HC Deb 29 June 1877 vol 235 cc488-588

in rising to move the following Eesolutions:—

  1. "1. That, in the opinion of this House, it would he desirable to adopt a uniform Parliamentary Franchise for Borough and County constituencies.
  2. "2. That it would he desirable to so re-distribute political power as to obtain a more complete representation of the opinion of the electoral body,"
said: I trust that no hon. Gentleman will complain that the promoters of these Resolutions, unappalled by frequent defeats, once more ask Parliament to give public assent to propositions the justice of which no one in private even attempts to controvert. As long as a vast grievance, affecting more or less three-fifths of the population of the United Kingdom, remains undenied and unredressed, there will always be found those who will not be deterred by the fear of being thought tiresome and importunate from calling upon this House to make its annual confession that, in dealing with the claims of the county householder, it does not even profess to be guided by those considerations which influence its treatment of all other matters. Let hon. Gentlemen observe the different position which this question holds from any other that comes before the House. When the Irish tenants apply to Parliament for a change in the land laws—when the Temperance Party applies for a change in the licensing laws—when a portion of the Irish people press for a revision of the constitutional relations of Great Britain and Ireland—however little hope they may have of gaining their point, at any rate, they are sure that their case will be discussed on its merits. On such an occasion, Sir, your only difficulty is to select one among the many hon. Gentlemen who start up in every quarter of the House ready to state the arguments against the measure in as convincing language as he can find at his command. The advocates of these measures are out-voted indeed, and outvoted often by a much larger majority than I hope to see against me to-night, but they go away with the feeling that, right or wrong, they have had their answer; they have been met like reasonable beings; and the cause which they have at heart has not been condemned unheard. But that is not the case with the householder of the counties. When he comes before the House, nothing can exceed the unanimity of the discussion. Our galleries are crowded with his friends; our benches are thickly studded with his admirers; speaker vies with speaker in praising his patriotism, his industry, his frugality, his common sense; and then, after a debate which has been nothing but one long and unbroken panegyric of his civic qualities, comes a division, the result of which is to exclude him from all hope and prospect of obtaining his civic privilege. Until our arguments are confuted by something more persuasive than a silent vote of this House, it is idle to expect that he will sit down contented under a deprivation from rights which, if he had been a new Englander instead of an old Englander, he and his ancestors would have already exercised for a couple of centuries. On all other evenings of the Session the county householder stands before you as a helpless being, with whom you may do what you like; he comes here to be taxed and rated and assessed; to be enlisted in the Army for a long term or a short term; to be buried with or without rites; to be educated with or without a Conscience Clause. But on this day of all the year, and on this day alone, he stands at our door, not indeed in the capacity, but with the claims, of a British citizen; and if those claims continue to be asserted till you are weary of hearing them—for be assured that we shall not easily be ashamed of repeating them— the blame lies not with us, but with those hon. Gentlemen who refuse to give us any other answer than by the very cheap and easy process of walking through one Lobby, instead of through the other. But though hon. Gentlemen, by declining to answer our old arguments, have absolved us from the obligation of presenting new ones, we shall not avail ourselves of our privilege. Nor is there any need for it; for the nature of this question is such that every fresh Session of Parliament brings with it a whole crop of reasons in favour of the reform which we advocate. There is hardly a Notice of Motion placed upon our Books, there is hardly a Bill laid upon our Table, which does not sensibly affect that large portion of our population who, standing outside the pale of political privilege, see matters touching their nearest interests and their highest sentiments discussed without them, and arranged for them, in an Assembly over whose deliberations they have no larger influence than if they were inhabitants of Kamtschatka. And what manner of men are these, that we should not consult them on the questions of the day? Is the Church of England ratepayer in the rural districts so indifferent to religious matters that he is not to be asked whether he has or has not an objection to seeing burials conducted in the churchyards with rites other than his own? Is he so careless of his money that he is not to be asked whether, in order to settle the burial question in accordance with the views of the hon. and learned Member for Cambridge (Mr. Marten), he is prepared to bear his share in the expense of providing the country with a new outfit of cemeteries? Are the Scotch county householders so ignorant and simple that they are to see the guardianship of their poor and the management of their highways re-arranged for them, without their consent, by Bills which the Lord Advocate has introduced to the House—Bills which these unenfranchised Scotchmen read with an eagerness and attention which hon. Members reserve only for the most sensational of the Blue Books—which many of them understand—and I am not paying the Lord Advocate an ill compliment in saying so—every whit as well as the hon. and learned Gentleman himself? Why, it is this very Parliament which placed in the hands of Scotch shepherds and ploughmen the charge of electing the minister who is to be their spiritual guide and adviser. Are we so inconsistent that we are to refuse them a voice in choosing the Member of Parliament who is to look after their mundane and material interests? When we were discussing the Navy Mutiny Bill, would it have been no advantage to us to have been told by the Representatives of those classes from whom our ships are manned, whether the punishment of flogging is considered by the relatives of our seamen as an attractive or detering feature in our Service? When we come to discuss the most important War Office Report on the localization of our Army, which has this Session been placed in our hands, would it not be to our advantage that we should know what is thought about the effect of the proposed scheme upon our recruiting by the Representatives of the class from which we fill our regiments? If we want to be informed whether local influences and associations will bring more young men into the Army, it is not to farmers and shopkeepers we should go, but to those agricultural labourers who are the fathers and brothers of our rank and file. From the Valuation Bill of the Government to the Threshing Machines Bill of the hon. Member for Mid-Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), there is no measure affecting our rural population with regard to which we should not be the wiser for knowing the wishes and feelings of those for whom we are undertaking to legislate. And while every year adds to the grievances of the unrepresented county householder, by bringing with it a new list of enactments as to which his advice and assent have not been asked, every year likewise adds, and adds largely, to the number of those who suffer from that grievance, and suffer from it under its most invidious form. It is worth the while of hon. Members to notice what class of our people it is that is increasing with a rapidity that produces such remarkable results in each successive census. It is not to the rural districts that the growth of our population is due. Owing to the conditions of modern agriculture, and other circumstances into which it is now unnecessary to enter, our purely rural population, so far from increasing, is steadily diminishing. There were fewer farmers in 1871 than in 1851; there were many fewer shepherds and in-door farm servants. The class of agricultural labourers proper had fallen in 20 years from 908,000 to 764,000. The only persons employed in rural pursuits who have multiplied during the same period are huntsmen, gamekeepers, and ratcatchers. Nor, again, does the increase in the Census proceed mainly from the people within the boundaries of Parliamentary boroughs. Those boundaries are for the most part sufficiently crowded already. Population follows manufacture, and manufacture requires elbow-room. Population accompanies the spread of mining operations, and veins of metal and beds of fuel are for the most part found in other places than beneath the soil of towns which happened to be summoned to send burgesses to the Parliament of Edward the Third or Henry the Sixth. Wherever coal, or lead, or slate, or iron exists in abundance—wherever wool factories spring up along the banks of some convenient stream—there may be seen streets of well-built houses, rows of thriving shops and stores, schools, lecture-rooms, reading-rooms, elegant churches, commodious chapels—everything that constitutes a town, save and except the rate-paying household suffrage. Let any intelligent foreigner go to such a place as Barrow-in-Furness, and let him view those docks and quays which, if they belonged to Germany or Austria, or Italy, would be regarded with pride as a national possession; these smelting works whose produce would provide a first-class European Kingdom with material for its system of railroads and its iron-clad fleet; those other extensive and valuable manufactures which supplement the leading industry of the place; and when he has finished his inspection of the town which is already justly recognized to be among the wonders of England, then let him be told that, of the 7,000 or 8,000 heads of families whose enterprize and energy have made Barrow what it is, six out of every seven are excluded from those rights of citizenship which in the course of the next three months every Frenchman of mature age will be called upon to exercise. Why are the 25,000 inhabitants of Hey wood, and the 25,000 inhabitants of Accrington, excluded from the rights which townsmen enjoy elsewhere? What intelligible reason can you give for such exclusion? What reason, I mean, which would be intelligible to the inhabitants of Hey wood and Accrington? Take the woollen districts. The chief seat of a very important branch of the woollen industry lies in a group of towns and villages situated upon the Tweed and its tributaries. Some among these communities have been constituted Parliamentary boroughs, while others still remain part of the county; but if you seek for a reason why the inhabitants of Walkerburn and Innerleithen should be deprived of the franchise which is enjoyed by the inhabitants of Hawick, Galashiels, and Selkirk, you certainly will not find it in the character of the population. The people of Walkerburn and Innerleithen earn the same wages as my constituents; they read the same newspapers; they are subject to the same local influences. They share the merits of my constituents; and they would share their defects—if my constituents had any defects. Why, in the name of all that is just and reasonable, should they not share their political privileges? Let us come nearer home, and take the immediate neighbourhood of the Metropolis. If any hon. Gentleman has a spare Saturday afternoon about this time of the year, he will find nothing within the compass of an hour's walk so pleasant as Clapham Common. If he takes the shortest route, over Chelsea Suspension Bridge, and by Battersea Park, he will pass through a region with quite a character of its own, and which well repays a visit. What once were Battersea Fields are now covered with thousands of healthy and roomy dwellings, inhabited by working men who have their business in the Metropolis. Part of this district is well and widely known as the Shaftesbury Park Estate, and hon. Members may recollect how, when the Shaftesbury Park Estate was set on foot, the present Prime Minister, who is always ready to do a good-natured thing, went to Battersea to attend what he justly regarded as a most interesting ceremonial. That ceremonial has within the last week been renewed in the same locality under the same distinguished auspices. On both these occasions the inhabitants of the Victoria Buildings and the Shaftesbury Park Estate were told how grateful they ought to be for the blessings that were provided for them. They are congratulated upon the simple excellence of their architecture, on the breadth of their roads, on the frequency of their churches, on the paucity of their public-houses. But on one point silence was kept, in order, I suppose, that nothing might destroy the harmony of the meeting. They were not told that, as a reward for their intelligence in appreciating a comfortable home, and for their thrift in having made themselves able to pay for it, they had forfeited the privilege of giving their vote for a Member of Parliament—a privilege which was still possessed by their less frugal and provident comrades whose circumstances obliged them to continue living in the smoke and crowd of Southwark, of Fins-bury, and of Lambeth. It is not in one part of the Kingdom more than another that a large population is being accumulated outside the boundaries of Parliamentary boroughs. Look at the section on Wales in the preliminary Report of the Census of 1871. In Glamorganshire alone, the increase in the population in 10 years nearly reached the figure of 80,000, which in itself would make a respectable population for a Swiss Canton; and one of the four localities which are responsible for this enormous addition is the district of Pontypridd. Now, if on other grounds the people of that district have a claim to the franchise, I do not think that I need, during the current Session at any rate, consume the time of the House by arguing that on the score of personal character they are worthy of their political rights. The circumstances connected with the rescue of the imprisoned colliers in the valley of the Bhonddha speak with a force which any words of mine could only serve to extenuate. If, as we have every reason to believe, these men, of whom we have heard so much, in their heroic courage and in their sincere and sterling religious feeling, are but a fair specimen of the miners of South Wales, if I were one of the Members for Glamorganshire, I should be the first to vote for a measure which would endow me with such constituents. I have been at the more pains to lay before the House the case of the mining and manufacturing population which lies outside the boundaries of boroughs, because this question is generally argued as if it concerned no one but the agricultural labourer. If we take England and Wales as a whole, of the new voters whom this measure would enfranchise, it is probable, according to the best calculation that I can make, that not more than one-half will belong to the class of agricultural labourers. Be they many, however, or be they few, I come with great confidence before the House to ask for their enfranchisement, and for that confidence I have special and recent grounds. We have not often the pleasure of being unanimous with regard to a great social and political change; but, in the course of the present Session, one of those happy occasions befell when all the House was of a mind, and that was when the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. Clare Read) proposed to hand over county business to a representative County Board. It is a strong proof of the justice and reason of the principle on which the Resolutions which we are now discussing are founded, that when that principle is presented to hon. Gentlemen under a new form, from a new quarter, severed from those associations of ancient political controversies which have, I cannot but think, a disturbing effect upon their judgment, it at once is seen to be so equitable and so unanswerable that hardly anyone can be found to speak, and no one to vote, against it. Hon. Gentlemen who regard it as a matter of such moment to give to the ratepayer the management of his own local affairs that they actually invent and create a new representative Body for the purpose, cannot much longer refuse him a voice in the management of the affairs of the nation in Parliament. Just see what the consequences of such a refusal will be. The Representatives of the agricultural labourers will then, as now, be excluded from Parliament. But though they have no power of expressing their sentiments here, they will have a vent elsewhere. On the County Boards will sit, in larger or smaller proportion, men who are the representatives of the labourers, who know their wishes, who sympathize with their opinions, and, if you will, with their prejudices. In a country which has the instinct of self-government, you cannot give men representation, and then dictate to them the nature of the subjects which they are to discuss, and the resolutions which they are to pass; and whenever the mass of our rural population have their minds set on any object, whether it comes within the legitimate scope of county business, or whether it does not, you may be very sure that they will turn these County Boards into so many little Parliaments, where they will give expression to that voice which is stifled at Westminster. And if these men insist on urging their grievance in season and out of season, we cannot justly blame them, for that grievance is curiously compounded out of all the elements which render wrong intolerable; for in the case of the unenfranchised householder the practical injury from which he suffers is enhanced by an insult to which he is keenly sensible. He is not only unrepresented; he is misrepresented. The House of Commons, I am well aware, always prefers facts to assertions, so I will take a special case—the ease of a county of small extent, but which, on that very account, affords a clearer illustration of my meaning. Selkirkshire contains about 10,500 inhabitants; but most of these are collected within Parliamentary boroughs, and the entire roll of county electors, dead and alive, only reaches the figure of 272. Well, the past electioneering history of Selkirkshire is worth recording, but into that I will not enter. I will take the register as it stands, and will call the attention of the House to a single item. In the year 1870 a bit of land was bought, and was divided into seven little parcels, each surrounded by a wire fence, and each having two owners. All the 14 lairds concurred with ominous unanimity in having one and the same tenant, for which they had very good reason, seeing that upon the land there was only set of farm buildings. Now, let us turn to the register, and see who these 14 gentlemen are. First come two gentlemen who reside at Lochearnhead. Lochearnhead is a pleasant place; but it is not in Selkirkshire, but in Perthshire. Then we have two Writers to the Signet, both resident in Edinburgh. The 14 proprietors are, in exactly equal proportions, Writers to the Signet in Edinburgh, and county gentlemen whose estates are situated in other counties. There you have an official and authoritative description of these people who, joining in a conspiracy to commit an act which is not indeed opposed to the letter, but which is a violation of the spirit, of our Constitution, have by a single operation possessed themselves of more than 5 per cent of the entire voting power of a county, the inhabitants of which are not so ignorant of public affairs, or so indifferent to the welfare of the nation at large, that they require to have strangers brought in from a distance to speak in their name, and to usurp their undoubted rights. But the people of Selkirkshire have no special cause for complaint. They are in the same plight as the people of every county in the Kingdom. As soon as the polling begins, from one end of the Island to the other, our railway carriages are stuffed with people, with free passes in their pockets, and cut and dried Party notions in their heads, hurrying about from shire to shire to decide the political representation of localities they never visit from one General Election to another. Meanwhile the native and genuine inhabitants of the locality—unable to vote—unable even to influence those who do vote—for these non-resident electors care no more for local wishes and interests than we care for the public opinion of Bohemia—patiently and passively look forward to the declaration of the poll, in order that they may enjoy their sole political privilege—that of knowing the name of the Gentleman whom Providence and the faggot voters had allotted to them as their Representative. It was not so once. Those who characterize the proposal now before the House as a democratic innovation, must have studied history to very little purpose. It is worth our while on this point to appeal to the wisdom of our ancestors. The writs for county elections, as far back as the reigns of Edward I. and his successors, are addressed, not to any special class, but the whole community. The people who are directed to choose Representatives are variously described as "freemen," "the community of the counties," "the honest men of the counties,"—a qualification which, as far as my experience goes, would exclude very few of the agricultural labourers. So it was in the good old times; but, after the death of Henry V., power fell into the hands of a lawless clique of nobles, headed by an unscrupulous ecclesiastic. Under the influence of this cabal—as bad a set of Rulers as ever misgoverned a country—a statute was passed which ran thus— Whereas the election of knights of the shires to come to the Parliaments of our Lord the King have now of late been made by a great and excessive number of people, of which the most part was people of small substance and of no value, whereof every one of them pretended a voice equivalent to the most worthy knights and esquires dwelling within the said counties, whereby manslaughter, riots, and batteries among gentlemen and other people of the same counties shall very likely arise and be "— therefore—the statute goes on to say—the right of voting shall be confined to people dwelling and resident in the said counties who have 40s. a-year in land, which, as hon. Gentlemen are aware, is equivalent to at least £40 a-year of our money. Now, I am not going to defend Cardinal Beaufort and his accomplices of passing one of the most unjust laws that disgraces our Statute Book; but, at any rate, they had two excuses which we have not. They were afraid of having riots and batteries, which certainly were frequent enough in the days of open elections, whereas our happy experience tells us that under the Ballot contests are always conducted in peace and quiet; and, in the next place, as the terms of the Preamble show, they confined the choice of Representatives to knights and esquires resident in the county, while we permit the inhabitants of a district in the Lowlands of Scotland to be disfranchised for the benefit of a troop of Edinburgh lawyers and Highland proprietors who have no part or parcel in that district except a fictitious qualification. And if we come to more recent days, the wisest statesmen of our country—such men as the Duke of Richmond, Mr. Flood, Mr. Fox, Lord Shelburne, Lord Chatham, the precursors and progenitors of our modern Reformers—have looked for a remedy to the evils which, from time to time, afflicted the State in the restoration of county elections to the hands which formerly held them. In the year 1790, when the troubles on the Continent were beginning, some of these great men proposed to add to the House of Commons 100 Members, elected by the resident householders in every county. These proposals were combated by Mr. Windham, on the ground that the time was inopportune, and that men should not choose the hurricane season to repair their houses. That is an argument which I suppose will be repeated to-night by hon. Gentlemen who will point to the East of Europe, as Mr. Windham pointed to France; but it is an argument which those who advocate the extension of the franchise need not be afraid of meeting. It is in the time of peril and difficulty—when it is of vital consequence that the public opinion of the country, if not united, should at any rate, be unmis-takeable—that we feel more than at other times the inconvenience of a state of things under which two-fifths of the House of Commons only represent two-fifths of the people who ought to be their constituents. That is the answer to the argument, founded on a panegyric of the high qualities of the House of Commons, with which, the day before yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe) regaled the ears of the young patriots of Merchant Taylors' School. We are very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for all the civil things which he said of us. We hope and believe that we deserve them. But that does not alter the fact that, at a crisis when the eyes of Europe are fixed upon us, we cannot pretend that we speak in the name of the entire population of this Kingdom. The jokes of the right hon. Gentleman, good as they were, and his quotations from Milton, do not supply an answer to the people of our rural districts, when they complain that they have no voice in these questions of peace and war; when they ask whether their part in the business is for ever to be confined to sending their sons to be shot, and giving their money to be squandered? No, this of all others is not the time when we, on this side of the House, should shrink from asserting the doctrine on which the creed of our Party is founded—the doctrine that taxation should be accompanied by representation, and that the extension of the franchise to all who are fit to exercise it is a strength, and not a weakness, to the Constitution. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, when they were in a minority, never wearied of asserting their convictions, and fighting their battles, under every form of discouragement, with a consistency that won our respectful admiration. We, too, I confidently believe, have our share of that national courage and constancy which we recognized in them; and I trust that the division to-night, by a unanimous vote of these benches, will show that Liberal Members under every turn of fortune are resolved on being true to Liberal principles. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the first of the Resolutions on the Paper.


