, interupting the debate, said: I rise, Sir, not for the purpose of following the hon. Baronet on the subject of his Motion, but of conveying to the House the substance of a verbal communication which I have just received, through Colonel Hardinge, from Her Majesty. The object of that communication is to prevent the spread of any needless alarm. It is a simple narrative. Her Majesty went out to drive this afternoon, after the Court was held, and came back about half-past 5. She was received with loyal demonstrations by a numerous assembly at the garden entrance of Buckingham Palace. When the gates were opened to allow the Queen to enter, a youth, who is stated, or supposed to be, 18 or 19 years of age, made his way into the garden of the Palace, following the Royal carriage, and when the carriage reached the door of the Palace he presented himself first on the side opposite that on which Her Majesty was, where Lady Churchill sat, who was in attendance, and then, going round to the same side as the Queen sat, pointed a pistol towards Her Majesty. The Queen, who was not in the slightest degree flurried or alarmed, simply withdrew her person within the frame of the 1165 carriage; and while this was occurring the attendants dismounted, immediately secured the lad, and took from him the pistol which he held. He had with him also a paper for signature, with places for the names of witnesses. The object of this paper was to obtain from Her Majesty a pledge, as I am told, for the immediate liberation of those who are called Fenian prisoners; but who, in point of fact, the House will remember, are certain persons detained in prison in connection with Fenian offences on account of features in their case which partake of the nature of ordinary crime. The pistol was seized, and is probably now in the course of being examined; but I have received nothing yet in the shape of a written document in reference to the subject, and the House will, therefore, understand that I am giving the best account in my power of the occurrence from a verbal communication. There is no cause whatever for alarm. Indeed, I am told by Colonel Hardinge that not only was the pistol not fired, but that he believes it was not even loaded. The youth himself stated that it was not loaded; and Colonel Hardinge's opinion is that the statement is probably true. Among other signs to the effect that it was not loaded, there was some red cloth projecting from the muzzle of the pistol. I understand the instrument is of a very primitive structure, with an ancient flint lock, and having the barrel screwed on; and the lock was in such a condition that, even had it been loaded, Colonel Hardinge is of opinion that it could not be fired. A circumstance of this character may, however, create great alarm, and whatever relates to her Majesty is a matter of such deep and profound interest, especially to the House of Commons, that I hope the House will forgive me—I know, Sir, I have your forgiveness—if I have thought it desirable to interrupt the business on which we are engaged for the purpose of allaying any apprehensions with regard to the life and safety of Her Majesty which may prevail.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
, resuming the debate, observed that the assurance given by the right hon. Gentleman with respect to the safety of Her Majesty must be most satisfactory to the House. It was scarcely possible to suppose, after the demonstrations of enthusiastic loyalty 1166 which were displayed on Tuesday last, that any serious attempt could be made on Her Majesty's life, and the statement which had been just made would remove the anxiety which exaggerated rumours of what had occurred were producing, while it also showed that Her Majesty's conduct had been marked by Her usual fortitude.
With regard to the Motion of the hon. Baronet (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) he did not think it would have the effect of uniting the two Bills to which it related in the manner which he proposed. Its only result could be to serve as an indication of the opinion of the House that both Bills should be proceeded with in the course of the present Session. If the hon. Baronet's Motion were carried, the only effect of it would be to enable the Committee to consider one Bill after the other had been disposed of, without the Speaker resuming the Chair; but it would not prevent the first Bill alone being carried through its subsequent stages.
§ MR. FAWCETT
looked upon the Motion to refer the two Bills to the same Committee, despite the high authority of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir George Grey), as being one of great importance. If the Government were prepared to assent to the Motion, there was no occasion for discussion. But no Member of the Government rose after the hon. Member for Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) resumed his seat, and it was to be presumed, therefore, that the Government did not assent. It appeared to him to be evident that that Motion was intended to protect the House and the country against a very grave danger, and if the Motion, or some similar Motion, should not be carried, there would be no security against the happening of an event which he certainly regarded as one that would be a great disaster to the country. It was no use mincing matters on this occasion. No one who considered the present state of political parties, and the present uncertain state of politics in this country, could doubt that it was quite a probable contingency that a General Election might take place in any month, or even any week. Why he thought a General Election might take place was this. He had heard ominous sounds on every side of that House, and a strange event was happen- 1167 ing in it. One of the most remarkable events that ever occurred was taking place. The Ballot, after being kicked from side to side in that House, and after being treated at first with contempt and ridicule, and then with a kind of fanatical political idolatry, was now supposed to forebode a great party advantage to each side of the House. Night after night he heard Friends of his sitting near him saying—"Never mind about anything else; never mind about all the measures that are before the House; let us get the Ballot; we shall be masters of the situation and can pursue a bold, nay, even a threatening policy." The Conservatives on the opposite benches believed that they would gain an equally great party advantage. He was talking the other day to one of the most acute electioneerers in this country, identified with the Conservative party, who said he thought the Ballot would make a difference of at least 50 seats to them. Now, he (Mr. Fawcett) would not inquire into the probable effects of the Ballot on party; but, this being the impression which was undoubtedly growing up in the House, he asked what security had they, when the Ballot Bill was passed, that a General Election might not occur—and occur, too, without any additional guarantees being provided for greater purity of election? What he greatly feared was that if the Ballot Bill passed that House in the course of a fortnight or three weeks, then they would be told that there were many important subjects urgently pressing for consideration, and the Government might postpone the Corrupt Practices Bill to the end of the Session. If the Corrupt Practices Bill were so postponed, then he should say the House was unfairly treated by not being allowed time to consider one of the most important measures that could possibly be introduced, and that it was at least of as much if not of more importance that they should consider the Corrupt Practices Bill with due deliberation as that they should so consider a Bill to establish secret voting. If the former measure were put off till the end of the Session, it would not be possible to consider the numerous important Amendments in it standing on the Paper. What, then, would happen? In all probability they would have a Bill hurried through to continue the present Corrupt Practices Act. Could those who 1168 had watched the proceedings at the last General Election pretend that the existing law gives adequate security against corrupt practices? Was it not proved that, as far as the prevention of the treating went, it was a farce; and that, as regarded preventing large sums of money being squandered in various corrupt ways, such as for exhibiting boards and the like, it was a ludicrous farce. It had come out before the Parliamentary and Municipal Elections Committee that there was no such fruitful source of corruption as that which existed at municipal elections; and after the answer they had received from the Prime Minister that night he must indeed be a confident and foolish man who thought for one moment that unless the House put considerable pressure on the Government there was the smallest chance of anything being done this Session to stop corruption at municipal elections. Then let them look just for a moment at the melancholy, he might say the discreditable, position in which they were landed. They had at last got what he had long expected they would get. They had been drifting on a current the direction of which they could not mistake. They had got a Ballot Bill, pure and simple, with all the best provisions left out of it. The Government had at length practically abandoned the attempt to diminish the expenses of elections; and with the Ballot Bill giving occasion for a greater number of polling-places, they would have secret voting and increased election expenses, but not one single security for diminishing corruption. The Corrupt Practices Bill, in its present shape, was so bald and imperfect, that it was absolutely necessary they should have some pledge that that measure would not be postponed till the end of the Session, and there ought not to be one hour's delay in their considering it. If they wanted an additional proof of its defects they could not have a better one than was presented by the most important Amendments placed on the Table by the hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. James) and other staunch Friends of the Government, but which had no fair chance of being considered if the Corrupt Practices Bill was postponed. If it was postponed, could they really say to the country—"We have done what we can to check corruption?" Let them look, for example, at the public-house clause of that Bill. It 1169 imposed a penalty of £20 on a publican who let his public-house for electioneering purposes; but it inflicted no penalty whatever on the candidate or his agent who hired a public-house. That would simply make bribery on a large scale perfectly safe. It gave impunity to the rich briber, because if he gave £40 for the use of a public-house, the publican could afford to pay £20 as a fine, and would still have another £20 of the money to put in his pocket. Again, as to personation, the agent or the candidate encouraging personation was merely to be deprived of the privilege of sitting in that particular Parliament. But, further, if those measures were passed in their present incomplete form, a wealthy candidate might bribe with impunity against a poor one, because the latter could not pay the enormous expense of elections. ["Question!"] His observations were strictly germane to the question, for it was impossible to consider those two Bills properly unless they were taken together. Was it not a farce to say they were anxious to stop corruption if they encouraged a system which virtually told the poor candidate—"You may have the clearest possible proof that your rich rival has bribed against you; but the expense of a Petition is so enormous that it is absolutely impossible for you to incur it?" An unfortunate opinion seemed to be springing up that when they had got the Ballot they would have reached the goal of representative reform. He admired the institutions of America in some of their aspects as much as any man; but, let anyone calmly and candidly read what he could about the representative institutions of America, and must he not come to the conclusion that that House was producing a perilous policy if it simply passed the Ballot without, at the same time, taking adequate security for I the prevention of corrupt practices? Did they suppose that the Ballot would extirpate bribery? He was only that day reading the work of a very able American writer, who was not a philosophical doctrinaire, but a shrewd New York barrister, and he said—We have the Ballot in America, but political corruption there has become so systematic that we have actually got a technical language to describe it.And the writer went on to speak of the dangers of the loathsome and noisome 1170 disease called "spoil," of "making a slate," and of "Jerrymandering," all of which abuses existed under the Ballot. These expressions, which were to be found in a book written by a Democrat—a man not opposed to extended suffrage—ought to be regarded as a warning to this country, that it was pursuing a dangerous path, if it thought that secret voting would not lead to some of the worst evils of the representative system. For his own part, he had always been in favour of the Ballot. [A laugh.] Hon. Members might smile at this confession if they chose. All knew the proverbial fanaticism of recent political converts; but he had been in favour of the Ballot for upwards of 20 years, and it was because he had so long entertained a conviction in its favour that he was indisposed to exaggerate its importance. There were other things he cared about quite as much, and there were many things which he cared about a great deal more. He was aware that, in making these remarks, he was expressing unpopular opinions; but that knowledge would not deter him from expressing his view of the matter, which he believed and knew to be the view of thousands, and especially of some hon. Members who would not take part in that debate. While supporting secret voting—and he should never give a vote against it—he thought it was of infinitely greater importance that that House should devote itself as it had never devoted itself before—not with hollow insincerity—but with earnestness and devotion, to doing all in its power to impede corruption and bribery in all their varied forms.