§ MR. MELDON
, in rising to move—That the restricted nature of the Borough Franchise of Ireland as compared with that existing in England and Scotland is a subject deserving the best attention of Parliament, with a view of establishing a fair and just equality of the Franchise in the three countries,said; Sir, there is nothing new in the ground over which I shall have to travel. It will be my duty to draw your attention to the very wide difference which exists in the law regulating the franchise in Ireland and the enactments in reference to it in force in England and Scotland; but in doing this I merely lay before you arguments which have already been brought before this House repeatedly. I propose to point out, as shortly as I can, what are the differences which do exist, and I shall leave it to our opponents to show, if they are able, any good reason for the existing condition of things. Under the Reform Act of 1850 every occupier who was rated to the extent of £8, and who had paid all rates due to a certain date, was entitled to the franchise, so that to obtain the right to vote an occupier should be not only rated, but should have paid his rates. There were provisions in that Act enabling occupiers who were not rated to enter a claim; but this could only be done by paying or tendering any rates due at the time of making claim. This provision was most prohibitive, because it threw the onus on the occupier not alone of satisfying the ordinary conditions, but of paying all current as well as past rates due. In all Dublin no occupier was rated who paid his rent by the week or by the month, and the result of these restrictive provisions was to prevent a very large number of persons entitled to the franchise from obtaining it. Such great difficulty was thus thrown in the way of claimants for rating that the franchise was restricted to an extent that might be looked on as incredible. Now, these restrictive provisions were 704 also in force in England, and it was not until the Reform Act of 1867 that anything like reasonable facility was afforded to persons who were not rated to obtain the franchise. Household suffrage was given by that Act in England; but it was so much fettered by restrictive provisions, that the ostensible object of the Act was very imperfectly carried out. Personal rating and the payment of rates were required, and one of the sections contained a provision that the occupier should be rated, under a penalty; but there was also a provision that if the occupier refused to pay the rate then the owner should be rated, thus in that case depriving the occupier of his franchise. When we remember the large number of persons who do not pay their rate, but who pay a bulk rent, it will be seen that these provisions restricted to a very considerable degree the household franchise supposed to have been granted by the Act. However, the occupiers would, in the first instance at all events, be put on the rate books, and they had the additional advantage that the overseers were compelled to serve notice of non-payment of the rates if not paid before the 1st of June, adding an intimation that if payment was not made before the 6th of June the occupier would lose his franchise. The suffrage thus given was truly niggardly and stingy. It imposed the payment of taxes on the poor; it deprived the landlord of a right he previously possessed of compounding for the payment of rates, and threw difficulties in the way of persons obtaining the franchise who were really entitled to it. A stingy measure of justice as was the Act of 1867 for England, the reform Act of 1867 for Ireland was much less liberal. Household suffrage was not granted to Ireland, but the franchise was reduced to those who were rated over £4. Previous to the passing of this Act, in many of the boroughs of Ireland the owner was rated in all premises valued under £8; the consequence was that at the passing of the reform Act of 1868, in all cases where the rating was under £8 the occupier was not rated, and in the vast majority of cases it was necessary to obtain a chance of rating before the occupier was entitled to the franchise. I have pointed out that under the Act of 1867 the rating of the occupier became compulsory in England, and notice of non-payment of rates and 705 its consequences was obliged to be served on the occupier. Those provisions, however, were not extended to Ireland by the Act of 1868, and all the prohibitive clauses of the Reform Act of 1850 were allowed to stand. Indeed, where rates are in arrear the occupiers are virtually prohibited from being rated, inasmuch as before their claims can be entertained all rates must be paid up or offered. In the City of Dublin an occupier, no matter what may be the value of his house, is excluded from the franchise if he pays his rent weekly or monthly. If an occupier happens to make a separate letting of his premises he is disqualified, and where the rates are paid by the landlord for any reason whatever an occupier cannot obtain the franchise without paying the rates in arrear. I would like to ask why the provisions of the Act of 1867 were not extended to Ireland? Why was it that when facilities were granted to English occupiers to obtain household suffrage, the occupier of a tenement rated at more than £4 in Ireland should have these restrictive provisions imposed on him? The real fact seems to be that in 1868 there was really no time to consider the case of Ireland. The Reform Act for Ireland was carried at a very late period of the Session—at a time when little thought was given by English statesmen to beneficial legislation for that country. The Conservative Government had become aware that for Party purposes the Reform Act of 1867, with all its restrictive provisions, was a great mistake, and they were determined that bad as it was it should not be extended to Ireland. A dissolution was also impending, and Irish Members did not seem inclined to make any effort to secure for the Irish people the enjoyment of political rights. I find that on the main question raised in the debate, as to whether the rating should be £4 or over, but two Irish Members spoke—namely, Mr., now Judge Lawson, and the late Mr. Vance, and the only speakers besides were Lord Mayo and Mr. Chichester Fortescue. Moreover, there was then no Irish Party, and Irish questions were not brought so prominently before the House as now. The only reason put forward on that occasion for not lowering the franchise to a £4 rating was that if this were done there would be some difficulty in collecting the rates. Now, after the election of a new Parlia- 706 ment the result of the Reform Act of 1867 was very unsatisfactory. The large number of owners who paid their rates and were responsible therefore lessened to a very considerable extent the number of occupiers who were rated. The personal payment of rates interfered very seriously with obtaining the franchise, and in general the rating laws have rendered the Act of 1867 much less beneficial than was expected in its operations. The Liberal Party very soon became aware of the injurious effect of the rating laws with respect to the extension of the franchise, and accordingly in the next Session of Parliament after the passing of the Irish Reform Act a Bill was introduced which substantially abrogated all rating laws interfering with the franchise. But, unfortunately, the attention of the House of Commons was not at that time directed to the case of Ireland. By the 32 or 33 Vict. s. 9, c. 47, it was provided that the owner might enter into an agreement to pay the poor rate, &c. A premium for so doing was offered to him of 25 per cent. It was provided that the premium should be forfeited unless payment took place before the day fixed, to qualify the occupier to obtain the franchise, and that the payment of such reduced rate should be held to be payment in full by the occupier, who was empowered, if the owner failed to pay the rates in time, to pay them himself, and deduct the amount from the rent. The owner of premises was bound under a penalty to furnish to the overseer from time to time lists of all the occupiers under him, and the overseer was under a penalty bound to place the name of every occupier on the rate book, and no omission so to do, either by accident or design, could, so far as the franchise was concerned, interfere with the rights of the occupier. The notice directed by the Act of 1867 was ordered to be served, not on the owner or the taxpayer, but on the occupier. Now, this Act was calculated to confer the franchise on every person entitled, and, in fact, its provisions were calculated to force the franchise on persons without necessitating a single act of their own. A premium was held out to the owner to pay the rates. Both the owner and the tax-gatherer were compelled to see that the occupier's name appeared on the rate book, and nothing but wilful omission on the part of the occupier could 707 prevent the franchise being conferred on him. In Ireland, however, a person entitled to the franchise must hold premises of a certain ratable value. He must be personally rated, and in many instances, no matter what the rating of the premises or the rent, he cannot be entitled to the franchise simply because by arrangement with the landlord the rent is weekly or monthly. If any omission to place a person's name on the rate book occurs by accident or design, no claim to be rated could be entertained unless large taxes in arrears are paid. In point of fact, in England every facility is given to obtain the franchise. In Ireland every possible impediment seems to be thrown in the way of obtaining political rights. It would appear that in Ireland the franchise is used to a great extent as a means of aiding in the collection of the poor rates; whereas in England all rating laws which, by any possibility, could interfere with the franchise have been abrogated. In order to show how the present state of the law excludes the great mass of the people from the enjoyment of the franchise in Ireland, I shall quote a few figures taken from Returns presented to this House, and they will prove that the state of England with respect to the borough franchise was the same before the Reform Act of 1867. From a Return obtained by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Limerick (Mr. Butt) last Session, it appears that in 1866, 56 boroughs in England had less than 500 rated occupiers on their Parliamentary rolls; there were nine with less than 300 occupiers, and in one instance—that of Calne—there were but 144. There were 45 boroughs with less than 500 electors on the rolls, and altogether there were but 500,000 electors on the Parliamentary registers of boroughs in England. The state of England, therefore, before the Act of 1867, was very much the same as the present state of Ireland, and all that my Motion asks for is, that the laws which produced the difference between England in 1866 and 1876 should be extended to Ireland. To show the effects of the rating laws in interfering with the obtaining even of the present franchise, I will quote from a Parliamentary Return, No. 45, printed in the Session of 1874—InBelfast, with a population of 174,413, there are 25,708 tenements value for £4, yet we 708 find but 14,990 rated occupiers on the Parliamentary register; in Carlow, with a population of 7,842 and 635 tenements rated for £4, there are but 31, rated occupiers; in Cork, with a population of 100,518, and 7,190 tenements rated at £4, there are only 3,737 rated occupiers entitled to the franchise; in Dublin, with a population of 267,717, there are 23,247 tenements rated over £4, and only 11,004 rated occupiers on the registers; of the rated tenements there are 21,008 rated with a dwelling-house. Excluding the disfranchised boroughs of Cashel and Sligo, there are in the others 127,341 rated tenements with dwelling-houses, and only 44,920 rated occupiers on the Parliamentary register, and we find there are 37 borough Members, representing but 51,979 electors. In order to illustrate the great difference which exists between Great Britain and Ireland with respect to the borough franchise, I will call attention to the following statistics taken from the Return I before alluded to. Dublin, with a population of 267,717, gives the franchise only to 8,586 rated occupiers; whereas Leeds, with a population of 7,000 less—namely, 259,212—has upon its Parliamentary register no less than 43,792;Wolverhampton, with a population of 156,978, has 23,247 rated occupiers; Norwich, with a population of 80,386, has 14,663 rated occupiers; and Edinburgh, with 196,979, has 19,951; Belfast, with a population of 174,413, has on its register 14,990 rated occupiers. It is a remarkable circumstance that Belfast, with a much smaller population than Dublin, has 6,400 more electors. That arises from the fact that no one who pays his rent weekly or monthly can be put on the register, and the exceedingly prohibitory nature of the law with respect to the payment of the rates. Bradford, with a population of 145,830, enfranchises 24,288; Greenwich, with 123,408, gives the franchise to 19,703 occupiers; Aberdeen, with only 88,125, has on its register 13,185; Cork, with its population of 100,518, enfranchises but 3,737, whilst Greenock, with only 50,150, gives the franchise to 6,652; Limerick, with 49,853 inhabitants, has only 1,129 rated occupiers, while Gateshead, with 48,627, has 9,190 on its register. It will be seen from these figures what an enormous difference exists between towns in England and Ireland in 709 the state of their Parliamentary registers. Now, there is but one other statistical Return to which I will direct the attention of the House, but it certainly is a most extraordinary one. With a population of upwards of 12,000,000, English counties are represented by only 801,109 electors; whereas the boroughs with a population of more than 10,500,000,are represented by 1,250,019, of whom no less than 1,200,800 are rated occupiers. In Scotland the counties, with a population of 2,106,673, are represented by 12 Members returned by 78,919 electors, while the boroughs, with a population of about 1,200,000, are represented by 26 Members returned by 171,912 electors, of whom 161,750 are rated occupiers. It will thus be seen that in England and Scotland the electors in boroughs far exceed the number of electors in counties. In Ireland, however, this state of affairs is entirely altered. The boroughs in Ireland, with a population of 866,356, are represented by 37 Members returned, by 51,979 electors, of whom 44,920 are rated occupiers; while the counties, with a population of more than 4,500,000, are represented by 64 Members, returned by 175,439 electors. Now, these figures prove beyond doubt that the great mass of the population of Irish boroughs are excluded from the franchise, while the same class are admitted in England and Scotland. I am quite prepared to admit that Ireland may have been overlooked in this matter by reason of want of time and pressure of other business which was considered by some to be of more importance; but the time has now come for a change, and what I ask the House to do is to affirm that the existing state of things must be remedied. The enjoyment of political power by the people is the best and most certain means of securing peace and tranquility. England itself is, I think, one of the greatest examples of the change that can be effected by the political emancipation of the people. The Gordon Riots of 1780 and the Bristol Riots of 1831 would never have occurred if the people were in possession of their legitimate legislative rights. Compare the conduct of the people a few years since, when the great strike in Wales was in operation, with the action of the people during the riots I have referred to; it cannot for a moment be doubted that the feel- 710 ing among the working classes that they had it in their power to vote for the election of those persons who make the laws that bind them, property and person, controlled the evil passions and quelled the excitement of the people at that time. Look at the state of Ireland at the present moment, influenced not even by the possession of the rights to which they are entitled, but merely by a hope that through Parliamentary action these rights will be accorded to them—all attempts at violence and discord have come to an end. Let the Irish people then see that this Parliament is prepared to extend to them equal rights with their Scotch and English brethren—let them see that the professions of English statesmen, that Ireland is governed by equal laws with the rest of the United Kingdom, is no idle boast, and great things will be achieved, and a great step attained towards the permanent peace and tranquility of the nation. All that my Motion asks for is that the franchise in Ireland should be assimilated to that in England, and that the slur at present thrown on the Irish people by excluding from participation in political rights the same classes of her population as in England and Scotland should be removed. Abrogate from the Statute Book the laws with reference to rating which prevent the acquisition of the franchise in Ireland—give the people household suffrage, accompanied by every reasonable means to facilitate the enjoyment of their political rights. The hon. and learned Gentleman concluded by moving his Resolution.