Mr. Speaker, my hon. Friend has addressed himself chiefly to the first of his two Resolutions. I shall address myself chiefly to the second. There is a much more general desire to adopt a uniform franchise in counties and boroughs than to re-distribute seats in Parliament; but there are many on this side who think that the two changes should be carried out together. If acting upon the belief that all were agreed as to the expediency and safety of enfranchising the rural householder, a Minister were to propose nakedly to carry that reform, he would at once be met by Party opposition, indirect in character, but, at least, as damaging as could be a direct opposition to the reform upon its merits. That would occur which occurred in 1866; a cry would be raised for a "complete scheme," and the reforming Minister would be overthrown by a union between the Opposition and such among his political Friends as believed in the pressing necessity for a re-distribution. The wise and the honest course for those of us who desire both reforms is then to connect them in our movement from the first. While, however, we are bound to keep before the country the subject of re-distribution, we cannot fairly be asked, as yet, to give to Parliament the details of our plan. We are not all agreed upon those details; but we are at one in thinking the matter of such importance that we should be willing to waive our individual views upon detail, and to accept, when the time has come, that scheme which has the highest chance of passing into law. There are some of us who attach, indeed, so much importance to a re-distribution as to think its pressing moment one of the strongest among the many reasons that favour the equalization of borough and county franchise, for that reform is, of of necessity, involved in any such complete re-distribution as we desire. A Return which has lately, upon my Motion, been presented to the House, shows an immense increase in electoral anomalies. Those anomalies are growing at a pace, of which persons, who have not examined this question for themselves, have not the least idea. The pace is not only a rapid, but it is also an accelerating pace. The electors in the small boroughs and in the agricultural counties considered together have, for a long time past, shown no increase, but they are now beginning to show a a rapid diminution. In the Return of the present year, we find an enormous growth in counties which include great towns or the suburbs of great towns; we find the numbers in East Surrey swollen; we find an increase in West Kent, in Middlesex, in all the divisions of Lancashire, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, in all the divisions of the West Riding, in the part of Warwickshire which includes Birmingham, and in Glamorganshire; but there has been such a diminution in the great majority of the counties that the total number of county electors for all England and Wales, while it shows hardly any change whatever when considered absolutely, when considered relatively to the increase of the population of the country, shows a marked decline. The electors of all Ireland, counting together the electors in the counties and the boroughs, are stationary in number, and would show a general falling off, were we to deduct the single town of Belfast, in which there has been an immense increase. The increase in the number of Scotch electors is the increase in the single county of Lanark and in the three great boroughs of Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Dundee. The increase of the total number of the electors of the United Kingdom is an increase confined to the great borough constituencies and the counties surrounding London, or containing manufacturing towns. The increase in the constituency which I have the honour to represent is one of 1,500 electors every year. The increase at Lambeth has been an increase of 2,000 electors in a single year. The increase at Manchester is 2,000. The increase at Birmingham has been 2,200 in the year. There are seven boroughs returning seven Members to this House which have a total number of electors less than the annual increment at Birmingham. The disparity between the number of electors to a Member in the borough where the elector has the smallest electoral power, which was last year the borough of Hackney, and which is this year the borough of Lambeth, and the small borough in which votes have the greatest weight—I do not say the greatest value, for fear of being misunderstood—is as 1 to 162. Metropolitan electors count only on the average, taking London through, 150th part the political power possessed by certain electors who live in small boroughs. In face of the fact that these anomalies are as great as the figures show, and that, great as they are, they are increasing more and more rapidly every year, I do not see how it is possible to refuse to admit that the subject needs immediate attention at the hands of Parliament. It has often been contended, or, let me say, pretended, that the small boroughs form a kind of representation of the minorities among the county electors. If they are to be defended on that ground many would prefer to see county minorities directly represented in this House. As matters stand, in the case of several counties in the South of England, the small boroughs are so numerous as to give to those counties unduly great political power. Take, for instance, the cases of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Wiltshire, Dorsetshire, and Cornwall. Those counties are, if we consider the present number of their electors, sufficiently represented by their present number of county Members. If, however, household suffrage were to be extended to the counties, then many hon. Gentlemen who sit for boroughs in those counties would, perhaps, become the Representatives of the Liberals among the county voters in the first four counties which I named, or of the Conservatives of Cornwall. Under our present system the Members for the smallest boroughs in these counties are neither borough Members proper, nor county Members proper, and cannot speak in this House with that authority which Members of their political standing would possess, if they represented great bodies of electors. In Berkshire, for example there are four boroughs returning five Members to this House. Reading is a borough of considerable importance. Windsor is somewhat small, and as I gather from the remarks that were made upon it by the Judges who presided over the trial of the last Petition, far from pure. Abingdon and Wallingford are so small, that, in spite of the considerable size of Reading, the five borough Members from Berkshire represent only between 8,000 and 9,000 electors. Take Buckinghamshire again. There we also find four boroughs returning five Members to the House. Aylesbury is large, Wycombe is not very small, but Buckingham and Marlow are so tiny, although Marlow is styled "Great," that the five Buckinghamshire borough Members represent only between 7,000 and 8,000 electors. In Wiltshire, the next in order of the counties named, there are no less than nine boroughs returning 11 Members to this House. Of these, Cricklade is a large borough; but most of the others are so small that the 11 Wiltshire borough Members represent only between 13,000 and 14,000 electors. The same number of householders as inhabit these nine Wiltshire boroughs, returning, as they do, 11 Members to this House, if they all lived together in the suburbs of the metropolis, would not be deemed of sufficient consideration, any more than Croydon or Battersea are deemed of sufficient consideration to specially return a single Member to Parliament. As they are lucky enough to live in Wiltshire, they return 11. Wiltshire, with 24,000 electors, is represented by 15 Members, while twice that number of electors in Lambeth are given two. In the county of Cornwall there are seven boroughs specially represented. Cornwall is a case which I would recommend to the attention of hon. Members who sit opposite. Cornwall returns nine borough and four county Members. Of these 13 Members the great majority are Liberal; yet, speaking from this side of the House, we cannot but admit that as long as the present franchise is maintained, electors who live in Cornwall are as greatly over-represented as electors who live in the capital, or in Lancashire or Yorkshire, are greatly under-represented in the Commons. The nine Cornish borough Members represent but 8,000 electors, a number which would be politically insignificant in the metropolis or in the North of England. Dorsetshire is the last county which I named. In Dorsetshire there are six boroughs. In this case again we can show that we raise no Party question. Bridport and Poole return Liberals to this House; Dorsetshire and Wareham return Conservatives; Weymouth, which alone among the Dorsetshire boroughs returns two Members, sends us "one and one." Shaftesbury, which one would say at first sight must take a side, and make of this Dorsetshire borough representation either a Liberal, or a Conservative Party question, succeeds in doing nothing of the kind. Shaftesbury, although it returns only one Member, contrives, difficult as the task may seem, to manifest its high impartiality, and to keep the Party balance even. Shaftesbury notoriously depends upon the influence of Motcombe. Now, the influence of Motcombe is in so singular a position, through the political differences of the various members of the Westminster family, that in the last Parliament the Motcombe influence was Whig and returned a Whig; that in the present Parliament the Motcombe interest is Conservative and returns a Conservative; and that it is well known that there is every probability that, at a future time, the Motcombe influence will again be Whig. It has been stated in all the newspapers, and not denied, that it is useless for a Liberal to stand for Shaftesbury at the present moment, and that it would be useless for a Conservative to stand for it at that future time of which I speak. In other words, it is as useless at the present time for a Liberal to stand at Shaftesbury as at Wilton; but it was as useless for a Conservative to stand at Shaftesbury when Motcombe was in Whig hands, as it was useless for a Conservative to stand at Wilton when the Herbert family was Whig. The seven borough Members returned by the six Dorsetshire boroughs represent 6,000 electors. Here are 6,000 Dorsetshire borough electors returning seven borough Members when 60,000 electors at Liverpool, 61,000 electors at Glasgow, 62,000 electors at Birmingham, and 64,000 electors at Manchester return only three Members each. Is there any such extraordinary political spirit, any such marvellously keen political intelligence in the electors of Dorchester or of Wareham that the 600 and odd electors of Dorchester should be given a Member specially to represent them in this House, when exactly one hundred times as many electors at Manchester return but three? We wish it to be understood that those of us who propose these reforms do not expect of them that they would exclude from Parliament those hon. Members, many of them men of great ability, all of them, we hope, useful Members of this House, who represent the small constituencies. We wish only that, which we are persuaded the majority of them wish themselves, that which some of them have had the courage to go down to their boroughs and avow, that they ought to sit here not as the special Representatives of decayed communities, but as the Representatives of large bodies of their fellow-countrymen. There is one other matter in connection with this branch of the subject to which it is difficult not to allude; indeed, I did allude to it just now in the case of Windsor. I speak of the electoral practices—the electoral mal-practices for which some small boroughs are notorious. It is I fear the case, that in many of these small boroughs—it is certain that in some, corrupt practices exist, and that no candidate who is determined not to pay one farthing without a clear account as to the manner in which his money was expended, can possibly hold those seats. There are still constituencies in England in which the first question asked, not, indeed, of candidates themselves, but of those who are charged with conducting their elections, is not a question as to their political opinions, but a question as to the amount of their wealth. Not only is much political demoralization produced by the laxity of public morals upon this point which still prevails in many boroughs, but these facts are well-known abroad, are repeatedly referred to in foreign journals and in foreign Assemblies, and cannot but in some degree diminish the high respect in which abroad the deliberations of this House are held. "Influence," too, is still so rife that whole pages of our Parliamentary guides are filled with lists of boroughs in which the politics of the people are held to be of no account when compared with the opinions of some great neighbouring family. What is the practical importance of a change in the distribution of political power, the theoretical need for which can be shown by statistics so clear as those to which I have referred. I have tried in previous years, in moving Resolutions couched in the same terms as the second of those which is this day submitted to the House, to prove that not even the more showy reform of an extended franchise is of so much moment. There are some of us who go so far as to believe that a re-distribution of political power will be found to as greatly transcend in importance the mere extension of the franchise as it does in difficulty of treatment. The practical injustice of the present state of things has been often shown in cases in which the interests of the inhabitants of great communities have come into conflict with what may be termed private interests. I have several times given to the House instances in support of this view, of which the defeat of the Birmingham Sewage Bill, after a conflict between a city and two landowners was an admirable example. That Bill was thrown out on a division by a majority formed of hon. Members who represented vastly fewer voters than did the Members who voted in the minority. So far as we could judge the opinions of the voters by the opinions of their Members the present President of the Board of Trade and the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth were in a minority of 500,000 voters on that occasion, although they had a majority in the House. Our proposals as to re-distribution have been met by an attempt to frighten the country by the bugbear of a vast disfranchisement. It is not disfranchisement that we propose. If you equalize borough and county franchise at the same time when you re-distribute seats there will be no actual disfranchisement of any individual elector, but only a reduction of the unduly great political importance which has hitherto been given him. No voter would cease to have a vote; he would have his county vote instead of a vote in an over represented borough; that is all. The Conservative Party, from whom the majority of the supporters of the small boroughs are now drawn, are accustomed to declare that it is good Conservative doctrine that political power should be given, not to numbers, but to intelligence and to property. By upholding the special, and unduly great, representation of decaying communities, of a few hundred voters each, they do not, as a rule, whatever may be the case in certain isolated instances, place the representation in the hands of electors who can be fitly said to well represent either the property or the intelligence of England. If we compare the property and intelligence of the largest and those of the smallest towns, we shall not be brought to the belief that in giving 150 times as much proportional power to the latter as they give to the former, Conservatives are taking the best course towards carrying out their object. It may however be pleaded, even on behalf of numbers, which they are fond of contrasting with property and intelligence, that it always is assumed in all political discussion, that a majority in the House of Commons represents, or ought to represent, a majority of the electors of the country. The majority of electors; not a majority of rich voters in particular, but of voters rich or poor. Wealth ought to have obtained, has obtained, its fair influence at the elections by which any House of Commons is, or can be returned. Property, too, is specially represented in the House of Lords; and the modern theory of the House of Commons is, that it represents the people who have each one his life and limb and work or trade and property itself, however small that property may be, within the control of law. To the laws of England, then, the consent of all the English people through their Representatives is, or should be asked. If it is a maxim of the Constitution that all who have to pay the taxes should be consulted upon the taxation which they will have to bear, it is even more clear now than ever at any time before, that all the rural ratepayers at least should be given their small share in government. I have heard that some may vote with us this year who have abstained from voting in the past. I not only hope that that is true, I not only believe that it is true, but I see reasons why men should join us now who have hesitated up to the present time. I speak not of unworthy motives, I allude not to political ambition, but the reasons which I have in view are drawn from the conduct of the Government itself. Only this year they have pledged themselves that they will soon destroy an organization of county government which has existed in England from the Saxon times. For nomination they are going to substitute election. What clearer duty can be before all Englishmen who can lay a claim to the title Liberal than to, insist that the new system of election shall not be such a miserable compromise as that which the Government in a Bill before the House have proposed for Scotland, but shall rest on a wide and a defensible base. What could be clearer policy for the Conservative party, if they would only dare it, than by basing our whole political system, in country and town alike, upon the possession for a certain time of a fixed home, to establish a new foundation for the Constitution which they might hope would live as long as our country itself shall exist.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That "to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, it would he desirable to adopt a uniform Parliamentary Franchise for Borough and County constituencies,"—(Mr. Trevelyan,) —instead thereof.

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


More than two years ago, an incident occurred in this House to which I desire to call attention for some moments. In the Session of 1875 a Motion was made to issue a Writ for the election of a Member to serve in Parliament for Stroud, in Gloucestershire. A Motion of this nature, being matter of form, is usually passed without observation; but, on this occasion, it was opposed with some vehemence by the hon. Baronet who represents the City of Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson). That hon. Gentleman treated the proposal as a mere device to bring into the House of Commons a man of talent and abilities—qualities which he said were very undesirable in any Member, and were most unsuitable for a Gentleman sitting on the Opposition benches. The presence alone of the ex-Member for Kilmarnock—for Mr. Bouverie was the party indicated—would, he declared, destroy the repose, and would put an end to the holy calm, which had spread over the benches on both sides of the House ever since the Conservative Administration had been installed in office. Now, if repose be really needed, if an absence from divided courses were required to cement the discipline of the once powerful, but now disorderly, Liberal Party, surely, some of the foremost men upon the Opposition benches must curse, in their hearts, the electors of the Border Boroughs who had sent to this House as their Representative a Gentleman of acknowledged talent, a statesman who thinks for himself, and who has adopted as a Party cry the question of an un- limited extension of the suffrage. By-means of this cry, the hon. Gentleman doubtless hopes to bring that section of the advanced Liberal Party with which he is connected, into office, at some period more or less remote; but he must well know that the discussion of this question is distasteful, at the present time, to many thoughtful men in the Liberal ranks. These Gentlemen dislike the scheme by reason of its own demerits; and they detest it the more, because at this moment the matter is regarded by the masses out-of-doors with apathy, indifference, and neglect.

The hon. Member for the Border Boroughs must be perfectly cognizant of the disunion which prevails in the Opposition camp on almost all important matters of policy, both foreign and domestic. The only subject-matter upon which the Liberal Party is at one, is the Burials Bill. The hon. Gentleman must know that, irrespective of the Members from Ireland who swarm below the Gangway, and who have an organization of their own, repudiating the discipline of the Liberal Whips, there are seated around him Liberals and Liberals. There are upon the Opposition Benches men who style themselves advanced Liberals, who will eagerly support the Resolution now before the House, for they are men who prate about the sacred right of insurrection, men whose political sentiments gravitate towards Republicanism. Again, there is a large Body of hon. Gentlemen upon the opposite side who may be called earnest Liberals, men who are always yearning to bring within the pale of the Constitution parties who have not yet acquired the privilege of voting, and these hon. Gentlemen will doubtless support the Resolution. I have little or no sympathy with politicians of this class, and for this reason, that for 60 years of my existence I lived without a vote, and I never felt the want of one. It is true that in recent years I have purchased two small freeholds which now qualify me to be a voter in two counties. I am, in point of fact, one of the proprietors adverted to by the hon. Member for the Border Boroughs, of the Shaws Estate in Peeblesshire; but I have not found myself, since I became a voter, to be either an abler, a wiser, or a better man. Moreover, if the Resolution under debate be adopted, and if the county franchise be really assimilated to the borough franchise, I shall lose these votes; for the borough franchise is an occupation franchise, and my votes are what are called in Scotland faggot votes. I shall not regret the loss of the votes, for they have given me an immense amount of trouble in the past. Then there is a considerable number of hon. Gentlemen, mostly seated above the Gangway, who may be called aristocratic Liberals, men who assume the appellation of Old Whigs, and a very respectable appellation it is. Those men are, to a large extent, the possessors of "Old Acres," and they have in their ranks a considerable amount of brain power. Now, a Party possessed of these qualifications is entitled to have its voice heard in the Councils of the nation. In point of fact, this Party did make its sentiments known to the country in the winter of 1874, and in the spring of 1875. Upon those occasions the Whig Members, to some extent, visited the constituencies which returned them to Parliament, and to their constituents they freely unbosomed themselves. These hon. Gentlemen frankly admitted that the Party had met with an awful mauling at the General Election in February, 1874; but they said that they had anticipated defeat, and had discounted defeat. They insisted that they had been discomfited, not through the moderation of their political opinions, but by the mischievous restlessness of their Leader. Who the Leader was I need not mention. These hon. Gentlemen continued to profess unbounded reliance in the truth of Whig principles. Whig principles were indeed the proud inheritance of the Anglo-Saxon race. Whig statesmen, they declared, never advocated extreme or violent measures of organic change, and proposals for assimilating the franchise in boroughs and counties, and suggestions for the wholesale creation of electoral districts throughout Great Britain, they considered violent and revolutionary measures of change. In the pursuit of Constitutional amendments of the Representation, the Whigs, they said, desired to see the Constitution dealt with upon the principles of homoeopathic treatment. In short, it seems to me that some lines written by Mr. Canning, and published in The Anti-Jacobin some 74 years ago, addressed to the followers of Mr. Adding- ton, then known by the sobriquet of "the Doctor," fitly express the cream of Whig policy at the present juncture. The lines were these— They no random measures urging, Make us vain alarms to feel; With moderate doses gently purging, Ills that prey on Britain's weal. Well, Sir, I am opposed, like the Whigs, to the constant application of drastic purgatives to the British Constitution. But the hon. Member for the Border Boroughs is a Liberal of a wholly different kidney, albeit, he is the nephew of his uncle, Lord Macaulay, one of the mildest Whigs of his generation. The hon. Gentleman saw clearly the overthrow that was awaiting his Party, but he saw it from a different platform, as I shall show. The hon. Member went down to Liverpool, if I remember rightly, in the autumn of 1873. The object of his visit was to take part in the opening of a new Reform Club in that great town. After the ceremony was completed there was a dinner and a drink, and at the jollification in the evening the hon. Member was the London star of the night. He made a capital speech, for few can do the postprandial part of the entertainment better. The hon. Member told his Lancashire friends that they and the cause to which they were so fondly attached would come to grief at the next General Election, unless they were prepared to accept the policy which he then and there tendered to them for adoption. His advice was, shortly, this—he said they must bring out and parade before the public the Reform engine which had been for some time laid up in ordinary. He insisted that they must put it, and keep it, in a thorough and perfect state of repair; that they must have always alive under the boilers a rattling fire; and at Election times, that they must emblazon in letters of gold, upon their banners, blazing measures of organic change. These, said the hon. Member, are the only methods by which the Liberal Party can be brought to act in unity for the future; and the hon. Member was quite right in thinking so. Well, the General Election came off in February, 1874, much sooner than was expected, and with it came the collapse of the Liberal Party. I shall not stop to inquire why the ruin came. One Member of the late Cabinet is reported to have stated pub- liely, that he and his Colleagues were "lied out of office"—a very coarse expression, but coarse men will force their way into Cabinets in these degenerate times. Here, however, we have tonight the hon. Member for the Border Boroughs, true to his principles, propounding for acceptance to this House a Resolution which will pledge the Legislature in the future to carry out huge schemes of Constitutional change, the discussion of which is, I repeat, gall and wormwood to many of the moderate Whig politicians seated on the Opposite benches. I state this, indeed, upon the supposition that there is some honesty in political life—a belief in which, the longer I live, I am more and more inclined wholly to repudiate.