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he did not intend to follow the hon. Member for Brighton in his remarks regarding the provisions of the Corrupt Practices Bill; nor would he enter into the question as to the probability of a dissolution within a week or a month; but he was delighted to learn from his speech that there would be but comparatively little trouble in passing the Ballot Bill this year, because both sides of the House were prepared to compete in carrying it as quickly as possible. He only hoped that the hon. Member would turn out a true prophet. The hon. Member must, however, allow him to say that if the opinions he expressed with regard to that measure had been generally enter- 1171 tained throughout the country the question of the Ballot would never have been brought to its present stage, and that if the Ballot had always been supported by its friends, as it had been that night by the hon. Member, the House would not at that moment have been discussing a Ballot Bill. It was quite true that the Ballot Bill, like any other measure, had its advantages and its defects, and that possibly its provisions might not afford a perfect cure for all the evils which had been pointed out; but he could not agree with the hon. Member that if a General Election were to be held under it there would be no security against political corruption. His impression was that it would give very considerable security. With reference to the speech of the hon. Member opposite (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), be begged gratefully to acknowledge the kindness with which he had stated that he did not intend by his Amendment to offer any opposition to the principle of the measure, and that he was going to confine his efforts to making the Bill as perfect a measure as possible. The hon. Member had, however, asked the Government why they had separated these two Bills. The short answer to that question was that from the experience of last year it appeared that the two Bills were of such importance, and involved so much detail, that it would be preferable to bring them separately before the House. In the Bill of last year some provision had been made in reference to corrupt practices in consequence of the recommendations of the Committee, and it was felt that as the subjects of the Ballot and of corrupt practices were each likely to excite considerable attention in that House, it would be unwise to combine these two important matters in one Bill. At the same time he could assure the hon. Gentleman that it was the absolute intention of the Government to do their best to bring the Corrupt Practices Bill under the notice of the House, so that it should this Session be passed into law. This had been evidenced by their having introduced the Bill, and having proposed its second reading at the same time as they had the Ballot Bill. With regard to the actual Motion of the hon. Member, he should be willing to accept it upon the understanding that it would not have the effect of throwing the two Bills into one, 1172 but would merely avoid the delay of a second Motion for the Speaker to leave the Chair before this Bill was considered in Committee after the Ballot Bill had been disposed of, leaving power to the House to determine whether or not the latter Bill should be reported after its clauses had been passed through Committee.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
I am not surprised that the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Privy Council should feel somewhat disappointed at the reception which has been given to his measure by the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett). The hon. Member has very truly said that below the gangway on the other side of the House there are some very ardent partizans who look on this purely in the light of being a party measure—I speak of the Ballot Bill—and that they anticipate a party triumph upon it, and nothing more. I believe that their consideration of the measure does not go beyond that. Well, now, Sir, I will take this opportunity of stating why, after having given Notice of my intention to oppose this Bill at the present stage, I eventually withdrew my Notice. I did so, because I found that on the Government side of the House those "ardent partizans" were about to drag into a division, in favour of the Ballot, a larger number of Members who have so profited by the discussions of the last Session as to entertain very grave doubts, indeed, with regard to the advisability of this measure. Now, Sir, it is incident to the character of the party opposite that there should be this coercion. When a party is combined merely for party purposes, and for the maintenance of a Ministry, that party containing within itself persons of opinions diametrically opposite upon questions of education, questions of religion, questions of the gravest nature, it is positively certain that the exercise of party authority will be tyrannical, because it is the sole bond that unites the Members of that party. I find, Sir, from private conversations, that Members on the other side of the House have recalled to their recollection the warning given by Lord Palmerston, the substance of which was recognized in the speech of the hon. Member for Brighton. Although he honestly declared—"I have never been in favour of the Ballot, but I have no abjection to a further extension of the 1173 suffrage." Now, Lord Palmerston emphatically warned this House that if the Ballot were to be enacted the Legislature would find it impossible afterwards to stop short of the enactment of manhood suffrage. When I say that Lord Palmerston warned the House, I inferred it from his speech, and to me personally, in private conversation he intimated his conviction that it would be impossible to avoid so great a reduction of the franchise, that, to use his own language, it must approach, if it did not reach, manhood suffrage. With the permission of the House, I will read a passage from the remarkable speech in which I find this inference. And let the House remember this—that the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister has stated deliberately in this House that the reduction of the franchise, as consequent upon the passing of a Ballot Bill, must be only a question of time; and although the right hon. Gentleman afterwards in some degree retracted that assertion, upon what ground was it that he did so? Merely by stating that last Session the Government had so many measures to deal with, that they could not then contemplate a further reduction of the franchise. That, Sir, was in anticipation of the Ballot Bill becoming law last Session. I will now, with the permission of the House, read Lord Palmerston's opinion upon the subject, because, as this debate is purely preliminary, I think it right to call the attention of the House, and the attention of the public, to that which I know Lord Palmerston believed, and which the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister has more than half admitted to be the certain consequence of the passing of this Bill. In the year 1864, while opposing Mr. Berkeley's Motion for the Ballot, Lord Palmerston made the following statement:—I object to the Motion, because it is founded on an erroneous assumption. The hon. Member deals with the right of voting as if it were a personal right, which an individual was entitled to exercise free from any responsibility, whereas I contend that the vote is a trust to be exercised on behalf of the community at large."—[3 Hansard, clxxvi. 44.]Then comes the pregnant passage—Even if the franchise were ever so extended—even if we had a manhood franchise, if every man arrived at the age of discretion were entitled to vote, it would be only a trust, because there would still be a large portion of the community 1174 —women and minors—affected by the laws, by taxation, and so on, whose interests would be committed to those who had votes. Indeed, our legislation is based on the understanding that a vote is a trust, and not a right. If a vote were a purely personal right, would not a voter be entitled to ask on what principle of justice you should punish him for exercising it in the manner which he thinks most for his own individual advantage?"—[Ibid.]It is a remarkable fact that the Government have dropped the subject of corrupt practices out of their Ballot Bill; and that I hold to be an admission of the truth of the words I have just quoted as spoken by the late Lord Palmerston. I am not surprised that the hon. Member for Brighton—I am not surprised that the right hon. Gentleman below me has an uneasy feeling about the omission from the Ballot Bill of any proposal for staying corruption, because it has been avowed that the effect of departing from the present system of open voting will change the whole character of the suffrage, and will hereafter treat the vote of the elector as a right—that is, as a property and not as a trust. Lord Palmerston continued—But you attach a penalty to the man who employs that right of voting in a way at variance, as you deem, with the public interest, for bribery or any other such consideration. I say, then, that a vote is a trust, and I maintain that every political trust ought to be exercised subject to the responsibility of public opinion. The whole political framework of civilized nations rests on the principle of trust. The interests of the community are in various degrees, more or less important, committed to a selected few who are charged with duties, in regard to particular things, on behalf of the people at large; and their action in fulfilling that trust ought to be subject to responsibility towards those on whose account they exercise it. But I contend that the Ballot as proposed is intended to withdraw the voter from that responsibility, which the public exercise of the trust confided to him would impose, and in that respect I think it would be a political evil. We have been told about the system in other countries—in America, for instance. But in America, as everybody knows, ballot voting is not secret. It is ticket voting. A man votes for a great number of officers at a time, and he sticks his ticket in his hat, and is proud of the party and the cause he espouses; he does not think of concealing the members, judges, governor, or other officers appointed by public election in the United States for whom he gives his voice. The Ballot, then, I hold, is founded on a mistake in principle, and is at variance with the fundamental assumption on which all our political institutions are based."—[Ibid.]Now, Sir, I wish to re-call the attention of the House and of the country to that opinion of Lord Palmerston, and to show 1175 them that we are now entering upon a fundamental change in our electoral system which must inevitably entail other changes, and that those other changes must be in the direction of a great lowering of the suffrage. I stated, when this Bill was introduced, that it was idle to expect me to defend the system of county franchises under which only £12 occupiers and 40s. freeholders vote, if they are to give their votes in secret. Why, Sir, the great bulk of the population resides in the counties beyond the boroughs; and how am I to justify a system, which having been opened on the understanding that each voter votes as a trustee, subject to public responsibility, is suddenly and fundamentally changed in this respect, that the voter is no longer to act as a trustee, but is to be a proprietor disposing of his vote as if it were his own personal property. For that is what it comes to. How am I to justify the restriction of the county franchise to the £12 householders of the county, who, to the bulk of the population, when they look at any of the boroughs, see that every householder is entitled to that which will become under the Ballot a property instead of a trust?