Then, being asked in question 12,013 as to undue influence exercised by people of property over persons dependent upon them, he said that at Oldham he struck off three or four votes on the scrutiny. But that undue influence being alleged in all the petitions,—these were his own words— I think in every case it broke down, the evidence being very contemptible; in fact, the cases of intimidation might be fairly said to be frivolous and vexatious, all of them. The right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had said that the Ballot ought not to be resorted to until everything else had been tried and found wanting. But had this new practice been found wanting? The learned Judges whom he had quoted were no party witnesses—they had expressed no views in favour of secret voting; but they had simply placed on record facts which came under their notice, and the opinions they had formed on them, which were worth pages of the Report of the Commissioners, which were stuffed with the evidence of the agents of defeated candidates, aldermen of country towns expressing their opinions on the value of secret voting, and the opinion of editors of local newspapers, which showed on the face of it how much they had exaggerated the evils of which they complained. The change which has been produced has been for the most part the result of the mere threat of this inquiry, for certainly before the old Committees there was no want of zeal in getting up the cases, of industry in carrying them through, or grudging of expenditure in order to insure success. There might certainly be some subtle influences of intimidation, and there might be certain election evils for which even those stringent inquiries might possibly be unequal; but as far, at least, as the grosser evils were concerned, they had, with the assistance of these tribunals, been effectually dealt with. As far as our experience went, this tribunal had not had a fair trial. There had been but one General Election, and they had not yet had an opportunity of judging of its effect upon the constituencies. He did not deny that in spite of the apprehensions that were entertained relative to the searching nature of the inquiry, there were places where the habits of corruption were so deeply rooted that the constituencies were tempted to repeat them, and the commentary he would make on it was, that the investigations had been such that those places where inquiries took place would not care again to have the electric light of this searching investigation on their practices. One great argument in favour of the Ballot had been removed by the establishment of those inquiries, and the attempt that had been made through them to honestly, thoroughly, and successfully grapple with the grosser forms of bribery and intimidation. A favourite practice of the advocates of the Ballot had been to point to the Irish landlords driving up their tenants to the poll to vote against their consciences, and it was said that if they did not vote as the landlords wished the alternative was the poorhouse or the road. There might have been some foundation for that charge, though there was great exaggeration in respect to it; but, by the Irish Land Bill of last year, that evil had, at all events, been struck down; for if a tenant was now evicted on account of his vote the landlord must pay him compensation. There had also been a great change in public opinion against bribery and intimidation, which were regarded as more odious than formerly, and the influence of that public opinion must daily increase in strength with the daily increasing power of the public Press, which was not over scrupulous in denouncing such illegal practices. He would next call attention to a class of abuses which, so far from being removed by the Ballot, would be aggravated by it. The Bill as proposed by the Government was almost an inducement to personation, and treating would be more than ever prevalent. Moreover, wherever there was a class of voters ready to be bribed the facilities for bribing them safely would be enormously increased, for they would be well aware that they were only to be paid according to the result. At present if a man was discovered to be bribed the matter could be traced up to the agent; but under the present Bill such an initiatory step would be rendered almost impossible. There were besides some cases of intimidation which would not be affected at all by the Ballot, such as, for instance, where the object was not to influences the vote, but to deter voters from going to the poll, riots sometimes occurring when a party of Protestants entered a Catholic town, or a party of Catholics entered a Protestant town. He would now call attention to the offences which were classed under the head of spiritual influence and intimidation, and in doing so would endeavour, as far as possible, to avoid saying anything which could give offence in speaking of the spiritual intimidation of the Roman Catholic clergy of Ireland. There were two sources of influence possessed by the Roman Catholic priests. One was of a personal kind, which sprang from the relations between the peasant and the priest, from the intimate relations existing between them, and from friendship and gratitude, for the peasant felt that the