The abstract Resolution now moved will, if it be adopted, bring about much greater and more momentous changes in British institutions than those wrought by the great Reform Bill of 1833, or by the leap in the dark of 1867. The application of household franchise to counties will add, it is calculated, at least 1,000,000 of fresh votes to the counties of England and Wales alone. The present constituencies do not exceed 700,000 electors. If the freeholders be eliminated, the present electors would not exceed 500,000, and the new electors will be more than double the old constituencies. I cannot see myself how there can be a real assimilation of county and town voting if the freeholders are retained. Now, this is a gigantic measure of Reform, and yet the hon. Member for the Border Boroughs has always spoken of his proposals as involving a very modest measure of political change. In Scotland and in this House he has frequently stated that the proposal is a mere corollary to the Bill of 1867. He has spoken of it as an adaptation to the present time of a measure introduced into Parliament in 1859 by the Cabinet of the late Earl of Derby, and pressed for acceptance on the country by a Conservative Administration. Now, I perfectly remember the Bill of 1859, and the circumstances under which it was launched. The Session of 1859 opened with a Speech from the Throne, produced by a Liberal Cabinet, presided over by Lord Palmerston. In the Royal Speech it was announced that a Bill for the improvement of the Representation of the People in Parliament would be laid before both Houses. No Bill, however, of this character was introduced by the Government, simply because, within a very few weeks, the Cabinet of Lord Palmerston was tripped up. The Administration was placed in a minority through an intrigue or cabal led by Mr. Milner Gibson and by Lord John Russell, two ambitious Whigs, who had been left out in the cold, and who were very desirous of place. When Lord Palmerston's Cabinet resigned, Her Majesty entrusted the formation of a new Ministry to the late Earl of Derby. The Cabinet of that Nobleman conducted the Administration in a makeshift fashion for three months, and by that Cabinet the Reform Bill of 1859 was introduced agreeably with the promise held out in the Queen's Speech. The Bill of Reform in that year was certainly framed on homoeopathic principles. The proposal did, indeed, attempt to assimilate the franchise in boroughs and counties, but without success. The main feature of the Bill was a reduction of the £50 tenancy qualification in counties to a £10 rental qualification. The next proposal was to deal with the freehold franchise. The Bill of 1859 enacted that when the freehold was situate in a borough, the owner should vote for the borough; and that when the freehold was situate in the county, the owner should vote for the county Members. The Bill proposed to take 15 single seats from the smallest boroughs and to confer those seats on large towns and extensive counties. But how was the Bill met? It was opposed, mainly on the ground of its assimilation tendency. Lord John Russell moved an abstract Resolution in obstruction of the Bill. The Resolution stated, firstly— That it was unjust and impolitic to interfere in the manner proposed in this Bill with the freehold franchise as hitherto exercised in the counties of England and "Wales;" and, secondly", "that no re-adjustment of the franchise would satisfy the House or the country which did not provide for a greater extension of the borough franchise than was contemplated in this Bill. This Resolution was carried by a considerable majority, and the Bill was not proceeded with. The Resolution had the general support of the Liberal Party, and it was entirely hostile to the principle of assimilation. Prom that date no Ministry has again proposed to assi- milate the franchise in town and country. But, apart from this, any comparison of the Bill of 1859 with the present proposals is farcical. Under any Bill framed in the spirit of this Resolution it will be necessary to erase from the electoral map every borough under 30,000 inhabitants. Great Britain, under a new system like this, must be parcelled out into electoral districts. If the proposal for the re-adjustment of political power does not go to the extent at first of equal electoral districts, an agitation to that end will at once arise; and the demand is one which cannot be resisted. For 10 or 15 years the House of Commons will be pestered with perpetual demands for tinkering and tampering with the Constitution—and all necessary fiscal, social, and legal reforms must cease to be discussed. The result of the whole will possibly be universal suffrage—male and female. Rather than encounter this turmoil I really think that it would be preferable—certainly it would be more business-like—to refer the British Constitution en bloc to the tender mercies of a Select Committee. There are men in this House, I dare say, perfectly ready to perfect a brand new Constitution, stock, lock, and barrel, in the course of three weeks. But this is a practical proposal, and because it is so no attention will be paid to it. I therefore must fall back upon a direct negative of the abstract Resolution proposed to-night by the hon. Member for the Border Boroughs.

To secure, however, the negation of the principle of this Resolution by a large majority, we must rely to some extent for support upon my hon. Friends the Whigs, to whom I have referred, and with whom in principle I am at one. The only distinction between us is, that I am disposed to act up to the force of my opinions, while the Whigs are not. I have long observed that men of advanced principles in the House of Commons are men of energy and of political backbone. The Whigs, as a rule, are weak-kneed; they have no bone in them, only a small amount of soft gristle. These hon. Gentlemen practice largely the virtue of abstention, not from liquor, but from voting. The hon. Member for the Border Boroughs, in 1874, brought in a Bill to assimilate the franchise in counties and boroughs. In May, 1874, he pressed the Bill to a division. The second reading was negatived by a ma- jority of 114 votes. How was this majority obtained? It was more than twice in excess of the normal Conservative majority in the House. Why, many moderate Whigs absented themselves from the division. In scanning the division list it will be found that not more than six Liberal Members voted in the majority. When the division was called for I was present, and with my faithful eyes I saw several hon. Gentlemen rise from the front Opposition bench and walk leisurely out of the House. From the majesty of their gait, and from the apparent earnestness of their demeanour, it might have been supposed that they were engaged in the performance of a solemn public duty. They went out only to liquor up in the Lobby, and to evade voting upon a most important Constitutional principle. Yet these same men, six months afterwards, visited their constituents, and with much tall talk spoke of purity of motive and fixity of principle being the only attributes that made public life endurable in England. Political ambition, tempered with honesty, they boldly declared was the greatest virtue under Heaven. In my judgment men who enter Parliament to follow politics as a profession, to obtain office, or possibly to get a handle to their names, embark in a pursuit which, if their career be a long one, must compel them to eat a great deal of political dirt. Certainly, to avoid voting on a grave subject, for fear that the loud expression of opinion might militate against their accession to office under an advanced Liberal Cabinet, at some future period, is not an heroic nor a patriotic action. A continued adherence to this practice tends to degrade political life, to bring principles and professions into obloquy and contempt.

Upon the present occasion, therefore, I trust that there will be no mistake. I do hope that a considerable portion of the moderate Liberal Party will dissociate themselves this night from their democratic allies, and will vote against the adoption of this abstract Resolution. Measures conceived in the spirit of this Resolution were most certainly condemned by the hon. and learned Member for Oxford City (Sir William Harcourt), in. the address which he made to his constituents in the Corn Exchange, on the 21st December, 1874. He then protested against being precipitated into schemes of vio- lent and extreme change, at the dictation of extreme politicians of the advanced Liberal section. The hon. and learned ex-Attorney General the Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James), at a meeting of his constituents, stoutly announced, in 1874, that he would be no party to a policy which would necessitate the erasure from the electoral map of the town he so ably represents. Let him show himself then, on this occasion, bold enough to vote against the Resolution of the hon. Member for the Border Boroughs. The hon. and learned Member for Poole (Mr. Evelyn Ashley) certainly, at a political dinner in 1875, in the Isle of Wight, expressed himself in a way that would imply his active hostility to a proposal like the present. He thanked Heaven at that county gathering that it was not he, nor his trusted political Leaders, who had brought the residuum or scum of the roughs into the borough franchise. Surely, that hon. Member will not now insist upon the introduction of a more ignorant mass into county constituencies. Lastly, I must mention one more right hon. Gentleman, a staunch Whig, who most ably declared two years ago his rooted hostility to the project of the assimilation of the county to the borough franchise. The party to whom I allude is the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Massey), who now occupies the seat long held by the late Viscount Palmerston. That right hon. Gentleman, in addressing his constituents in December, 1874 protested against dealing with great questions of Constitutional change in the revolutionary spirit that actuated the late Government. He protested against the introduction of a new Reform Bill in the present Parliament which would pave the way in a short time to the demand for universal suffrage male and female. The right hon. Gentleman said that, in his judgment, the introduction of household franchise into counties would not improve, it would deteriorate county representation, by bringing in one class of voters who might from their numbers swamp all the rest. The right hon. Gentleman declared his entire satisfaction with the existing franchise, which had brought into being a constituency which expressed the genuine feelings of the people of Great Britain, and which opened an avenue to the House of Commons for every description of talent, information, and public usefulness. I beg to express my entire concurrence in the sentiments expressed at Tiverton on this occasion. I therefore trust that I shall vote to-night with this Statesman in the same Lobby. Truth compels me to say that on searching the Division Lists I have failed to discover the right hon. Gentleman's name in them. When the proposals of the hon. Member for the Border Boroughs have been tested in this House the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tiverton has always, heretofore, been conspicuous by his absence.

In conclusion, Sir, I shall strenuously oppose the change in our Parliamentary system shadowed forth in the abstract Motion now under discussion, because I distrust the honesty of intention of those who are its most ardent advocates out-of-doors, on the platform, and in the public Press. These men make no secret of the fact, that proposals of the nature indicated must only be the precursors of future revolutionary change. The men in the country who advocate a fresh Reform Bill are the members of "The National Electoral Union." That Association, not long ago, thought itself of sufficient importance to send a remonstrance to the Liberal Leaders, transmitted though the agency of the Liberal Party Whip, the right hon. Gentleman who represents in this House the county of Clackmannan (Mr. Adam). This remonstrance courteously informed the Leaders that no union could prevail in the Liberal Party of the future unless it was based on these principles — 1st, uniformity of franchise in boroughs and counties; 2nd, equality of representation secured by equal electoral districts; 3rd, the remonstrants demanded compulsory registration; 4th, a real, not a sham, lodger franchise; 5th, short Parliaments—meaning, I presume, annual, or oftener, if need be, Parliaments; 6th, candidates should be relieved from payment of expenses; and 7th, that election expenses should be thrown entirely on that good natured but over-burdened jackass, the ratepayer. These are the demands of the Unionists. A Bill equalizing the franchise in town and country, unless accompanied by such an honest re-distribution of seats as should practically place the election of Members in the hands of numbers unencumbered by property they regard as worthless. In the Press, the chief advocates of the agricultural labourer are equally outspoken. I shall take but one specimen of the London Press, and I select the newspaper which for some years has strenuously supported the claims of Hodge to the suffrage. I allude to The Examiner. The London Examiner was a newspaper which came into notoriety some 60 years ago, under the auspices of the brothers John and Leigh Hunt. Afterwards it was conspicuous for literary ability under the management of Messrs. Foster and Fonblanc. Latterly it has passed, by purchase, into the hands of the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. P. A. Taylor), and it is now, I understand, the property of that hon. Gentleman. On passing into the hands of its present owner, the editor, with much propriety, in a leading article set forth the principles which the journal would in future advocate—and these were principles of an advanced Liberal type. The editor, with great naiveté, observed that the time had not arrived when a successful agitation could be organized in Great Britain against the principle of Monarchy. Before that could be achieved much yet remained to be accomplished. Under these circumstances, the editor said that the efforts of all real Liberals should be concentrated upon a resolute determination to strengthen democratic power, by lowering the franchise, and thereby increasing the Radical element in the Commons House of Parliament; this done, the disestablishment and disendowment of the Church would follow, with other great measures of Reform, and then no doubt the consummation so devoutly to be wished for —namely, an attack upon Monarchy— might possibly be attempted with success. Now, this is plain speaking; and because it is so, I shall take my stand against these daring innovations. I, for one, am prepared to resist changes proposed because they will aid in converting the Monarchy of Great Britain into a Republic of the future. My hope and trust and prayers are, that ere the Queen's Crown goes down, some Radical crowns shall be broke; and, therefore, I shall oppose the measures shadowed forth in the Resolution under discussion, whether they be proposed by an independent Gentleman seated on the back Opposition benches, or whether they may be pressed upon our accept- ance hereafter by a Minister of State, standing at the Table, Mr. Speaker, upon your right hand, and advocating changes on the ground that they will conduce to the happiness of the people, and will give increased stability to the Crown and to the dignity of the Sovereign.


said, that if Her Majesty's Government and the Conservative Party were desirous of dealing seriously with a serious question, he could not congratulate them on the fact that the first Representative of Conservative opinion who had risen to express their views had been the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Smollett), who had just resumed his seat. He ventured to say of the speech of the hon. Member, that its strength, if it had any, consisted rather in the recklessness and the coarseness, than in the accuracy and the relevancy of its statements and remarks. The hon. Member made reference to various speeches of hon. Members sitting on the Opposition benches, but not made within the walls of the House, or recorded as part of their debates. He (Mr. Stansfeld) did not know whether the hon. Member had observed the usual courtesy of giving those hon. Gentlemen Notice of his intention to make those references; but he, for one, had so little confidence in his (Mr. Smollett's) accuracy, that if he had given them the fair Notice to which they were entitled, he looked forward to many refutations and denials of his statements before the night was out. Instead of discussing the Resolutions before the House, the hon. Member had given them a recital of the programe of a body called "The National Electoral Union." Now, they had nothing to do in that debate with the programme or platform of any Body, whether influential, or utterly without support in the country. They had simply to consider the prudence and the justice of the propositions contained in the Resolutions moved by his hon. Friend the Member for the Border Boroughs (Mr. Trevelyan). The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Smollett) had largely indulged in the imputation of motives, and alleged that it was not conviction which had led his hon. Friend to bring this subject forward, but the want of some policy and cry which might succeed in uniting the severed ranks of the Liberal Party. The hon. Member, speaking not only of the Liberals, but of political life in England in general, said that for himself, he had little or no belief in the existence of anything like political morality. No suggestion could to more untrue, and he (Mr. Stansfeld) could only wish the Party opposite joy of an advocate with such a faith, and who opened the debate on their side with such arguments. The difficulty which he felt in approaching the subject was of a different kind from that entertained by the hon. Member. That which was unreal to his mind was not the faith of the Liberal Party in household suffrage, but that he saw nothing like any serious opposition to it. Here was a great measure which, if carried into effect, would extend the suffrage within the reach of no less than 1,000,000 of their fellow-subjects. They were all generally agreed that these persons were not unfit for the exercise of the franchise, and that it would be safe to confer it upon them. They were also agreed that the measure of enfranchisement could not be much longer deferred, and under those circumstances it required much more serious and powerful arguments than any he had yet heard to justify the refusal to entertain the question. He was one who believed in the principle of household, or home suffrage. He was in favour of it when he entered that House 18 years ago, and there had been no period from that time to the present when he should not have been happy to vote for household suffrage being given not only to the inhabitants of the boroughs, but to those of the counties as well. Two statements of the hon. Member (Mr. Smollett) were somewhat more relevant than the rest, but he disputed their accuracy. He said that these proposals were brought forward in the midst of public apathy, indifference, and neglect. That would have been a legitimate argument, if it were founded on fact, for Parliament ought not to enact a large measure of reform for which there was no demand. But was the hon. Member right in saying there was no claim or demand by the agricultural labourers for the extension of the franchise to them. What evidence did they require to show that the alleged apathy did not exist, and that the claim which was denied had been advanced? For some years past a Con- ference had assembled in London of a most remarkable and significant character. On the 16th of May last there was a Conference of delegates from the country. The delegates numbered 2,500, and little less than 1,200 were themselves agricultural labourers. The fact that these men came up to London at their own expense, or that of their friends, and that they demanded the extension of household suffrage to the counties, was in his (Mr. Stansfeld's) opinion, sufficient evidence of a claim which ought to attract the respectful attention of the House and of the Government. The answer to the hon. Member's argument about Lord John Russell's Resolutions against the Conservative Reform Bill of 1859 was, that a good deal had happened since then. Ten years ago the Conservative Party was in power, and passed a measure giving household suffrage to the towns. His hon. Friend (Mr. Trevelyan) now asked why should not the same privilege be extended to the country at large? How far was it in the power of the Government to object? Of the 1,000,000 of persons whom he proposed to enfranchise, one-half were urban in their character, and it would be impossible for the Conservative Party to formulate any objection to them which would not apply with equal force to the enfranchisement which they themselves enacted for the towns. Somewhat less than 500,000 of the persons it was now proposed to enfranchise were agricultural labourers. These men had hitherto been the Pariahs of political society, and their interests had been overlooked, because of their non-enfranchisement; but it would not do now for the Conservative Party to object to enfranchise a class of men whom they especially affected to trust. Originally, his hon. Friend introduced a Bill which, of course, dealt only with household suffrage in the counties, for no private Member could deal with the re-distribution of seats; but it was objected by the Government that such re-distribution must accompany the extension of the franchise; and, therefore, now his hon. Friend accepted that argument, and by bringing forward these two Resolutions, he placed on record his recognition of the fact that a Bill for the extension of the suffrage must also deal in some way with the subject of the re-distribution of seats. Last year when he brought the question forward, the Prime Minister objected to the second Resolution, on the ground that the principle of the redistribution was not laid down, and, therefore, that the matter had not been brought forward in a practical form before the House. Such arguments, however, as to matters of form were, in his opinion, entirely inapplicable to the Resolutions of his hon. Friend. It was not true that a Resolution of this nature should contain a scheme of re-distribution; because, it would be calculated to hamper, rather than to assist, the Government in dealing with the subject. Coming to the objections in point of substance, he would refer first to the view referred to by the hon. Member who had last spoken, of the advantage of variety and of the objections to uniformity in the suffrage. That view had its due weight in its day, but its day had passed, and there was not any considerable fraction of any Party by whom it would now be upheld. It had been slain by him who had been fondest of using it—the Prime Minister of the present day. He had slain it by the Bill of 1867. He remembered the great satisfaction expressed by the Conservative Party, when they had discovered the principle of household suffrage. Having once got on that firm ground, he asked, how could they in justice refuse to the people in the counties the privilege which they had conferred on the inhabitants of the boroughs? Those who looked on our Representative system as a tool-making machine, and the House of Commons as an instrument, or tool constructed to do a certain work, were logical in their objection to pulling that machine to pieces, as a child did his toy, in order to put it together again. But he disputed the premiss altogether. Our Representative system could not be looked upon as a tool-making machine, nor could the House of Commons be regarded as a mere tool or instrument. Such a notion would be inconsistent with the leading principles and most honourable traditions which had guided the Liberal Party. They had never put their faith in the machinery of Government. They, at all events, believed in life—in the life of the people. They said that an extension of the suffrage, under favourable conditions, would give a more widely diffused, a healthier, and a more vigorous political life to the country; that it would lead a larger number of persons to take an interest in public affairs; and that it would give the House of Commons a more constant and reliable sympathy with the opinions and wants of the people, so that both the Government and the Legislature would rest upon a wider and firmer basis. They believed in no kind of paternal Government, whether despotic, oligarchic, or founded on class representation. What they believed in was the self-government of a free people, as free, as intelligent, and as capable as the English people; and they were convinced that without incurring any danger, but with the greatest advantage to the country at large, they might accede the proposal of his hon. Friend, and consent to admit 1,000,000 more of their fellow-subjects—as fit as those already within the pale—to the advantages and rights of the political franchise. He admitted freely that the safety of the State was our highest law, and if it could be shown that this extension of the franchise could not be made consistently with that safety, he would also admit the relevancy and force of the argument; but he did not believe that there was a single Member of the House who would say that this was a question of safety, and that they could not venture to extend the suffrage to those people. If, then, the proposal was at once safe and just, he ventured to say it was also serious and urgent. The claim of 1,000,000 men to the suffrage was a claim which ought not, under the circumstances, to be treated with levity or indifference; but when made by the people themselves, as in this case, it should be seriously met and discussed. It was no light matter to treat with levity, a claim the justice of which was generally admitted, and which before long must be conceded. To bring forward common-place objections as to the form of the Resolutions, however, was to treat the question, if not with levity, at any rate, with indifference. For himself—and he thought he might say for the great bulk of those who sat on the Liberal side—they were not disposed much longer to be a tacitly consenting Party to the present state of things, and he ventured to think that the House of Commons, so large a proportion of which owed its return to household suffrage in the boroughs, would best consult its dignity and even its future usefulness and influence by consenting to Resolutions recording its desire to put an end to the exclusion of 1,000,000 of men from rights to which they were in justice entitled.