—when they see that, in Cricklade for example, and several agricultural boroughs, thousands of householders vote, and are possessed of that which will become a property in their vote, whilst they, the county householders, from no natural or intellectual disqualification attaching to them, are to be treated as serfs and represented by those who, as electors, will render no account to them for the manner in which they discharge their duty. That is a position which I, as a county Member, will not attempt to maintain in the face of my constituents. Make this fundamental change, and you will be unable to stop there; you must, as the hon. Member for Berkshire (Mr. Walter) told you honestly the other day, proceed to establish household suffrage, at least, in the counties. In the opinion of Lord Palmerston, moreover, you cannot stop even there. I asked, then, whether the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) did not seem to be that household suffrage would be enough? No; and Lord Palmerston gave me the same reason that he afterwards gave in the House; that will not be enough, because you have enfranchised whole classes, who 1176 vote in respect of other qualifications. No, he told me; I see no stopping place which, on principle, is defensible in justice or in argument; if once you adopt the Ballot, I believe that, ere long, you will reach manhood suffrage. I ask this House, then, and I ask the country to consider carefully and gravely the extent of the consequences which are certain to flow from the adoption of this measure. Sir, it is the misfortune of political assemblies such as this that, having once committed themselves, they cannot easily retract; and I believe that another change which must ensue will be the shortening of the duration of Parliament. When elected by manhood suffrage, we shall be in the position of delegates rather than of representatives, and it will be essential that Parliament should be more frequently dissolved in order that our instructions may be renewed. Hon. Members opposite have treated this as a party question, and have committed themselves to it; and I know that in many cases they repent of the votes that they have given hastily in the first instance, and would now willingly withdraw. I found that if I divided the House on the Motion that you do leave the Chair, I should have been doing the work of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Shaftesbury (Mr. Glyn); that I should have been strengthening his hands in exercising a coercion upon Members of the House—a coercion such as you pretend you will defeat out-of-doors by the measure you propose. It is a fact that in America coercion goes to such an extent—coercion and corruption, under the Ballot—that at this moment the Legislature of New York is engaged in devising means for adopting the principle of proportionate representation in order to relieve the electors of the State of New York from the coercion under which they notoriously suffer—a coercion and a corruption which has astonished the world. Sir, I say that it is lamentable to see the Legislature of England adopting the cast-off clothes of the Americans; taking up this old nostrum of the Ballot alone, without attempting to adapt the franchise to the Ballot, without even contemplating the means of proportionate voting, and those other measures which the Legislature of New York has found to be absolutely necessary for the purpose of saving its credit both in a moral and in a financial sense. Why, if ever 1177 there was a party infatuation, it is evinced by the urgency with which this measure is forced upon us. I will not deny that there are sincere advocates of the Ballot. There are, for instance, Gentlemen of very Democratic opinions who are in its favour. Republicanism has found a voice in the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles Dilke). Ultramontanism, as is well known, is represented here by the Irish Members; and there is lurking in this House another disposition, not much evinced perhaps, but nevertheless showing itself in the promotion of every measure for centralizing administration, a desire to assimilate the Government of England to the principles of the Government of France under the Empire which has been just broken up. That Empire was a despotism founded on a Democratic basis. The Ultramontanes are sure to promote an approximation to that system, because the experience of the world has shown that it is that under which they are most sure of acquiring the greatest influence over the Government. They work upon ignorance wherever they find it. They propagate superstition which gives them a handle over ignorance; and here is the Legislature of England, having only two Sessions ago proclaimed that there was a deficiency of education among the masses of the people, and expressed the anxiety it feels at the qualified reduction of the franchise under the Act of 1867, on account of the ignorance of the people; here, I say, is the Legislature of England thrusting on a measure which must end in bringing down the suffrage to a still lower grade, down to the very mass of ignorance, an ignorance you will not allow yourselves time to elevate before arming it with a secret franchise. Is this, I ask, common sense? An American gentleman has said of the present Government that they have abundant talent but no practicality, and from the correspondence which I have had with America, I believe that they look on the step which England is now taking, by the adoption of the Ballot, as a step condemned by their own experience, and a proof of dotage on the part of the mother country.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
I rise to Order. I wish to know, Sir, whether on the Motion before the House, that the Corrupt Practices Bill be referred to 1178 the same Committee, the hon. Member for North Warwickshire is in Order in making these remarks.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
I thank you, Sir, for that decision. I certainly thought that the present Motion was exactly fitted to the topic of my speech, which is, the effects to be anticipated from the Ballot—the adoption of the Ballot. I have not yet reached the other branch of my subject. It is my belief that your Corrupt Practices Bill will be as futile as your Ballot Bill will be pregnant with evil, and that you ought to wait for the experience of America as to the provision of some means that are compatible with the Ballot, by which you may grapple with corruption. While an officer of the Government was speaking on it the other night, I mean the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Dowse), he said that bribery will always exist. Yes, certainly, under the Ballot, and he fathered this measure as an Irish measure. Sir, it is an Irish Bill. You have no case for it in England; you have no case for it in Scotland. But in Ireland, owing to the misconduct of elections, there is cause for some great change. No wonder that the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland fathered the Bill as an Irish measure. It is another instance in which the free and orderly people of England and of Scotland are to be dragged down from their present enjoyment of free institutions, which are adapted to their character, and for the enjoyment of which they are qualified by their conduct, in order to be subjected to institutions fitted only for the miseries of Ireland, which we have never yet been able effectually to eradicate. I say that the Prime Minister spoke truly when he said that he lamented what he conceived to be the necessity for this measure, and that it was a lamentable alternative. I contend that there is no necessity for this measure, except it be the necessity of party? I say that out-of-doors there is no active demand for this measure. I say that, in the constituency which I represent, including Birmingham, the idea of this secret system of election is very much disliked; and that the Liberals themselves are beginning to see that the 1179 introduction of this secret system will be the certain forerunner of other Democratic changes. Then we have Her Majesty's Government ready at all times to cast an imputation at the head of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) for the Democratic character of the Reform Act of 1867, and which they declare created the necessity for the Ballot, which is simply untrue. They ought to have learnt from their late Leader that the adoption of the Ballot is in reality an infinitely more Democratic measure than the Reform Bill passed at the instance of the late Government. What consistency is there in such conduct? What respect for the institutions of this country? I remember Earl Russell, then Lord John Russell, once saying that he did not deny that with manhood suffrage, as a consequence of the Ballot, a firm Government might be established here or elsewhere; but then, he added, remember it will be less adapted to the institutions, to the state of society, and to the distribution of property in this country than in the new colonies, whose example you invite us to follow; remember that it will be pregnant with changes here for which there is not scope in the colonies; remember that its revolutionary character in this old country will be ten-fold that which it has been in the colonies. Well, who can deny that? Yet you tender to us but a single example for the adoption of secret voting, and that single example found in one of the youngest colonies of the Empire. I have said that this is an Irish measure. I repeat that it is an Irish measure; and that the necessity for it, or rather I would say the excuse for it, is only to be found in Ireland. I say that the propagation of this measure is a device of the Ultramontane priesthood there, and this I do not say upon my own authority. That priesthood is struggling with the people of Ireland at this moment. It is a well-known fact that the people are attracted by the cause of "Home Rule." The Roman Catholic priesthood and hierarchy have set up as an opposition cry that of "Denominational Education;" and now I will give the House the opinion of a well-informed Irishman as to how matters stand. Mr. Fitzgibbon, who is a Master in Chancery in Ireland, has lately written a pamphlet on the subject of Roman Catholic Priests and 1180 the National Schools. It is a very able pamphlet, and in it he touches upon the subjects which are now occupying the mind of Ireland. He says—Three objects now float on the agitated surface of the Irish political sea—denominational schools, Home Rule, and vote by Ballot.He then describes the rivalry between Denominational Education as the ecclesiastical nostrum, and Home Rule as expressing a mistaken admiration for freedom on the part of the laity. He says—The priests are navigating the school question, unaided by the laity; the laity conduct Home Rule unaided by the priests; and vote by Ballot is allowed by both these parties to drift on to its destined port upon the current of Ministerial influence and power. The leader of the priests—that is, Cardinal Cullen—is not a desperado, but a cool, far-seeing, and hitherto successful ecclesiastic of the mediaeval type. His policy is to bide his time, to concentrate his own forces on vulnerable points, and to crush his opponents in detail. While he and his subordinates have cautiously abstained from giving help or countenance to the Home Rule sedition, they have equally refrained from every expression, which may hereafter bring upon them the reproach of inconsistency, when (the school question being happily settled) the Home Rule pear will be ripe. In the meantime they look upon the Ballot as an accomplished fact, and although they regard it as a powerful arm or the battles yet to come, some of them, whether ignorantly or craftily, express apprehension of the effects of that measure on the influence which they have, and which they prize, over the minds of the voters. There is no foundation for their ears, if any such fears exist. The Ballot will enable every voter to support whatever candidate he pleases; and, adopting that 'most successful principle' of keeping his secret from brother and from son, so clearly explained by the Rev. J. Ryan, he may amuse his landlord, or his creditor, or his friend, with promises before the election, and with significant assurances after it, and thus escape the resentment of all, except the priest. The priest he cannot escape—if he commits the mortal sin of voting against the right man, he knows that