§ MR. BLENNERHASSETT
, in seconding the Motion, said; Any one who has heard my hon. and learned Friend cannot doubt that he has made out a case. He has shown that very serious distinctions exist between those rights and privileges which Irishmen have a right to enjoy. Whenever the question of electoral reform comes up for discussion in this House the most striking cases of anomalies are derived from Irish representation. The hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles Dilke) much as he may sympathize with us, will, I am sure, feel a pang of regret when he can no longer quote his favourite illustrations. I venture to hope that we shall to-night hear that it is the intention of the Government, on an early day, to call the attention of 711 Parliament to the whole subject of electoral power in Ireland. We cannot wonder at the great distinction that exists between England and Ireland on this question when we consider how differently it has been treated. There has been no re-distribution of seats in Ireland since the Union. There has been repeated distributions in England. With the exception of five seats dealt with in the Reform Bill in 1832, and the more recent disfranchisement of Sligo and Cashel, Irish representation is exactly the same now as it was at the commencement of the century. The greatest changes have occurred in the distribution of wealth and population; places which were formerly insignificant have become populous; and many districts which were formerly populous are almost entirely deserted; but there has not been any corresponding re-distribution of electoral power. The result has been to bring the Irish representation to its present anomalous condition; but I venture to hope that an early prospect will be held out of a reform, of a state of things at once unjust, indefensible, and absurd. Ireland returns 103 Members, of these 64 represent counties, 37 boroughs, and the remaining 2 sit for the University of Dublin. Of the 101, exclusive of the Members who sit for the University, there are 59 Who represent 66,000 electors and constituencies with a population of 1,500,000. On the other hand, there are 40 Members who represent 157,000 electors belonging to constituencies with a population of 4,000,000. There are 44,000 electors who return no more Members than 2,000 electors elsewhere, and 16,000 who elect 31 Members, while 121,000 elect 28. We have this extraordinary fact, that 66,000 electors, and constituencies of 1,500,000 possess a greater electoral power than do 157,000 electors, and constituencies of 4,500,000. The Irish county representation taken by it self is in a very anomalous condition. The rough-and-ready principle of the old Irish Parliament, which gave to every county the same number of Members, irrespective of wealth and population, has had some very strange results. Thus Carlow, with a valuation of £155,000, and a corresponding population and 2,000 electors, returns the same number of Members as county Cork, with a valuation of nearly 1,000,000, a popula- 712 tion of 400,000, and 16,000 electors. These, no doubt, are extreme cases; but there are places with a population of 2,000 which return two Members, whilst there are 11 counties with a population under 100,000 which also return two Members. Again, the province of Leinster with a less population has twice as many Members as Munster. With two or three exceptions, there are no great towns and no great amount of urban population in Ireland. It might be thought a strong case would be made out, under those circumstances, for merging the borough seats into the counties; but there are great objections to the adoption of such a course on a large scale. It would at present practically amount to a measure of disfranchisement, and would be entirely opposed to the whole of our modern legislation. While the county franchise remains at £12 and the borough at £4 the transfer of city or county constituencies to boroughs would simply amount to the entire disfranchisement of the present borough electors. The absurdities of the present system are very great. The cities of Dublin and Belfast have a greater population and a higher valuation than any of the other Irish cities and boroughs, yet those two cities only return 4 Members, while the others return 33. There are 19 Irish boroughs which have a population of less than 10,000 each. Several have populations of2,000 and 3,000, while important communities like Kingstown and Lurgan have no representation at all. Why should not the small towns of 2,000 or 3,000 people be disfranchised, and their seats either given to rising and populous communities, or grouped together as in Scotland? All that is asked for is, that the principles and methods that have been tried and proved in England and Scotland should be extended to Ireland. I do not hold that the mere fact of inequalities may be quoted as sufficient for demanding the intervention of Parliament. This is a question of degree; but when the absurdities are so great that they render the whole system ridiculous, and make it absurd for the purpose for which it was intended, then the time has come when it ought to be dealt with. This I believe to be the case in Ireland, and I cannot understand how any one can question the fact that it is so. There is no reason to re- 713 sort to any novel or untried principles. We are simply asking you to extend to Ireland the principles which you have tried in England. There should be a re-distribution of seats for the purpose of adapting the representation to the wealth and population of the country. The absurd system which gives to the greatest Irish counties the same number as the smallest will have to be modified. The principle of the Resolution will have practically to be carried into effect, and the distinction which exists between the borough and county franchise will have to be done away with. I do not think there is anything unwise or unreasonable on our part in asking for this reform. It is inexpedient to maintain any unnecessary distinction between different parts of the United Kingdom. The retention of such distinction cannot fail but to have disastrous effect in Ireland. It is important that the Irish Members should be chosen as freely and justly as possible, so that they may represent in this House the actual sentiments of the Irish people. We are told that there is not a demand for a measure of electoral reform. It may be quite true there is no popular demonstration; but I am quite sure the most sensible and intelligent opinion of Ireland will go with you in any attempt to settle this question. I trust the Government will take it up, and without looking to Party opinion, race, or, religion, that they will so remodel the Irish representation as to make it a just and fitting medium for the exposition of the national will. The question you have to decide is simply this—Are the boroughs of Ireland to have the same rights as are now enjoyed by England and Scotland? and I hope the House will return a wise and generous answer to the Resolution of the hon. and learned Member for Kildare.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the restricted, nature of the Borough Franchise of Ireland as compared with that existing in England and Scotland is a subject deserving the best attention of Parliament, with a view of establishing a fair and just equality of the Franchise in the three Countries."—(Mr. Meldon.)
§ MR. DUNBAR
said, he supported the Motion because the borough franchise was very much restricted in Ireland, as compared with England and Scotland, and this was an inequality and a defect 714 which ought to be remedied. It had been estimated by Dr. Handcock that the valuation in Ireland was 25 per cent lower than in England, and that fact had the effect of keeping a large number of those, who if the valuations were equal would be entitled to the franchise, off the register of voters. But not only was the franchise unduly limited in Ireland, as compared with that of England and Scotland, but it was hampered by restrictions which did not exist in those countries. So many difficulties were thrown in the way that many were deterred from applying to be placed on the register. In England the overseers were obliged to place the ratepayers on the register, but in Ireland the system was different. It was unnecessary for him to have recourse to any sensational argument; but he must say that he could not see any reason why the people of Ireland should not be placed upon an equality with those of England and Scotland in the possession and right of exercise of the electoral franchise. They were as intelligent as those who had been admitted to the privileges in England—they took as much interest in politics and they were not so open to bribery. No instance such as that of Norwich, where out of a constituency of 14,000 no fewer than 8,000 received 3s. or 3s. 6d. per day during the election, could be pointed to in Ireland. Irish constituencies were, as a rule, exceedingly pure, and they looked upon the franchise as a trust to be exercised to the best of their ability. They might be influenced occasionally by drink, but not by money. After what Parliament had done it was hardly necessary to argue as to the advisability of establishing household suffrage. That proposition would, he thought, be supported by both sides of the House. It had been proposed for England and Scotland by the Conservative Party, and was said to have occasioned the Conservative re-action and to have brought the Conservative working man to the front. Whether that were so or not, he did not believe such would be the effect in Ireland; but that was no reason why those who were fully competent to exercise political privileges should be deprived of the means of doing so. No more important subject than that under consideration could engage the attention of Parliament. He confidently asked hon. Members to affirm this Resolution. It 715 did not call for any immediate action; it only declared that there was an inequality which ought to be removed. The question of the re-distribution of seats in equal electoral districts was a difficult question which might well be left over for a Session; but he thought a case was made out for the lowering of the borough franchise in the same measure that it had been lowered in this country. A class of voters would thereby be brought in fully as competent to discharge the duties of voters as any who occupied that position in England. The change would make the people of Ireland more contented, and every town would be more amenable to the law and much more ready to consent to any change proposed by the law, if it was felt that their Parliamentary representation was made more real by the power of bringing the popular wishes to bear upon their Representatives.
§ MR. BRUEN
said, the Resolution of the hon. and learned Member for Kildare intimated that the borough franchise in Ireland was restricted as compared with that of England. The borough franchise in England had been altered, and was now household franchise; but if household franchise were introduced into Ireland, the effect would be, in his opinion, to disfranchise numbers. The franchise in our Constitution had always been looked upon as a trust, rather than as a right, and the effort of the Legislature had been so to frame the qualification that the persons to be admitted to that trust would be fit to exercise it. The qualification which they had heretofore had in this country was perhaps a rough test of those qualities which went to make up a good elector—namely, a property qualification. Taking the boroughs in Ireland, including Carlow, Dundalk, New Boss and Portarlington, with a united population of 69,570, and comparing them the boroughs of equal importance in England, with a united population of 70,000, he found that in the Irish boroughs there was 4,876 houses above the £4 valuation, and there were below that £4 limit 9,702 houses, the occupiers of which would be included in the scheme of household suffrage. There would then be a complete re-distribution of power, if these were admitted to the suffrage, for the constituencies would be nearly double. In the English boroughs, with which he compared these Irish boroughs, 716 the number of houses above the £4 valuation was 6,321, while those below that amount only numbered 8,372. The discrepancy between those below and above £4 was not so marked, although the balance was on the side of the houses below £4. But when they came to inquire into the character of the houses there was a very wide difference between the houses of the boroughs in England and Ireland. There was no house in England under 26s. a year rateable value; but in Ireland there was a considerable number of houses much below that value. In Ireland there were houses valued as low as 5s. There was a large number valued at 10s. a year. If the occupation of a house was to be any test of a man's status in life, or pledge of his wish to rise in the world, it must be seen that persons content to live in such houses as these could not be the same class as those who occupied the houses of English boroughs. He thought it would be found that the class of men who occupied these houses in the country towns of Ireland were in reality agricultural labourers; whereas in England the houses he referred to were occupied by artizans. Of course it was different in the large towns such as Dublin, Belfast, and Cork, where, no doubt, the poorer class of houses were occupied by the working classes. He was not going to to say that the people who inhabited the poor class of houses in the country towns were not honest men; he was not going to say they were more open to bribery or undue influences than the occupants of the lower class of houses in England; but he maintained that they were frequently wanting in education, and were, from other causes, less able to take that calm and dispassionate view of a question which ought to be a qualification for the exercise of the franchise. As to the alleged difficulties of getting on to the register, in consequence of the peculiar nature of the Irish law, the proper time to answer them would be when the Towns Rating Bill was under consideration; but he believed that those who wished to be on the register need experience no obstacle. The apparent discrepancy between the number on the register and those who might be upon it, if it existed at all in Ireland, arose from the indifference of many of the lower classes, who did not care to exercise the franchise. A similar feeling had been 717 found to exist in England, as was shown by the evidence given before the Parliamentary and Municipal Elections Committee by the Returning Officer for Hackney.
§ MR. SPEAKER
reminded the hon. Member that he would not be in Order in quoting proceedings before a Committee which was now sitting.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
said, the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had treated them to one of those arguments which were familiar to them in such debates. His idea was that the value of a house had a great deal to do with the fitness of a man who occupied it to give a vote. He (Sir Joseph M'Kenna) would not deny that they might have some relation to each other; but we must judge of those things relatively, and he said that the people who occupied £4 houses in Ireland were just as intelligent, were as free from crime, and had as good a sense of their position and of the duties of society as the class enfranchised in England under the Reform Bill of the right hon. Gentleman. He wished now to call the attention of the House to the disparity of voting power in respect to population in the two countries. A population of 50,000 in England would give the franchise to 5,000; but in Ireland the number would be only 1,000 or 1,200, who would be entrusted with the franchise. In Ireland corruption and violence had decreased since the franchise had been extended. It appeared to him that representation belonged, as a right, to the whole of society. The case to be proved by the opponents of reform was that the householders in Ireland were not as fit as the 5,000 in England to be enfranchised, and that those members of society to be enfranchised in Ireland did not bear an analogy to the constituents in England. The hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Bruen) had not even insinuated that they were unfit, although he had left the House to imply that they were. He should be sorry if his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Meldon) did not see his way to 718 making his Resolution sufficiently wide to include the municipal franchise; because, to a certain extent, Parliamentary franchise had grown out of the municipal franchise in England; and the same might be said in regard to Ireland. He had heard arguments advanced from hon. Gentlemen opposite, but he was glad to say not from the Treasury Bench, to the effect that property was what ought to be represented in the municipal franchise, and that those people who paid the rates should have the government of towns. The right of the individual man occupying a position in society, and who was known also by occupying a house, was quite as good for the purpose of representation as that man whose rent amounted to £1,000 a-year. The qualities of citizenship were those which ought to be taken into account, and not the fact as to how many taxes he paid. The Governments who had ever listened to the counsels like those that had been advanced by hon. Gentlemen opposite, had always been shipwrecked on their Irish policy. It should be remembered that the Irish franchise, whilst retained within the limits of the English, could not be made too wide; and it should not be forgotten that there were few people who were more free from the taint of corruption than Irish constituents. He hoped the Chief Secretary for Ireland would not identify himself with the opposition to this Bill.