denied the accuracy of the last statement of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Stansfeld)— namely, that they were excluding persons from the franchise who had asserted a right to its possession. He admitted that the question was a serious one, but denied that it was urgent. It was a subject which should be dealt with in the most careful and deliberate manner, and he considered that they should have more evidence than had been laid before them that evening before they could agree to the Resolutions which had been presented to the House. Statistical information showed that out of a total male population of 10,500,000, excluding women and children, in England and Wales, there were nearly 2,500,000 electors upon the register at the present time, or almost a fourth of the whole number. With regard to what the hon. Member for the Border Boroughs (Mr. Trevelyan) said about County Boards, he might remark that every county householders had vested in him a right to vote for local government purposes; but this was a very different thing from what was proposed by the Resolution. From the time of the passing of the Great Charter down to the present day, the Parliamentary representation of counties had been guided by the rights of property; whereas, in boroughs, the representation was guided by the rights of occupancy. This difference between the county and borough franchise had been upheld by every Minister of the Crown who had introduced a measure dealing with the representation of the people in Parliament. The proposal now under discussion would add one-third to the existing number of voters, and as the proportion of representation in England and Wales was three-fifths of the borough and two-fifths of the county franchise, any change made in its direction would also involve the necessity for a re-distribution of seats. In this great metropolis there was a population of no less than 4,000,000 out of 10,500,000 who represented borough contituencies. Therefore, a system of equal electoral districts according to numbers would give to the metropolis a representation of nearly 100 Members. This would produce a centralization that would be most detrimental to the Constitution, as, of course, those Representatives would have the whole government of the Kingdom in their hands. The opinions expressed by the right hon. Member for Halifax pointed to universal suffrage, and the change now proposed in the county franchise must lead to a greater enlargement than was at present contemplated. Although he was anxious to see the representation as perfect as possible —as the present system gave a vote to one in four—he thought there was nothing to wish for, unless universal suffrage was adopted. Considering that only two General Elections had been held since the last Reform Act, he thought matters ought to be left as they were for some time longer. Foreigners thought so highly of the stability of our Constitution that they entrusted large sums of money to our care, and the consequence was that we had become the bankers of the world. It was the secure Conservatism of England that drew to us so much of the commercial and financial business of the world, and a great part of our prosperity was due to the confidence put in us by foreign nations. This was so completely the case that to tamper with our Constitution, or to alter it unnecessarily, would be an injury to our trade. He would not, then, wish the House to underrate the effect of the change proposed, which was really a very serious one. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax had mentioned a deputation to which importance had been attached; but it was notorious that that demonstration was not wholly spontaneous. Nor could he concur with the view that the question was one on which many politicians might be united; those who took that position could not have looked behind the first Resolution at the second, which would commit the House to the principle of electoral districts, and which was fraught with many of the causes of jealousy which had prevailed at the time of the last Reform Bill. That Bill, in his belief, had worked very well, but great caution was necessary, as it would be impossible to undo what had once been done. The Motion before the House actually went further than any that had been hitherto introduced. It would utterly destroy the principles upon which the existing franchise was based, and, in attempting uniformity, would sacrifice many of the best privileges of the House. He could not perceive, at any rate, that there was any urgency in the matter, especially at a time when the business of the country was almost in a state of stagnation. He believed, by considering a Motion of this kind, they were doing more harm than good, as they were occupying time which might be very much better spent. He hoped that the subject would be allowed to rest, and that the necessary practical measures which provided for the material wants of the country would be pressed forward. He should vote against the Resolution.


disputed the right of the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Smollett) to be the exponent of Whig principles, the confession of which, together with an historical retrospect, had formed the main part of his speech. They knew that the historian Smollett was the successor of a Tory Hume and the precursor of a still more Tory Adolphus. It appeared to him that the hon. Member was anxious to assist in that operation which had once been described as stealing the clothes of the Whigs while they were bathing. But if the hon. Member wished to be a Whig, his simpler plan would be to sit on the other side of the House. The hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Goldney) had taken a different line; and while the upshot of the one speech was, that the last Reform Bill was so terrible that they ought on no account to extend the franchise, the gist of the other was, that the settlement then effected was too charming to be altered. He (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice) differed from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Chippenham in his conclusion, while agreeing with him in his premisses. He believed that the extension made in the franchise by the last Reform Act was an excellent thing, and they ought to be encouraged by what had been done for householders in the large towns to extend it to the rural districts. He represented in that House one of the smallest boroughs in England, and it was to some extent for that reason that he asked for the indulgence of the House while he made a few ob- servations upon that occasion. It was a common thing for hon. Members to say that they represented large constituencies, and on that ground to claim the the ear of the House. It seemed to him that those who, like himself, represented small constituencies had a much better claim to a hearing in a case like the present, because, while those who represented large constituencies might hope to represent them still, under any possible scheme of reform, the Members for small boroughs were perpetually threatened with political extinction. Above their heads the sword of Damocles was perpetually suspended. As a criminal convicted of a capital offence was asked by the presiding Judge, whether he had anything to say why sentence of death should not be passed upon him, on similar grounds, if on no other, did he ask to be heard. Orator Hunt in 1831 demanded in loud tones in that House why the borough of Calne was not extinguished. Orator Hunt was dead, and the borough of Calne still survived. Mr. Cobden had said that Calne was a dirty village in Wiltshire; but, although that right hon. Gentleman had been gathered to his rest some years ago, the borough of Calne existed still. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) once said that the borough of Calne was so horrid a place that there was scarcely any atrocity of which he could not conceive it capable. He only hoped that no misadventure would ever occur to his right hon. Friend in consequence of the irreverent way in which he spoke of that borough. If he were inclined to doubt of the Providence which watched over Calne, he should be encouraged by the hope that the bacon trade, which although at present small, would, as it was at that time doing, increase so at to make Calne what it had been once called, "the Chicago of England," and that it would enable him, when this question of Be-form assumed a practical shape, to claim not only that Calne should retain its present Member, but that it should have a second. The hon. Member for Chippenham objected to the proposal of his hon. Friend (Mr. Trevelyan) on the ground that if it were adopted, we should have to abolish freeholders and and have uniformity of franchise. But it by no means followed from the Resolution that they would have uniformity of franchise, or that they were going to abolish the freehold, copyhold, and other ancient franchises. For his own part, if 40s. freeholders, leaseholders, and copyholders were all swept off the registry he would cordially rejoice, not only because those franchises were the means of gross political frauds, but because they were the occasion of the terrible expense which now attended county elections. He had been told not long ago by a gentleman of almost unrivalled electioneering experience, that if there was one reform more than another which ought to be carried by the unanimous vote of all Parties, it was to have a single simple franchise in the counties, whatever that franchise might be, so that persons might not be put to the trouble, expense, and annoyance of the present system of registration, with which everybody was disgusted. If he had chosen, four years ago, he could have struck every clergyman in North Wiltshire off the roll merely on account of a technical mistake. The arguments which had been adduced by the hon. Member for Chippenham had no doubt been dug out of former Reform debates. Although in 1867 he (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice) was not a Member of the House, he had the privilege of a seat in the Gallery, and he then heard the same arguments from the eloquent late Lord Lytton in reply to Mr. Mill. He could not understand why if they had an equal franchise they must necessarily have equal electoral districts. The objection of his hon. Friend was large and broad. In a country like this, where you had towns of every size, it would be perfectly impossible to map it out into equal electoral districts, whether in the sense of acreage or population. Though he did not know that anyone had ever proposed such a thing, it was said that if they had equal electoral districts, London would have a very large number of Members, and that they would meet in secret, be always in London, and overawe that House; but there were no fears of that happening. They all knew that at present a large number of hon. Members had residences in London as well as in the country, but they did not attend more regularly in that House than any others. He (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice) was an ardent supporter of the propositions of his hon. Friend the Member for the Border Boroughs; and he believed, that if they were agreed to, many improvements would take place in the rural districts. Many things would be done which had been neglected, simply because hon. Members were not bound to the agricultural labourers as they were to the tenant farmers, and obliged to look after their interests. It had been said that the passing of the Reform Bill of 1832 was like breaking up the fountains of the great deep, as after that period reform was carried into every Department, and the most astounding changes took place. Then take the Reform Act of 1869. It enabled the Government in the last Parliament to deal with large questions, because they knew that they had the great body of electors at their back; and yet the argument of the hon. Member for Chippenham seemed to be that if they wanted, to have the interests of the agricultural labourers attended to, the best thing to do would be not to give them votes. But he could not understand that argument at all. He must say he thought the very reverse was the fact. So long as they did not enfranchise the agricultural householder, proper attention would not be paid to his concerns. Wherever they had extended the suffrage it had always been attended with great benefit to the class enfranchised. But he believed the advantage in this instance would go far beyond Parliamentary enfranchisement. He believed that when the agricultural labourers obtained a footing in the representation, they would exhibit a greater interest in educational matters than they did at the present time, and that many of those local institutions which were the result of voluntary effort would be extended to the rural districts, and afford the people opportunities of mental improvement which they did not at present possess. Having said thus much in answer to the hon. Member for Chippenham, he must do him the justice to say, living as he did in his immediate neighbourhood, that no one had more disinterestedly devoted himself to the improvement of the labouring classes than he had done; he only wished he would extend his advocacy of their interests to the floor of that House. Now, he believed hon. Members feared less the extension of the franchise, than they did the re-distribution of seats, and that was the grand argument used against the proposal of his hon. Friend the Mem- ber for the Border Boroughs. In the county to which he belonged they held in great reverence the name and fame of the late Earl of Radnor. In the year 1826 he divided the House of Lords in a minority of 1 in favour of the total abolition of tests, and he afterwards had a pitched battle with Bishop Philpotts. He had the privilege of seeing him a few years before he died, when he still retained, at an extraordinary old age, all the fire and vigour of youth. An hon. Gentleman who was in the habit of reading the newspapers to him, said to him on the morning after the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bucks had introduced household suffrage, he expected he would have shown astonishment and alarm; but said the Earl of Radnor, "I am not only prepared for household suffrage, but for universal suffrage too." He (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice) believed that universal suffrage was only a question of time—it was a suffrage which the people of all countries in Europe, excepting Russia, had now. When they had sufficiently extended education, he saw nothing in principle against the extension of the same rights to the inhabitants of the country which were now enjoyed by the inhabitants of the towns. Those who represented small boroughs should be guided by the example and animated by the faith of the late Earl of Radnor. At the time of the Reform Bill of 1830 he was patron of many of those boroughs to which the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke) had referred, having the name of "Great" attached because they were so remarkably small. A question arose as to the disfranchisement of Great Downton, of which the Earl of Radnor was the patron, and the two Gentlemen who then sat for that borough asked whether he attached any condition to their occupying the seats. "Only one condition," replied the noble Earl, "and that is that you shall vote for the disfranchisement of Great Downton." He, therefore, hoped that the Members of small boroughs, uninfluenced by sordid or personal considerations, would be ready to give way to the judgment of those whom they followed, if it was found necessary for the good of the country—not of Party, as the hon. Member for Cambridge imputed to them—that the Members for small boroughs should disappear from the House, so that those large and flourishing communities which were growing up elsewhere should be enfranchised, or that Members should be given to the swarming populations that lay outside the boroughs they represented. He hoped they would act in the same spirit in which the Earl of Radnor did in his day. The hon. Member for Cambridge had reproached the Whig Party, but he (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice) could look back with much pleasure to that great statesman, Mr. Fox, whose influence was so much felt in that House. The speech, almost prophetic in its instinct, which he made in 1792 in that House was still fresh in every line, and if Mr. Fox should appear there at that moment that speech would not appear either old, stale, or superannuated. He appealed to the Report of a Parliamentary Committee in favour of household suffrage being the proper basis upon which to place English institutions; but, at the same time, he claimed that a certain variety in representation was of the essence of the English Constitution, or, to use his own words, that "the representation in this House should be of a compound character." Substantially the same language, though slightly different in form, had been employed by almost every great writer on our institutions, whether he was a native or a foreigner. Mr. Fox was the forerunner of Sir James Mackintosh, Lord Russell, and many other eminent men in regard to that doctrine; and Montesquieu and M. Guizot also insisted on a compound character being of the essence of representative government as distinct from aristocratic government on the one side and democratic government on the other. He believed there was nothing in the speeches of the hon. Member for the Border Boroughs and the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea which was incompatible with that principle of having a certain variety in their representation. Indeed, he believed it was possible to agree to them, and yet to preserve that compound character and to avoid that abyss which threatened, in the proposition, to have equal electoral districts. He would say a few words as to the practical shape which reform ought to take; because they might be fairly asked to show their plan. The House did not wish to take a leap in the dark, though they had high authority on the other side for doing that. Considering what the Conservative Government avowedly did in 1868 to benefit their Party, it did not become the hon. Member for Cambridge to accuse those on that (the Opposition) side of now being actuated by Party motives in taking up the question. Despite of what had been said by the hon. Member, he held that this subject —the subject of Parliamentary Reform — belonged to the Liberal Party as its inheritance. They had a pedigree of upwards of 100 years to confirm their claim; whereas the claim of the Conservative Party was based upon a pedigree which was only 10 years old. It was taken up by Lord Chatham, it was the political creed of Mr. Pitt so long as he was a Whig, but he abandoned it when he became a Tory. The most important lesson, however, to be derived from the history of the movement was that Parliament had invariably refused to tinker the Constitution; it had always asked that those who proposed a scheme of Reform should produce a broad and comprehensive plan, showing that they appreciated the subject in all its bearings and details. It passed the Bill of 1832 because it was a great measure, and it then went in for "the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill." It refused to pass a small Bill in 1852; it rejected the measure of 1859 and of the following years, whether proposed by Government or by private Members. The Bill of 1866, introduced by the right hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), under Lord Russell's Administration, was deemed a small and tinkering measure; but the Bill of 1867 was passed, because it was a large and comprehensive measure, based on a definite principle. The House would refuse to tamper with anything so great and venerable as the British Constitution on any other condition; and therefore because he thought the views of the hon. Member for the Border Boroughs and the hon. Member for Chelsea were large, broad, and comprehensive views, so in proportion, he believed, they had a fair chance of receiving the ultimate approval of the House. Having given much consideration to the matter, he thought that if they once began to touch the question of redistribution they could not interfere with fewer than 150 seats. He did not himself shrink from that, nor did he believe his two hon. Friends (Mr. Trevelyan and Sir Charles Dilke) would shrink from it. If they disfranchised his borough (Calne) and others of the same size, they would have to go further and deal with boroughs of not only 5,000 but 10,000, or even more inhabitants. Every town of less than 20,000 inhabitants would have to be content with one Representative. Why, for example, should Barnstaple, with its 11,000 inhabitants, have the right of returning two Members, if Calne was to be deprived of the right of returning one? Notwithstanding this sweeping change, there was not one single town in England which was known as a great stirring centre of independent thought and industry which would be deprived of the right of sending Members to Parliament. Reading, with its 30,000, and Oxford with its 40,000 inhabitants, would not be disfranchised, although Salisbury and Barnstaple, each of which returned two Members, would. If, therefore, the question of re-distribution was taken up it must be on such broad and comprehensive principles as would enable them to have 150 seats at their disposal. Then came the crucial question, what were they to do with the 150 seats when they had got them? By far the best plan to adopt, he thought, would be to give one Member to all large towns that were not represented at all, and which had as large a population as those towns which were partially disfranchised, and to which they would still leave one Member. He believed that the remaining seats would be best distributed by retaining, on the whole, the existing electoral divisions of the country—not mapping out the country into districts returning one Member each, as some reformers had suggested; but giving a large enfranchisement to the householders in the counties, and then adopting either a minority vote or the cumulative vote. They would in that manner obtain what they desired, and, securing that every interest should be represented, and making that House a true mirror and reflex of the nation. He had heard it said that minority representation was a new-fangled scheme, sprung, like Minerva from the head of Jupiter, out of the brains of one or two speculative philosophers living in towns or at Universities. His reply to that was very plain and simple—minority representation had now stood the test of 10 years' experience among the largest towns and counties in England, and he could not see that the objections to it at all outweighed its advantages. At every School Board Election we had an application of the principle of minority representation—we had cumulative voting; and, therefore, whatever objection there might be to minority representation, it was absurd to say the thing had never been tried. It had been tried not only in this country, but elsewhere. People said—"You may have the very best system of minority representation at a General Election; but how will it work at a by-election? "He did not acknowledge the right of those who were opposed to minority representation to urge that objection, because, after all, what did it come to? Simply that at a by-election the condition of things would work in favour of the majority. And that, on the whole, was a recommendation. Then it was said—"You put a special disability on a minority district." That was an illustration of what was called begging the question. Those who were opposed to minority representation no doubt thought it imposed a special disability; but there were hon. Members in the House—the Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett), the Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney), and, he believed, the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella)— who maintained that the system was a good one, and that those towns which enjoyed the principles of minority representation were enjoying a special benefit. In Birmingham, in 1868, the minority vote was, no doubt, defeated by a clever arrangement of those gentlemen who ruled the town of Birmingham. But was there no wire-pulling under the present system? Were there no such persons as election agents? It was not in the power of any wire-puller either at Birmingham, or elsewhere, to beat a real minority, if that minority existed. The reason why the minority vote at Birmingham was beaten was, that the minority there was not sufficiently large to elect a Member on the minority principle. He believed that if the most cunning wire-pulling scheme ever devised were applied at a Birmingham election when there was a real Conservative minority, there never would be an instance of keeping that minority out. But in a large country district where there were various interests, and where you could not in any conceivable circumstances discipline year Party as the Liberal Party were disciplined at Birmingham, he believed it would be absurd to attempt to neutralize the principle of minority voting by the application of any wirepulling scheme.