at confession that sin 'will be dragged out of him,' as the sin was dragged out of the bad child when on trial for heaven or for hell, and will not be forgiven. The Ballot, therefore, is a desideratum for the priests. If, with the proper use of the Ballot, after the schools shall have been conceded, the Irish contingent on the field of party strife can be substantially augmented, then will be the time to aid the agitators of that question, and get home the Parliament to the island of saints.Now this description, written by a Protestant, by a man of education, by a learned lawyer of experience, tallies so closely with a description of Cardinal Cullen and his policy, which has been written by Mr. L. Whittle, a barrister, who has written upon the subject of 1181 education in Ireland, under the title Freedom of Education, What it means, that I have no hesitation in classing among the real promoters of this measure those who look to the extension of Ultramontane power as the chief object of their desires. Hence we see that the Ultramontanists are generally favourable to the passing of this measure. Thanking the House for having permitted me thus to express my unabated dislike and apprehension of this measure, founded upon my conviction of the political consequences which must flow from its adoption, and believing that its adoption will be found to be a re-opening, not a settlement, of the agitation with reference to the system of this country, I shall vote with the hon. Baronet(Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) for combining the Corrupt Practices Bill with this Bill; because, like the hon. Member for Brighton, I feel no confidence that, when the party opposite have triumphed as to the Ballot, we may be left in the lurch to seek for those means of correction, futile as I fear those now proposed will prove, against that corruption which has grown up under the Ballot as it now exists in the City of New York.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, he thought that the speeches they had just heard contained matter for grave consideration by the House and the country, because the danger and inexpediency of the Government in pressing forward this secret voting question could not be overstated. He understood, however, the right hon. Gentleman who had charge of the Bill to assent in substance to the suggestion to refer both Bills to the same Committee; but he wished to inquire in what sense and to what extent they were to understand the assent as being given. The right hon. Gentleman said that if the House were so disposed both Bills would be proceeded with in the same Committee without first reporting the Ballot Bill to the Speaker; but he understood him also to say that the House would reserve to itself the power to refuse to proceed with the second Bill. Now, "the House" was an abstraction, and he wanted to know whether the Government would undertake that the House should not be moved by the Government to take the step of proceeding with the third reading of the first Bill before the second should have passed through Committee. In 1182 assenting to the form of the Motion, would the Government bind themselves to assent also to its spirit, and to carry out what was intended, so that the House should not get rid of the Ballot Bill before they had finally digested into proper shape the provisions of the second Bill, many of which were necessitated by the provisions of the Ballot Bill itself? He was astonished to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that the second Bill did not relate to the subject of the first Bill. Could the right hon. Gentleman say that the Ballot Bill, which would give increased facilities for personation, was not closely connected with the clauses in the second Bill to punish personation? There was a vital connection between these two things, as the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett) had so clearly explained.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he would, with the permission of the House, answer the question, though he thought that he had already made a clear statement. He did not think that they could draw a distinction between the form and the spirit of the hon. Gentleman's Motion. Her Majesty's Government accepted the Motion according to its meaning by the Rules of the House—namely, that it put them in this position, that, without the necessity of having to move the Speaker out of the Chair again, they could, if the House wished, proceed in Committee with the clauses of the Corrupt Practices Bill after disposing of the clauses of the Ballot Bill; but it would be in the power of the House to report the Ballot Bill when they had proceeded through the Ballot clauses. Her Majesty's Government would not give any such undertaking as the noble Lord had asked for. They did not wish to hold themselves bound to either course. Their present opinion was that it would conduce more to the conduct of business in the House to report the Ballot Bill before carrying the Corrupt Practices Bill through Committee. The noble Lord, however was mistaken if he supposed the Government did not wish to press the latter Bill also through the House.
§ MR. G. BENTINCK
said, he was quite unable to catch the meaning of the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, and therefore he must leave it to others to elicit some further information as to the course which he meant 1183 to take with regard to the two Bills. It appeared to him that the whole of the proceedings with respect to the Ballot Bill had been most unusal, and on the night of the second reading of so exceptional, he might almost say of so ludicrous a character, that he could not but ask leave to advert to one or two subjects which were discussed in the early part of that evening, for as the debate collapsed in the most remarkable manner, no Member in any part of the House had any opportunity of commenting on what had occurred. He had listened with great edification, great amusement, and great interest to the very able speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland (Mr. Dowse). That right hon. and learned Gentleman told the House that the Ballot must be passed because it was the will of the great Liberal party that it should be passed. Well, that was a somewhat dictatorial tone to take, and naturally suggested the inquiry how this great Liberal party—this dictatorial party—was composed; what were the bonds of union which existed between its parts; and how far did it represent the opinion of the people of this country? The great Liberal party appeared to him to be composed of the most discordant elements, and if any proof of that assertion were wanting it was to be found in the speech of the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. V. Harcourt), who, with his usual energy and ability, had clearly shown that the great Liberal party was anything but united. The right hon. and learned Gentleman went on to say that this party governed the country. That might be true. He, for one, thought it a great misfortune that it should be so; but though this great Liberal party governed the country, he ventured to assert that it did not represent it. The great Liberal party was returned to this House by a minority of the people of this country; it was returned by the urban constituencies, who represented he would not say a small, but a decided minority. On what ground then, was the House to be told that they must pass this measure, because the great Liberal party insisted on it? The right hon. and learned Gentleman, speaking of the probable fate of the Bill in "another place," expressed a hope that it might receive greater courtesy there than it met with last year. 1184 Now, with all due submission to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, who was a great master of language, of law, and he doubted not of the Rules of this House, such language was hardly befitting a Gentleman in his position. It was not a question of courtesy or discourtesy. The Bill was rejected in "another place" in the exercise of a constitutional right, which this House had no right to gainsay. That right was exercised most judiciously on a former occasion, and he trusted that the same judicious mode of dealing with the Bill would be practised again. The right hon. and learned Gentleman touched upon a subject which he had better have left alone. He went out of his way to assert the utter absurdity of consistency of opinion in that House. He said that a man who could not change his opinion had no opinion worth changing. Now, what was the substance of that argument? It was this—that all political consistency, all political honour was a farce, and that every public man was entitled, at any moment he pleased, to change his opinions for any reason that might occur to his mind without any prejudice to him whatever. That was very lax doctrine of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and it came from him at a very unfortunate moment. The House had no reason to believe that many of its Members were sincere in the vote they were about to give on this question, for there was, on the one hand, this fact—that the great majority of those who would vote in favour of the Ballot had voted against it consistently for 20 or 30 years, and the House was now told that it was bound to trust in the sincerity of this conversion. He would only make this remark, which would apply equally to both sides, that, somehow, or other, it always happened, when remarkable conversions occurred, they occurred at a time when non-conversion must mean retirement from office. We were told there was great anxiety for the Ballot. That anxiety was not shown in the counties, it was confined to the boroughs. ["No!"] Well, there were exceptions to all rules; but he would venture to suggest to the hon. Member behind him that the county which he had in his mind was of an exceptional character. The great cry for the Ballot—if there was such a cry—proceeded from the boroughs, and what 1185 did they want it for? They wanted it, in plain language—for there was no use in mincing the matter—that they might be able to sell their votes with impunity. They wanted the vote to have a money value, and they wanted to get the money value for the vote. There was this difficulty that would arise under a system of Ballot. In the great majority of the counties the Ballot would be rejected with scorn; the people hated the very idea of it. Their pride was to make their opinions as notorious as possible; and therefore he wanted to know how the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council proposed to deal with a constituency which to a man repudiated any connection with the system of the Ballot? Was it to be penal for a man to disclose how he had voted? Was it to be penal if the whole constituency to a man came to the poll with their colours in their hats? He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would tell them how he proposed to deal with such a case as that, which would be of frequent occurrence. He was in favour of both Bills being referred to the same Committee, not because such a course would be effectual in preventing bribery, but because the plain, simple truth would be shown—if the question was honestly dealt with, that no talent, no combination, no Bill that could be devised by the combined sagacity of the House of Commons could ever prevent unlimited bribery under the Ballot. If it was not known how a man had voted, it was simply impossible to bring bribery home to him. The House of Commons might legislate—they might bring in any number of Corrupt Practices Bills, but as long as they could not lay their finger on the man, and say—you voted in such a way, it would be hopeless to try to bring bribery home to him. Hon. Members opposite spoke of the Ballot as being a democratic measure; but, for his own part, he believed it would do much to stifle the free expression of opinion in the case of the great mass of the people. The smaller boroughs would in many cases be sold, like a pair of boots in a shop, while sections of the larger boroughs would be also bought. Under the Bill there would be no power of investigating such transactions, and consequently the independent will of the people of this country in the majority of instances would be placed in the power 1186 of the man who had the largest purse. That was the view of the question which he would recommend to the consideration of hon. Members who believed—and, no doubt, honestly believed—that under the Ballot there would be greater freedom for the expression of political opinion. But, be that as it might, if the Prime Minister persisted in passing a Ballot Bill through the House without dealing with bribery, he would be binding the great Liberal party to the admission that they were perfectly indifferent to the amount of corruption which there might be at elections.