priest would stand by him in sickness and affliction. That was an influence to which, when honestly earned, they were justly entitled, provided they did not exercise it in an unjust way. Much as he deprecated the political ends for which it was sometimes used, he must admit that it was generally the ascendancy of education over ignorance, and as such with all similar influences it would be greatly weakened by the introduction of secret voting. But there was another kind of influence exercised by the Roman Catholic clergy of a very different kind, and that was the supernatural appeals which were sometimes made to the superstition of the people. Mr. Justice Keogh, in a decision at Drogheda, put this case, which was not, he said, imaginary— Suppose a minister says, 'If you do not vote in a particular way, and anything happens to you between this time and your reaching your dwelling-house, your immortal soul is imperilled.' In such a grave case as that the Ballot would have no effect, for the voter must believe that if he acted contrary to the solemn warning given by the priest his act would be revealed. Therefore, whatever influence which was not undue the Roman Catholic priesthood possessed would be weakened by the secret voting, and whatever illegal influence they possessed would not be touched at all. He would now turn aside for a moment to consider the argument that the Ballot was necessary in order to protect the Irish peasant from the influence which the priest would exercise upon him in favour of the "Nationalist candidates." He thought that just now in many instances the priests rather followed than led in that movement, and might perhaps be found not the worst friends of the present Ministry in their struggle against the Nationalists. But if it was sought both to drive them into the adoption of an extreme course in polities, and also to throw them back upon the exercise of supernatural terrors, the way to do so was to deprive them of that natural influence which they had over the people. He had hitherto argued that many of the evils for which the Ballot was formerly prescribed had been grappled with and disposed of by direct measures, and that others were fast melting away under the influence of a daily stronger public opinion, while others would either be aggravated by the introduction of secret voting, or be left wholly untouched. Never before were the evils so small for which the Ballot was supposed to be a remedy, and never before were the evils so great which it would aggravate. The principal argument urged for the Ballot was that the vote was a trust. Now, he did not agree with the definition of that trust given by the right hon. Gentleman who last, addressed the House. The true and constitutional view of it was this. The privilege of voting, he contended, was given to the voter, not for himself alone, therefore he must not give it for a bribe or yield it for a threat. It was given to him clothed with a trust for the whole of the rest of the community, and therefore he must be responsible to the community for the manner in which he exercised it. He would not further enlarge on that argument. It had been expressed in the most clear and able way by Lord Palmerston, Lord Russell, Sir Robert Peel, and Mr. Mill. He would rather refer to the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman the First Minister of the Crown had explained his change of opinion on this subject. When the right hon. Gentleman came down to the House last year to record his conversion, he said— At other times, whether rightly or wrongly, we were quite content to hear the question argued as it was argued by Lord Palmerston. Lord Palmerston had paid great attention to the question of the Ballot—at least, he felt a great interest in it. He always spoke upon it with much ability, and he usually founded himself on this view of the subject—that the franchise was to be viewed as a trust, to be exercised by a limited portion of the community for the benefit of the whole, and that the whole community had just the same kind of right to know how that trust was exercised on their behalf by the limited portion of the community intrusted with the franchise, as the public out-of-doors have to know how the power intrusted to their representatives in Parliament is exercised by those representatives within these walls."—[3 Hansard, cciii. 1029–30.] And then, having, as he understood the language of the right hon. Gentleman, argued that when in 1868 household franchise was actually conceded to boroughs, there was an admission in principle of household suffrage both in boroughs and counties, he went on to state— That being so, I think the first view of the question as it stands is this—that there is no longer, properly so called, a limited constituency acting and exercising a trust on behalf of the whole people; but that the basis on which Parliament desires to found the representative system of the country is a basis not less wide than that of the entire nation, setting aside those who may be subject to positive disqualifications; and, consequently, that the trust which is exercised by the father of a family, or by an adult male, in giving a vote for a Member of Parliament is practically a trust which he holds mainly on behalf of his wife and children, all other persons being presumably entitled to act with him on a footing of equality in giving a vote."