MR. OWEN LEWIS
protested against the insinuation that the mass of the Irish people were unfit to be entrusted with the franchise. Every man who was taxed for local and national purposes was entitled to have a voice in local and national affairs, and he sincerely trusted Ireland would have justice done her in this matter. There was nothing more calculated to destroy the confidence of the Irish people in the Imperial Parliament than to see the measures which they thought necessary for their welfare checked in the passage through that House. He did not make any complaint on the score of discourtesy; but, after they had been invited by the Chief Secretary for Ireland at the beginning of the Session to introduce well-digested measures calculated to remove the grievances of which Irish Members complained, and after this had been done, it was discouraging to find that 719 none of their proposals were passed into law. Whatever might be the nature of the Bill, there was always some good reasons found for its rejection. Why should not Irishmen enjoy the same rights as Englishmen and Scotchmen, and Irishmen located in England? If the Irish Members complained of the excessive taxation to which they were subjected as compared with other parts of the Kingdom, and showed its injustice and inequality, they were told that that was a financial, not a political matter, quite out of their line altogether, and, in fact, that their taxation ought, in strict justice, to be increased. If they asked for assistance for their fisheries, languishing for want of aid, they were told that though the state of things was much to be deprecated, yet Government aid was not exactly what was needed in the case. If they asked to have their waste lands reclaimed and made available for the sustenance of millions, they were told of the insuperable difficulties in the way, and that besides it would not pay at all as a commercial investment. If they asked for better pay for their National School teachers, who were starving on half the stipend of English masters, they were met by a proposal tantamount to the establishment of the school board in Ireland, a system, the very name of which was abhorred, by Catholics and Protestants alike, who desired above all things to have the education of their children based on religion. What he said was—"If you will not redress these grievances for us, give us the power to redress them for ourselves." The Irish people ought either to be admitted to the same advantages as Englishmen and Scotchmen enjoyed, or they should be allowed, in reason and justice, to manage their own affairs. Their country might remain united with England for all Imperial purposes, and yet possess a local Parliament, as Norway and Hungary did, whereby the ties which bound Ireland to England would be strengthened, and the Imperial Legislature relieved from a burden which it was becoming less and less able to bear. Those who looked on Ireland as being as much a part of the United Kingdom as Middlesex and Yorkshire, could not, in fairness or in logic, refuse to that country the same franchises as existed in those English counties. In denying those equal privileges to Irishmen, they 720 practically admitted that they were a separate nation, and, as such, entitled to make their own laws. In some English boroughs—for example, Horsham, Huntingdon, Maldon, and Midhurst—the population was less than it was in Carlow, with which he was connected, and yet the constituency was treble that of the latter borough. In other words, to take a single example; while the population of Midhurst was 6,753, and the number of electors 954, the population of Carlow was 7,842, and the number of electors 307. If an Irishman settled in England he became entitled as a rate-paying householder to a vote in Parliamentary elections, and rightly so, for no man should be called upon to pay taxes to the State unless he had a voice in their expenditure. But why should he have to cross the Channel to enjoy such a natural and constitutional right, and was that man, if he returned to Ireland in his old age, to be disfranchised? The man was the same, his opinions were unaltered, his social status unchanged. Yet if he came to London they made him a voter—if he remained in Dublin they did not. If a native of Carlow settled in Maldon or Huntingdon he had a voice in making the laws by which he was governed, and distributing the taxes to which he contributed. But when he returned to Carlow, he was deprived of the right. To state such a case ought to be sufficient to prove its injustice; and he should waste no words in its condemnation. He appealed to the House and to the Government to accept the Resolution of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kildare to end a state of things which was self-condemned, which was a weakness to the Empire, and an absurd anomaly, and to extend to all the subjects of Her Majesty in these Islands, whether they were Englishmen, Scotchmen, or Irishmen, equal rights, just laws, and a common and equitable franchise.
§ SIR EARDLEY WILMOT
intended to give a cordial support to the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Kildare. He had hoped that when a Conservative Government came into office they would have introduced some measures which might have allayed the feeling of discontent which prevailed in Ireland; but he regretted that the question of Home Rule had been so much introduced, as it might tend to alienate 721 support from those who did not subscribe to that doctrine. It must be admitted that great contrasts were to be found in the state of things which prevailed in Ireland as compared with this country. Liverpool, Manchester, and Birmingham had each a larger number of electors than the whole number of the city electors in Ireland. Leeds, Manchester, and one or two other towns, five in all, had a sufficient number of electors to out-number the whole of the electors in Ireland, borough, county, or University. Ten of the boroughs in Ireland returned 10 Members to Parliament to represent 3,328 electors. Now that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had a great majority at his back, why should not the present opportunity be taken to equalize the electoral rights of the whole of these countries? He regretted that it had been the habit of the Government of this country to approach Ireland with, as it were, a drawn sword, and he thought that the least we could do now was to endeavour to compensate her for the great disadvantages under which she had hitherto lain. Hon. Members upon the other side had been asked to bring forward some practical measures, instead of commenting upon visionary grievances, and now there was a proposal of the kind suggested placed before the House. The electoral statistics set forth by the hon. and learned Member for Kildare were correct. It was time to put the electoral rights of Ireland on the same level as those of England, and to restore to Ireland privileges of which she had been deprived. If the grievances of Ireland were redressed, he believed the idea of Home Rule would, in a short time, pass away altogether. If the Prime Minister would apply himself to the redress of those grievances, he would thereby acquire far greater popularity than the measures which the House had been lately discussing would confer upon him.
§ MR. REDMOND
said, the silence of hon. Members opposite led him to hope that, notwithstanding what had fallen from the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Bruen), no serious opposition was intended to the Resolution. The hon. Member for Carlow, in opposing the Resolution, said the people of the towns of Ireland whom the Resolution would affect were, from being of a very excitable nature, not so well qualified to 722 exercise the franchise as the people of similar classes in this country. He (Mr. Redmond) was not altogether surprised at hearing statements of the sort, because he had been accustomed to hear statements disparaging of his countrymen from hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House. The hon. Member also intimated that there was a great degree of indifference among the people of Ireland on the subject of the franchise; but he (Mr. Redmond) hoped the House would, agree with him when he said great interest was felt in the decision upon the Resolution, and by none more than those who desired that the House should meet the grievances of Ireland with the wise promptitude and ready spirit which added so much to the value and effect of a concession. The Resolution, if passed, would give great satisfaction, and it would be considered an earnest that the House was really prepared to consider and redress such grievances as were proved to exist. It was high time that some such proof should be given. There had been many protestations lately that there was every desire to deal fairly towards Ireland; but those protestations had been followed by a persistent refusal to assent to measures which Irish Members had brought before the House at the request of their constituents. Those measures had not always been rejected by large majorities; and those Representatives of large sections of the people of England and Scotland who had supported Irish measures deserved the gratitude of Ireland. A large measure of political power was lately given to people in the boroughs of England, and instead of repenting of the course then adopted, the question of the day in England was how soon another step in the same direction—namely, the extension of household suffrage in the counties—should be taken. The Reform Bill of 1867, supplemented by the Rating Bills of 1868 and 1869, enormously increased the constituency. It doubled, and in some cases almost trebled the constituencies of the towns; but in Ireland the measure of reform slightly, and in some cases almost imperceptibly, increased the constituencies of the towns. In England, 13 out of every 100 of the town population possessed the elective franchise; in Ireland less than 6. In Ireland they had a population of the boroughs amounting to 723 about 900,000, who possessed in the aggregate only 48,000 votes, and returned 37 Members to the House. In England, leaving the large towns out of consideration, there were at least 60 boroughs, the population of which was at and under 10,000, who, possessing a smaller population, had an infinitely larger aggregate number of electors, and who returned 60 Members to the House. Hon. Members who opposed the Resolution had to justify this state of things—a state which could not and did not exist without exciting great dissatisfaction. The classes thus excluded from the privileges enjoyed by their fellows of the same class in England were aware of the fact and saw its injustice, and they had as great a desire as any other body to have and exercise the political franchise. If they opposed the Resolution they refused the gratification of that wholesome and laudable wish, and said—"We will perpetuate the injustice and inequality, "which, as long as it existed, would only be borne with impatience and with a renewed sense of injustice. What were the considerations which the hon. Member for Carlow had brought forward? They were told that the circumstances of the country were dissimilar from those of England; that Ireland was very poor; and if they extended the Parliamentary franchise below the £4 rating they would bring in such a number of poor voters as to swamp the representatives of property. He thought the old theories about the necessity of guarding against the swamping of property by a great number of poor voters had been exploded long ago. Experience had proved that those theories were groundless. They had legislated for England in a directly opposite direction, and the present House of Commons was elected to a great extent by the artizans of the country. He was surprised to hear arguments of the ante-Reform period brought up again. The hon. Member said the houses were so bad in the Irish boroughs, and were not comparable to the comfortable houses in England. He (Mr. Redmond) did not know that the comfort of a man's house ought to be a test of his fitness to give a vote. Could the hon. Gentleman say that the people who resided in these poor houses were inferior in intelligence, in morality, in law-abiding qualities, in every civic virtue, to a similar class in England? He (Mr. Redmond) did not 724 believe they were. It could not be denied that that class in Ireland were as intelligently alive to public matters, and as capable of taking their part in affairs, as any civilized community in the world. But they had, at present, a £4 rating that did not exclude the working classes altogether, and anybody who had canvassed in Ireland knew how unfairly that rating acted. The occupant of one house in a particular street would be found in possession of a vote, while his neighbour occupying a house equally good, and apparently a man in the same position of life, was deprived of the franchise. If they extended the franchise to every householder they would not get an inferior class of voters to those who now held under the £4 franchise. When they gave a man a vote the influence exercised upon his mind was a Conservative influence. He must feel a greater interest in the preservation of the institutions in which they allowed him to take a share. If the Resolution was opposed on the lines indicated by the hon. Member for Carlow, then he (Mr. Redmond) feared the opposition was guided on Party considerations. It was feared by some that if they extended the franchise in Ireland, they would thereby add to the Liberal and popular element in the constituency; and Conservative Members thought themselves bound by Party ties to oppose anything of the sort. He hoped the House would not base its decision on any such considerations. He believed the House would consider what was the best thing for the representation of the people of Ireland, and what was the best means to give satisfaction to the just claims of the people of that country. To satisfy the people of Ireland was not a matter of mean importance. He thought it was well worth the ambition of any Minister or statesman to gain, if he could, the confidence of the people of Ireland. He believed if that House granted the just demands of the Irish people the confidence of the people would not be withheld from it, and the result would be of great advantage to the Empire. He hoped the House would not, by rejecting this Motion, strengthen the impression which existed to a considerable extent in Ireland, that it was in vain to come to the House of Commons, or appeal to the Government, for the redress of any grievance, no matter how plainly it might be demonstrated.
§ MR. D. DAVIES
said, he should vote for the Motion, unless he heard some better arguments against it than had yet been addressed to the House. An objection was made to the Irish Members bringing forward the question of Home Rule; but they ought not to give them any reason for doing so. It was complained that the Irish were Fenians; but he was not sure if he were treated as they were that he would not be a Fenian himself. Therefore, when the Irish brought a fair case before the House, it ought to be fairly considered. They were now asking Parliament to do for them what had already been done for England. They had now had experience of the Reform Act for eight years, and he thought there was as much common sense in the House of Commons as there was before that Act was passed. The Irish, who had not the same franchise, naturally thought they were unfairly treated, and would continue to be Fenians as long as the injustice remained unredressed. He wished to hear from Her Majesty's Government what view they took of this Resolution, which, in his opinion, was a step in the right direction, because he was well aware that, without the assistance of the Government, it must necessarily be defeated.
MR. O'CONNOR POWER
said, Her Majesty's Ministers had been challenged twice to make what reply they could to the Motion so eloquently moved by the hon. and learned Member for Kildare. If it were true—and in Ireland they believed it was—that silence gave consent, he could join the hon. Member for Wexford (Mr. Redmond) in congratulating the hon. and learned Member for Kildare on the unparalleled success that had attended his Motion that evening. The hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Bruen) had spoken of the Irish householders as poor men and devoid of enterprize. If that were the true character of the Irish householder, the legislation with which the hon. Member was connected had done more than anything else to kill the spirit of enterprize, to repress a sound public opinion, and to stifle the intelligence of Ireland in every department in which that intelligence had attempted to exercise itself. He believed that any hon. Gentlemen who opposed a measure of this kind were opposing the march of civilization. They were working against time, because he believed 726 the best index to the progress of true civilization was when men developed a capacity for self-government. With the progress of education in England and Scotland, they had been made to feel the necessity of enlarging popular powers. The moral power of right seemed to advance in exact proportion to political intelligence and the education of the people, and hence it was that as they were moving along with the events of time, they found that it was impossible to hold any large section of their countrymen in a state of relative slavery. He said relative slavery, because the condition in which the Irish householder was placed as being governed without his consent was a condition of slavery. He believed the greatest evils under which Ireland had laboured had resulted mainly from the want of confidence in them which had been exhibited by their rulers—a policy which had declared the mass of the Irish people unfit to be entrusted with electoral power—a policy which had done more than any other policy to perpetuate strife for centuries, to place the Irish and the English peoples in opposite camps, to cultivate national hate, and prevent that union between the people of the two countries which every man who felt the impulses of international brotherhood and the influences of a common Christianity was desirous to promote. During the progress of this discussion, he was struck very forcibly with the recollection of some discussions that took place on the question of extending the franchise in the Irish Parliament some 20 years before the close of the last century. A very important Reform party arose in Ireland. It was founded on a perfectly legal and constitutional basis, and it was alive to the existence of corruptions in the public Departments; it was a Party thoroughly acquainted with the Irish national character, and it brought forward a measure in the Irish Parliament through the influence of Mr. Flood and Mr. Grattan, claiming the franchise for large portions of the Irish people. It advocated Catholic Emancipation and the enfranchisement of the Catholics. How was the Party of Reform met in the Irish Parliament? It was met by the Party of rigid Conservatism, and that was a case which illustrated a universal principle that violent revolution always trod closely on the heels of Conservatism. 727 Those who were interested in maintaining the corrupt state of things which failed at that time resisted the demands of the Reform Party. What was the result? Did it advance Conservative principles? No. It forced 600,000 men into the ranks of the United Irish Society, and forced those people to take a vow before high Heaven that they would effect a separation between Ireland and England and establish a Republic. What followed? In the confusion which resulted the Imperial conspirators—as he had recently called them in a speech which he had delivered at Liverpool—came upon the scene, and they had no other remedy to compensate for their bad statesmanship than to strike down the constitutional liberties of the people of Ireland. To a considerable extent the same policy had been pursued ever since, and he protested strongly against its continuance, for the reason that he longed as ardently as any Englishman could long, for the advent of a time at which it should not be possible to draw distinctions between Englishmen, Scotchmen, and Irishmen, but when all should be regarded alike as members of a great nation, possessing perfectly equal rights before the law. He therefore hoped that, with a view of sending a message of brotherhood to Irish people, an overwhelming majority of the House would pass the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Kildare.