§ MR. F. S. POWELL
said, he differed from many of the hon. Members with whom he usually acted upon this question, inasmuch as he was a strong advocate for such a change in the law as that proposed. He wished, however, to extract a pledge from the right hon. Gentleman who had charge of this Bill that before its third reading, he would endeavour to advance the Corrupt Practices Bill to a corresponding stage. He did not make that suggestion from a feeling in his mind that there was anything in the nature of secret voting which tended to promote corruption. But he made the suggestion from a recollection of what had occurred on a former occasion, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) was the Leader of the House on the Treasury Bench. At that time a Reform Bill was pending, having been proposed by the Conservative party. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire was then challenged to propose a measure to remedy or prevent corrupt practices, and accepted the challenge, although there was nothing in the Conservative Reform Bill which could be supposed to tend even in the slightest degree to increase corruption. On the contrary, whilst it extended the suffrage, it was well calculated to put an end to practices that were a disgrace to the country. He (Mr. Powell), however, thought it most desirable, when they were re-constructing their electoral system, that the two proposals before the House should be taken as a whole. He doubted whether his hon. Friend below him (Mr. G. Bentinck) had had much experience in borough elections, because he (Mr. Powell) was fully convinced that there was no such feeling in the minds 1187 of the voters generally as that of anxiety to sell their votes. On the contrary, he believed that they wished to exercise the franchise freely, according to their conscience and without intimidation. When, moreover, it was asserted that the counties would reject the Ballot with scorn, he must, from his recent experience in the northern division of the West Riding of Yorkshire, he allowed to say that while many Conservative voters accepted it with considerable reluctance, the preponderance of opinion was in favour of the change proposed by the Government. Allusions had been made to the vile practices connected with the elections in America. But he would remind the House that in many of the States of that great Confederation, although the vote was given by Ballot, nevertheless it was given in an open manner. He had had an opportunity of seeing the progress of the elections when in San Francisco a short time ago. He saw tickets given to the voters, and voting papers given into the hands of the returning officer, and by him placed in a box, which was either wholly glass, or glass with a wooden framework. ["Hear!"] He would respond to that ironical cheer by mentioning that in the State to which he was referring a large amount of corruption prevailed, and a writer in The Overland Monthly, a review of great ability, stated that there was no remedy for the bribery in California, except that of making the voting secret in reality as well as in name. He had had opportunities of conversing with many Americans on this subject, and they all concurred in saying that the bribery which undoubtedly prevailed at their elections did not take place at the poll, but at the preliminary meetings, at which the candidates were chosen, and at which the votes were not given by Ballot, but openly. The subject must, therefore, undergo further investigation before it could be proved that there was any connection, direct or indirect, between secret voting and American bribery. As a spectator from outside of the debates of last year, he must add that, in his opinion, one of the defects of the whole proceeding of the Government with respect to their Ballot Bill was, that they did not appear to be sufficiently alive to the risks and disadvantages to which secret voting was in some respects liable. There was a risk 1188 of failure of duty, of negligence, or of something worse, on the part of the Returning Officer. As the Bill passed through the House he hoped that care would be shown to insure that votes should be duly taken and reckoned at the right season, and that no other votes except those which were rightly taken should be counted in.
said, as that was the first time he had had the honour of addressing the House, he hoped he might claim their kind indulgence. He was surprised to hear the hon. Member for West Norfolk (Mr. G. Bentinck) complain of his inability to understand the reply of the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council to the Question put to him by the noble Lord (Lord John Manners). That reply appeared to him (Viscount Newry) to be very distinct, and was to the effect that the Government, having the power in their hands, would exercise it whenever the opportunity arose. That power, which rested solely on the large majority they had, they could exercise to the fullest extent when the entire measure of the Ballot or any one of its details was under discussion in that House. He took the right hon. Gentleman's reply to mean that after the Ballot Bill had reached the stage at which all its details had been thoroughly discussed, the Government would, if they thought fit, move that it be reported to Mr. Speaker without waiting for its twin brother, the Corrupt Practices Bill. Now, such a course as that would entirely defeat the object of the hon. Baronet (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), who moved to refer the two measures to the same Committee. They were so much akin that they had been likened to that lusus naturœ the Siamese Twins—a comparison certainly not very flattering; and yet it was impossible to keep them distinct. If the one measure was reported to Mr. Speaker and ultimately became law without the other, which was its necessary complement, being considered pari passû with it, he thought the House would not have been treated fairly, and that the evils which they sought to remove would rather be intensified. He was excessively interested in every one of the details of the Secret Voting Bill. He did not wish it to be supposed for a moment that he had become a convert to the faith professed by those who advocated secret 1189 voting, although he revolted as much as every Englishman must do at any man being forced to exercise his franchise against the dictates of his own conscience. But if that measure was to become law, the sooner both sides joined in discussing its provisions and in amending them wherever it was found needful, the sooner it would be sent to "another place," and the more time they would have for discussing other measures which had been in abeyance for a considerable time, and the postponement of which had given rise to more complaints from their constituents than anything else. The interest taken by hon. Gentlemen in a very important debate occurring in "another place" and on a different subject, on the very night fixed for the second reading of the Ballot Bill in this House, would not fully explain why, in the Session of 1872, there were only 164 hon. Members present at the division on that occasion. He did not share the opinion expressed by some Gentlemen that secret voting was the demand of the nation. He did not agree that it was so popular a cry. It was, on the contrary, the demand of the majority of that House, and he ventured to add of the majority of that House only. It was for them, therefore, to look those facts in the face, not, as the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett) had said, to mince matters, but to look the worst—if they regarded it as the worst, straight in the face. Gentlemen on his (the Opposition) side of the House saw and counted the number of advocates of secret voting arrayed on the opposite benches. They confessed that they were absolutely in the power of that overwhelming majority, and he thought the time had come when they ought not to procrastinate and put off the discussion of the details of that Bill, but, as it was inevitable, to assist in improving it and send it forward at the proper time. But he trusted that the Government would take their endeavours to assist it in a proper spirit, and would not reward them by dividing those two measures, and advancing the one without the other—a course in direct opposition to the wish expressed by so many of them that evening. In conclusion, he begged sincerely to thank the House for the kind indulgence it had extended to him.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
said, he was glad to hear the excellent advice 1190 just given in the able speech of the noble Lord, that they should not delay their getting into Committee, and proceeding, if possible, with that Bill. He (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) believed that the large majority of the electors were in favour of the Bill which was intended to prevent the venal minority of voters from selling their votes. But he rose chiefly on account of the remarks of the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett). He was sorry to have heard that hon. Member say that the Government were not thoroughly honest with regard to the question of the Ballot, and that if they passed the Ballot Bill they would throw over the Corrupt Practices Bill. He (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) did not think that there was anything in their conduct to warrant such an imputation. He, however, confessed he was no great admirer of any Government. He feared the General Election as much as the hon. Member for Brighton, because there never was a time, as far as he knew, when there was so much money in the country, or so many men anxious to get into that House. He therefore feared that at the next General Election they would see worse scenes of demoralization, corruption, and drunkenness than were witnessed at any previous one, if it were conducted under the old system and on the old lines. He did not defend all the past conduct of the Government on that question, but he thought they were doing what was right now; and the hon. Member for Brighton should remember there was nothing so ill-advised as to abuse repentant sinners. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War had stated yesterday that it would have been impossible to deal with Army organization until purchase had been got rid of; and in the same way, it was impossible to attempt political reform until open voting had been got rid of. He honestly objected, however, to deputations calling upon the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Forster) to overload the Bill with numerous reforms which, however desirable they might be in themselves, might well be deferred until secret voting had been secured. His (Sir Wilfrid Lawson's) advice was to pass one measure at a time. They had a good Bill in the present measure. Let them adhere to it and pass it, and then all other reforms would follow. He repudiated altogether the notion that the 1191 Ballot Bill was a party measure. Indeed, Conservative speakers continually foretold that it would benefit their party, but he should support it even though he believed that it would fill the House with hon. Members holding the opinions of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate). With regard to the immediate question before the House, he should have thought it settled after what the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council had said, because there could be but little disadvantage in sending the two Bills before the same Committee. All that he desired was, that the Government should push on the measure for secret voting as quickly as possible, and were they to do so, he could promise them the support of many Gentlemen on that side of the House below the gangway in settling this long controversy of 40 years' standing on the grounds of freedom, justice, and good government.