Notice taken—that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,


said, that at the moment when the hon. Member interrupted him, he was about to conclude by thanking the House for the attention with which it had listened to him. He believed that if a large and comprehensive scheme of reform based upon the principle that every householder should be enfranchised were proposed from the Front bench below him, the statesman who proposed it would be numbered with the benefactors of his country, and the nation to which he preferred that scheme would accept it with gratitude from his hands as giving to the country the vigour and energy of democratic institutions without that turbulence and instability which had so often destroyed them.


said, he would admit there were some anomalies in the present electoral system; but the subject under discussion was so large that it was both desirable and necessary that the House should have something more definite in the way of a scheme laid before it than was contained in the Resolutions of the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Trevelyan) before it was called upon to arrive at a decision with regard to it. In order to meet the objection that his first Resolution would involve such a large re-distribution of seats as to practically abolish separate representation for the smaller boroughs in England, the hon. Member had brought forward his second Resolution; but something more distinct than that was required before the House could bind itself to a principle the extent and operation of which it was impossible to foresee. They ought to know the actual length to which the hon. Member proposed to go, and they must be careful that in their attempt to abolish one anomaly they did not create a greater one. If the county and borough franchises were assimilated, the additional number of votes created would practically increase the inequality in the value of votes that at present existed. He was unable to see how they could carry out the reform advocated by the hon. Member except by forming equal electoral districts. But if they embarked on that enterprize, could they keep those districts equal? They would be ever varying, and provision should be made for their periodical and frequent revision. Much had been said as to boroughs the population of which had grown and, though it properly belonged to the borough, extended beyond its boundaries. In those cases he believed the population would by degrees be absorbed in the boroughs for every purpose. They had been told that in refusing to pass the Resolution they would be casting a slur upon the rural population. That he did not admit. They should remember that although in the neighbourhood of towns the rural labourer was as well instructed as the town artizan, yet, in other districts, the case was very different. For his part, he was perfectly satisfied that the real aim and object in view was practically to gain a stepping-stone first to equal electoral districts, and next to universal or manhood suffrage; and to that principle he should offer a most decided opposition. The hon. Member for the Border Boroughs (Mr. Trevelyan) had stated that there were subjects as to which, as he said, the rural population felt deeply, but had no means of making their opinions known, and he instanced the Burials question. But if the rural population felt really aggrieved on that subject, could it be believed that so very little would be heard of it, or that they could not find means of making themselves heard? That was an argument which might be adopted or dropped as it suited the convenience of hon. Members opposite; but it was one which he thought would have very little weight with the House. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) addressed a large meeting in London not long since on the subject of these Resolutions, and he had no doubt that many hon. Members read the right hon. Gentleman's eloquent speech. He had read it; but when he endeavoured to find the reasons put forward by the right hon. Gentleman for supporting the Resolutions, he confessed he could not do so satisfactorily. The right hon. Gentleman said that there were 280 county Members in that House who, he said, were a constant and irremovable obstacle against any change in respect to the question. Did the right hon. Gentleman include in the 280 the noble Lord the Member for the West Riding (Lord Frederick Cavendish) and other county Members who sat on the other side of the House? If so, they must have been surprised at the description he gave of them. Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to deal with the question of land, and told his audience of agricultural labourers that four-fifths of the land was held by 12,000 persons; whereupon the newspaper report stated there were cries of "Shame." What was or could be the object of those remarks? What had they to do with the county franchise? He thought the right hon. Gentleman had, be to say, rather let the cat out of the bag. There was no particular reason that he saw for drawing attention to the subject, unless it was intended to hold out a hope to the agricultural labourers that if they had the franchise that state of things of which he had spoken would be altered. He wished to enter his protest against such language. It could not but raise hopes in the minds of the labouring classes which could not, and ought not, to be fulfilled. It was dangerous; he could not conceive it to be necessary or at all appropriate to the subject on which the right hon. Gentleman was speaking. Well, another meeting was held a short time afterwards at a place called the Frying Pan, in Somersetshire. The object of the meeting was to support these Resolutions, and although there was no right hon. Gentleman present, letters were read from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax, and the hon. Member for the Border Boroughs, expressing sympathy with the objects of the meeting. The Resolutions were approved, but the meeting did not stop there. They passed a further resolution—and this was a few days after the right hon. Gentleman made the speech to which he had referred—stating that population was increasing beyond the extent which the limited area of the United Kingdom could feed, save by a greatly increased cultivation of the soil —that the area of cultivable land should be extended and parks limited; that game should be confined to closes and parks, and the Game Laws abolished; that the unpaid magistrates should be removed; that all poor pasture be broken up, and securities taken for the highest cultivation of the land, thus finding remuneration for labour as well as cheap food for the people. Well, if those proposals were to be included in the hon. Gentleman's Bill, it would certainly be a very comprehensive one. But this occurred two or three days after the right hon. Gentleman's speech, and showed that he, having given some sign of dealing with the land, had caused many dangerous thoughts to stir in the minds of those who agitated upon this question. They had been told in that House by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Stansfeld) that this was not a Party question, and ought not to be dealt with in a Party spirit. He asked the House whether the spirit shown by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham was one which should be evinced on a question of this kind? Was it necessary to put dangerous thoughts into the heads of the agricultural labourers, and to set class against class, and stir up Party feeling on such a subject? For his part, he thought it ought to be treated in a much calmer spirit. He could wish that some definite and tangible scheme had been laid before them. They had heard of universal and manhood suffrage, and the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke) had spoken of the representation of numbers as opposed to the representation of property. Why, then, did not the hon. Baronet include those subjects in a Resolution of his own? They had now, however, to deal with that of the hon. Member for the Border Boroughs, and he trusted it would be rejected by a large majority.


said, he should have contented himself with giving a silent vote but for the speech delivered by the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Smollett). He repudiated, especially as far as the agricultural labourers, the ironworkers, and mining population of the country were concerned, the assertion of the hon. Member, that this Resolution would introduce a "worse lot" into the county constituencies than were now entitled to vote for the boroughs. They were a peace-loving and law-abiding class, and such a charge was entirely groundless and unfounded. The hon. Member for Cambridge had said that coarse men sometimes found their way into Cabinets now-a-days; but when such expressions were used as the hon. Member had applied to the working class, it might be remarked, without saying anything about the Cabinet, that coarse men sometimes found their way into the House. With regard to the Resolution of the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Border Boroughs (Mr. Trevelyan), he gave it his support; and hoped that if not successful this year, he would continue to press it, knowing that he had a great people behind his back who would eventually compel any Government to yield to his demand. It had been said that this was not the proper time to make the change. He ventured to think if ever there was a time when it should be made it was the present. When they saw an adventurer trying to destroy the liberties of the people in a neighbouring country it behoved the Government and the Legislature of this country to give the full measure of electoral liberty to the people, and to show that they had confidence in the great mass of the inhabitants.


in supporting the Resolution, said, that on a former occasion he was the only Member sitting on that (the Ministerial) side of the House, who went into the Lobby in favour of the Motion of the hon. Member for the Border Boroughs (Mr. Trevelyan), and as this would probably again be the case that night, he wished to explain that he did not take up this question as an apostle of the movement. His hon. Friend (Mr. Goldney) had referred to the passing of the Resolution as something that would endanger the stability of our institutions; but he (Mr. Serjeant Spinks) could not see why the proposed reform should not be carried out without any risk whatever. What was this strange and dangerous project? It was proposed to assimilate the borough and county franchise—namely, to set up the same franchise for counties which had already been adopted in boroughs with very great success. So far from having endangered the stability of our institutions, it had supplied the best and strongest means of supporting them in every particular. A £12 occupation franchise already existed in counties, and a small diminution in that qualification could not have an injurious effect. It had been suggested that the danger to be apprehended was not so much from the nature of the change to be made, as from the character of the persons who were to be enfranchised under the Resolution. But who were those classes? There was, first, a large class who lived in the immediate vicinity of large boroughs. In the next place there were large numbers who lived about the counties in places that were not boroughs. Then there was the class of small tradesmen, scattered up and down the country, and last came the largest class of all—the agricultural labourers. As to the first, there would be no danger in admitting them, because many of them were exactly the same class as those who, living inside the boroughs, already exercised the franchise. Of two or three hundred men employed at a mill, one-half who lived in the borough had votes, and the other half who lived outside had none; but they were all the same class of men, employed in the same business, and living in the same sort of houses, the only difference being that those outside the borough lived in better houses than those within it. These men had the same views, pursuits, and occupations; they eon-versed together. This anomaly struck them forcibly, and they asked their Members and candidates why it continued. Those outside the borough asked—"Cannot you interest yourself for us in this respect?" and those inside, inspired by a generous sentiment towards their fellows outside, sympathized with their grievance, and asked why an invisible line of demarcation should so separate them in the matter of the franchise, and why others were denied a privilege which had been conceded to themselves. The two other classes he had mentioned, including the small tradesmen who lived, up and down the country, were exactly the same kind of people who had votes with the £12 county franchise or the household suffrage. Then came the largest class, agricultural labourers, whose admission to the franchise was perhaps most dreaded, and with regard to whom it might be said that at present they were not sufficiently educated, especi- ally in political matters, to receive the franchise. But what was the answer to that? Educate them—not by the slow process of sending them to school, but by giving them the franchise. What educated people so well in matters of that kind as telling them that they had great and important duties to discharge, and that they had a right to take part in the Government of the country. His own experience had shown him that this was an important means of political education. In 1865, before household suffrage was adopted, the non-electors in towns took an interest in Parliamentary contests, but their questions to candidates were vague and often not pertinent, and there was little difficulty in giving unsatisfactory and illusory answers, which were readily accepted; but since the franchise had been given to this class of men they had met together and discussed political topics, and read newspapers, pamphlets, and political works; so that when a candidate went down among them, questions were put to him which he found more difficult in disposing of, and to which he (Mr. Serjeant Spinks) would not advise the candidate to attempt giving a vague or illusory answer. He thought, therefore, that these were people to whom the franchise might very fairly be extended. Even if these voters would turn against Conservative principles, justice ought nevertheless to be done. That might happen in the counties which happened in the boroughs after the Reform Bill in 1868, when the new voters turned against the dominant power, which at that time was Liberal; but, in time, the impulse would expend itself, and though the agricultural labourers might at first go against masters and landlords, they were not Radical; they were more or less Conservative; they were brought face to face, from day to day and hour to hour, with Nature, which in all her operations was strictly Conservative. The second Resolution was the necessary consequence of the first; it would be necessary to make some re-distribution of political power. There were 187 county and University Members and 302 borough Members; and there were 850,000 voters in the counties and 1,500,000 in the boroughs; so at present boroughs and counties were fairly represented; but if 1,000,000 were added to the county voters, there would be a disparity which could be corrected only by re-distribution. But how that was to be effected was a matter for future consideration. The Resolution stated what would be fair and just, and therefore he would give it his support. He would only say that he could not go into the Lobby against his Party, probably accompanied by no other Conservative Member, without some feeling of pain and regret. But he consoled himself with the reflection that in doing so he was simply acting as a pioneer in the matter, and that he should be followed by his Party in due course. The noble Earl at the head of the Conservative Party would not stop short in his career of usefulness; having given household franchise to the urban districts, he would before long confer it on the rural; and, having consolidated our Empire in the East, he would, by this reform, found a still nobler empire at home where, all governed but still all governing, the humblest and poorest would vie with the rich and the mighty in amending the laws and institutions, and consolidating the power and resources of this great country.


said, it was impossible to deny that the two Resolutions involved a Reform Bill; and as it was only 10 years since we passed one, it was premature to incur the disturbance that would be produced by passing another. To a large extent the workers in mines and in factories were enfranchised by the extension of the boundaries of boroughs which accompanied the last Reform Bill and the creation of new ones. It was implied that the Parliamentary franchise in boroughs and counties was to be on the same footing, and was to depend on residential qualification; and, if that were so, it did not follow that agricultural labourers, for whose benefit the proposal was made, would be enfranchised, because many of them were employed from week to week, and occupied cottages, the rent of which constituted part of their wages, being exempted from the payment of rates and other obligations usually incident to occupation. This arrangement grew out of the ordinary relations of farmer and labourer, and was adapted to their mutual convenience. So far, then, as a large part of the agricultural population which lived in cottages was concerned, this Resolution would give them no franchise at all; it was holding out a fallacy; and to give them the county franchise Government must legislate in a manner which would be entirely antagonistic to the principles of the Act of 1868. As the Resolution was framed the effect would be to make a violent change in the Constitution of the country for the purpose of effecting an alteration that would benefit a very small part of the agricultural population. It would also necessitate a very considerable change in the constituencies of the country. It would swamp many boroughs, and render necessary a corresponding alteration by carrying out an extensive re-distribution of seats, and there existed many reasons why such a step should not now be taken. He believed that the extension of the franchise, as regarded the rural constituencies, would be favourable to the Conservative Party, for the agricultural population were not only Conservative by habit, but they were brought into intimate relations with the landowners and with their employers, for whom they had great respect, and to whom they were generally much attached. But he took a larger than a mere Party view of the question, and what he asked himself was, whether the passing of the Resolution would tend to strengthen the institutions of the country; and, as he could not answer that question in the affirmative, he had no hesitation in voting against it.


observed that with one notable exception all the speakers who had addressed the House had spoken in a serious, sober spirit, recognizing the importance that belonged to this question. That exception was the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Smollett), and it was not the first time that the House had seen reason to question the taste with which that hon. Gentleman addressed it. He divided his speech into two portions: he gave them a dissertation on history and a criticism on his opponents. With regard to his criticism on his opponents, his argument had been sufficiently disposed of by the noble Lord the Member for Calne (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice); and with regard to his dissertation on history, it was certainly not very interesting and it was altogether unnecessary. In fact, it reminded him (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) of a passage he had lately read, wherein it was stated that Hume had written a very able history but that Smollett had made a stupid finish of it. He confessed that when he heard such language used in that House, as that a Party had "got a mauling"—that hon. Gentlemen "liquored up in the Lobby," and that "coarse men sometimes got by accident into a Cabinet," the thought crossed his mind that no deterioration of such style and manner of speaking was likely to follow the extension of the franchise which was now demanded; and that the only excuse for the hon. Member for Cambridge was his probable hope that some accident might occur which would enable him to enter the Conservative Cabinet, qualified under the terms of his own definition. The question to-night was not so much whether the franchise should be extended some time or other, but whether this was the proper time for extending it. They had heard all the old stock arguments against it—such as that the people did not want it, the time was inopportune, there was no agitation, wait till the time was more favourable, and the Constitution of the country would be destroyed. But they had lived to see the Constitution of the country destroyed half-a-dozen times, and it had always risen each time fresher and better for its destruction. In justifying the vote he should give he was not afraid to take somewhat wider ground than had yet been taken, which might expose him to the imputation that had been already thrown out — that those who advocated this measure wanted something beyond. He was not frightened by phrases; and if he were told that the adoption of this Resolution would lead to manhood or universal suffrage, he was prepared to say that that was the very foundation of liberty and of a free country. He believed that the theory of a free Constitution was this—that every man who paid taxes and discharged his duty as a citizen had primâ facie a right to a share in the appointment of those who were to control the government of the country. The broader the foundation on which they rested the Constitution the stronger that Constitution would become. But then came the question of limitations necessary to preserve good order and to secure good government. It was for the State to say what limitations should be imposed. But what was the State? an aggregation of individuals; and as the laws which were made for the benefit of all should be such as the common sense of all would lead them to respect, so anything which was done by way of limitation and diminution of individual rights for the general benefit should be done upon principles of common sense, reason, and justice. Now, limitations as to age, as to fixed residence, as to paupers and criminals, and as to persons who held particular offices which rendered it undesirable that they should vote, were quite in accordance with common sense. Then, again, there was the limitation as to sex, upon which much difference of opinion existed, but to which the majority of mankind still adhered. But when the State imposed alimitation resting upon locality and the accident of residence alone, it was one which he maintained could not be defended by common sense or by any principle of justice. The persons for whom the franchise was now asked were denied it on the miserable ground that they lived on one side and the enfranchised on the other side of what had been well called an "imaginary line." Was not that an inequality and an anomaly which ought to be removed, and could it be wondered at that those who suffered from it should bitterly feel their exclusion? It was said, as an argument against the present proposal, that there was no agitation. He never knew how to deal with arguments of this kind. Was agitation wanted or was it not? If there had been agitation it would probably have been said that class was being set against class. He did not think there had ever been a demand made for the franchise in a more proper and at the same time more determined spirit than the present demand. If there had been no rioting and no attacks upon property, that did not prove that the demand was less earnest than it would have been if such things had occurred. It only showed that the temper and education of the people had improved, and it was an additional argument in favour of giving the franchise. This was a question affecting more than the agricultural labourers, but no doubt they formed a considerable proportion of those who made the demand. For his part, he could not understand the extraordinary dread of agricultural labourers which some hon. Gentlemen seemed to feel. He had lived amongst them in the country all his life, and had a great regard for them. Indeed, he did not know any class to whom he would more willingly confide the franchise than to them. He would not cast a stigma on the country landlords and clergy by supposing that the education of the agricultural labourers had been so much neglected that they were not as fit to receive the franchise as any other class. He had attended their recent demonstration, and could testify to their apparent sincerity on that occasion; and he thought it a little hard that when these men came to London at their own expense— thereby proving their earnestness—and made a perfectly peaceful demonstration, they should be sneered at as taking part in a foolish and galvanized agitation. His noble Friend (Viscount Emlyn) had blamed his right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) for some observations which he had made at that demonstration with regard to the limited number of the possessors of land, and had accused him of setting class against class. Now, he (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) had heard those observations, and could not agree that such was their tendency. As he understood the matter, his right hon. Friend, addressing a large meeting of persons who were seeking the franchise, many of whom were agricultural labourers, pointed out to them, among other things, that there were in the future questions likely to arise relating to the land of this country, and that unless their demand was conceded, they who lived on and by the land would have no voice or influence whatever in the determination of those questions. That seemed to him (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) a perfectly legitimate argument; and, speaking as a landowner himself, he would tell his noble Friend and other landowners in and out of that House, that they were much mistaken if they thought they could prevent these land questions from coming under the consideration of Parliament. They were questions of the future which must and would be considered. It was not the man who exposed the abuses so much as the man who strove to maintain them who really set class against class; and true wisdom would dictate our looking ahead and examining all these questions fully and dispassionately, rather than attempting to put them aside and blaming those who called attention to them. One objection to the Resolutions was that there ought to be a definite scheme proposed with reference particularly to a re-distribution of seats. He admitted that a re-distribution of seats must come, but the two questions depended on different principles. In the one case there was a great denial of justice to many individuals; in the other there was an injustice as between locality and locality. The question of enfranchisement was the more urgent, and could be dealt with separately. When the time for re-distribution came, his noble Friend (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice) would defend Calne, and he (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) would defend the interests of the larger borough which he represented. But when he was told that he ought to oppose these Resolutions, because some day or other his borough might be affected, he replied that he would not do his constituents such discredit as to believe that from any fear of possible future injury they would wish him to refuse anything the demand for which was founded upon principles of truth and justice. Looking at the question as a whole, he was of opinion that those places ought to have the most wide representation which contributed most to the taxation of the country and its general prosperity; and when hon. Members raised the bugbear of the undue preponderance of Members which the Metropolis would have under an altered system of representation, he said that all these questions would have to be fully and fairly considered at the proper time. In the case of the Metropolis the fact that its Members, from their proximity to the House, were able to attend to their Parliamentary duties more easily than other Members, and that a great many Representatives of other constituencies resided in the Metropolis for a certain period of the year, and were therefore, in reality, as much interested in London as its own actual Representatives, ought to be taken into consideration. The time, no doubt, would come when there must be a re-distribution of seats; but, when it did come all that any individual Member could do would be to make out the best case in his power for his own constituency, while he was not frightened by any personal or local reasons from doing what he thought best for the general interests. Some said that the change now proposed was a small one, and others appeared to regard it as one of great magnitude. Now, if it were only a small change, it could not do a great deal of harm; and if a large one, it was clear that it was so because a great number of persons were now unenfranchised. You could not have it both ways—either the injustice was so small that its removal would hurt no one, or so large as to require immediate attention. He did not think it at all impossible, he might add, that what had been said by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oldham (Mr. Serjeant Spinks) might turn out to be correct, and that the noble Lord at the head of the Government might be the man to introduce such a measure as that now advocated on the Opposition benches; but come from what quarter it might, if the measure was a good one it should have his support. He owned that he should be glad to see his own Party borne into office upon this or any other popular movement; but so strongly did he feel the justice of the demand now made, that he would rejoice to see Lord Beaconsfield recognize it as the logical conclusion of the household suffrage in boroughs which he had introduced. It was said that the respect which was entertained by foreign nations for our institutions was due to their stability, and so it might be to some extent, although he believed that it was rather due to their appreciation of our national character; but that stability, it should not be forgotten, was due to the elasticity of our Constitution and the wisdom of those who in past times had guided the destinies of the country, and who had known how from time to time to make concessions to popular rights. Before he sat down he wished briefly to allude, as it had already been referred to, to the speech which had been made a day or two ago by his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe) at a dinner given by the Mercers' Company. In that speech his right hon. Friend said that before we pulled the Constitution to pieces, we should carefully consider whether we should be able to make a good job of it, and that unless some great danger or difficulty occurred it might be better to rub along in our present position. [Admiral Sir WILLIAM EDMONSTONE: Hear, hear!] He heard the hon. and gallant Admiral cheer; but what, he should like to ask him, would he think of a commander of a ship who, having had his attention directed to certain defects in his ship, would wait until a storm arose to put his vessel in order? There would, he thought, be little wisdom in such a course. The fact was that the demand now made was one which— whether it was granted in 5, 10, or 15 years — must sooner or later be granted; and why not, he would ask, accede to it while it was gracious and generous to do so, instead of waiting until it was wrung from you by popular agitation. For his own part, it was because he believed the demand was just, and that granting it would tend to strengthen the institutions of the country by adding to the constituencies a class in every way entitled to exercise the franchise, he would give the Resolution his cordial support.