§ MR. MULHOLLAND
said, that in listening to the speeches of the supporters of the Motion one would think that no change had been made in the electoral franchise of Ireland since the Reform Bill of 1832. The question had, however, been discussed and settled as recently as 1868, and the settlement was agreed to by both sides of the House with great unanimity. Lord Mayo, who introduced the Bill, said the Government had come to the conclusion that there was no necessity for making it in precise conformity with the English Act, and Mr. Chichester Fortescue agreed with him that there was much to be said in favour of making the £4 rating the limit of the franchise. The effect of the Act had been to increase largely the number of Irish voters. In 1866 the number of electors in the borough of Belfast was 3,600; in 1873 it had increased to 15,000. Thus the Reform Act of 1868 had more than trebled the constituency of Belfast, 728 and he understood that it was now much larger than in 1873. If the argument of hon. Gentlemen opposite were accepted that the franchise was a right to which every man was entitled, nothing could be said against the Motion; but the principle on which legislation had hitherto proceeded was that the franchise was conferred on individuals by the community, and for the benefit of the community. The fact could not be denied, that there were fundamental differences between the condition of Ireland and that of England; for there were in the former country as many as 10,000 persons living in houses under £1 a-year. That fact should not be lost sight of, when a man's education, self-denial, and all those habits which qualified him for good citizenship were taken into account as tests of fitness for the exercise of the franchise. It would take a very small amount of self-denial and perseverance, added to a moderate degree of intelligence, to enable a man to live in a house worth £4 a-year. If the franchise in English boroughs had been limited to £4 householders, and a proposal similar to that of the hon. and learned Member for Kildare had been passed, it would have added a fourth, or almost a fifth, to the number of electors; but in Ireland it would in 30 out of 34 boroughs more than double the present number on the electoral roll. The result of this would be to swamp altogether in many cases the existing electoral power, and to put in its place an altogether unknown and untried body of voters. He was quite prepared to admit that there were grounds for the complaint urged by the hon. Member opposite, that the present system of valuation in Ireland might be regarded as defective. The valuation for rating purposes was 25 per cent lower than that in England. The number of persons living in houses between £4 and £2 was about 23,000; and supposing 25 per cent were added to the valuation, that would be an important extension of the voting power both in boroughs and counties. He thought the propriety of having a re-valuation was well worthy of the attention of the Chief Secretary for Ireland. Changes in the direction proposed were not sought for by the Irish people. There was no subject on which there was more apathy than the downward extension of the franchise, and this was shown by the 729 number of occupiers who allowed themselves to be disfranchised for the non-payment of their rates. There was no evidence of any strong feeling of the subject, and desirous as he was of supporting any change which would tend to the advantage of the country he must dissent emphatically from the propositions now before the House, and oppose such a premature disturbance of the settlement so recently concluded.
§ MR. STACPOOLE
cordially supported the Motion, but regretted that it did not comprise a proposal for the issue of a Royal Commission to inquire into the boundaries of boroughs in Ireland. The borough which he represented (Ennis) was miserably small and did not extend a mile in any direction. The most absurd boundary lines had been laid down, avoiding the river, which was the natural line of demarcation on one side, and in some instances cutting through houses, and thus leaving them partly within and partly outside the Parliamentary borough. Boroughs must be enlarged or grouping would be resorted to, and that he deprecated as provoking jealousies between separate towns, and uncertainty in each as to the extent and character of its representation.
§ MR. T. A. DICKSON
said, he wished to correct a statement made by the hon. Member for Downpatrick (Mr. Mulholland). He stated that the increase of the number of the electors in Belfast was due to the Reform Bill of 1868. He (Mr. Dickson) found that such was not the case, but that the extension of the franchise in Belfast was owing not entirely to the Reform Bill, but chiefly to the extraordinary increase of population. Why, instead of taking Belfast as an example, did not the hon. Member take his own borough of Downpatrick. The population of that borough in 1861 was 4,300, and the number of voters 245; whereas in 1873 the population had decreased to 4,156, and the electors had only increased by 10. Thus notwithstanding the Act of 1867, which the hon. Member said conferred such enormous voting power on the ratepayers, in his own borough there was only the trifling increase of 10 electors. The hon. Member left the question raised by the Motion entirely untouched. What they wanted in Ireland was equality of representation with England and Scotland, and there need be no apprehension 730 of any reform which placed the Constitution on a broader basis. The hon. Member opposite had referred to the Irish borough rating as £4 rating; but such was not the case, for to place a householder on the registry his rating must be over £4; so that there were thousands of houses in Ireland rated at £4 which had not the franchise, whereas those that paid £4 2s. 6d. had the franchise. This was a legislative trick of the Act of 1867. In conclusion, he begged to say that he should cordially support the Motion.
§ MR. O'SHAUGHNESSY
admitted the statement of the hon. Member (Mr. Mulholland) that there was some apathy on this question. It was not remarkable that no enthusiasm should be awakened among those to whom it was proposed to give political power. The cry for such an extension of power had generally come, not from them, but from the class outside, or from Members of that House who got at first very little support. They were regarded by hon. Members opposite as enemies of the Constitution, and by weak Liberals on his side, who were as much opposed to Reform as those on the other side, as crotchet-mongers to whom it was desirable to give a certain amount of support in order to keep alive a general spirit of Liberalism. Even on the occasion of the Reform Bill of 1867 no adequate enthusiasm could be aroused among those it was proposed to enfranchise. The measure was regarded as the work of agitators outside, or of Party schemers in that House. In Ireland, unfortunately, the class whom they now proposed to elevate had never seen great objects gained by constitutional means, and, therefore, they had not much enthusiasm about constitutional reforms. Everybody knew that wherever Fenianism or disaffection existed in Ireland, there was supreme indifference to the franchise, because it was not to any constitutional means that history had taught discontented Irishmen to look. They had no traditions of great victories won in a constitutional manner. They only remembered that up to a comparatively late period they were governed ostensibly and professedly with a strong hand. Catholic emancipation was delayed till the Lord Lieutenant said civil war was imminent, and the tenant-farmers for 20 years struggled in that House 731 and had their claims rejected. It should be born in mind that many Irishmen were born disaffected. Indeed he himself was born disaffected, and he remained so until he learned from history what the Constitution of England could do for the people, when it was worked properly and fairly. When thoughtful men believed that circumstances were ripe for making concessions, it was surely wise to grant them. The masses might have no idea in one direction or the other on the subject. Could it be dangerous to apply to Ireland principles what had been successfully applied to England? The history of England since 1867, instead of proving that it was dangerous to concede to the masses privileges which they had not sought, showed distinctly, on the contrary, that it was wise to take such a course. The privileges then granted had been used with moderation, and the people had not only stayed the progress of Radical measures, but had given to hon. Members on the Government side a triumph, and apparently a permanent one. How did the history of Ireland affect this question? Taking into account the history of Ireland, the more indifferent the Irish people were on this subject, the more anxious a man calling himself a statesman should be to extend the privilege among the Irish people, so as to bring them within the scope of the Constitution, and to unteach the lesson which had formerly been given them. That lesson was, that the Constitution was but an empty name, and that it was useless to apply to the Government or to Parliament when a grievance arose. He was perfectly aware it was sometimes said that the lower classes in Ireland were of no weight in political matters, and this opinion was largely shared at the Castle; but anyone who had closely watched recent Irish elections, especially since the introduction of the Ballot, must have noticed that, in many instances, the popular candidates were carried by the paramount enthusiasm and influence of non-electors over the electors. Surely, then, it would have been safer and more constitutional to extend the suffrage to at least a portion of those who were at present non-electors? The majority of the Irish people believed, and he believed, that the popular, and, he might say, mob influence to which he had just alluded had 732 hitherto been exercised with good results, but this might not always be the case; and, besides, such influence could not be used in accordance with the spirit of the Constitution. It was well known that on Irish questions, particularly on questions of this kind, the decision of the Government depended almost entirely on the views held by the Irish Conservative Members. This, no doubt, was in accordance with the rules of Parliamentary warfare; but he would make an appeal to them, though not with any expectation that it would prove successful. He would ask them to take into account the considerations he had adduced. The Irish Conservative Party constituted the most resolute and most capable oligarchy ever seen in these Islands. They had defended their tenets with extraordinary tenacity, and although they had been beaten in each successive fight, they were now as resolute as ever in maintaining their opinions, although they were much diminished in numbers. If even at the eleventh hour they would make some concession to popular feelings the Irish people would let them march out with all the honours of war. He could promise them also high confidence and high commissions in the ranks of the people of Ireland. They might rest assured that although their opposition to every just and necessary measure had been bitter and unreasonable, yet they had, by their manly, straightforward conduct won more admiration from the Irish people than Irish politicians who preached one set of doctrines at the street corners and on the hustings, and another in the drawing-rooms of Dublin Castle, or perhaps in the lobbies of the House of Commons. If even at the eleventh hour the Conservative gentry of Ireland would make concessions they might regain that just and necessary influence which it was highly desirable that an aristocracy should enjoy under a mixed Constitution like the one under which we lived. In reality, the Irish were not a revolutionary, but a Conservative people. If the Irish Conservative Gentlemen opposed a just measure like the present, their opposition would avail them for a while, but this stronghold would be ultimately taken, and the Party would then be weaker than they were before the assault. If they yielded graciously on 733 questions like the present, they would disarm hostility. If the Irish gentry took warning from the fate of the French, aristocracy and followed the example set by the Conservatives of England, they might some day find that the people of Ireland would forget the hostility of centuries and become their natural allies.
§ MR. PLUNKETT
denied the truth of the assertion made by the hon. Member who had just spoken—that there was no community of feeling between the upper and the lower classes in Ireland. Formerly they lived among their people and were beloved by them, and it was only since unscrupulous agitators had come among them, that the people were taught to regard as interlopers those whom they held in honour before. But he would ask, who were the interlopers—the gentry who could point to a 600 years, residence on their land, and had done their best for their people, or those who had come among them to do their worst? It was said that the franchise in Ireland was not equal to that of England. Why, there was no equality in the franchise in England itself. A man in an English borough might take a house over the border line and lose the vote which he had before. If the franchise were the same all over the rest of the United Kingdom, and only Ireland was made the exception, he would agree with hon. Members opposite that their case was a strong one; but that anomaly as it was called existed in Scotland too. He did not think that this was an opportune time for meddling with this subject, considering that there was a large section of the people of this country in favour of equal electoral districts. But if equal electoral districts were introduced into Ireland, the effect of it would be that Ireland would have only 75 Members instead of 105, as she had at present. No change in the English system had been made without some strong grounds being shown for it; and if good grounds were shown for a change in Ireland, he did not know who would oppose it, but he felt sure the Irish upper classes would not.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
complained that the hon. Member who had just spoken had omitted to state that the Irish people were leaving their shores every day in great numbers in order to join their brethren and friends on the other side of the Atlantic, where they 734 enjoyed greater comfort and contentment than they could in Ireland. If those bonds of unity and affection between the upper and lower classes in Ireland really existed, as the hon. Gentleman asserted, would such a state of things be the result? But both the hon. Members for Downpatrick (Mr. Mulholland) and Carlow (Mr. Bruen), who had spoken against the Resolution proceeded on an assumption which was directly contrary to that assertion. The hon. Member for Downpatrick spoke of "social strata," and the hon. Member for Carlow said what the House had to consider was, whether the classes into whose hands they would put the franchise by lowering the qualification would be fit to exercise it. Now he submitted that with respect to the government of a nation they had no right to consider it, as a geologist would a rock, by its particular strata. They were bound to show that there were some essential differences between the ranks of the population, if they attempted to legislate for them unequally as different classes. He would say in the most unqualified manner that a mere rating value was not an essential principle by which they could divide men into classes, and the Prime Minister himself had admitted it when he said in 1867 he would have neither a £7, a £6, nor a £4 qualification, which were all irrational, but would go to household suffrage at once. It was said Ireland was a poor country; he was sorry for it. He would not enter into the causes of that poverty; but he said it was the fault of England that Ireland was poor, and this country owed it to Ireland to make some amends for that poverty. Ireland was poorer than England; but those who lived in poor houses might be equal in intelligence and education, and superior in moral worth to those who belonged to a richer country and lived in larger houses. Instead, therefore, of fixing a limit of £4 in Ireland, while they gave a household franchise in England, they ought to say they would go down at least as low in Ireland as in England. Was wealth the only qualification for the franchise? If so, this was no longer a constitutional Government, but a plutocracy. In all moral qualifications Ireland, he maintained, was better qualified than England for the exercise of the franchise. There had been Norwich and Boston Commissions which declared 735 bribery and corruption rampant in England. The vote of an Englishman could be purchased for a pot of beer. But things were very different in Ireland. He could speak from experience. It was said to be a cheap election in England where the cost was not over £1 per man polled. But he had gone over to Ireland, and been returned for a large county by a majority of 2,000 votes, while the expense was a mere nothing—not one-twentieth of the cost of an election in a small place in England. Without going through statistics of crime and immorality, he contended that the moral qualifications of Ireland to renew the franchise, especially with regard to politics of elections, were greater than those of England. He did not, as the hon. Member for Downpatrick said, claim the franchise for every man as a right; but he said that it was an aim that they should put before themselves in this House—happiness and contentment, as in fact Conservatism; and if an Irishman felt that an Englishman inferior to himself, or even as good, had a voice in the destinies of the country while that voice was denied to him; if he knew that his wants were disregarded by that House; if his policies were denied, while aid was given to Scotland; and if he lived in a town where there was no regular municipal authority or corporate life as in England; and if he felt that when all those questions were brought before the House, they were hardly debated, and were not even answered by the Government—that the debate was, in fact, kept up by one Member of the House alone, how was it possible that he could be contented? It was because of all this that the Irishmen sought Home Rule, and it was because of all this that they were always saying, for God's sake do something for the Irishmen. But they refused to do anything. If he were a Fenian, if he were interested in the dismemberment of the Empire, he should like nothing better than the Government should treat this question with coldness, and refuse it that consideration and debate which, so far, it had not got. Nothing could be better calculated to stimulate the Home Rule movement than the Government refusal to consider this question. At least, they ought to put Ireland on a level with England in regard to the rating. He appealed to the Government to let the 736 vexatious restrictions with regard to rating be removed, so that every man who was rated at £4 might be registered. He affirmed that the restrictions were invented, because we mistrusted Ireland, and urged that, as mistrust was fatal to the happiness of married life and to the maintenance of any friendship, so it was incompatible with the relations which ought to exist between this country and Ireland; we were wedded to the sister Island, and ought no longer to mistrust her people.