§ MR. CAWLEY
said, he wished to point out that if the Motion of the hon. Baronet (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) was agreed to in the sense in which it was understood by the Government, it would not prevent the first Bill from being reported, as soon as its clauses were disposed of, but would simply preclude any discussion on going into Committee on the second Bill. Now, one Bill ought not to be advanced without the other, for the second contained provisions as to the validity of votes on which the very result of the election might depend, and he proposed to raise the question hereafter whether these matters should be raised on petition, or at an earlier stage. The first Bill was really one for the protection of the dishonest man who personated another, and for the disfranchisement of the voter personated. Moreover, the remark of the hon. Baronet (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) that the Ballot was but the beginning of reform, betrayed a feeling that it was applicable only to manhood suffrage, and that no machinery could be devised to prevent personation with a limited suffrage. It has been assumed, especially from the observations last year of the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Tipping), that the boroughs were in favour of the Ballot, but this was certainly not the case with his own borough (Salford), a large working-class constituency, for he had twice challenged the electors in pub- 1192 lic meeting assembled to evince such a feeling, but without result. It was true that there were persons who would like protection from undue influence on the part of employers and trade unions; but they were sensible that the Ballot would not effect that, and that it would introduce greater evils than those it professed to cure.
§ MR. W. FOWLER
said, it was absolutely necessary that the Government should introduce clauses into the Corrupt Practices Bill that would prevent corrupt practices at municipal elections. It would otherwise be a very imperfect measure, for at Beverley and in other cases it had been shown that the weapons of corruption at Parliamentary elections were forged at municipal elections. Unless the whole question was dealt with in one Bill the country would be disappointed.
§ MR. HUNT
said, he would appeal to the Government to accede to the wish of many hon. Members that the two Bills should leave the Committee simultaneously, it being admitted that the first would be very imperfect unless accompanied in the same Session by the second. If they thought this course inconvenient, they might at least agree that the one Bill should not be read a third time till the other was out of Committee. In default of such a concession, asked for in good faith and with a desire to make legislation as perfect as possible, he should advise the hon. Baronet (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) to move that the two Bills be consolidated into one, and to take the sense of the House upon the proposal.
§ MR. CORRANCE
said, he had much pleasure in supporting the proposal that the two Bills should be sent to the same Committee, with this mental reservation, that both might go into Committee and never come out again. It would be well for the House to inquire how far the measure deserved to go into Committee. After suffering a damaging criticism last Session, how was it reproduced in this? Although the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Forster) had had the whole of the Recess for collecting information with regard to the reception of the Bill, he again brought it forward without stating any new facts affecting the question. He need not have gone far for these new facts, for they cropped up on every hand, not only in this coun- 1193 try but in America, to which repeated reference had been made in the course of debate on this measure. Surely after what occurred last year it behoved the right hon. Gentleman to obtain fuller information on the working of the Ballot system. An American newspaper had recently given a very bad account of the working of that system in New York, and The Westminster Review, which was by no means supposed to write in a sense hostile to popular opinions, said there was too much reason to fear that there was no political morality in the colony of Victoria, and that on the part of politicians there was a vulgar scramble for place and pensions. The House would recollect the argument advanced, last Session, by one of the spokesmen on the front benches. The Attorney General for Ireland, warning the House against first principles, contended that the Ballot was not un-English. In the mouth of an Irish Attorney General no doubt that was an irresistible argument. The Attorney General for Ireland did not seem to understand what was meant by English and un-English. The Representatives of England had the courage of their opinions before their constituents, and had always dared to do their duty. That was what he (Mr. Corrance) meant by English. When Mr. Laing, on that side of the House, raised the question of the county representation on the consideration of the second Reform Bill, the First Lord of the Treasury observed, in reply, that he was not going to grudge the gift the hon. Gentleman offered to the counties, and that one of his reasons for so agreeing to the proposal was that a larger representation ought to be given to the counties. Accepting the principle laid down by the Prime Minister, it was clear that hon. Gentleman on that side of the House had no inconsiderable claim. Provided they accepted the basis of numbers, they might furnish a strong argument in favour of the counties by the following statistics:—According to the Census of 1871 the number of the population was—in boroughs, 10,655,930; and in counties, 12,048,178. The number of inhabited houses, with heads of families; in boroughs, 1,812,685; in counties, 2,446,347. The rateable value, taken in the gross, in 1865—boroughs, £39,218,717; counties, £59,695,501. The assessed taxes paid in 1856—boroughs, £803,986; counties, 1194 £1,062,564. In 1869, the voters in boroughs, 1,203,170; in counties, 791,916. These figures furnished a conclusive argument, so far as the claims of the counties were concerned. When Mr. Laing brought forward his Motion, it was objected that the county population was an ignorant, uneducated population, and not fit to be trusted with electoral privileges. Since that time, however, the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council had introduced an Education Bill, whose main provision was not so much for the educational deficiencies of counties as for those of boroughs. That argument also was disposed of. The conclusion at which he arrived was, that the existing provisions of this Ballot Bill were utterly unsatisfactory, and were calculated to lead to dishonourable compromises. He concurred in the opinion expressed on that side of the House that the measure could not be considered as a final one; but that it must be succeeded by another Bill for the redistribution, not only of the franchise, but also of representation. The general effect of the present Bill would be to throw the representation into the hands of organizations of a dangerous description, who might by that means increase the anarchy of Ireland.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH
said, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Vice President of the Council would adhere to the determination he had announced to the House. It was desirable, oven if there were no Ballot Bill before them, that there should be a measure to amend the evils existing under the present system of voting; but he held that this Bill provided for a class of evils altogether separate from those arising from corrupt practices. It would protect honest, but dependent voters, while the Corrupt Practices Bill dealt with men who were dishonest and corrupt. Having been connected with six Parliamentary elections in five years, he was justified in saying that if the Bill passed, the House would receive the thanks of the constituents. The feeling in its favour was universal, and the House would receive the thanks of the nation. The newly-elected Member for the North-west Riding (Mr. F. S. Powell) would have had no chance of being returned, if he had not declared himself to be an adherent of the Ballot. ["No!"] Well, it secured for him an immense amount of popular support. 1195 Personally, he would be glad to support the Government throughout the passing of this Bill.
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
said, our present system of conducting Parliamentary elections was far from satisfactory. He was convinced that the Bill, pure and simple, being intended only to secure a good system of taking the votes, would not go to the root of the existing evil; on the contrary, it would intensify the mischief which already existed. The one great defect in our present electoral system might be summed up in one word, "corrupt." If the object was to get rid of corruption, he did not see how corruption could be cured by changing the existing system in such a way that the persons corrupted could not be traced, and the agency by which the corruption was carried out was rendered nebulous and uncertain. The good was doubtful, the evils were palpable, involving a change from openness to underhandedness and dodging. The second Bill of the Government, as far as it laid the are to the root of corruption, met the entire support of Members on his side of the House, who asked that the Government should show equal regard for that Bill. Parliamentary reform in its true sense should be done thoroughly and at once, all the various schemes for preventing corruption being taken together. The Government said they were willing to refer both Bills to the same Committee; but the Ballot Bill was to be reported first. When, then, would the House have the Corrupt Practices Bill from the Committee before the House? Why did the Government press on the one contentious portion of the scheme, instead of going continuously into the other, in which they would find a general support? The Government talked of reporting the Ballot Bill first, before proceeding with the Corrupt Practices Bill; but they had not told the House what they intended to do with regard to the third reading of the Ballot Bill. Did the Government, he asked, promise to go on de die in diem with the two Bills? He demanded a short reply to his question, for nothing but that would carry out the suggestion of the hon. Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach). Accept that proposition and the House would support the Government in all their attempts at the reform of the machinery of Parliamentary elections. 1196 He trusted that the hon. Member for Gloucestershire would take the advice of his right hon. Friend the Member for North Northamptonshire (Mr. Hunt), and move that the two Bills be consolidated.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
said, the Corrupt Practices Bill was one of no inconsiderable importance, although he must confess that almost everything which one would naturally expect to find in such a Bill was absent in the proposal of the Government, who had admitted that the question had been by no means settled by the Act of 1868, for the Prime Minister had last Session agreed on his (Mr. Lowther's) Motion to the appointment of a Committee to consider the subject. The facility with which petitions were presented for the purpose of obtaining the costs, with a view to their ultimate withdrawal, showed that much yet required to be done beyond what had been effected by the legislation of four years ago. Indeed, nothing in his opinion tended so much to prevent the class of men whom the constituencies throughout the country would desire to represent them from coming forward as the presentation of what he must term fraudulent and vexatious petitions. The Corrupt Practices Bill of the Government, however, instead of dealing with that part of the question, was almost entirely confined, with the exception of the 5th clause, which related to public-houses, to the imposition of penalties for that form of corruption which might be supposed to follow the adoption of the Ballot. That showed that it did not profess to be in every way a comprehensive or satisfactory amendment of the existing law. He hoped, under these circumstances, his hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) would not be satisfied with a compromise which was merely an attempt to evade the just expectations of the House. He, for one, unless he was distinctly assured that the Ballot Bill would not be reported until the Corrupt Practices Bill bad passed through Committee, would undertake to move that it be an Instruction to the Committee that they should have power to consolidate both into one measure.