said, he had, while listening to the debate, felt much sympathy for the hon. Member for the Border Boroughs (Mr. Trevelyan). That hon. Gentleman had been moderate in his remarks, and in preparation for this debate certain influential journals had attempted to minimize the effect of the change now proposed, in order to attract into the very wide net which he had spread some big fish, whose adhesion to the cause was essential to the unity of the Party opposite. The hon. Gentleman had introduced the subject to the House in an eloquent speech; but he (Mr. Stanhope) regretted that his remarks were somewhat of a sensational nature. He referred to a good many names eminent in the history of the country, the bearers of which, if they had been present that evening, would, he was sure, be logical enough to admit that the principles enunciated by many of the supporters of the proposed change would go a great deal further than household suffrage, and that the adoption of the Resolutions before the House, as interpreted by their speeches, could never be regarded as a settlement of the question at issue, or as having anything like the character of finality. Even in the course of the discussion that evening, the noble Lord the Member for Calne (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice) did not seem indisposed to consider the subject of universal suffrage, while some of the propositions laid down by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld) appeared to him to go still further. If they were to adopt the principle of enfranchising everyone who had anything special to tell them, it would apply, not only to all men, whether householders or not, but to all women. Then there was the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen), and who, although he had not actually declared for manhood suffrage, had given some strong reason for the adoption of that system. The hon. Member for the Border Boroughs was followed by the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke), and they both together were somewhat like a double-barrelled gun in dealing with the subject. The clients of the former hon. Gentleman were, in the first place, the miners and skilled artizans living outside the borders of boroughs in our smaller country towns. But while we might freely admit the fitness of these men, speaking generally, for the franchise, and the anomaly of a system which gave a vote to a man living on one side of a line, and refused it to one who lived under precisely similar circumstances on the other, it was also impossible to deny that those men, as a class, were already largely represented in that House. There was no pretence for saying that there was in their ease any special or exclusive class interest to which they were unable to direct the attention of the House, or to challenge the opinion of the country. It was, therefore, no disparagement to them, and no denial of their desire for a vote, to say that their claims did not appear to be of so urgent a character as to render it necessary merely for their satisfaction to introduce vital changes into the Constitution. Nor had it been represented by any hon. Gentleman who had spoken that the enfranchisement of this class would add strength to Parliament, or that it would make it more truly representative of the varied opinions and interests of the country. If, in fact, it was a pressing demand, as the hon. and learned Member for Oldham (Mr. Serjeant Spinks) seemed to think, it could be met by a much more simple measure than that now proposed —namely, by an extension of the boundaries of our boroughs. But the case of the agricultural labourers rested undoubtedly on a different footing. It was alleged that they were not represented in the House of Commons. They had, it was said, special aims and interests which they desired, but were unable to enforce. The hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Macdonald), who spoke in that graceful attitude which all must admire, urged on behalf of the agricultural labourers that they had been called bad names and abused. Well, he should like to know who had abused them. He had heard them spoken of to-night as Pariahs and outcasts and so forth; but all those expressions proceeded from hon. Gentlemen opposite. If he (Mr. Stanhope) ventured to go into some details respecting this class, it was because during two years of his life he had had special opportunities of becoming acquainted with their condition, and also, he thought, with their interests and their objects. In passing, he might remark that they were already represented in that House. More than one hon. Member represented a rural borough containing a majority, or, at any rate, a large proportion of agricultural labourers voting under the franchise now proposed. More than one hon. Member—and they who represented the county of Lincoln had an especial claim to urge this point upon their attention—reckoned among his constituents a vast number of agricultural labourers who had obtained a right to vote by their own industry and frugality under the operation of the 40s. freehold franchise. Nobody could deny the educating effect of that franchise. Those who had attained to it were the pick of the agricultural labourers. Those who had already attained to it were proud of it, while those who had hitherto failed to obtain it were stimulated by the desire to do so to the exercise of qualities everybody must admire. Again, they were the most independent class of voters in the community. They were not afraid of telling their Representatives what they thought, and they might be pretty sure that their opinions would not be neglected. It was somewhat late in these days to hope for any large increase in that class of voters. But that evening hon. Members opposite had denounced this class of voters, if they were not resident. They had heard a good deal of faggot votes, but who first created faggot votes? Hon. Members opposite were, however, very fond of the 40s. freeholder as long as they thought he would vote on their own side. They seemed to have forgotten the speeches of a man who would always be mentioned in that House with respect and veneration—the late Mr. Cobden—who thought he would be able to obtain the repeal of the Corn Laws by means of the 40s. freeholders. Mr. Cobden said— There is a large class of mechanics who save £40 or £50; they have been accustomed, perhaps, to put it in the savings bank. I will not say a word to undervalue that institution; but cottage property will pay twice as much interest as the savings bank. Then what a privilege it is for a working man to put his hands in his pockets and walk up and down opposite his own freehold and say—'This is my own; I worked for it, and I have won it.' Again, Mr. Cobden said— When you have a son just coming of age, the best thing you can do is to give him a qualification for the county; it accustoms him to the use of property and the exercise of a vote while you are living, and can have a little judicious control over it if necessary. It was worthy of serious consideration how far it was desirable, by introducing this new class of voters in enormous numbers, to swamp the most independent class of voters in the country, and to destroy a special stimulus to the exercise of the most excellent qualities. The hon. Member for the Border Boroughs had asserted that the agricultural labourer was misrepresented in that House. He did not object so much to that assertion as he did to the statement made by the hon. Gentleman last year, or the year before, to the effect that county Members were afraid to express sympathy with the aims and objects of the great majority of the population resident within their constituencies. He altogether challenged that statement of the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Members who sat for counties were as pleased as anybody else could be at the improvement which had occurred in the condition of that class; and, as the hon. Gentleman opposite always handsomely acknowledged, they had set an example of self-sacrifice and liberality in endeavouring to achieve it. But the hon. Member for the Border Boroughs went further, and tried to make out a case of special grievance. He (Mr. Stanhope) admitted that if it could be shown that there were wrongs under which the agricultural labourers suffered, and for which Parliament was unable or unwilling to provide a remedy, the case for their immediate enfranchisement was very much strengthened. But what were the facts? The hon. Member for the Border Boroughs had gone so far that evening as to bring in the Burials question, and argued that because the agricultural labourers did not possess the franchise the Dissenting Bodies were unable to make their feelings on the subject thoroughly understood in that House. But they had no special interest as a class in that subject, and it would be found, moreover, that in the quiet rural districts the burial grievance was hardly felt. Then there was a point which had not been alluded to that evening by the hon. Member for the Border Boroughs, but it was one that he was very fond of in his speeches, both in that House and out of it. Both he and also the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) were constantly saying that we ought to give direct representation to the agricultural labourers, because in that House hon. Members were willing to pass Factory Acts for artizans, while they were unwilling to pass them for agricultural labourers. [Mr. TREVELYAN: I never said it since last year.] He was glad to hear that the hon Member had withdrawn the statement. But why had he withdrawn it? They were all much indebted to the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. W. E. Forster) for the Education Act passed in 1870: but the right hon. Gentleman would himself acknowledge that the crowning stone of the edifice, and the measure most strictly analogous to the Factory Acts, was carried by his noble Friend who sat upon these benches (Viscount Sandon), supported by hon. Members behind him, and not only not opposed, but welcomed by those very tenant-farmers who were said to be hostile to the interests of the agricultural labourers, and whose pockets were most directly affected. Then, again, the hon. Member for the Border Boroughs was very fond of referring to the character of the cottages and dwellings in the agricultural districts. There again he quite agreed with the hon. Member. He deplored as much as the hon. Member the deficiencies which existed; he welcomed the improvement which was gradually taking place; and as to legislation, if any satisfactory suggestion could be made on the subject, no one could doubt that the House would entertain it; but to talk, as some hon. Members did, about the necessity of applying the principle of the Artizans' Dwellings Act, as it was, to rural districts, would be just as if he were to suggest the application of the Agricultural Holdings Act to Lincoln's Inn Fields. But the main reason of his referring to that subject was to point out, that although the improvement of cottages would be in their minds one of the chief objects to be desired, yet if they were to read the speeches and resolutions of the self-constituted leaders of the unions, it was not so. The very first union formed amongst agricultural labourers had expressly repudiated this being made one of their principal objects, and why? The reason was very plainly stated by Mr. Ball, one of the best known of their leaders, when he said that the improvement of cottages was not a thing to be especially looked to, because it weakened the action of the Executive at the time of a strike, and gave increased power to the employers of labour. The House ought, therefore, to make a distinction between what the agricultural labourers really thought and the views of those who professed to represent their opinions. The noble Lord the Member for the county of Carmarthen (Viscount Emlyn) had well pointed out the dangerous character of the proposals those men were venturing to urge on behalf, as they alleged, of the agricultural labourers, and had shown that they were endeavouring to make a war between classes. They were doing the greatest possible injury to the cause of the enfranchisement of these men. It was only too clear that their real object was not their social improvement, but by means of one class to attack other classes, and to introduce great changes into our political system. This must excite alarm in the minds of all reasonable and moderate men. They had heard the enfranchisement of the agricultural labourers urged on grounds of sentiment, and for other reasons; but he did not think that the proposal had that night been supported on the ground that it would be likely to improve the character or increase the usefulness of the House. It had not been represented that it was as yet ripe for consideration, and the noble Lord the Member for Calne had said that it had not assumed a practical shape. Even the hon. Member for the Border Boroughs seemed to agree in that opinion, for his Reso- lutions were of the vaguest possible character. But to form any opinion of the effect of these changes upon Parliament, it was necessary to pay some attention also to the subject of the second Resolution—the re-distribution of seats. Apparently, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) did not attach very much importance to that part of the subject— others, and among them the hon. Member for Hackney, believed that they might attain to the desired object by a moderate re-arrangement of existing constituencies, and they pointed, as a proof of their assertion, to the moderate re-distribution which was involved in the settlement of 1867. No comparison could be more misleading. The wholesale enfranchisement now proposed, the trebling of county voters, the admission of upwards of 1,000,000 voters, would so entirely upset the relation between the urban and the rural constituencies that they must either give an enormously increased representation to the counties, they must re-arrange the distinction between counties and boroughs, or they would fail to obtain that symmetry and uniformity and equality of representation which it was the object of these changes to introduce into our political system. Certainly, the noble Lord the Member for Calne could not be accused of making his alterations too moderate, as he had said that he could not be satisfied with sweeping away less than 150 of the present constituencies; but he had, as it seemed, not made up his mind whether he preferred the plural vote to the representation of minorities, nor did he give the House any reason to suppose that he would carry any large proportion of the House with him in proposing any such checks at all. But if they were to try to get rid of half the anomalies mentioned in the course of the debate, he did not see how they were to avoid approximating to, if they did not actually arrive at, a re-distribution of political power on the basis of population. And in order to illustrate the change, he would venture to direct their attention to one particular district —that included in the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk—which he chose for no other reason than that if they were to allot the existing number of Representatives in proportion to the population, this district would retain nearly as many Members as at present. But what would the change be? They had at present in that House the Members representing the agricultural interest, returned there by a body of tenant-farmers, some of whom had made the farming of the district famous throughout the world, and one of whom, sent there by his brother farmers, was an ornament to that House, and partly by a body of freeholders, the most independent class of voters in the Kingdom. Then they had Members representing the trade and commerce of the district; two, sitting for King's Lynn, who claimed to speak to some extent also for the smaller maritime interests of the country; and, lastly, the noble Lord the Member for Eye (Viscount Barrington), who was returned by a majority of agricultural labourers under this very franchise. Well, it seemed to him that the variety of interests so represented, the opportunity given for the expression of the opinions of a minority, the certainty which every resident could not but feel that he was included in the political life of his country would be very ill replaced by a scheme which would produce a dull uniformity and crush the representation of every interest but one. In such a case the power of the minority would be as insignificant as it was in any place where all but the majority were absolutely excluded from power, as small as—well, it was very hard now to find any place where the minority was entirely and continuously shut out from political and municipal life and work, but he would say—as a Conservative voter living within the borough of Birmingham. But that was not all. Some of the constituencies within the district were small ones; and though, no doubt, the subject of small constituencies had been discussed ad nauseam, at any rate, he might say that they had been the means of introducing to the House many men whose want of wealth, or whose health or age prevented them from seeking the suffrages of a more extended constituency. To his mind these considerations raised great and serious issues. They were asked to enter upon a re-construction of the political system of England without a very clear idea of the object to be attained, or of the amount of change that would be desirable. Even the Ballot Act was at present only an experiment. Certainly, the experience that his side of the House had had of such changes gave him no special reason against them; but no man could tell without further experience what the ultimate effect of further changes would be upon the character and constitution of Parliament, or whether the sensitiveness of that House to the ebb and flow of public opinion out-of-doors was not already sufficient to satisfy even the most zealous advocate of representative institutions. These questions he would not now discuss. They might wait, but they must be considered some day. Were they prepared to sacrifice for their consideration the chance of useful legislation, perhaps for years to come? Were they prepared, before thoroughly realizing the effect of one change, to enter upon another and a wider one? Certainly, those of them who thought that this country—which had been well described as the model of representative institutions and the cradle of constitutional government—should hesitate long before it entered upon a renewed struggle between classes for political power, or abandon for an uncertain good the results of past experience, would give their votes against these vague and ill-timed Resolutions.