—[Ibid. 1031.] Assuming that to be a full and accurate statement of Lord Palmerston's argument, he asked leave to submit to the House figures to show what, in point of fact, was the extent of this marvellous change in the numbers of the enfranchised as compared with the unenfranchised. He had been obliged to take the numbers from the former Census, not having had access to the now. In 1866 the adult male population of England and Wales was 5,230,573; the number of electors before the Reform Bill of 1867 was 1,056,000, but now it was 2,000,000. Therefore, the condition of the unenfranchised in round numbers was that, whereas before the Reform Bill of 1867 they were 4,000,000, as compared with 1,000,000 electors, now they were 3,000,000 as compared with 2,000,000 electors. If the argument were ever true, solid, and sound, that whilst a large portion of the people were unenfranchised, the remaining portion should exercise their franchise openly and as a trust, he confessed he did not see in what material degree the force of the reasoning had been altered. And when he turned to Ireland, with its £4 rated qualification in towns and its £12 qualification in counties, he asked what practical value was there in the phrase "presumably entitled." Universal sufrage was the necessary logical consequence. The proper course would no doubt have been to introduce universal suffrage first, and then give Ballot but the course now recommended was to introduce Ballot first, and then give universal suffrage—which was rather an Irish mode of putting the cart before the horse. But that was not the whole argument. What Lord Palmerston said was quite different. He said, on the 16th of Juno, 1865— But I deny that the vote is a personal right. I say it is a trust. Even if universal suffrage were adopted, it would be a trust which each person would have confided to him for the benefit of the nation."—[3 Hansard, clxxx. 426.] Therefore, he could not say that the argument of trust, as explained by Lord Palmerston, had hitherto been satisfactorily answered. He had endeavoured to show, on the one hand, that the evils which Ballot was intended to cure had been already otherwise dealt with, and that, on the other, the arguments formerly advanced against Ballot had not been materially diminished. He now asked, what would be the result of adopting this Bill? The practical result would be this—at the time of the election the large influence of public opinion, but which was by no means an undue influence either in a legal or moral sense, and which would otherwise moderate men's passions, would be extinguished. Suppose a General Election took place at a time when there was a question of great public interest and popular excitement before the electors—one of those questions between capital and labour which were at hand, and which would soon become the turning points of electoral contests, did they not think that in the secrecy of the Ballot-box it would not be the wise and more prudent counsels of the best informed that would prevail? The advice listened to would rather be that of those who pandered to the prejudices and passions. And if a religions question had to be considered, was it the voice of wise and Christian charity which would be heeded? No; but the voices of those who delivered the most exciting harangues. Of course it was impossible to predict accurately what would be the result of this leap not in—but into the dark. Some people thought it would strengthen one side of the House; some thought it would strengthen the other; but upon one point they were all agreed, and that was that it would make a great change in the position of some hon. Gentlemen. The line was drawn, on the other side of the House, with a terrible rigidity, and whatever else might occur, it was admitted that the Whigs must go. This was very hard upon the Whigs. It was hard that the right hon. Gentleman should call upon them to perform this most crucial test of devotion. They had been his most humble and obedient followers. The right hon. Gentleman never was a Whig himself; but the Whigs had followed him through the Land Bill, which they did not like, and through the Irish Church Bill, which many hated, and now, in the fulness of their strength, in the middle of their Parliamentary life, when they had three years of it still before them, they were called upon, not indeed to perform "the happy despatch," but, by a kind of penultimate act of self-devotion, to immure themselves for the remainder of their Parliamentary life ill the condemned cell of public existence. Consider what they had done: they had been dragged in triumph by the right hon. Gentleman, they had supported his Land and Church Bills, they had proposed Amendments and withdrawn them, they had made speeches and voted against them, and these old Whigs, descended into the arena of their last great fight, they seemed to exclaim with the gladiators of old— Ave, Cæsar imperator, morituri te salutant! He deeply regretted what he saw and knew was coming, for he believed that the great old Whig party had done more than any other, moderately and wisely, for the benefit of this country; but