§ MR. ALDERMAN LUSK
protested against the assumption of some hon. Gentlemen, that everything connected with municipal corporations was corrupt. 1197 He most emphatically denied that there was anything like corruption in London, at all events. He had asked his hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren), and had been told that he never heard of such a thing; and he had also asked the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz), and was told that he also had never heard of such a thing in Birmingham. It must not be assumed that every corporation was corrupt. There were, however, some persons who thought all but themselves were great sinners; but he never heard a man speak of others in that way without his having his doubts as to whether such man was himself sound. He saw no necessity, then, for mixing up corruption with the Ballot. They had nothing to do with one another, and our fellow-countrymen who possessed the franchise had a right to exercise it in the way most conducive to their own comfort without molestation, which could only be done by the adoption of the Ballot.
, in the words of Mr. Burke, said, before he agreed that every man should be allowed to do as he pleased, as had just been suggested, he should like first to know what every man was pleased to do. With regard to the Bill, he thought it was treating it in a very narrow way to consider it as merely affecting the interest of a particular party. He looked at it from the broad point of view of its general effect, and, in coming to an adverse opinion, he had been much influenced by the arguments used on the subject in 1853 by the late Liberal Lord Advocate of Scotland (Mr. Moncreiff) who had then said, with regard to the machinery—That, however able and fair the administrators of the Ballot might be, no one would ever feel that he had been fairly dealt with; every person would suspect his neighbour; and that it would be impossible to convert a knave into an honest man by making it impossible to distinguish between an honest man and a knave."—[See 3 Hansard, cxxviii. 215.]That speech he would recommend to the attention of the Members of the House.
Sir, I think it very desirable that we should have some fruit from the lengthened debate which has taken place on the Motion of the hon. Baronet the Member for Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), and after hearing the various suggestions which have been thrown out, I 1198 am desirous to state the basis on which we may consent to meet the views of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and in what respects it is impossible to do so. The hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. B. Hope) charges us with accepting the letter of the Motion and breaking faith with its spirit. How we can be expected to keep faith with the spirit of a Motion which we did not invent, and with which we have nothing to do, I do not know. I object to hon. Gentlemen importing into a Motion something which they did not mean. If the hon. Member wished the two Bills consolidated, it was open to him to say so in his Motion. There is nothing in the forms of the House to prevent it, and I think that nothing could be more ingenuous than the conduct of my right hon. Friend (Mr. W. E. Forster) when he said he did not think the Motion objectionable in itself, but that he could not consent to the union of the two Bills. There is in this House a large majority in favour of secret voting, and a considerable minority unfavourable, and those who are unfavourable contend that to pass the Secret Voting Bill would open floodgates through which there would come a fresh deluge of corrupt practices. They are, therefore, perfectly consistent in saying, before you inflict on us that deluge, give us a perfect army of securities against corrupt practices. But, however desirous we may be to consult the wishes of the minority, we must consider the wishes of the majority, who do not admit the proposition that the Ballot, pure and simple, taken by itself, is likely to increase corrupt practices; but contend, on the contrary, that it is likely not perhaps to extinguish, but, at least, to diminish them. It is, therefore, too much to ask them to consent to delay the passage of the Ballot, for the purpose of going over the whole matter contained in the Corrupt Practices Bill, and not only to consider that measure in all its details, but the details of all the Acts referred to in the 6th clause, the whole of the electioneering practices, and corruption of every kind. One objection to that proceeding is, that it will tend to delay measures in respect to which hon. Gentlemen opposite are extremely anxious, such as the Mines Regulation Bill and the Scotch Education Bill, which would undergo most vexatious delays if we imported all the 1199 topics which can he brought under discussion beneath the shadow of the Corrupt Practices Bill. I am prepared to admit, in order to meet the views of hon. Gentlemen opposite, that if they can show that there is any portion of the Corrupt Practices Bill which stands in direct relation to the Ballot Bill, there would he a fair case for asking that it should he disposed of simultaneously. If they are not satisfied—and they do not appear to be—with the distinct obligations under which we lie to pass the Corrupt Practices Bill during the present Session, let us look at it and see what part is more directly related to the present Bill; and I am prepared to admit that the 2nd clause, which relates to personation, and the 3rd, which directs the vote to be struck off for bribery, treating, and undue influence, is in direct relation with the Ballot Bill; and we now make this offer—which we think is a fair one, that if it will satisfy hon. Gentlemen we are willing to import those two clauses into the Ballot Bill; but we cannot consent to import into it all the questions relating to the legislation on corrupt practices. If that offer is accepted we shall be very glad; if not, we have no course but that of submitting to the judgment of the House.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, when he first listened to the right hon. Gentleman he was not quite satisfied, because the right hon. Gentleman's argument seemed to be—"there was no connection between the Ballot Bill and the Corrupt Practices Bill, except the general connection resulting from the fact that they both treated of Parliamentary elections; and if they entered into an engagement to pass both Bills, the whole time of the Session would be taken up, to the detriment of the other important measures." It appeared to him (Mr. Disraeli) that, if anything, that was an argument against bringing forward the Ballot Bill. He did not think there was any demand from the country for that measure; and at the close of last Session he had shown by reference to documents that only one-quarter of the Members of that House were pledged to the Ballot. As the right hon. Gentleman proceeded with his remarks the only inference he could gather from them was, that there was no chance of the Corrupt Practices Bill passing this Session. Indeed, that 1200 must be the practical result if the other important measures, to some of which the right hon. Gentleman had referred, were to be considered, as all would allow that they must be. It was admitted that personation—one of the greatest evils connected with elections—would be aggravated by the Ballot, because under secret voting it might be practised with little chance of detection; and yet, after all, the only remedies proposed for personation were contained in the Corrupt Practices Bill. At the same time, he thought the offer just made by the right hon. Gentleman was a fair one, which should be considered in a candid spirit, and if matters could be arranged in that way, and the House was in that humour, they might have the opportunity of proceeding with both Bills at the same time. In any case the House ought to be allowed to legislate on the subject of personation simultaneously with the Ballot, and, under all the circumstances, he hoped his hon. Friend (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) would accept the offer of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government. His hon. Friend's interposition that evening, as on all former occasions, had been of an essentially practical nature, and had rendered good service to the House, and he thought both sides might agree with perfect honour and satisfaction to the conditions suggested by the right hon. Gentleman opposite.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK
said, that in moving the Instruction which stood in his name, he was aware he had undertaken a task of much difficulty, especially because a Motion in similar terms, which he had placed upon the Paper last Session, had been treated almost with ridicule by the Prime Minister, and by newspapers writing in his interests. He (Mr. Bentinck) did not press the question last Session, because he desired not to impede the progress of the Ballot Bill, to which he had never raised any undue obstruction. But the proposal contained in his (Mr. Bentinck's) Motion was even more necessary now than last year, because the Prime Minister had been driven to attempt to re-establish his waning power by several acts of an arbitrary nature. He had seized the power of the Crown; he had defied and ignored the other House of 1201 Parliament; and he had introduced and partially carried in that House reforms which threatened to extinguish the rights of independent Members. It had been lately said by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the House of Commons had nothing to fear in these days either from the action of the Crown or other external force; but he (Mr. Bentinck) maintained that a power had sprung up far more dangerous to the liberties of the House of Commons than the despotism of the Crown was, and he would define that power by a phrase borrowed from the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett) and would call it "Political Exigency." Political exigency had so ruined the party which sat on the side of the House which he occupied, that it was more than doubful whether they could accept office even if offered to them. Nor were the occupants of the opposite benches in better plight, for owing to the action of "political exigency," they had now, according to his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Vernon Harcourt) to "mourn over the broken fortunes of a shattered and disheartened party." He had not better proof of his case than the conduct of this very Ballot measure. How did it come to be a Government question? In 1868 the Prime Minister, through the length and breadth of his Lancashire speeches—and the right hon. Gentleman was never concise—on no one occasion referred to it, and it was not until 1869 that his noble Friend the Secretary for Ireland (the Marquess of Hartington) was put forward as a feeler, or, rather buffer, to ascertain whether it would do for the Government to commit themselves in the matter. He must contrast their conduct with his experience in the House—how, year after year, the late Mr. Berkeley formerly brought this subject forward. Then the Prime Minister and his Colleagues would not hear of the Ballot, and he (Mr. Bentinck), if he had the descriptive powers, should wish to paint the dismay of many who now sat on the opposite benches when on one occasion, by some inadvertance on the part of the Government