said, that he had not troubled the House on the subject of Parliamentary Reform since the last Reform Bill; and while the proposal under consideration was at such a point that it did not command the unanimous assent of the Liberal Party, he had not thought it was necessary for him to express his views upon it. But it was no secret that that assent was now almost unanimous, and that the question had consequently passed into a different stage—one at which those who felt their responsibility were not entitled to shirk the expression of their opinions. When, therefore, he, in common with other hon. Members, was asked whether he thought it desirable to assimilate the county and the borough franchises, he was unable to support that proposition. He did not think that it was desirable now, as a political question, to advocate a uniform Parliamentary franchise for county and borough constituencies, nor was he prepared to admit that the time had arrived when it would be wise to re-distribute political power. He was told that the change was inevitable, and that, therefore, he ought not to hesitate to vote for it. He believed that there were many hon. Members opposite who thought, and who showed by their conduct that they believed that the assimilation of the county and the borough franchise was inevitable; and there were few of those connected with the great landed interests who had spoken against the Motion. He admitted that the change was inevitable, and that it would come soon—and in its widest form and with its greatest and largest effects—if both Parties in the House confined themselves to watching each other, in order to see that one might not steal a march on the other in winning the affections of the class to be enfranchised. ["Hear, hear!"]. If hon Members opposite held that opinion —as by their cheers they seemed to do— ho was surprised that no man of position and influence on the other side, who commanded the respect and influence of the territorial classes had risen to say what they thought upon the proposal of his hon. Friend. There had been reticence on the other side of the House. What did that reticence mean? He left the House and the public who had read previous debates to judge; but he would say that the opinion was abroad in the country, and was rife in this House, that the Conservative Party would not speak out on this question, because they believed in their hearts that before long it would be undertaken by their Leaders. ["No, no!"] Well, there would be an opportunity of denying that assertion, if it could be denied. It had been the course of opinion in that House that that was the view of the Conservative Party; and so they were told that it was inevitable. He repeated that it was inevitable, and inevitable in its widest form and in its most serious consequences, unless men who had been silent on this subject hitherto were prepared to speak out and place before the House and the country the views which they entertained. What was the position of the House in regard to this matter? It seemed to him that it was not so very long ago since they passed the last Reform Bill. The debates of that time were still fresh in the memory of many of them; but it would seem when we heard this recital of the injustice, the anomalies, the grievances which flowed from the exclusion of the householder in the counties from the franchise, as if those debates belonged to the remote history, and that the course followed on that occasion was already forgotten. The second Parliament had not expired since we made that great constitutional experiment. What was that experiment? We not only introduced household suffrage at that time, but we reduced the county franchise from £50 to £12. It had been stated that evening that as we then gave household suffrage to the towns, the time was surely come when we must give it to the counties. But that same question was before us at the time the debates were conducted with regard to the reduction of the county franchise. He himself was a Member of a Government that proposed only 10 years ago that the county franchise should be a £14 rental, and he trusted that no hon. Friends of his would consider him an apostate Liberal if, after 10 years, he was unable to change his views and say that household suffrage was already necessary. In 1867 this question was debated, and owing to pressure from hon. Members on that (the Opposition) side, who, at the time, were in a majority, the county franchise was reduced from £50 to £15, and then from £15 to £12. It was proposed to reduce it to £10; but there was no proposal at the time that household suffrage should be given to the counties. But what was one of the arguments in favour of a £10 or £12 line? It was that if it were not adopted, there would be continued agitation, and that further agitation for household suffrage was not desirable. When the compromise was made, those arguments were urged, those grievances, which he admitted in the abstract as much as anyone, were brought forward; it was said that there would be men on both sides of the line, and on both sides of the street, the one enfranchised and the other not, that some men would have 300 times as much electoral power as others, and so on; but in the Bill which we accepted then, these anomalies were perpetuated, those grievances were considered and accepted, and a franchise was adopted which ought to be considered a settlement of the subject, at least for a time. Let us, then, look at the question of time, let us look at the experience we had gained and see whether we were safe in going forward, and whether having 10 years ago called 1,000,000 new electors within the pale of the Constitution, we should now do well to call in 1,000,000 more. He would, with the permission of the House, examine very briefly the experience of the last 10 years and make a survey, as it were, of the political situation. He did not wish to argue; this matter controversially or dogmatically—he felt so much the force of many of the arguments used on that side of the House that he should be very averse from doing so; but as no other speaker had done so, he wished to ask the House to concentrate its attention, not so much upon the claims for admission, as upon the result of that admission upon the efficiency of Parliament and the future administration of the country. The proposal of his hon. Friend the Member for the Border Boroughs (Mr. Trevelyan) comprised two classes; a class of 500,000, who were almost precisely similar to those already enfranchised — namely, the urban voters; and a class of 500,000 of rural voters, with regard to whom there was no analogous class at present within the Constitution. Now, he wished to call attention to the ease of the rural voters. The hon. Gentleman who had last addressed the House (Mr. Stanhope) had said that they had been called "Pariahs" on that (the Opposition) side. His right hon. Friend (Mr. Stansfeld) had no doubt said that they were "political Pariahs," not intending, however, to depreciate the rural voters, as the hon. Gentleman opposite seemed to imply. He was sure no one in the House had such a desire. Now, he wished to call attention to two important distinctions between the rural and the urban voters. The first was, that the urban voters, even of the poorest class, had been for a long course of years familiarized to public duties by their local and municipal franchises. They had had a long course of semi-political education; and it was the glory and boast of the English Parliament that it possessed so much aptitude for representative government, because municipal institutions had qualified the people for so many years to take their part in the higher functions of government. But most unfortunately the rural voters had had no such privileges. They had not had that local life which would have qualified them for public duties; and it had been the earnest endeavour of many hon. Members on that side of the House to create that local life in the county parishes which would have qualified the rural voters for political duties, and he trusted he might be permitted to recall the fact that eight years ago he himself introduced a measure which would have con- ferred a suffrage for all local purposes on every householder in the Kingdom. But there was another difference between the urban and the rural voters. He was speaking of that plague spot upon our laws and our society—the Poor Laws. He could not exclude from, his mind that the rural voters stood in a different position from the urban voters with respect to the Poor Law. The ordinary future of the agricultural labourer was, if he lived to a good old age, to end his days on the list of paupers, and there was scarcely a rural parish in which you would not see scores of old men who had been in respectable positions, but who were now either in the workhouses, or receiving out-door relief. Pauperism had eaten most seriously into our rural system, and into the whole organization of life in the country. It was under these circumstances that the House was asked to admit the rural voters, and to give them power to assist in the re-organization of the Poor Laws, which had for them, unfortunately, so deep an interest. And it was to be borne in mind when the House was asked to compare the position of the English peasant without a vote, with the position of the peasant in other countries with a vote, that the foreign peasant, as a rule, possessed property, and was attached to the soil, and that he did not depend, as unfortunately the English agricultural labourer so much depended, upon weekly wages first, and the organization of the Poor Law afterwards. He said, therefore, that he could not exclude from his mind the absence of previous training, and the great dependence on the Poor Laws of the class proposed to be enfranchised. He would pass from that subject, and he would admit with his hon. Friend that, speaking broadly, the 1,000,000 voters who were to be admitted to the Constitution would resemble those who had been admitted, and he would ask—what was the experience which they had already had of the newly-enfranchised classes, and the tendency of legislation since they had been admitted? In the debates in 1866, it was constantly asserted on the other side, that if they admitted those large numbers to the Constitution, they were incurring a grave political danger, and that our great institutions would probably be subverted. That was denied by the Liberal Party. That proposal at that time before the House was a modest one for admitting about 330,000 poor voters. But the numbers admitted in 1867 amounted to about 1,000,000. The experience which they had of the newly-enfranchised classes fully justified them, that in so admitting them they had not endangered the institutions of the country; and he believed that if they were to admit the whole of the numbers suggested by the Resolution proposed by this measure to-morrow, that those institutions would not be endangered. Those classes would be loyal to the country. He thought it was the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) who urged that the admission of such large numbers to the franchise would probably lead to Republicanism. But Republicanism was dead in this country. They might remember with great pleasure the interest with which the country watched the discussions on the Royal Titles Bill— and none watched them more closely than those classes which were newly enfranchised—and the desire that was expressed for the retention of the old name of the Queen. With this instance before him, he disclaimed the idea of there being any danger to the Sovereign, or to the institutions in the admission of any number, however great, within the electoral pale. Again, he thought that at this moment the position of the House of Lords was as strong as it had ever been; and if hon. Members opposite chose to contend that the admission of the last electors had added to the Conservative strength in that House, he did not care to dispute it. He believed that now all classes of the community were as loyally disposed to the Crown and to the institutions of the country as ever they had been. But, having admitted all this, when they were required to make so great a change in the Constitution, he still asked himself what our past experience of the last 10 years showed us of the temper of the newly-enfranchised class? Could we form any accurate idea of how they would be likely to bear the imposition of new taxation, or the denial of any of their favourite demands? Had we had any opportunity of testing those political virtues, the existence of which he did not deny, but of the presence of which he had no proof? What had been our experience of the conduct of the new constituencies in respect to finance? During the last 10 years the country bad been so prosperous that neither Party had had to appeal to the self-sacrifice of any class of the community. Twice it had been necessary to find money, and on both occasions money was raised by the income tax, to which the newly-enfranchised class did not contribute. But—and this was a most serious consideration, to which he begged the attention of the House—on the second occasion it was thought necessary to popularize the re-imposition of an additional penny on the income tax by a system of exemptions which lightened the burden at the bottom, while it increased it at the top. He was not there to criticise either the mode of imposing the tax, or the tax itself; but he wished the House to take note that they had not yet before them any proofs that even the Conservative Government, with a large majority behind them, could pass any other than a Democratic Budget. They might be able to do so, the question had not yet arisen; but, if he might use the expression, our new levies had not yet been under fire. In the matter of legislation, again, had we seen any of their demands refused? During the past 10 years two Parliaments had existed, and two Governments had been in power. During the whole of the first five years public attention was absorbed by certain political questions; but, notwithstanding, two measures interesting the newly-enfranchised class passed. They gave them the Ballot, and also a comprehensive system of popular education. Then came the present Parliament, which, more than the other, had been deeply interested in social legislation, and had performed great services in that respect. The first measure proposed by the present Government, with the support of both sides of the House, was the Master and Servant Act, and a question much affecting the newly-enfranchised classes was satisfactorily settled. A number of other social questions were dealt with. The hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) had a Bill for shortening the hours of labour. The Government took it from his hands, and carried it, very much to the satisfaction of the newly-enfranchised classes. The hon. Member for Hastings (Sir Ughtred Kay-Shuttle-worth) had an Artizans' Dwellings Bill in his hands; the Government took it from him; and again, a measure affecting the newly-enfranchised classes was carried. His hon. Friend the Member for Reading (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) had a Bill in regard to Commons in which popular constituencies felt a great interest; and the Government took it also into their hands, although they infused into it a certain Conservative spirit, making that permissive which otherwise would have been compulsory. Thus, in all these cases it would be admitted that, as financially the newly-enfranchised classes had been spared, so legislatively they had been gratified. He trusted he was not offending against the feelings of the House in recalling these matters. The moral he wished to draw in putting them forward was to show that the House had been so far consulting the wishes of the newly-enfranchised classes, and so far their admission to the Constitution had been a benefit. But the House had not had the opportunity of seeing how the case would be if matters had gone otherwise; and if there had been a demand made which the House could not conscientiously so readily concede. The hon. Member for the Border Boroughs had spoken of the Birmingham Sewage Bill. He admitted it was a gross case, and he could not conceive how the House of Commons had acted as it did on that occasion. But it only showed how anxiously the present House of Commons had been looking to the constituencies when the hon. Member could find no stronger case than that to prove that their demands had been resisted. Now, he did not say that the House ought to have resisted on any of those occasions, but he had no proof yet, and the House had no proof yet, that it would be able to resist, and that it was not already under the strong influence of numbers— of those numbers which the hon. Member for the Border Boroughs now proposed to double by his measures. He had spoken of finance and of legislation; let him approach a still more delicate question. He wished to know whether, in other respects besides actual legislation and finance, they saw any change in public opinion or in the opinion of that House—whether there were any marked signs that they were looking at matters from a different point of view from what they did 10 years ago. In his opinion there was a change. It appeared to him—though it might be an unpopular thing to say—that political economy had been dethroned in that House, and that philanthropy had been allowed to take its place. Political economy was the bugbear of the working classes, and philanthropy, he was sorry to say, was their idol. He wished to argue that matter in a serious way, and to state nothing that would grate on the susceptibilities of his Friends on his side; but he said with a deep conviction—and he could not retract the words—that political economy had no attractions for the working classes, either in this country, or out of it. They pointed to their Colonies, they pointed to France, and other Continental countries to show that Englishmen should have the same rights as the people there possessed. Of course, that meant universal, or manhood suffrage; and many of the arguments which had been used that night—for instance, the argument of justice, the argument of right, the argument of fitness—were all applicable to manhood suffrage. But he was not concerned with that. He wished to point out that in all Legislative Assemblies where numbers, and numbers alone, had been allowed to prevail, the doctrines of political economy had never been able to take root, but had, in many cases, been discarded and treated with contempt. Would they, he asked, have many more debates in that House in which political economy would be regarded? It was out of favour with many sections in that House. The Prime Minister denounced political economy in his famous speech at Glasgow, and said that his followers should no longer "gnaw the dry bones of political economy." That, however, appeared to himself to have been a diet on which this country had thriven and prospered. But it was not merely on the Treasury Benches that political economy had been derided and denounced. There were many strong Liberals who believed that the doctrines of political economy meant the suppression of many efforts which ought to be encouraged, and that it was against the interests of the working classes. There was a marked difference between the modern Radical and the old Radical on that point. Modern Radicals were more in favour of that constructive legislation which was now so much engaging attention in this country. They were in favour of the view that Government should lay its hand upon every trade and remedy its abuses—adjusting the relations between capital and labour, and that Parliament should do what the old school of political economists and Radicals thought that men should do for themselves. It was the teaching of history that the reign of numbers endangered not the Throne, not the Constitution, not property—those were all bugbears—but political economy and the teaching which made Englishmen self-reliant. The old-Radicals had been described as "the laggard disciples of an exploded school;" and he traced the attacks and the disregard to which political economy more and more subjected, in part to the new influences brought to bear upon the minds of Members of that House. He was, therefore, not ashamed once more to take up the cudgels on behalf of political economy, and he did not shrink from expressing his belief that those great doctrines of political economy which had contributed to the prosperity of the country and which had taught Englishmen to be self-reliant would be in serious peril if we surrendered to the idea that numbers, however respectable, however well-disposed, however loyal, were to decide on the legislation of that House. He believed that there was danger of the principles of political economy being more and more disregarded. They were more and more disregarded in that House. Under these circumstances, seeing that both as regarded finance, and as regarded legislation in general, and as regarded the attitude with which questions were reviewed in that House, they had so little experience of the results of the last Reform Act, and looking to the nature of that experience, limited as it was, he asked himself was it right to obey the summons of his hon. Friend the Member for the Border Boroughs? He regretted that he could not go with him. He admitted that the men proposed to be enfranchised were like the men who had already been taken in; but it was partly on that very account that he hesitated, because the last admitted represented numbers. It was not that he was afraid as to their fitness, afraid of them as individual voters; but before he went further he wanted to know what safeguards there would be that the class proposed to be enfranchised would not vote in such numbers as would overwhelm the expression of opinion of the other classes. He again asked that his views might not be misinterpreted, and might not be pushed beyond the point to which he wished to press them. He had considered most anxiously for weeks past, as a personal matter, whether he should speak on this occasion; and holding his convictions strongly and sincerely, he thought if they were well founded on facts, as he believed them to be, he should not be entitled to withhold them, or to suppress them, and not state them in the face of the House. He was sure every hon. Member of the House would admit that it was a painful task to him that, surrounded as he was by hon. Gentlemen for whom he had the deepest regard, he should have to express his dissent, and to mar by one jarring voice, even if it were one so feeble as his own, the expression of opinion of his Party. But the strength of his convictions appeared to him to throw a responsibility upon him which he was bound to discharge, and others had shown him the example of courage. There were hon. Members in that House who sat for counties whose constituents would not be too well satisfied with the vote which they should give to-night, but they thought it was their duty to support this measure, and they would do so at the peril of their seats. They had hon. Members representing small boroughs supporting the Resolutions for an extension of the franchise and for a re-distribution of seats. They would imperil their boroughs and their seats; but they held it was their duty to vote for this measure. They had the courage of their opinions. Well, he wished to show the same courage as they. He did not wish to skulk as a non-combatant in the rear of the battle, to remain uncommitted, ready to take advantage of any turn of events. It appeared to him that the question had reached a phase when reticence was unpatriotic. Constitutional prudence ought not to be allowed to go by default, and it would go by default, if hon. Members would not speak out. He therefore called on hon. Members in the conflicts which would ensue on this great question— whatever course those conflicts would take—whether of pressure from this side, or of resistance from that—to speak out manfully and bravely, and to put their opinions fully and fairly before the public. He trusted that no fear of the newly-enfranchised classes, that no reluctance to utter unpopular things, that no weak acquiescence in a supposed necessity would deter them from calling public attention and public vigilance to the great issues involved, or would induce them to withhold the frank expres- sion of their views. It was with great regret, but without any misgiving as to his duty, that he should record his vote against the Resolution.


said, that he ventured to take part in the discussion at that advanced hour, because he felt that Irish interests were too much concerned in the progress of the liberties of England for him to remain silent. He was very much astonished at the tone which the discussion had assumed on the Government side of the House; but he was still more surprised by what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen). That right hon. Gentleman had made the confession, that if the agricultural labourer had been trained to exercise the franchise by local suffrage, by local power within the rural districts, that then, indeed, he might now support his admission to a larger sphere of it. The right hon. Gentleman had mentioned a Bill which had been introduced, which would have had the effect of training the agricultural labourer to deal with the larger question now proposed. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether that was not a distinct case of putting the cart before the horse? Was it likely that the great Party sitting on the other side of the House, which cherished so dearly their power in the rural districts, would be willing to train the agricultural labourers to the exercise of the franchise, and to commence their work by the reform of the rural squirearchy. He was satisfied with the premisses which appeared to be universally granted, which led to the conclusion that the agricultural labourers deserved the franchise, that they desired it, and that they ought to get it. The bugbear of finality had been raised. Although it might not be desirable to carry it into effect at the present moment, every right-minded man should look forward, as he did, with pleasure to the time when the whole country would be so advanced and educated that manhood suffrage could be granted without danger. He confessed that, as an advanced Liberal, he was not sorry at the great amount of opposition which was being offered by the Conservative Party to the enfranchisement of the agricultural labourer. A million votes were well worth straining after. He could not say what they might become, if the franchise was granted to them at once; but of this he was convinced, that every year of opposition to the just demands of the agricultural labourers was a year productive of wide conversions to advanced Liberalism of a class which might not come in to-day, or to-morrow, or for five years, but which must come in as thorough Liberals, thanks to the Conservatives and timid Liberals.


said, he had only been induced to rise at that late hour of the night by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London; but the right hon. Gentleman had shown such thorough distrust of the working classes, that as one of the Representatives of the largest body of the newly-created voters, his constituency, including 30,000 working-men electors in a total of 40,000, he felt bound to make some answer to the charge the right hon. Gentleman had brought against them. It had been said that the rural population had not had the political training of the urban voters. But six-tenths of the men proposed to be enfranchised were urban voters.


said, he had made the distinction; his remarks about the absence of political training had been solely directed to that portion who were rural voters.


said, that the new voters, according to the right hon. Gentleman, had never been called upon to bear their share of taxation. How had the income tax been popularized for the working classes? Who had been called on in the City of London to bear a share of the cost of education, and who had imposed upon themselves 4d. or 5d. in the pound, against the selfish appeals of that great City? Hon. Gentlemen opposite (Members for counties) opposed the expenditure asked for libraries. He should like to hear a definition of the working classes. When a man rose from the ranks, from the pay of daily labour, and by his working became possessed of a little shop, or a costermonger's barrow, or anything that raised him from the necessity of earning his bread daily by the sweat of his brow, they claimed him as a member of the middle classes. If he raised himself still higher, and became a landholder, a mineowner, or a Member of that House he became a member of the upper ten thousand. How many hon. Members opposite could trace their money back for two generations? How many of them were self-made men? He had heard one say that he began his career at the bottom of a coal mine, and it was honourable to him thus to have succeeded. What about the degradation, and that process of precipitation which was constantly going on? All the cream that came to the surface was claimed as belonging to their class. Was it exclusively the working classes who were now disfranchised? He held in his hand a letter from the Rev. Edward Stevens, giving an account of the town of Loughborough, the polling town for the division of the county represented by the noble Lord the Postmaster General (Lord John Manners). The town had 13,000 inhabitants, of whom only 554 were county electors. The school board consisted of seven members, four of whom were non-voters. There were 16 clergymen in the town, 12 of whom had no votes. Of the schoolmasters, including the master of the Grammar School, there were 12, not one of whom had a vote. Besides, the town was one of more than average intelligence, and he asked were these the class of persons whom the right hon. Gentleman dreaded so much? In the last Parliament, when he introduced a very mild labour Bill, he was opposed by the noble Lord the Member for North Nottinghamshire (Viscount Galway), and he should now give the story of one of the largest towns in that county which he had received in a letter from one of the most intelligent working men he had ever met. The town had a population of 10,000. There were seven members of the school board, of whom only one, who happened to be the vicar, had a vote. Of all the ministers of religion— 15 in number—only one had a vote. The man who gave him this information was secretary of the Board of Arbitration which had existed for 19 years; he was an honour to the working classes, and would do honour to that House, yet he had not a vote. The town of Rotherham—a corporate borough—had 6,616 houses, and a population of 31,500, yet only 1,000 of these householders had a vote. According to the letter he had received these non-voters included not only working men, but clerks, shop assistants, managers, sub-managers, members of the school board, elementary teachers, and even some members of the corporation. They had great experience in local government, and were perfectly capable of exercising the suffrage which the right hon. Gentleman would deny them. Another argument in favour of the proposal was the changes of area that were going on. The House had heard a great deal of the boundaries of Nottingham and Derby during the present Session. The area of Nottingham had been increased six-fold during the Session, and while one-sixth enjoyed household suffrage, five-sixths were outside the borough, where the county suffrage deprived great numbers of their votes. The House had added very largely to the boundaries of Derby; but it had not given the franchise to those who were now included. With regard to the rural population, he only wished the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Gentlemen opposite, who talked of their want of political education, had been present at the recent meetings at Exeter Hall and had seen for themselves what they were like. He wished the right hon. Gentleman was better acquainted with the industrial and rural districts of the country. He (Mr. Goschen) had been a Liberal and the Liberal Party had been proud of him, but he had advanced to a point where he had ceased to be a Liberal. This was a question which it was impossible to stop. If they dammed it up, the stream would burst and carry off their barriers with it. If they refused this equality between town and county, and would not admit the principle that the householder, the head of the family, was the person who should have the right to elect those who made the laws and imposed the taxes, then he said there was something more in store for them. They would have a demand for household suffrage, and they would have to yield it. He had no hesitation in saying that when that demand came he should not be the one to draw back from it. If it came in his time, it would be the fault of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who had not had the courage to draw the line where it could now be drawn with perfect safety and satisfaction to the whole community.