it was an old saying that "misery acquaints men with strange bedfellows." He believed that the extinction of the Whigs was but a fair forecast and illustration of the result of this measure. It would have the effect of driving out of election contests many respectable and moderate men, because when they found they were absolutely deprived of all influence, and that their individual votes were swamped by the numerical superiority of those opposed to them, they would take less interest in elections than they did now. He hoped that hereafter, when the Whigs had paid this penalty, and when, perhaps, from the Speaker's Gallery they looked down upon the better and wiser and more moderate men who had superseded them, they would be consoled with the assurance of their Radical Friends that, although they had destroyed themselves, they had saved their country. It was as well to consider the exact circumstances under which the Bill was introduced, and whether this was a convenient time to make the experiment as a nice balance of evils. He was not speaking of the convenience of the Minister or of the safety of the Administration, but of the character of the House and of the safety of the country; and on this view of the matter the House would permit him to quote a warning uttered in 1838 by Sir Robert Peel, who said— In times of perfect tranquillity the Ballot might possibly be merely a delusion. But in times of great public calamity or excitement it might be the instrument of irreparable evil. There might prevail a temporary clamour for war or for peace; unreasonable prejudices with regard to public matters of deep interest; there might be false impressions purposely created by a Government, during the prevalence of which it might be deeply and permanently injurious to the public interest to have a general election, the voters being freed from all control of publicity. The fever of the moment, the popular cry might deaden the influence of reason and the influence of property much more effectually under a system of secret than of open voting. I know it will be said that this implies distrust of the constituent body; that it presumes they are unfit to be trusted with the elective franchise. It certainly does imply that there may be occasions when the public mind is for a season under the influence of prejudice, of passion, of unwise impatience; and that it is for the public interest that a public trust should be discharged under responsibility to public opinion, to that sober public opinion which a few months afterwards will pronounce judgment, subject also to the present control which property and station and more enlightened views may legitimately exercise, and can exercise with greater effect at such seasons of excitement under the present system of voting than under the Ballot."—[3 Hansard, xl. 1207.] After this warning the Ballot was rejected by a majority of 117; and was the warning less applicable in these days of household suffrage than it was in the easygoing times in which it was delivered? Would the Ballot be more or less dangerous than it was then? In Ireland secret voting would, in this sense, now amount almost to a plébiscite; and he was astonished at the rashness of the Minister who seized upon this moment to try such a dangerous experiment. He doubted very much whether hon. Members were aware of the feeling which existed just now in Ireland. He could warn the Minister that a terrible commentary was about to be pronounced on the legislation of the last few years. He wished to speak fairly and freely on this subject. He was not, on this occasion, going to find fault with the Land Bill or the Church Bill. He hoped that those measures would, in the long run, produce much good. But time must be allowed, and the introduction of the Ballot at Irish elections just now would create difficulties, and raise obstacles in the way of attaining that good. He was not speaking at haphazard; he know what he said to be true; and the opinion he expressed was that of many of the ablest and the most experienced men in Ireland, some of whom had sat on the front bench opposite as Members of a Liberal Administration. It was their positive conviction that, Ballot or no Ballot, a General Election in Ireland would be a most dangerous experiment; but with the Ballot the danger would be doubled. Where was it in Ireland that they found the antipathy to this country most strongly? The upper classes were our friends; but as we descended in the electoral strata we came upon "home rule," "Repeal," and "Fenianism." The strongest and the largest and most ignorant part of the population and of the electors were of more extreme views. Was this, then, the time to fling away any wholesome influence in Ireland? And was this the kind of constituency to be intrusted with the Ballot? Of late years the Government had reversed our former Irish policy—but with what arguments, and what language, was the change accompanied? they had disestablished the Protestant Church in Ireland because it was said to be an alien Church; they had transferred a large amount of property from one class to another, because it was said that the terms upon which it was held were indefensible and often "felonious;" but the people of Ireland, while they admitted the