§ MR. GIBSON
desired to point out the specious character of the Resolution, which embodied a general proposition that must command assent; for he desired to see, as far as it could possibly be accomplished, having regard to the conditions and circumstances of the two countries, equal laws extended to England and Ireland; but there were such things as verbal identity with real difference, and substantial identity with verbal difference, and in this case the difference was far more apparent than real. The most important question was, whether the limit of £4 should be removed and whether household franchise should be granted, and hon. Members had hardly addressed themselves sufficiently to that point. They had not considered what would be the difference between household franchise as it existed in England and as it would exist if introduced into Ireland. Rating was a branch, and only a branch, of the question. Those who occupied tenements valued at more than £4 paid the rates, were bound to pay them, and were entitled to the franchise; but, as in England, not all who were rated secured the franchise. The occupiers under £4 had the rates paid for them by the landlords, and had never had the franchise, and, as long as this was so, it was necessary to show that the limit ought to be removed before going into many other questions. Under every system we must be content to tolerate anomalies, such as had been pointed out and could easily be found in England, the larger towns having fewer Representatives in proportion to population than many smaller constituencies; and unless he found that positive gain would result he should not be much swayed by suggestions for the removal of the anomalies existing in Ireland. The junior Member for Limerick (Mr. O'Shaughnessy) had said—"Give us 737 the realities and not the forms of freedom." Well, were they Irish slaves, or were they free? [Mr. MELDON: Hear, hear.] The hon. Member said he was a slave. He (Mr. Gibson) maintained that they had all the realities of freedom, though some of them perhaps might be put into better forms, and any assertion to the contrary was a mere flourish of rhetoric. The noble Lord's argument for regarding things in their moral aspect and getting rid of class distinction was an argument for manhood suffrage; for there were moral men without homes and without coats; and if we disregarded houses and the pecuniary stakes that men might have in the stability of the Empire, we should practically come to manhood suffrage.
§ LORD ROBERT MONTAGU
explained that he did not say he would ignore all class differences; but that we were not to imagine them where they did not exist, and distribute the franchise according to those divisions, but when we distributed them we should consider moral fitness.
§ MR. GIBSON
, accepting the correction, said, that the occupation of a house in England argued the possession of a greater stake in the country and a higher standard of comfort than the occupation of a house in Ireland; and the real question was, whether it was desirable to remove the restriction of £4, and to introduce household franchise into Ireland. The arguments based on the extension of the franchise in England in 1867 had a false assumption underlying them; and that was, that the substantial increase was to be found in the numbers of occupiers whose houses were rated at £4 and under, and they also overlooked the fact that so many borough voters were to be found in the great centres of industry that had grown up since 1832. There was a broad and substantial distinction between what household suffrage in boroughs in England was, and what it would be in Ireland. Considerable light was thrown upon this question by a Return which had been laid on the Table of that House in 1865, from which it appeared that in England and Wales the number of male occupiers of houses the rental of which was under £4 was 130,256, while the number of those occupying houses of a higher rental was 1,209,622, so that those under £4 were 738 but one-ninth of the whole. Therefore, by giving votes to those who lived in houses under £4 in rental value, the whole control of the Legislature would not be handed over to them, although they would doubtless have a reasonable voice in the selection of Members of Parliament. Testing the question by the rateable value of the houses, instead of by the amount of their rent, he found that the number of those in the boroughs of this country rated below £6 was 370,431, while that of those rated above £6 was 969,447, the proportion of the former to the latter being one-third. Therefore, by giving votes to the occupiers of the former class of houses, the whole control of the constituencies was not handed over to them. From another Return which had been laid upon the Table of the House that morning he found that in 50 Parliamentary boroughs in England there were 69,426 male occupiers of houses under £4 valuation, as against 301,300 occupying houses of a higher valuation. This proportion between the two classes of occupiers held good throughout the whole of the boroughs in England and Wales, with the exception of Norwich, in which there was a preponderance of the smaller class of occupiers. The general result of these figures came to this—that there was a vast majority of houses in English boroughs which were held at a rent of over £5. Turning to the case of Ireland, he found from a Return made some 18 or 19 months ago that, putting aside Dublin and Belfast, and dealing with 29 boroughs that returned 33 Members to Parliament, the number of male occupiers of houses under £4 rental was 42,845, against 30,907 who occupied houses of a higher rental; in other words, that those who occupied houses valued at less than £4 far outnumbered those whose houses were valued at above that sum. Was it possible to suggest a distinction wider and more complete between English and Irish household suffrage in boroughs than these figures showed? The gross valuation of all the houses in those 29 boroughs held under £4 only amounted to £116,218, while the gross valuation of the houses over £4 was £1,226,589. So that if the franchise were extended as proposed, they would have all the householders occupying houses over £4 in 739 value far outnumbered by those occupying houses under £4, although the latter were not possessed of one tithe of the property of the others. He found that in four Irish boroughs, Dungarvan, Drogheda, Ennis, and Galway, the male occupiers of houses valued at less than £2 were in a large majority over all others occupying houses of a higher value. Even in the town of Limerick, out of 7,254 rated houses there were 1,767 held at a valuation under 20s. Was there any house in England valued at so low a figure? Galway, which sent two Members to Parliament, had 342 houses valued at 5s. Under these circumstances, he contended that it was impossible to assimilate the borough household suffrage of Ireland with that of England. He had not the means of ascertaining with certainty the number of houses held in England under £4; but in the case of Ireland they were divided even to those held under 20s. He believed, however, that of the houses in England held under £4, the majority were over £3, few were under £3, and an inappreciable number, hardly any at all, under £2. The argument he ventured to submit to the House was this—In England by adopting household suffrage in boroughs, a most respectable and desirable class was admitted to share in our Representative institutions. They inhabited houses which evidenced a high residential standard and a substantial measure of comfort. In Ireland, on the other hand, judging by the valuation of the houses, the residential qualification was small, the standard of comfort anything but high; and there was this broad difference which ought to be decisive of the Motion—that whereas in England a moderate share was given to the new electors, in Ireland, if the changes sought for were made, everything would be handed over to the humbler class of electors who held under £4, in many instances to those who held under £2, in some to those who held lower still. It would, in short, practically amount to the enfranchisement of a new class, and to the disfranchisement of the old. That was a circumstance not to be lost sight of, particularly as the House had been assured by the hon. Gentleman the junior Member for Limerick that the new class did not care for the privileges sought to be given to them, 740 but were quite indifferent on the subject. It was impossible that this question could be suggested for the serious consideration of the House of Commons, except in connection with the scheme of re-distribution; but he presumed that hon. Gentlemen who represented Irish boroughs which were not very large would hardly like inquiries to be made as to whether their constituencies had anything to say why sentence of death should not be passed upon them. He presumed, too, that hon. Members representing constituencies having two Members, like Limerick, Waterford, and Galway, would scarcely like an inquiry as to whether those cities and boroughs were still to have each as many Representatives as the City of Dublin or the borough of Belfast, which outran them six-fold in electors and far more in general population. It was impossible by the verbiage of an Act of Parliament or the terms of a Resolution to change entirely the economic condition of a nation. The present condition of the lower class of rated occupiers in Irish borough, tested by the fair and reasonable standards he had referred to, was totally dissimilar to that of the analogous class in English boroughs. When there was real identity—and he hoped it would be soon—between them in those respects, then would be the time for an hon. Member to bring forward the question of sweeping away restrictions, and making identical the franchises in the two countries. For himself, believing there was more real identity between the existing Franchises than there would be if the proposed change were adopted, he would, without hesitation, vote against the Motion.
§ MR. COLLINS
said, he thought he could demonstrate from figures and facts that the Resolution of his hon. and learned Friend ought to be adopted. He had taken the number of electors in 30 cities and boroughs in Ireland—excluding Dublin—and their population, and he found that the number of electors was 39,108, while the population amounted to 598,966. Then he selected 30 cities and boroughs in England, and found that the number of inhabitants was 611,527, while the electors numbered, not 39,108, but 85,464, the proportion of electors to population being, in the case of Ireland, as 1 to 16, 741 while in the case of England it was as 1 to 7. That simple fact proved that the borough franchise in Ireland was unduly restricted. The hon. Member for the county of Carlow (Mr. Bruen) had stated that there was no difficulty in any man in Ireland who possessed the necessary qualification getting on the register of voters. He would mention what happened in his own experience. Since he was elected a Member of that House, although he enjoyed the franchise for 30 years, his name was objected to during his absence from the country owing to ill-health, and he was struck off the list, not being present to defend himself. More than that, the gentleman who had objected to him, and who was the resident proprietor of nearly the entire borough, was himself objected to, and his name was struck off also. On the subject of qualification, he might say that, in some of the smaller boroughs with which he was acquainted, a system of manipulation of the rating value was sometimes resorted to, by which numbers of the poorer inhabitants were practically disfranchised. It was said the Irish people were indifferent to the franchise; but on consulting statistics he found that out of 39,000 Parliamentary voters in Ireland 32,727, or all but 6,000, voted at the last General Election, and if allowance were made for the constituencies in which there was no contest the number of electors who did not vote would be even smaller. That settled the question as to any supposed indifference. All things considered, he did not see how the Prime Minister, after introducing household franchise in England with such happy results, could consistently refuse to Ireland the right she now claimed, and he had therefore much pleasure in supporting the Motion of his hon. and learned Friend.
§ MR. CALLAN
said that in the borough which he represented (Dundalk) there were only 300 illiterate persons between the ages of 20 and 40 out of a population of 12,000, and there were 1,590 people qualified to exercise the franchise as far as reading and writing were concerned. Another striking fact which had come to his knowledge was that of 57 enginemen residing at a certain railway junction only five occupied houses rated at or above £4, although they were re- 742 ceiving each in wages upwards of £100 a-year. Notwithstanding their apparently inferior condition, he believed that Irish engine-drivers and firemen were superior to the English, because fewer accidents occurred on their lines. In view of the facts he had stated, he did not see how it could be contended that the Irish constituencies were so greatly inferior to the English in point of intelligence. In fact, the only constituency in Ireland which made a bad appearance was the one which returned the only borough Member (Mr. Mulholland) who had opposed the Motion—namely, Downpatrick. Of all the Irish boroughs it was the poorest, the most illiterate, and, except Portarlington, the smallest. The Prime Minister had no disinclination to dish the Whigs. If the change asked for were given, the Whigs could only gain three seats in the North of Ireland; but he promised the right hon. Gentleman, on behalf of the Irish Party, that they should not obtain the seats. He hoped the Government would accept the Motion of his hon. and learned Friend.
§ DR. WARD
said, the principal objection urged against the Motion was that the householder in Ireland was, on an average, in a very much worse condition than the householder of England. They could not deny that materially that was the fact; but he emphatically denied that intelligently for the purposes of government the householder in Ireland was inferior to the householder in England. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright), on a former occasion, told the people of Ireland that they of all men in the United Kingdom had the strongest interest in a reform of the Imperial Parliament and the extension of the franchise. Then they were threatened with re-distribution. Did the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government re-distribute seats when he extended the franchise in England? Very slightly, indeed. It was notorious that the franchise was unequal in the two countries, and that the difficulty of getting the franchise even where they were qualified in Ireland was greater than in England. He himself had a house in Dublin for some years, for which he paid the taxes regularly. He did not interfere much with politics, and one day the tax collector came and 743 told him that he had no vote, his name having been struck off the Register because, not knowing whether he was a Whig or a Tory, the agents of both parties had objected to his name at the Revision Court. In the borough he represented (Galway) many persons were deprived of the franchise simply owing to the restriction which obliged a man to go to a Court of Law to prove his right. It was said there was no crying out for this franchise, but that was for the same reason that a person who had not been educated did not appreciate the value of education. Hon. Members opposite were afraid to extend the franchise. Why? In England they had extended it, and the result had put the Conservatives in power. Irish Conservatives were afraid of the extension in Ireland, and why? Because they knew they did not represent the people like the English Conservatives did, but only a ruling fraction. In justice there had not been a word urged against the claim now set up. He warned the House that if the system of refusing equal treatment to Ireland was continued much longer the people of that country would say it was useless seeking to obtain justice by legitimate means, and there would be a revival among them of a bitter spirit which would produce very evil consequences.
§ MR. M. BROOKS
remarked that Liverpool had been instanced to prove that there was no inequality between the franchise in English and Irish boroughs. He found that in Liverpool, with a population of 493,000 there were 57,000 registered electors; but in Dublin, which had a population of 267,000 the registered electors were under 15,000. In Liverpool 1 in every 9 of the ratepayers was entitled to vote; whereas in Dublin there was only 1 in 20. How could they say, under those circumstances, there was not inequality between the two countries and a wrong to Ireland?