officials, which doubtless the right hon. Gentleman in the Chair would recollect, Mr. Berkeley's Motion was carried. Doubtless the right hon. Gentleman would also recollect how he (Mr. Bentinck) and many others had been implored to seek their Friends, 1202 to remain in their places, and even to talk against time, to prevent the calamity of the success of the Ballot. But now, under the baneful influence of "political exigency" the Government had submitted to change their policy, and adopt the cry for secret voting. What remedy was there to meet the evil results of political exigency? Perhaps the Chancellor of the Excheequer would suggest, as the proper course, to leave everything to the guidance of the excellent Government with which he thought the country was blessed, and urged that if they left them alone and ceased to vex them with either Motions or Questions, every political and administrative want would be supplied. But he (Mr. Bentinck) did not think the country at large would agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But he (Mr. Bentinck) had also his remedy to propose—namely, the proposition contained in his Motion. He supported his proposition upon two main grounds—first, upon "constitutional principle," and secondly upon "public policy." The House was naturally not fond of quotations from legal text writers, but upon the first point he must ask leave to cite four or five lines of one of the greatest authorities on the subject, the late Sir William Blackstone. Sir William Blackstone lays down the principle in the following words:—In so large a State as ours it is very wisely contrived that the people should do that by their representatives, which it is impracticable to perform in person.… And every Member, though chosen by one particular district, when elected and returned, serves for the whole realm. For the end of his coming thither is not particular but general; not barely to advantage his constituents, but the common wealth (as appears from the writ of summons), and therefore he is not bound like a deputy of the United Provinces to consult with or to take the advice of his constituents on any particular point, unless he himself thinks it proper or prudent to do so."—[Blackstone, I. 2.]The doctrine thus laid down by Blackstone is in entire accordance with the Rules and practice of this House. The exclusion of Strangers, and that the debates were not to be reported, was to ensure that their votes and deliberations should not be influenced by any external pressure. The constitutional principle was, in fact, that the constituents were to elect the best men they could find to sit in the Great Council of the Nation, lot to represent individual opinions, but to advise the Crown for the general good, and hence safeguards were provided to 1203 secure an independent action. As regards his argument founded upon public policy, he maintained that the system of Parliamentary pledges was entirely opposed to public policy. These pledges, which were almost unknown before 1832, came into fashion with the Reform Bill of that date; and had converted candidates into speculators in public opinion, and representatives of the Commons into mere delegates of sections of the constituencies. These results were opposed to reason, common sense, and expediency. For Judges and juries, or directors of public companies, to have made up their minds on important questions before hearing the arguments would be deemed monstrous. But was it less absurd for Members of Parliament to come pledged up to the neck on matters which were to be solemnly argued before them? Or what, under such circumstances, was the use of debate, or of the liberty of speech, which the Speaker, on the meeting of every New Parliament, craved from the Crown? In his (Mr. Bentinck's) opinion, men who accepted pledges contrary to their true sentiments were guilty of corruption in its worst form, and deserving of far heavier punishment than the poor freeman who sold his vote for 5s., or the potwalloper who gave his support for a glass of beer. Moreover, these pledges were especially injurious to the working class. Working men, above all others, required honest representatives; or they were liable to have the representation seized by a small energetic section amongst them, or trades unions, and thus defeat the object of Parliamentary institutions. The working men, as a body, therefore, would be benefited by having Members who would exercise an unfettered vote. Attention had lately been called to "Speaker's lists." These, perhaps, might never be heard of again, but a practice, equally noxious, was the pressure brought to bear of late years on Members who showed any independence. Meetings were got up in their boroughs, at which the Members were denounced, and warned that unless they submitted to the iron will of the Treasury Bench, they would have no chance of re-election. There had, perhaps, been a partial re-action against this dictation, but his proposal was the only effectual remedy for it. With regard to precedents, the secret vote was almost 1204 universal in foreign Legislatures. He bad recently seen it practised in the Italian Chamber. There existed a power to vote secretly in the Legislative Body of the last French Empire, and the secret vote was absolute in the constitutional Government of France from 1840 to 1845, when it was abolished on the Motion of M. Duvergier de Hauranne, made at the instigation of M. Guizot, who made it on the ground that it interfered with his power of control over the Deputies. He (Mr. Bentinck) made special reference to the policy of M. Guizot on this question, because it tended to illustrate and explain a passage in English history to which he was now about to refer. Vote by Ballot was once actually proposed in the House of Commons. By the Journal, volume iv., page 690, it appeared that on the 10th of October, 1646, the question was propounded whether it should be referred to the Committee lately named to consider of a ballotting-box, and the use of it, and to present their opinions to the House, and the Question being put whether this Question shall be now put—that is, the Previous Question being proposed—the House was divided. The Noes went forth, in numbers 54, and the Yeas 55; Lieutenant General Cromwell and Sir Arthur Hasilrigge being tellers for the Noes, and Sir Philip Stapleton and Sir William Lewis being tellers for the Yeas. The Question being then put whether the reference concerning the ballot-box and the use of it should be made to the Committee, the Yeas were 54, and the Noes 56, Sir Philip Stapleton and Sir William Lewis being again tellers for the Yeas, and Lieutenant General Cromwell and Sir Arthur Hasilrigge being tellers for the Noes, so that the Question passed in the negative. It might appear to hon. Members opposite that the fact of Lieutenant General Cromwell, who was then the Leader of the so-called Liberal party, having voted against Ballot in the House of Commons was a reason why they should do the like; but he (Mr. Bentinck) desired to point out that Lieutenant General Cromwell's conduct ought to have the contrary effect upon them, because at that moment Cromwell was intent upon seizing the supreme power, in the exercise of which he, literally speaking, "out-Heroded Herod." He, therefore, anticipating M. Guizot, and actuated by 1205 similar motives, was jealous of the existence of an independent Assembly. Personally, he (Mr. Bentinck) objected to the Ballot, not on political, but on moral grounds. He did not care one straw for its political effect. He had some reason for confidently stating that opinion, because the Ballot had been in operation ever since 1708 in the municipal elections of the constituency he had the honour to represent; and so far as politics were concerned, the system made no perceptible difference. Having gone through the several arguments which had occurred to him, he was prepared to maintain that sooner or later the time would come when the electors of the country would see the necessity of giving a free vote to their Members, so as to avoid the catastrophe shadowed forth by Mr. Edmund Burke, at Bristol, in 1780, whose eloquent words he was sure the House would listen to with pleasure—When the popular Member is narrowed in his ideas, and rendered timid in his proceedings, the service of the Crown will be the sole nursery of statesmen. If the people should fall into the humour of making their servants insignificant, and should choose them on the principles of mere obsequiousness and flexibility, and total vacancy or indifference of opinion in all public matters, then no part of the State will be sound; and it will be in vain to think of saving it.The hon. Gentleman then moved 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 that Votes in Divisions in the House of Commons be taken by Ballot."—(Mr. Cavendish Bentinck.)
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER (amid cries of "Divide")
said, he was not surprised after the political jeu d'esprit in which the hon. Member for White haven indulged that the House should be impatient for a division. He trusted that the hon. Gentleman was not serious in his proposition. [Mr. CAVENDISH BENTINCK: I am.] Well, then, he hoped he would not expect him (Mr. Forster) to reply to him in the same jocose manner. The fact was, they were engaged in a matter of too serious a character to allow their attention to be drawn away from it by a consideration of those subjects with which the hon. Gentleman sought to amuse the House.
§ MR. G. BENTINCK
said, he was not prepared to submit in silence to the 1206 speech they had just heard from the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman had told the House that his hon. Friend and Relative had brought forward this matter in a jocose strain. Well, all the more credit to his hon. Friend; but as to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, the House could not derive either amusement or instruction from it. The right hon. Gentleman told the House that a serious question was involved. Was the House of Commons afraid, or not, to hear the truth? It came to this—that the right hon. Gentleman was afraid to deal with this question. He (Mr. Bentinck) was an old Member of the House, and a still older member of society, and he would vouch for this fact—and he thought it was time for the House to consider whether they were doing credit to themselves by blinking the question—that more corruption, more bribery, and more intimidation were practised within the walls of that House than in all the constituencies in England put together. If the House, on considering a Bill for the taking of votes of the constituencies by Ballot, was afraid to go into the question whether its own corrupt state did not require the same precaution—[Cries of "Oh," and "Chair!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
decided that the hon. Gentleman ought to withdraw what he had just said as to the corruption of the House.
§ MR. G. BENTINCK
said, if he had used an expression that was unParliamentary he begged to withdraw it; but he begged to repeat that there had been habitually practised within the walls of every other House of Commons except the present, as much bribery and corruption as had been practised by all the constituencies put together. He only regretted the House had not the courage to discuss the proposition which his hon. Friend had brought before it.
§ Question put, and negatived.