premises, drew a different conclusion. The Irish Roman Catholic lower orders said the Protestant Church was an alien Church, because it was an English Church; that its pastors were, wherever they lived, men whom, as the centres of material prosperity and blessing, they personally loved, but whom, as a class, they hated, because they looked on them as the sentinels of the "English garrison." They agreed also that the tenure on which landed property was held in Ireland was indefensible and often felonious, but that it was indefensible because it was the result of English conquest and tyranny, but added that tyranny commenced with the first English King who crossed the Irish Channel. They accepted the Church Bill with indifference, and though they accepted the Land Bill gladly it was only as an instalment, and their answer to every appeal was that they would never be satisfied until they were masters in their own land, and Ireland was governed indeed by Irish ideas, on the principle of "Ireland for the Irish." And what was the next step taken by the Government. They hold Ireland down by a Coercion Bill, which was absolutely necessary as he contended, and besides that they had altogether suspended the Constitution in one part of Ireland, which was viewed as an insult by all those whom they were pleased to call the Irish people; and now they offered the country an irresponsible vote. When they had applied their favourite policy—blown hot and cold—flattered the Irish people first and then coerced them, and then brought the Ballot into operation, he warned the Prime Minister—and it was not his individual opinion—that 60, 70, 80, some said 90 men, would be returned pledged to opinions as strong as those which had been recently heard, by some with wonder, from the hon. Member for Westmeath (Mr. Martin). He wanted to know how they were to govern Ireland under such circumstances? Would the conduct of Imperial business be easy? would the government of Ireland then be possible in such a House? He did not wish to be misunderstood. He had always opposed the Church Bill, both for what it did and for what it threatened; but knowing that this evil has been committed, he did desire to reap the good that might follow from that for which so much had been sacrificed, and he hoped that if the absolute religious equality now attained by the Irish Church Bill were fairly, fully, and firmly carried out, great good, he believed, would ultimately result from that principle; and, as to the Land Bill, for the second reading of which he had voted, although he thought certain sections of it bore hardly on the landlords, he also hoped it would ultimately do great good. But for all that, they must have time—quiet and rest from reckless agitation. What he had said probably was as painful to the House to hear as it was for him to speak; but he did not want them to go away under the impression that the gloomy picture he had drawn of Ireland was one without the element of hope. There was one element in Ireland on which, if allowed time to develop, they might build the most sanguine anticipations. Why was it that to offer the Ballot to the Universities would be an insult, and that in Scotland bribery and coercion were practically unknown? Because the Scotch people had long tasted the blessings of education. Would the Prime Minister not give time in England for the Elementary Education Act to produce its natural fruits? Would he not give the great system of national education for some time in operation in Ireland an opportunity of justifying its existence? It was a remarkable feature in the evidence taken before the Committee that in the rural districts of the West and South of Ireland the younger generation of voters could read and write—the elder generation could not write at all; the people were, therefore, in the most dangerous of all positions—they had just enough information to understand and be moved by the maddening appeals that were so sedulously addressed to them, without having sufficient education to understand their opportunities of material prosperity in the present and of real progress for the future. Was this, he asked, the way in which you should endeavour to withdraw the electors from whatever good influences were about them, and expose them ever to the full force of those evil advisers, whose wild appeals to their passions would surely be obeyed if, in the exited moment of an election, ignorant or half-educated electors were called upon to give a secret and irresponsible vote? Was it not melancholy that in Ireland, where material prosperity was advancing with such strides, and which had so many and so great resources to be developed, that the people should ever more be recurring to the miserable past, and brooding over a policy of hate? Would it not be well to give time for them to learn that there was something else in the union between the two countries than that which was evil—that they might have, if they would but be practical and earnest, all that made life valuable in the presence of their industry, and in the future a prospect as bright as the most devoted patriot could desire?

MR. JAMES moved that the debate be now adjourned.

Debate adjourned till Monday next.

House adjourned at a quarter after Two o'clock.