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND(MR. PLUNKET)
said, the debate had travelled over a great deal of ground which was not exactly covered by the Resolution before the House. He did not, however, intend to follow hon. Members into the review of the other alleged grievances of Ireland besides those connected with the borough fran- 744 chise; though he might perhaps remark that it was hardly fair to complain that all those subjects were not fully discussed in the Imperial Parliament when they remembered how much of the time of the present Session had been already occupied usefully and well in discussing Irish questions. And if they could form any estimate of the future of the Session by the appearance of the Order Book, he rather thought that, at all events, so far as the Tuesdays and the Wednesdays were concerned, hon. Members for Ireland on both sides of the House had taken very good care that all those questions should be thoroughly and fully discussed. To-night they were dealing with the particular question set forth in the Resolution proposed by his hon. and learned Friend, to the effect that household suffrage should be introduced at once into the Irish boroughs in substitution for the suffrage which was established by the Reform Bill of 1868. That, as the House would see, was only a small fragment of a great question. It was but a small part of the question of an Irish Reform Bill whenever it might become necessary and be deemed right by any Government to bring forward such a measure. It was only one stage in the history of the question of Parliamentary Reform, which had been steadily but gradually progressing for many years in this country. It was that gradual progress and that wise moderation in the conduct of such a question which had enabled the country to pass through various stages of reform without revolution, and which had produced great improvements in the electoral system without any sudden shock or evil consequences. In that debate it seemed to be assumed that as the borough franchise in England was such and such, ergo the Irish franchise ought to be assimilated to it. It was further assumed, in order to support the proposition, that they were not so much to consider the adaptability of a certain degree of restriction on universal suffrage, but that the time had come to apply as strongly as possible the supposed claim for universal suffrage in the boroughs of Ireland. He would tell them why that was so. Did anybody pretend to say that a great many of the arguments advanced that night if they were good for anything were not good for the inherent right of every one who had a 745 house of any kind in a borough to vote? But if they were not to consider the peculiar position of the man's house, why should they trouble about his having a house at all? Why not rest on the mere right of any individual residing in a borough to vote for Representatives in the House of Commons? He repeated that this was only part of a great question. They were now asked for the first time suddenly, on a Resolution proposed by an hon. Member and without reference to all the other parts of this most interesting problem of Parliamentary representation, to establish household suffrage in the boroughs of Ireland, and thus to obtain a perfect assimilation between the franchise of the two countries. There never was a time in the history of this question when the franchises of England and Ireland were exactly on an equality. That might be right or wrong; but when they asserted it as a right that they should at once place the suffrages of the two countries on an absolute equality, he must remind them that they were advancing a proposition which had never been put forward before. Without going further back in the history of this question, what, he would ask, was the proposal made in 1866 by the Government which then represented the Liberal Party in that House? When Lord Carlingford dealt with the question of the borough franchise in Ireland, what did he propose? Was it household suffrage? No. Was it a £4 suffrage? No. It was a £6 rating suffrage. When the Reform Bill was carried by the present Prime Minister he dealt fully and largely with the question both in England and Ireland. The subject was maturely and deliberately considered, and he might almost say with the assent of both Parties, the borough franchise was established as it still existed in Ireland. There was no capricious selection of the £4 rating; the subject was fully discussed in the House, and the same arguments were then adduced which had been urged on the present occasion. They were dealing with a difficult, delicate subject. They must go into the whole social condition of the country, and not apply with too great generality broad principles without giving full weight and influence to those other circumstances which must be taken into consideration in order to arrive at a 746 wise and safe conclusion. It was not in a spirit of hostility or insult to the country that he said this, but because there were certain facts to which they could not shut their eyes. All the circumstances of the two countries must be taken into consideration. The statement of his hon. Friend behind him (Mr. Mulholland) had been questioned—that the Act of 1868 had trebled the borough constituency of Belfast; but on reference to the Returns he found that the number of electors on the register in 1866 was 3,615, while three years after, in 1869, the number on the register was 12,168. He therefore contended that his hon. Friend was perfectly justified in the assertion he made—that, in point of fact, no small addition had been made to the constituency of that important Irish borough. Was it, then, wise to tear up the tree which they had planted to see how it was growing and plant something else in its stead? If they were to give the franchise to householders, they must take into account the character of the houses in which they lived, and which were a test of the character of the voters who lived in them. They could not shut their eyes to the existence of houses in Ireland rated as low as 10s. and 5s. a-year, whilst in England there was nothing of the kind. Neither could they shut their eyes to the fact that in Ireland the application of household suffrage would have a very different effect to what it had in England in 1867; because whilst it added only one-fourth or one-fifth to the number of English voters, in Ireland it would double or treble the entire number of each constituency. Therefore, with every desire to assimilate the institutions of Ireland and England where they were likely to work well, they could not suppose that a question of this kind was to be settled by simply propsoing to reduce household suffrage in Irish boroughs because they had already reduced it in English boroughs. If anything was clear from the debate of that evening, it was that no Member had successfully endeavoured to separate the question of the reduction of the franchise in boroughs from the question of the re-distribution of seats. Hon. Members who had spoken showed how varied in their view was the proper mode in which such re-distribution should take place. Great difficulties of 747 opinion prevailed as to the mode of introducing an alteration into the Irish system of representation. He could not deny that a re-distribution of seats in Ireland ought not to be long postponed. That was a far more important question than the alteration of the borough franchise. The two questions were necessarily intertwined, and hon. Members could not ask the House of Commons to lend itself to immediate action with reference to the borough franchise of Ireland and leave out of consideration the question of the re-distribution of seats. In the total absence of Petitions and other indications of public opinion, he could not hide from himself the force of the argument that men must be little interested in such subjects if it could not be denied that there were thousands of persons in Irish boroughs who, if they would take the trouble, might place themselves on the register, and who would not submit to the small amount of exertion necessary to clothe themselves with that franchise the extension of which they had been told so energetically was of immediate and overwhelming importance to the Irish people.
§ MR. BUTT
said, that in the observations which he was about to make, he would confine himself entirely to the Resolution which had been submitted to the House by his hon. and learned Friend. That Resolution declared that household suffrage ought to be established in the boroughs of Ireland as it was in those of England. Without going into all the statistics which had been quoted, he wished to point to a few figures which could not be controverted. It was conceded on all hands that there were only 50,000 persons enjoying the borough franchise in Ireland. He would call that the popular franchise, because from the most ancient times of the Constitution the town franchise had been kept lower than the county. Of the 50,000 persons now enjoying that popular franchise in Ireland, upwards of 27,000 were to be found in the City of Dublin and the town of Belfast, and, adding to them the other towns returning two Members each, they disposed of 36,000 of the total number, leaving only 12,000 in other towns enjoying that popular franchise. It might be said that that was because they had not many large towns in Ireland; but if they took a proportionate amount of population in 748 the English towns they would find that 900,000 inhabitants would yield considerably more than 50,000 voters. That was the chief fact with which they had to deal. Turning for a moment to the history of this question, he was surprised to hear the Solicitor General say it was a new thing to have the same franchise in Ireland and England. Why, on the contrary, it was a new thing to have them different. When King John first admitted those who yielded to his dominion in Ireland to all the benefits of English law, including Magna Charta, the Parliamentary law of Ireland became by that very act the same as it was in England; there were 40s. freeholders, freemen, freeholders, usages, charters, and close boroughs. The first departure from the similarity of the laws was in 1829. There was a Reform Bill for England and for Ireland in 1832, and the same franchise was enacted for Ireland that had been enacted for England, except as to the re-establishment of the 40s. freeholders; but the £10 rental qualification was adopted for both countries. In 1850 or 1851 an £8 rating was substituted for a £10 rental in Ireland; and, although it was said the intention was to confer a lower franchise in Ireland, the change operated as a restriction and disfranchised large numbers of voters in many towns, because an £8 rating value was higher than a £10 rental, and therefore the franchise was raised instead of being lowered. Then followed the great change of 1867, when the Reform Bill was passed by a Conservative Minister, not having a majority in that House, but striving against an adverse majority. It was said that Lord Carlingford proposed a £7 franchise for English boroughs and a £6 for Irish boroughs, and what resulted was that for the first time a difference was made between the two countries, and, while household suffrage was enacted for England, Ireland was left with a franchise at more than £4 value. The difference between that and £4 was important, because it was more convenient to take £4 than to add 2s. 6d. or 5s., and the result was the disfranchisement of many occupiers who were rated at £4, when the real value of their houses was higher. This question was not to be decided by miserable quibble about the value of houses. The question was, what propor- 749 tion of the people of the city were admitted to enjoy the privilege of sharing in the government of the country? The fact that only 50,000 persons enjoyed the town franchise could not be got rid of. Much of this was due to vexatious interference with the franchise by peculiar rating laws which prevented persons being rated, for unless they held at least as half-yearly tenants their names were not placed on the rate book. A Bill to remove many of these grievances was awaiting discussion, and he could hardly believe that the Government would venture to resist it. By the last Reform Bill they added an immense number of voters to the town constituency in England. Birmingham was increased from 15,490 to 42,041; Bristol from 10,896 to 17,000; Cardiff from 1,809 to 5,000; Exeter from 2,500 to 5,000;and so in many other boroughs. What on earth became of the argument which the opponents of the Resolution had been using all night, that it was proposed to enfranchise in Ireland a new class of voters, and to give them a preponderating influence? Why, in every one of these English towns the number of persons admitted to the franchise was more than double the number that enjoyed it before. If this would be disfranchisement in Ireland, why was it not in England? The same argument would apply to any formerly existing limit, whether of £100, £50, or £10, for a lower class of voters must always be more numerous than an upper class. The real question was how we could secure for Ireland in the town constituencies a fair and just proportion of Parliamentary representation. He protested against the claim of the hon. Member for Downpatrick (Mr. Mulholland) to represent the people of Ulster, who denounced him on the ground that his speeches did not represent their opinions. The constituency of Belfast was no doubt largely, and that of Derry considerably, increased by the last Reform Bill—perhaps, because they were manufacturing towns; but in Cork the increase was only from 2,500 to 3,000; Galway, from 648 to 770; Limerick, from 1,602 to 1,700; whilst in Tralee and Downpatrick the constituency had slightly decreased. They were told, that the question was settled in 1868; but if it was intended that the Act should increase the constituency, then clearly the Act had been 750 a failure. He maintained that that which was given to the people of England—namely, household suffrage, should be also given to Ireland, but instead of that Ireland was restricted to her ancient rights. Why not restore to the people of Ireland their ancient rights? He held that by the ancient Constitution, and by its incorporation with the dominion of England, Ireland became entitled to equal rights with the people of England, and that they were entitled to the same privileges as the people enjoyed in England. Whenever any measure was brought forward on behalf of Ireland he always found that the most ardent supporters of its principles were to be found on the opposite benches; but that in their opinion the time had not arrived for carrying them into effect. They were now told that this question of the lowering of the franchise could not be dealt with until Parliament was prepared to deal with the larger question of the re-distribution of seats in Ireland. He saw no necessity whatever for delaying the settlement of this question until that of the re-distribution of seats was dealt with. But Parliament had already shown that, in their opinion, there was no connection between the two questions, because, by the Act of 1867, they had lowered the Irish franchise without re-distributing their seats. He had no objection whatever to the seats in Ireland being re-distributed, although he was by no means in favour of equal electoral districts, and hoped never to sit as Member for the Department of the Lower Shannon. The principle of the Act of 1867 was that no borough of more than 5,000 population should be disfranchised, and he would not shrink from such a principle being applied in Ireland, though first they should do what they could by a rectification of boundaries. In truth, the disfranchisement idea was only put forward as an excuse for not giving them equal justice, and he contended that there was no good reason why there should not be household suffrage in Ireland as well as in England. Why should an enlarged suffrage be given liberally to England, and grudgingly, and with a £4 limit, to Ireland? The Prime Minister had said that there was no reason why there should not be Conservative working men in England; and, for his part, he saw no reason why there should not be Conservative working men 751 in Ireland if they had equal electoral rights with their English brethren. The test of figures which the hon. Member opposite had applied to this question was not a sound one, because a house that would not be valued at more than £6 in Carlow would realize £20 a-year in Liverpool or London. But a few years ago the state of Ireland was very different from the present. Men had turned from that House either to rest in sullen indifference or to resort to the desperate remedy of seeking redress by armed insurrection and secret societies. He admitted that the first thing that turned them again to Parliament was the two measures introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone)—one establishing religious equality and the other granting a scant measure of justice to the tenant. He (Mr. Butt) and his Friends were teaching the people to look once more to Parliament, and he implored the House not to drive them back from their rising confidence into those secret and dangerous courses which were injurious to Ireland, but were more than an annoyance—which were a danger—to England. If they rejected this Motion they would give power to every man who would go through Ireland and say that appeals to the House were useless. Pass it, and they would do more to conciliate the Irish people and establish peace in that country than by all the Coercion Acts that it was in their power to devise.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
observed, that the peroration of the hon. and learned Member who had just spoken might almost be stereotyped, for there had not been a measure proposed by the hon. and learned Member, or by any of his party, during this Session which had not been accompanied with similar words of menace to those who ventured to differ from him in opinion. He (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) would claim for himself, for the Government, and for all sitting on that side of the House the right to approach Irish questions with the same careful deliberation and judgment with which they hoped to approach measures for England or for Scotland. And when the hon. and learned Member and those who sat around him said that the Government had not been able to support any of the measures which, they had proposed during the 752 present Session, he would remind the hon. and learned Member and his supporters that they were, after all, Members of the Opposition; and that the Government having a right to their own opinions, could hardly be blamed for differing from those who were returned to that House as their opponents. The hon. and learned Member for Kildare (Mr. Meldon), who introduced the Motion, had charged the present law in Ireland with depriving of the franchise those who, being rated above £4, might be considered properly entitled to have it. This was a matter of registration, rating, and various other technical points in the law which it would hardly be useful for the House to consider on the present occasion. When it was stated that the number of inhabited houses in Dublin and other towns above £4 rental was considerably in excess of the number of occupiers appearing on the register, it ought to be borne in mind that many persons were not a little indifferent about possessing the franchise. Even if they were objected to, they did not seem to care to attend the Revision Courts to establish their claims. There were many circumstances which might cause a material difference between the number of householders, and the actual number appearing on the register as entitled to exercise the franchise. Referring to a Return as to English boroughs presented to the House that day, he found that in the borough of Salford, where Party politics ran pretty high, there were 27,900 householders entitled to be put on the register, but that only 19,172 actually appeared there. The same causes which led to disfranchisement in Ireland occasioned it in England and Scotland. But the question really before the House was whether household franchise, now the law in English boroughs, should, or should not, be extended to Ireland. The Irish Reform Act of 1868 was no very large measure. In some boroughs, notably in Belfast, it gave considerable extension of the franchise; but it was not proposed by the Government of the day as a Bill giving anything like the same measure of enfranchisement to Irish occupiers, as had been granted to England in the previous Session. When Lord Mayo introduced that measure he proposed that the Irish borough franchise 753 should be fixed above £4 valuation. While Lord Mayo's Bill was passing through the House of Commons, although exceptions were taken to it by some Irish Members as not containing a provision for voting by ballot, the only objection to the franchise it proposed was made by the present Mr. Justice Lawson. What he suggested was, that the franchise should be fixed at £4 instead of above £4. But no hon. Member, whatever his political opinion might be, desired at that time that household suffrage should be established in Ireland; and though the hon. and learned Member for Kildare said that the reason for that was that the Bill was considered at the end of the Session, and that other clauses stood in the way, the real reason was that nobody wanted such a franchise. Why was that? No doubt some weight should be given to the condition of Ireland at that time. Unquestionably, that condition had now happily changed. We had arrived at a time when Ireland was peaceable; and although he was far from saying that no disaffection existed, it did not, at any rate, show itself in that dangerous way in which in 1866 and 1867 it was manifested in the Fenian organization. But in 1868 there was also present to the minds of those who had to deal with this important question something of that which had been put with such effect by his hon. Friend the Member for Downpatrick (Mr. Mulholland) and by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson). He would not trouble the House with statistics; but he ventured to say that if any hon. Member cared to study the statistics on the question that had been laid before Parliament, he would find the figures relied on by the hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin amply justified, and that if household suffrage had been adopted for Ireland in 1868, or if it were adopted now, it would unquestionably admit to the franchise a greater preponderance of the poorer and more ignorant classes of the community than household suffrage had admitted in England. When the hon. and learned Member for Limerick told the House that he did not want any more miserable quibbling about the value of houses, it was, he thought, only reasonable in considering the question of what franchise should be adopted for any par- 754 ticular part of the United Kingdom to give a little attention to the circumstances of the population in that part of the United Kingdom. If they did so in the present case, they would see that no fanciful uniformity of franchise, such as might be adopted by similarity of language in two Acts of Parliament, could deal equally with entirely different circumstances. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Limerick told the House that in former times the Parliamentary franchise for England and Ireland proceeded on a similar footing, and he referred the House back to the times of King John and the Parliaments of the Pale. He did not think the hon. and learned Gentleman would have referred the Constitutional question of the franchise to those times; but the hon. and learned Gentleman had himself gone on to prove that his own assumption was completely wrong, and that in the earlier part of this century and subsequently when Parliament undertook to deal with the various franchises of England and Ireland, they were dealt with in entirely different ways. In point of fact, different franchises had been the rule for England and for Ireland, and when the hon. and learned Member for Kildare asked the House to assent to the principle of similarity—nominal, but not real—of franchises as regarded English and Irish boroughs, he asked them to legislate on a principle upon which Parliament had never yet acted. And why had it not? For this reason, that it was unquestionably the fact—one admitted by all who had spoken during the debate—that while in Ireland, unfortunately, the higher classes could not exercise the same friendly influence over the lower classes as could be done in England; while in Ireland there was practically no lower middle class of artizans between the upper middle class and the more ignorant portions of the lower class, the circumstances of the two countries were, and must be, essentially different. What argument did he draw from that fact? He did not say that on that account they were never to extend the franchise to the masses of the people of Ireland as they had done to those of England and Scotland; but he did say that when a proposal like the present was made a great and important change was advocated—a change far in excess of anything done for Ireland by 755 the Act of 1868, or for England by the Act of 1867. Then he would ask was such an important change to be made in the franchise without dealing with the whole question of Parliamentary reform? What was the practice on this subject? What was the decision at which the House arrived in 1866? Was it not this—that in conceding a large extension of political power to classes not hitherto possessing it you should accompany that extension with a re-distribution of seats? The House then practically declined to consider the two questions separately. And when, in 1867, the Government of that day brought in an English Reform Bill, which, as compared with the Irish Reform Bill of the following year, was a very large and important measure, they accompanied that measure with an extensive re-distribution of seats; for he believed that the number of seats dealt with was not less than 45, whilst several constituencies were disfranchised. If it was admitted that the proposition before the House was an important change, and if it was admitted—and that, he thought, could hardly be denied—that such a change should be accompanied with a re-distribution of seats, and would entail the whole circumstances of a regular Reform Bill, the House ought to consider, in the first place, how far it was wise for them, by adopting the Motion of the hon. and learned Member, to commit themselves to an opinion on the necessity of such a policy at the present moment. Some allusion had been made in the course of the debate, and notably by the hon. Member for the county of Kerry (Mr. Blennerhassett), to a possible re-distribution of seats. He could not conceive a more difficult problem than re-distribution in Ireland. They had a number of boroughs in Ireland, a few of which were thriving; but the great majority were diminishing in population and wealth. There were very few unrepresented towns which could be substituted for the existing borough constituencies; but they might disfranchise some of the boroughs and add to the representation of the counties. If they did that, it was inevitable they must regard the daily growing claims of Ulster, both in population and wealth, as compared with the rest of Ireland—[Hear, hear!]—and he hoped that hon. Members opposite who 756 cheered that would be ready to deprive some of the constituencies in the South and West of Ireland of their representatives for the advantage of Ulster. If they did not deprive boroughs of their Representatives for the advantage of counties; if they endeavoured to adopt the Scotch practice of grouping them, he was afraid, looking at the great difference in their political and religious sympathies, and at their present condition, that, as the present Chief Justice of Ireland once said in that House, the union of two melancholy little towns would only result in a more melancholy state of things than if they had their separate existence. It was clear that a re-distribution of seats in Ireland was a question of no slight difficulty—and yet, from one point of view, it was one of a more pressing nature if they were to deal with a Reform Bill than any alteration of the franchise. Ireland had had Reform Bills over and over again; and, as far as the franchise was concerned, perhaps it would have been better for her if she had not had quite so many of them. But the question of a re-distribution of seats had come down practically from the time of the Union; and, considering all that had happened in Ireland since the Union, considering the improvement which had taken place in some portions of that country and the decay in others, the re-distribution of seats might be more urgently demanded in Ireland than it was in England in 1867. Then, as he had said, if they were to entertain this question, it could only be on the basis of a regular Reform Bill. He thought no Government would be justified in asking Parliament to deal with a measure making important changes in the representation of the people unless they were satisfied that the people desired such a measure. Some hon. Members said that it was not desirable to wait for any manifestation of that kind—that meetings and Petitions must not be expected, because the people did not care to send up Petitions to the Imperial Parliament. Now, he did not find that in other matters that had been brought before the House Irishmen had shown any such indifference. Meetings had been held, and Petitions presented on the subject of the Land Tenure Bill, and many opinions had been expressed respecting the question of education. But on the more important sub- 757 ject now before the House he did not believe that a single Petition had been presented; more than that, he doubted whether any one but the hon. and learned Member for Limerick had mentioned the subject in his address to his constituents. If this question of Parliamentary Reform was so urgent as the speeches of hon. Gentlemen opposite that evening would lead the House to believe, was it not surprising that they had not postponed to it all those minor matters which they had so persistently advocated, and endeavoured to obtain a real representation of the Irish people before they pressed upon the House any other grievances. But what was the fact? For the last three years a Bill to extend the borough franchise had been annually brought in; but among all the Irish Bills which had been brought in that was the only one, he thought, to which practically no attempt had ever been made to give a second reading. That, he thought, showed that until that evening, at any rate, hon. Members opposite had treated this question with something very like indifference. The late Government were in office for five years; but had they ever thought it necessary to deal with this question? In a speech which had often been referred to, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) expressed his intention to redress certain Irish grievances, which he (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) need not enumerate, but he never specified among those grievances the state of the Parliamentary representation of Ireland. The Government of that day no doubt felt, as Her Majesty's Government now felt, that this was not a subject which really stood foremost in the minds of the Irish people. The Government had this Session proposed legislation on several other matters which he believed were more necessary to be immediately dealt with. The measures for legal reform in Ireland brought into this House and into "another place" were not either in their scope or design matters of small importance. [Mr. BUTT: Hear, hear!] And he hoped to be able to deal with other matters, which had been more than once pressed upon the Government—such, for instance, as the Jury Law, and the cost and management of Irish Prisons. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen who laughed had, he should say, no practical acquaintance with the sub- 758 ject of prisons. The Government had before them a wide and varied programme of important Irish business. They fully admitted that it would be necessary some day to give to the people of Ireland a wider extension of the franchise than that which they at present enjoyed; but they felt that such a reform should only be adopted after grave deliberation, and should be coupled with a scheme for the re-distribution of seats; and they asked the House of Commons not, by assenting to a fragmentary and illogical proposal, to fetter themselves and the Government in the more thorough and complete consideration which the question must, at no distant period, receive.
§ MR. JOHN BRIGHT
Perhaps, Sir, though the hour is late, I may be allowed to offer a few observations upon this question, the more so because I think in the debate that has taken place no English voice has been raised either on the one side or the other in connection with the question before the House. I have listened to almost everything that has been said since the debate began, and the conclusion to which I come, and to which, I think, every Gentleman even on the other side of the House must come, is that the restriction upon the franchise in Ireland—I confine myself now to the borough franchise—is so great that no sound argument can be offered in favour of maintaining that restriction as it now exists. No argument that can be urged of the slightest consideration can be offered against an extension of the borough franchise. If any change, then, is to be made, what change? At present the borough elector must be rated on an assessment of about £4. That will be probably £4 10s. or £5, and therefore he must be rated at more than £4. The rental, I presume, would probably be very near £6. Now a £6 rental—[An hon. MEMBER: £7]—I am assuming £6, because I think that is much nearer, and I do not want to overstate the case. The rental now would be £6 to give a vote in any borough in Ireland. Consider what £6 means in Ireland. We know quite well that in that country, not among the working classes only, but among the middle and the richer classes, the rental of houses is very much lower than it is in this country. The person who lives in a house of £6 in Ireland is equal to a 759 person who lives in a house of £10, or even £12, in this country. An hon. Gentleman on this side of the House (Mr. Callan) referred to some company employing, I think, more than 50 engineers, the whole of them receiving an average income of at least £100, and yet only some half dozen of those persons lived in houses above the valuation of £4. This fact shows that the existing borough franchise in Ireland is one of the most restrictive character—one which the House of Commons ought really to be ashamed of maintaining. I presume we must all agree to this. The hon. Member for Down Patrick (Mr. Mulholland) stated that he should be glad to see the restriction withdrawn to some extent, and he said that, under a certain reduction of the franchise, some 10,000, 12,000, or 15,000 new voters would be brought in. He said—and of course he would not say so without some authority—that he believed every Member on his own side of the House would agree with such a change. Then it would be a question whether you should come down to £4, £3, £2, or £1—for there are a few persons rated even at this low sum—or whether you should not come to household suffrage. What are the fears of hon. Gentlemen opposite? Men are afraid of a first experiment. There is at first sight something dangerous in the appearance of the experiment; but if they find that their fears are altogether imaginary they come to a second attempt, and make the experiment without fears. Now, I have heard all those arguments before. There has not been a single argument I have not heard before offered on that side of the House. We have had two long speeches from the Treasury Bench, and some others from the back benches opposite, and there is not a single argument in opposition to the Resolution of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kildare (Mr. Meldon) which I have not heard 20 times over in this House directed against proposals for the reduction of the franchise in England. We have heard a good deal to-night about re-distribution. That was a great hobgoblin argument in England. Now, there is nothing whatever in the argument of re-distribution. Re-distribution is required in Ireland whether the franchise remains as it is, or whether it is extended to household suffrage. Does any one suppose that 760 the re-distribution which was effected in England in 1867 was sufficient? It is wanted now just as much, or thereabout, as in Ireland; and public opinion will no doubt take up the question in England and force it upon the attention of Government, whether it be a Government composed of Gentlemen opposite or a Government which will succeed them, composed of Gentlemen who now sit on this side. Therefore the question of re-distribution has nothing to do with the question we are now discussing; and the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Butt) was perfectly right when he said that it was always brought in to obstruct the extension of the franchise. Of course, we know the effect it might have on some Gentlemen who represent small constituencies. But it is much better to discuss the question of the franchise absolutely separate from the question of re-distribution, and by that means come to a more solid and rational view of it, undisturbed by the fear of some Members that their constituencies might be merged into the counties by the disfranchisement of their small boroughs. A good many of us heard the speech of the hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson). The same arguments were repeated by the Solicitor General for Ireland. It was said they would admit so many new people on the voters' list that they would positively displace all who were now on it. I think the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government when the Franchise Bill was before the House in 1866 used the same argument. He said—"You would degrade the franchise"—that was the term—I am not sure whether he originated it—but it was the term used by many of his supporters. They were not alarmed at the extension of the franchise—that would make no difference to anybody—but they insisted that if they reduced the franchise to the £7 proposed when Lord Russell was Prime Minister in 1866, you would introduce so large a number of the working class that the middle class would almost be got rid of as regards political power in the elections of the country. So they say now in regard to Ireland. But I do not mean to argue that these arguments were fallacious. They found that there was no danger in the £7 franchise, none in the £6, none in the 761 £5, none in the £4, none in the £3, none in the £2, none in the £1—if there was any so low in England—and they swept the whole thing away absolutely, and admitted every householder to a vote. Their Bill did not at once admit every householder; but it laid the foundation for that admission, and it rested with the succeeding Government in the year afterwards to remove the obstructions which they had left in the way; but household suffrage, pure and simple, was the outcome of their legislation. Therefore, I may fairly adopt the opinion that they will come in a short time to the same view on this question as on the other. In fact, it only took them the short time to allow them to walk from this bench to that. I have come to the conclusion that the arguments used on that side ever since they came into political existence were not worth a single farthing and ought to be abandoned. Well, but if all those arguments they used with regard to England were bad, and if they themselves have thrown them overboard, who shall say that they are good as regards Ireland, and that if we show them that it is necessary they will not abandon them with equal facility? I recollect a speech made not long ago by an eminent Member, the Foreign Secretary of the present Government, to a large meeting in Edinburgh. He asked who would have thought a few years ago that with household suffrage in the boroughs the constituencies would have returned a Conservative majority, and that a Conservative Administration would be in power. Lord Derby, therefore, thought that this household suffrage was not so bad a thing as he had esteemed it before. He found its results were good—that the working men of England were exactly as we had always said—divided in their political opinions just as other classes were divided—which was a statement of ours absolutely and constantly contradicted by hon. Gentlemen opposite; but it only shows they knew nothing at all about the question at that time. I suppose, even now, with all their experience, they do not know enough about it to enable them to take the step which the hon. and learned Member for Kildare (Mr. Meldon) recommends to them. Now, I will ask the House whether they do not think that the results of household suffrage in England have not, on 762 the whole, been good. I am not alluding to the fact that Gentlemen opposite have changed sides in this House. That was a mere effect of the passing hour. Even as regards that particular fact, hon. Gentlemen opposite are better Members of Parliament than they were before household suffrage was placed on the Statute Book. I am of opinion that, although in establishing household suffrage in England we have admitted not a very small number of persons who have no great faculty for political life—who are, many of them, very ignorant and very abject, some of them not being sober or industrious, and in a very small degree worthy citizens—yet it was impossible to pick them out from the mass and exclude them; and it was far better to admit them than to place restriction on the franchise which had previously existed. In Ireland, of course, if you adopt household suffrage, you will no less admit many who will be no valuable addition to your constituencies; for there are in the Irish constituencies now, as there were 10 years ago in the English constituencies under the £10 franchise, many persons who are no use to the constituencies and a great trouble to the candidates and their friends. It will, of course, be so in Ireland; but that is only a small evil, which must always arise in a matter of this kind, and is not to be put against a very great good. Therefore, I hope we shall not, after the experience we have had of an extended household suffrage in England, think it is a dangerous thing for Ireland. The value of the house is not of so much importance as you fancy. Every man in Ireland that you will admit under this household franchise is the head of a family; he has his wife and his children with all those calls to industry and fair conduct in life which those have who live in better houses, and you may, therefore, throw out of view the bricks and roof by which he and his family are sheltered. I believe, notwithstanding what the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland has said, that if a measure of this kind were passed it would have the effect in Ireland—it must inevitably have the effect in Ireland of teaching the Irish people the Imperial Parliament is not only not afraid of them, but actually invites their co-operation. It invites every man of them, every householder in boroughs, to take 763 an interest in the political questions which are constantly debated in this House; and I am satisfied, that if you ask them to come and become partners in the discussions and deliberations of this Assembly, it would make them think that it will not be necessary for them to have a small Parliament of their own in Ireland if they find that this greater Parliament is willing to do them speedy and substantial justice. The right hon. Gentleman, when he rose from his seat in a manner which, I think, was hardly courteous, after the peroration with which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Limerick concluded his speech, said that that was a sort of conclusion to a speech which he had heard before. It remains to be true—though all the officials in the world think it worth while to call it in question—it remains to be true that justice done by the Government and Parliament to any portion of the population, be it the most remote, be it the most abject, still that measure of justice is never lost. It is compensated to the power that grants it, be it Monarch or be it Parliament, by greater affection, by greater and firmer allegiance to the law, and by the growth of all those qualities and virtues by which a great and durable nation is distinguished.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 166; Noes 179: Majority 13.766
|Adam, rt. hon. W. P.||Campbell, Sir G.|
|Anderson, G.||Carington, hn. Col. W.|
|Ashley, hon. E. M.||Cavendish, Lord F. C.|
|Barclay, A. C.||Chadwick, D.|
|Barclay, J. W.||Christie, W. L.|
|Bass, A.||Clarke, J. C.|
|Baxter, rt. hon. W. E.||Cogan, rt. hn. W.H.F.|
|Beaumont, Major F.||Collins, E.|
|Beaumont, W. B.||Corbett, J.|
|Bell, I. L.||Cotes, C. C.|
|Biggar, J. G.||Cowen, J.|
|Blake, T.||Crawford, J. S.|
|Blennerhassett, R. P.||Cross, J. K.|
|Bowyer, Sir G.||Crossley, J.|
|Brady, J.||Davies, D.|
|Bright, J.||Davies, R.|
|Bright, rt. hon. J.||Dease, E.|
|Brooks, M.||Dickson, T. A.|
|Brown, J. C.||Digby, K. T.|
|Browne, G. E.||Dilke, Sir C. W.|
|Burt, T.||Dillwyn, L. L.|
|Butt, I.||Dodds, J.|
|Callan, P.||Downing, M'C.|
|Cameron, C.||Dunbar, J.|
|Dundas, J. C.||Noel, E.|
|Edwards, H.||Nolan, Captain|
|Ennis, N.||O'Brien, Sir P.|
|Errington, G.||O'Byrne, W. R.|
|Fawcett, H.||O'Callaghan, hon. W.|
|Fay, C. J.||O'Clery, K.|
|Ferguson, R.||O'Conor, D. M.|
|Fletcher, I.||O'Conor Don, The|
|Forster, rt. hon. W. E.||O'Donoghue, The|
|French, hon. C.||O'Gorman, P.|
|Gladstone, rt. hn. W.E.||O'Loghlen, rt. hon. Sir C. M.|
|Gladstone, W. H.|
|Goldsmid, J.||O'Reilly, M. W.|
|Gourley, E. T.||O'Shaughnessy, R.|
|Grieve, J. J.||O'Sullivan, W. H.|
|Hamond, C. F.||Palmer, C. M.|
|Harcourt, Sir W. V.||Parnell, C. S.|
|Harrison, C.||Pease, J. W.|
|Harrison, J. F.||Pender, J.|
|Havelock, Sir H.||Pennington, F.|
|Hayter, A. D.||Perkins, Sir F.|
|Henry, M.||Philips, R. N.|
|Herbert, H. A.||Power, J. O'C.|
|Hodgson, K. D.||Ralli, P.|
|Holland, S.||Ramsay, J.|
|Holms, J.||Rashleigh, Sir C.|
|Holms, W.||Redmond, W. A.|
|James, W. H.||Rothschild, Sir N. M. de|
|Jenkins, D. J.||Rylands, P.|
|Johnstone, Sir H.||Samuda, J. D'A.|
|Kenealy, Dr.||Seely, C.|
|Kensington, Lord||Shaw, W.|
|Kinnaird, hon. A. F.||Sheil, E.|
|Kirk, G. H.||Sherlock, Mr. Serjeant|
|Laverton, A.||Sherriff, A. C.|
|Law, rt. hon. H.||Simon, Mr. Serjeant|
|Lawson, Sir W.||Smith, E.|
|Leatham, E. A.||Smyth, R.|
|Leeman, G.||Stacpoole, W.|
|Lefevre, G. J. S.||Stanton, A. J.|
|Leith, J. F.||Stuart, Colonel|
|Lewis, O.||Sullivan, A. M.|
|Locke, J.||Swanston, A.|
|MacCarthy, J. G.||Tavistock, Marquess of|
|Macdonald, A.||Taylor, P. A.|
|Macduff, Viscount||Torrens, W. T. M'C.|
|Mackintosh, C. F.||Tracy, hon. C. R. D. Hanbury-|
|M'Arthur, W.||Vivian, A. P.|
|M'Kenna, Sir J. N.||Vivian, H. H.|
|M'Lagan, P.||Ward, M. F.|
|Maitland, J.||Watkin, Sir E. W.|
|Maitland, W. F.||Whitworth, B.|
|Martin, P.||Williams, W.|
|Mellor, T. W.||Wilmot, Sir J. E.|
|Middleton, Sir A. E.||Wilson, C.|
|Milbank, F. A.||Yeaman, J.|
|Monk, C. J.||Young, A. W.|
|Montagu, rt. hn. Lord R.|
|Morgan, G. O.||Conyngham, Lord F.|
|Muntz, P. H.||Meldon, C. H.|
|Adderley, rt. hn. Sir C.||Barne, F. St. J. N.|
|Alexander, Colonel||Barrington, Viscount|
|Allsopp, C.||Bates, E.|
|Arkwright, A. P.||Bateson, Sir T.|
|Ashbury, J. L.||Bathurst, A. A.|
|Astley, Sir J. D.||Beach, rt. hn. Sir M. H.|
|Bagge, Sir W.||Beach, W. W. B.|
|Bentinck, rt. hn. G. C.||Hardy, rt. hon. G.|
|Beresford, G. dela Poer||Henley, rt. hon. J. W.|
|Beresford, Colonel M.||Hermon, E.|
|Birley, H.||Hervey, Lord F.|
|Blackburne, Col. J. I.||Hildyard, T. B. T.|
|Bourke, hon. R.||Hogg, Sir J. M.|
|Bousfield, Major||Holker, Sir J.|
|Bright, R.||Holland, Sir H. T.|
|Bruce, hon. T.||Home, Captain|
|Bruen, H.||Hood, hon. Captain A. W. A. N.|
|Buxton, Sir R. J.|
|Cameron, D.||Hubbard, E.|
|Cawley, C. E.||Hunt, rt. hon. G. W.|
|Cecil, Lord E. H. B. G.||Johnson, J. G.|
|Chaplin, Colonel E.||Johnstone, H.|
|Clifton, T. H.||Jolliffe, hon. S.|
|Clive, hon. Col. G. W.||Jones, J.|
|Close, M. C.||Kennard, Colonel|
|Clowes, S. W.||Knowles, T.|
|Cobbold, T. C.||Lacon, Sir E. H. K.|
|Cole, Col. hon. H. A.||Lawrence, Sir T.|
|Coope, O. E.||Learmonth, A.|
|Cordes, T.||Legard, Sir C.|
|Corry, J. P.||Legh, W. J.|
|Crichton, Viscount||Leigh, Lt.-Col. E.|
|Cross, rt. hon. R. A.||Leighton, S.|
|Cuninghame, Sir W.||Lloyd, S.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Lloyd, T. E.|
|Davenport, W. B.||Lopes, Sir M.|
|Deakin, J. H.||Lowther, hon. W.|
|Denison, W. E.||Lowther, J.|
|Dick, F.||Macartney, J. W. E.|
|Dickson, Major A. G.||Majendie, L. A.|
|Digby, hon. Capt. E.||Manners, rt. hn. Lord J.|
|Disraeli, rt. hon. B.||March, Earl of|
|Douglas, Sir G.||Marten, A. G.|
|Edmonstone, Admiral Sir W.||Mills, Sir C. H.|
|Egerton, hon. A. F.||Naghten, Lt.-Col.|
|Elliot, Sir G.||Neville-Grenville, R.|
|Elliot, G. W.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Elphinstone, Sir J.D.H.||Newport, Viscount|
|Emlyn, Viscount||Northcote, rt. hon. Sir S. H.|
|Fellowes, E.||Onslow, D.|
|Forester, C. T. W.||Paget, R. H.|
|Forsyth, W.||Parker, Lt.-Col. W.|
|Fraser, Sir W. A.||Pemberton, E. L.|
|Freshfield, C. K.||Phipps, P.|
|Gallwey, Sir W. P.||Plunket, hon. D. R.|
|Galway, Viscount||Plunkett, hon. R.|
|Gardner, J. T. Agg-||Powell, W.|
|Gardner, R. Richardson||Praed, H. B.|
|Garnier, J. C.||Raikes, H. C.|
|Gibson, E.||Rendlesham, Lord|
|Gordon, Sir A. H.||Repton, G. W.|
|Gordon, rt. hon. E. S.||Ridley, M. W.|
|Gordon, W.||Rodwell, B. B. H.|
|Gore, W. R. O.||Russell, Sir C.|
|Gorst, J. E.||Ryder, G. R.|
|Grantham, W.||Salt, T.|
|Greenall, Sir G.||Sanderson, T. K.|
|Greene, E.||Sandford, G. M. W.|
|Gregory, G. B.||Sandon, Viscount|
|Guinness, Sir A.||Sclater-Booth, rt. hn. G.|
|Hall, A. W.||Scott, M. D.|
|Halsey, T. F.||Selwin-Ibbetson, Sir H. J.|
|Hamilton, Lord C. J.|
|Hamilton, Lord G.||Sidebottom, T. H.|
|Hamilton, Marquess of||Simonds, W. B.|
|Hamilton, hon. R. B.||Smith, A.|
|Hardcastle, E.||Smith, F. C.|
|Smith, S. G.||Tremayne, J.|
|Smith, W. H.||Verner, E. W.|
|Somerset, Lord H. R. C.||Wait, W. K.|
|Spinks, Mr. Serjeant||Walker, T. E.|
|Stanhope, W. T. W. S.||Wallace, Sir R.|
|Stanley, hon. F.||Walpole, rt. hon. S.|
|Starkey, L. R.||Wells, E.|
|Stewart, M. J.||Whalley, G. H.|
|Storer, G.||Wolff, Sir H. D.|
|Sykes, C.||Yorke, J. R.|
|Taylor, rt. hon. Col.|
|Thynne, Lord H. F.||Dyke, Sir W. H.|
|Tollemache, hon. W. F.||Winn, R.|