said, that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen), in the course of his courageous and remarkable speech, made some observations which he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) thought implied a desire to elicit from Her Ma- jesty's Government some more definite expression of opinion on the Resolutions than he had been able to collect up to that time. The Government had no difficulty in expressing an opinion on the Resolution before the House, and if they had taken no large share in the debate, it had not been from reluctance or hesitation as to the language they should use, or as to the course they should pursue. The question was not new in the present Parliament; it had been brought forward by the hon. Member for the Border Boroughs (Mr. Trevelyan) twice or thrice, and on each occasion the Government had expressed their views, which they saw no occasion to change. His hon. Friend the Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. Stanhope) had already, with the ability and eloquence which distinguished him, expressed on behalf of the Government their view of the question, and had indicated the course they would take, which there could be no doubt was to oppose the Resolutions. They did not regret that there had been an opportunity for the discussion of the Resolutions, the real importance of which was that it afforded hon. Members who took a keen interest in Parliamentary representation an opportunity of stating what their views were and to what they were tending, because such propositions as were put forward in the Resolutions might bear a wholly different signification according to the principle on which they were put forward and advocated. If extension of the franchise and re-distribution were pressed in order to gain some point of practical convenience, or to improve the composition of the House, the question might be discussed with reference to the time, the opportunity, and the particular character of the change desired; but if the claim to the franchise was made on the ground of abstract right; if the demand was put forward that every man presumably fit to exercise the franchise should be admitted to share it, they found themselves placed in an altogether different position; and it was important that hon. Members should speak out and express their minds on the questions at issue. They had had the advantage of hearing the argument on the principle of abstract right. The demand for it had been broadly and openly stated by several advocates of the Resolutions— by the Mover, the Seconder, and the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella), and boldly and unhesitatingly by the right hon. Member for Sandwich (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen), who declared his belief in the abstract right of the citizens of this country to claim the franchise and his readiness to admit in principle the doctrine of manhood suffrage. In this way something was gained by discussion. In former years there had been some doubt as to what was really aimed at; now they were beginning to see what it was the advocates of the measure were aiming at; and he agreed with the right hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen) that it was their duty to speak out boldly, frankly, and unmistakeably, and to say that they were unable to accept, and, on the contrary, they distinctly repudiated the inevitable result of the doctrine put forward by the advocates of the Resolutions; they believed it to be a doctrine which could not be entertained in consistency either with what they believed to be the principles of the Constitution of this country, or the true interests of the country. They could not admit that every citizen presumably had the right to such, an arrangement of our electoral system as should give him a vote, regardless of any of the consequences of the arrangement which must be necessary in order to effect it. They could not admit that those who did not possess the franchise were thereby slighted or were on that account subjected to any slur or stigma. It was an incident in the Constitution of the country which might or might not be unsatisfactory; it might or might not be desirable at some time to make changes in the distribution of electoral power which would admit those who were at present excluded; but he wholly denied that at present they had any natural right, or that a wrong was done them, if for the sake of maintaining a good, convenient, and proper electoral system they were excluded from the franchise. That was a point on which it was desirable that hon. Members should be clear, because they must fairly face the question and must not satisfy themselves with saying— "We do not admit the general principle of manhood suffrage, or universal suffrage; but we think those persons on whose behalf this particular claim is put forward have as good a right to the franchise as others who reside in towns, and that what has been given to the latter may very well also be given to the former." But those who spoke in that way must recollect that they could not stop at that point. His right hon. Friend the Member for Sandwich found himself obliged to qualify his demand for the absolute right to manhood or universal suffrage by certain limitations. But why those limitations? What purpose were they to serve? The man who did not occupy a house of his own had the same rights as a citizen, he presumed, as the man who did. There were many men who by their education, by the services which they had rendered to the State in their walks in life, by their character, and other considerations, had a good and natural right to have their interests represented, and to be themselves represented in that House, although they did not happen to be the owners of the houses in which they resided. But his right hon. Friend was of opinion that some limitation should be put upon that right for the sake of public convenience. But that was also a reason why, in order that inconvenient results might not be produced in the composition of that House, it had been found necessary to limit in certain cases the rights of those to whom at present the franchise was not extended. Then came the question with respect to the re-distribution of seats. There, again, it became necessary to consider whether the question should be dealt with as one of principle, or as a matter of convenience. The question had undoubtedly been brought forward by his hon. Friend the Member for the Border Boroughs, not as forming in his mind the first point to which attention should be directed; but because when he asked for the extension of the suffrage, he was met by the observation that it was necessary to have a re-distribution of seats, and he was challenged to say whether he was prepared for such are-distribution. He did not inform the House that he had raised the question for any other purpose but to meet that difficulty. His Seconder, the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles Dilke), however, put the matter in a different way, because he had told the House, in point of fact, that a man should not only have the franchise, but an equal and proportionate right to share a Member with anybody else. The hon. Baronet had pointed to the anomaly that Members represent- ing smaller constituencies and a minority of the electors, might nevertheless swell the majority in the House, and carry a question in opposition to the wishes of the electors. That, the hon. Baronet contended, was unjust, and in that way, of course, at once urged the House to the formation of equal electoral districts; and not only of equal electoral districts, created now or next year, once for all, but of a system of a periodical character, as population shifted and increased in one direction or another. Indeed, the hon. Baronet's argument would go further, because, as he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) understood it, it might be illustrated in rather a ludicrous way, being really equivalent to what he remembered was suggested many years ago, that a Member should not only give a vote in that House, but that he should deposit on one or two scales weights proportionate to the number of his constituency, and that according as the scales went down on one side or the other, the electors should be held to be represented, the weight put in being counted in the votes of the House. The argument of the hon. Baronet hardly fell short of that suggestion; and if the House of Commons were to go on that line of argument, it would come before long to the conclusion that hon. Members sent to it to represent a numerical body of their constituents must also act as delegates; because if every man had a right to an adequate part of a Member to represent him, he might fairly say he was also entitled to claim that that Member should, on every question which came before him, vote as he required, and thus we should be brought to a state entirely destructive of the free, ancient, and honourable character of the British House of Commons. He was not, he might add, prepared to go the extreme length of some, who looked upon the object of our electoral system as being simply that of producing the best possible machinery for legislation. It was desirable that they should try not only to get the best possible machine for making laws, but also to have a broad and fair representation of the general views of the constituencies. A more excellent Assembly resting on too narrow a basis might not be so desirable as a less excellent Assembly resting on a broader basis. That, he thought, must be admitted. On the other side of the argument, however, he thought that hon. Gentlemen who desired to broaden the basis were bound to admit that it ought not to be so broadened as really to diminish the usefulness of that branch of the Legislature as a legislative machine; and he thought that the arguments which had been put forward with such eloquence and force and truth by the right hon. Member for the City of London, as to the uncertainty which must still be felt with regard to the exact effect of all that had recently been done in the way of an alteration in our representation, and with regard to the necessity of allowing some time to elapse before changing what had not yet been fairly put to the test—namely, the actual bearings of our electoral system, were arguments which ought to command the respectful consideration of the House. They did not attempt to put the matter upon what was called the "finality" footing. It was impossible to say that as the population altered, as well as increased, and as the circumstances of the country changed, it might not, from time to time, be necessary to make some alterations in the distribution of political power and in the incidence of their electoral system. Some towns would decay, others would spring up in their places. It was but right that the smaller should give place to the larger, and that, from time to time, changes of that sort should arise. But he maintained confidently that that was an operation which ought not to be rashly, or frequently undertaken. It ought not to be undertaken in a hasty, or ill-considered, or in any other than the most careful manner. There was a great Reform Bill passed in 1832, and another great Reform Bill was passed 35 years afterwards. It was not reasonable that within 10 years of that last change we should be again thinking of change. No, the time had not yet come—it was not even close at hand—for making any further alterations. That time ought not to be anticipated, when it would be possible without inconvenience to the business and Constitution of the country to re-consider these matters which had formerly been considered at an interval of more than a generation. What he would urge was, that they should lay aside for the present those attempts to pass abstract Resolutions, which could not be followed by anything in the nature of immediate legislative action. This was not the time —and he thought that hon. Members who supported the Resolutions must feel in their hearts that it was not the time—for undertaking a great constitutional change. Many of them remembered the incidents of the last great constitutional change. They remembered the controversies to which it gave rise, the feelings which it excited, and the interruption which it caused to many measures of importance. It was, therefore, undesirable to be re-opening and renewing these questions at the present time; and if it was undesirable to be re-opening and renewing them, surely it was undesirable to be passing abstract Resolutions which they did not see their way to carry into effect. That was not a small matter, but one which cut very deep. Whenever it might be raised in a practical form it would open up enormous issues. They had been told, for example, that they would have probably to deal with no fewer than 150 seats. Well, he would ask, were hon. Members prepared—did they think it desirable in the interests of the nation—on the strength of a plea, which he thought a dangerous plea, and one of a wholly unsubstantial character, to plunge the country into a controversy which would necessarily be of the nature of an agitation, and which would arouse a great deal of feeling which it was desirable not to arouse—and for what? For a change which would lead them no one could tell where. They would, in making it, be embarking on a great and dangerous ocean, without a pilot, and without a course marked out for them to sail by. In these circumstances he felt, and Her Majesty's Government felt, that they had no alternative but to resist the Motion of the hon. Member for the Border Boroughs.


said, he felt he had but little right to ask the indulgence of the House, even for a short time, in addressing it on this subject. It was a question on which he had not, up to the present time, given a vote; and as he might, therefore, be presumed to have been in some doubt and hesitation with regard to it, it was hardly for him to seek to influence the votes of hon. Members on the present occasion. He wished, however, with the indulgence of the House, to say a few words as to the reasons why he now intended to support the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for the Border Boroughs (Mr. Trevelyan). When he last addressed the House upon the question a few years ago, he said that in his view there were a few questions upon which they should abstain from giving an opinion, but circumstances justified the course which he then took. The question he had now to consider was whether this was one of those questions, and whether the circumstances in which the Resolution was brought forward were of such an exceptional nature as to justify him in continuing in the course which during the last three or four Sessions he had pursued. The extension of the franchise was by almost universal consent a question of time, and time only. It must by universal consent be considered, and they had heard nothing from the Treasury Bench which weakened that opinion. The change advocated by his hon. Friend would, sooner or later, be made, and the question really before them was, when that change ought to be made, and whether it ought to be accompanied by a more or less considerable re-distribution of political power. When the subject was brought before the House in the early Sessions of the present Parliament, he would acknowledge he was of opinion that the time chosen for discussing it was not an extremely favourable one. A period of very considerable legislative activity had followed the Reform Act of 1867, and the country afterwards showed in an unmistakeable manner that it desired an interval, at all events, of repose; and the result was a Government pledged to "silence and consideration." But circumstances were now, to a certain extent, altered. The present Parliament, although it might have a period to run, was approaching its dissolution, having passed its meridian, and the time was consequently not far distant when the constituencies and the country would have an opportunity of saying whether there should be another epoch of repose, or whether the Government must give consideration to that and other questions, and whether the question should be faced with earnestness or not. Under such circumstances, he could not think that it was right not to state his opinion on the subject. On the contrary, it was not the duty of anyone who aspired, however imperfectly, to guide the counsels of any of the great Parties in that House to abstain from giving an opinion upon the present question. Whether the claim now put forward on behalf of the county householders was well-founded or not, the county householders and the country ought to know what was the attitude of each of the great Parties in the House in relation to it. They had a right to know whether the House was prepared to take it up and push it forward by every constitutional and legitimate means, or whether it was, though not to be absolutely refused, yet to be delayed, and to be taken up when difficulties and doubts arose, and when there might be political dangers, or when political advantages might be expected from the granting of the demands made. If the county householders had a right to ask the question, what answer was to be given to them? A statement of the question seemed to him almost to convey the inevitable answer—they had large classes excluded from political power. It was admitted by all, even by his right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen), with a trifling exception, as a fact that political power was possessed by classes in the same position as those who were excluded, but who were no fitter to exercise it. It would not be denied that those classes also had interests of their own; though not in opposition to, yet not identical with, those of the enfranchised classes—interests which were as worthy of being considered as those of the represented and enfranchised classes, and it was not alleged that there would be any political danger in granting to those new classes the franchise. With the exception of his right hon. Friend, no speaker who had opposed the Motion had argued that there was any social or other danger involved in the proposition. He had heard with great admiration, but at the same time with great regret, the speech which his right hon. Friend had delivered. Still, he thought a more courageous speech had seldom been delivered in that House. Instances had not been rare of politicians who had made promises and supported principles when in Opposition which they had shrunk from giving practical effect to when they came into power; but he believed the instances were rare in which any man, ambitious, as his right hon. Friend naturally was, of serving his Party and the State, had voluntarily incurred a considerable amount of unpopularity with those among whom he sat by refusing to espouse a cause that was almost universally taken up by his Party. Much, however, as he admired the courage with which his right hon. Friend had expressed his opinions to-night, he doubted whether the fears, the doubts, and the hesitations which his right hon. Friend had expressed rested upon any solid foundation. Still more did he doubt whether, if the dangers his right hon. Friend spoke of were real which they might have to confront, or that they were to be apprehended from the classes whom it was proposed to enfranchise. His right hon. Friend was doubtful about the finance of the newly-enfranchised classes; but he would ask him whether the finance of the newly-enfranchised classes was the only finance in the history of the country that had been found to be unsound, and whether newly-enfranchised classes were the only ones who had adapted their financial policy to the interests of those with whom they were connected? His right hon. Friend also doubted the political economy of newly-enfranchised electors. It was true the late constituencies did, after a long struggle, so far yield to the principles of political economy as to remove the Corn Laws and other protective duties, but he doubted very much whether the pressure of necessity and of famine itself had not more to do with the removal of those protective restrictions than any adherence to the sound principles of political economy. His right hon. Friend viewed with some alarm and distrust the philanthropic and Socialist tendencies of the newly-enfranchised constituencies. But let him (the Marquess of Hartington) remind his right hon. Friend that perhaps the greatest step in legislation of that description was taken not by new, but by the old restricted constituencies. He referred to the Factory Acts, against which he had not a word to say, any more than his right hon. Friend had a word to say against the legislation of the late and the present Parliaments. The legislation in regard to the Factory Acts—the first step in the paternal, the philanthropic, and, if he might use the word, the Socialistic direction which his right hon. Friend dreaded—was undertaken by a Parliament elected by restricted constituencies, and was supported, as they had never ceased to be, by many hon. Gentlemen of the Conservative Party. But whatever ground his right hon. Friend might have for his apprehensions of the tendencies of the new constituencies, and those whom the Motion proposed to add to them, he feared that his argument, on the whole, rested at last upon a ground which it was too late for him or any one else to seek to occupy. He thought there ran through the whole of it the argument that the franchise was to be dependent upon some supposed want in the possessors of the franchise, and that was the ground which had now been abandoned. That evening they had heard a good deal of the "machine" theory of Parliament; and, no doubt, if the only object of representative institutions were to provide the most perfect machine, it would have to be produced in a very different way. Certainly there were many contrivances which would produce an Assembly with much more knowledge of political economy, of constitutional history, of law, or even, perhaps, of logic, reason, and common sense than the existing machinery; but the country had always proceeded upon the principle that the House of Commons was to be, as far as they could make it, a representation of the people of the country. And, although a House of Commons so elected might often do foolish things, they yet believed that the laws which were made by a House so elected would be more cheerfully obeyed, that the policy adopted by a House so elected would be more heartily supported, and that the institutions which were associated with a House so elected would be more cherished, and venerated, and respected than would be the case under the most theoretically perfect system of election which any one could conceive. For these reasons he doubted whether the fears and hesitations of his right hon. Friend were justified; but whether they were or not, they were apparently felt in this House by himself alone. ["No, no!"] They were not shared by Her Majesty's Government, and neither on that, nor on any former occasion, had one word been said against the principle of the Motion, The right hon. Gentle- man who had just sat down (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had said that he would oppose the Motion; and that if he and others had not risen earlier in the evening, it was because they relied on arguments that had appeared before, and which they had not thought it necessary to repeat. But, unless his (the Marquess of Hartington's) memory deceived him, the Prime Minister had more than once, as fully as his hon. Friend (Mr. Trevelyan) could desire, assented to everything that had been said about the enfranchisement of the agricultural labourers, and rested his opposition to that measure solely upon the fact that it involved the re-distribution of seats. The hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Stanhope) had argued against the Resolutions, but had said not one word against their principle. The argument of the hon. Gentleman was an ingenious one; but it only went to show that the necessity for the proposal was not proved. The hon. Gentleman, indeed, admitted a certain grievance on the part of the artizan class who lived immediately outside the boundaries of Parliamentary boroughs, and he suggested a remedy. But what was that remedy? It was simply the extension of the boundaries of Parliamentary boroughs. In other words, he suggested that the franchise in those boroughs, where the electors now possessed the smallest show of electoral power, should be still further diluted by the admission of a large number of persons who lived in the outskirts. But with regard to the agricultural labourer, the hon. Gentleman did not advance one argument against his admission to the franchise, but only suggested some reasons for believing that his interests were sufficiently attended to, and that he did not require for his protection the immediate possession of a Parliamentary vote. If, then, with the exception of his right hon. Friend, there was no one who argued against the proposition before the House on the ground of principle, on what grounds were we asked to oppose it? Simply on the ground that we were weary of the subject of Parliamentary reform, and that we were unwilling to grapple again with the many difficulties which surrounded it, and especially with those which surrounded the question of re-distribution of political power- Now, he would say that these were not grounds upon which, we could long resist the reality of this demand. These were grounds which would be sufficient for resisting an unreal, sham demand, based upon some sentimental aspirations; but they were not grounds upon which a claim such as this could be permanently resisted. He did not deny the good faith with which the plea for delay was put forward. He had himself felt, perhaps as strongly as any hon. Gentleman, a disinclination to enter again upon the most difficult, as well as the most important, question of Parliamentary Reform. He felt, he admitted it, the enormous difficulties of the question. But as to the disinclination to re-open the question of Parliamentary Reform, he might remind the House, that the responsibility rested not with hon. Gentlemen on that side, but with hon. Gentlemen opposite, who, when the whole question was before them 10 years ago, when they had made up their minds to deal with one part of it in a broad and comprehensive manner, shrank from dealing with the rest of the question upon a permanent and satisfactory basis. It might have been foreseen—he had no doubt it was foreseen by many—that the county franchise could not be left in the position in which it was left after that great concession had been made in the matter of the borough franchise. And it was in the recollection of them all that upon that side of the House there was not one hon. Member who professed to believe that the trifling re-distribution of seats under the Act of 1867 would prove satisfactory. As to the difficulties of the re-distribution of seats, he had admitted that he could see difficulties; but, at the same time, he thought those difficulties might easily be exaggerated. As had been pointed out by his hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke), the necessity of redistribution existed already. There were anomalies of an importance and magnitude which could hardly be exaggerated, and new disproportions, frequently brought about by the increase of the county electors, only added a fresh element to the consideration of the question, and could not be said to create a new necessity, only adding to that which already existed. At that hour of the night he would not trouble the House by going into figures on the question. There were some which had made a great impression on the House, and, he believed, on the country. There were some given by the present Prime Minister in order to point out the great disproportion which would be caused by the extension of the county franchise between the number of the county and the borough electors, and which, in his opinion, would tend to the creation of electoral districts. He (the Marquess of Hartington) thought it might be shown that there was considerable fallacy in those figures. It had been shown that there was a large and increasing population in counties, so that the disproportion pointed out by the Prime Minister as existing between counties and boroughs was really to a great extent an anomaly. But this was no doubt a great question which Parliament would, sooner or later, have to consider, and the sooner Parliament made up its mind to consider it, the milder and smaller would be the measure which it would be necessary to adopt. He believed there was no desire to disfranchise any community which had anything that could be called a separate, actual, and progressive existence of its own. He believed there was no desire to cut up the country into large electoral districts. But he thought, at the same time, it must be admitted a great many small constituencies still survived, which did not represent anything in particular but local prejudice, local selfishness, and local pride which it was not for the advantage of the public to continue. It must also be admitted that the extension of the suffrage to great cities and counties would not only give satisfaction and contentment to those cities and counties, but afford opportunities to many for entering Parliament who could not now obtain admission. Without detaining the House any further, he would only say that as it was now, he supposed, vain to hope that the present Parliament, in the time which remained to it would attempt to deal with and settle that question; still, in his opinion, its discussion within those walls during the existence of that Parliament could not be without its effect in the way of benefit. As he had said, the country would soon have to decide whether it would face this and other great questions at the next Election, or whether it would decide in favour of another period of repose and silence; and he earnestly hoped that the result of that and other debates which might be held in that House in the interval would be to induce the country to take up the matter once more in earnest, so as without haste and without passion—as might now easily be done—but at the same time without hesitation and without timidity, that long-standing question might be settled on a basis which would hold out some prospect of permanence.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 276; Noes 220: Majority 56.

Adderley, rt. hn. Sir C. Cole, Col. hon. H. A.
Agnew, R. V. Coope, O. E.
Allen, Major Corbett, Colonel
Allsopp, C. Cordes, T.
Archdale, W. H. Corry, hon. H. W. L.
Arkwright, A. P. Corry, J. P.
Assheton, B. Crichton, Viscount
Astley, Sir J. D. Cross, rt. hon. E. A.
Bagge, Sir W. Cubitt, G.
Bailey, Sir J. R. Cust, H. C.
Balfour, A. J. Dalkeith, Earl of
Barne, F. St. J. N. Dalrymple, C.
Bates, E. Davenport, W. B.
Bateson, Sir T. Deedes, W.
Bathurst, A. A. Denison, C. B.
Beach, rt. hn. Sir M. H. Denison, W. E.
Beach, W. W. B. Dick, F.
Bective, Earl of Dickson, Major A. G.
Bentinck, rt. hn. G. C. Digby, Capt. hon. E.
Bentinck, G. W. P. Dyott, Colonel E.
Beresford, G. de la Poer Eaton, H. W.
Beresford, Colonel M. Edmonstone, Admiral Sir W.
Birley, H.
Blackburne, Col. J. I. Egerton, hon. A. F.
Boord, T. W. Egerton, Sir P. G
Bourke, hon. E. Egerton, hon. W.
Bourne, Colonel Elliot, Sir G.
Bowen, J. B. Elliot, G. W.
Bright, E. Elphinstone, Sir J. D. H.
Brise, Colonel E. Emlyn, Viscount
Broadley, W. H. H. Eslington, Lord
Brooks, W. C. Ewing, A. O.
Bruce, rt. hon. Lord E. Finch, G. H.
Bruce, hon. T. Floyer, J.
Bruen, H. Folkestone, Viscount
Brymer, W. E. Forester, C. T. W.
Bulwer, J. R. Forsyth, W.
Burrell, Sir W. W. Foster, W. H.
Buxton, Sir E. J. Fraser, Sir W. A.
Cameron, D. Fremantle, hon. T. F.
Campbell, C. Freshfield, C. K.
Cartwright, F. Gallwey, Sir W. P.
Cave, rt. hon. S. Galway, Viscount
Cecil, Lord E. H. B. G. Gardner, J. T. Agg-
Chaplin, Colonel E. Gardner, E. Richardson
Christie, W. L.
Clifton, T. H. Garnier, J. C.
Clive, Col. hon. G. W. Gibson, rt. hon. E.
Clowes, S. W. Giffard, Sir H. S.
Cobbold, T. C. Goddard, A. L.
Goldney, G. Majendie, L. A.
Gordon, W. Makins, Colonel
Goschen, rt. hon. G. J. Malcolm, J. W.
Goulding, W. Manners, rt. hn. Lord J.
Grantham, W. Marten, A. G.
Greenall, Sir G. Merewether, C. G.
Greene, E. Mills, A.
Gregory, G. B. Mills, Sir C. H.
Guinness, Sir A. Monckton, F.
Gurney, rt. hon. R. Montgomerie, R.
Hall, A. W. Montgomery, Sir G. G.
Halsey, T. F. Morgan, hon. F.
Hamilton, Lord C. J. Mowbray, rt. hon. J. R.
Hamilton, I. T. Muncaster, Lord
Hamilton, Lord G. Naghten, Lt.-Col.
Hamilton, Marquess of Newdegate, C. N.
Hamond, C. F. Newport, Viscount
Hardcastle, E. Noel, rt. hon. G. J.
Hardy, rt. hon. G. North, Colonel
Hardy, J. S. Northcote, rt. hon. Sir S. H.
Harvey, Sir R. B. O'Neill, hon. E.
Hay, right hon. Sir J. C. D. Onslow, D.
Heath, R. Paget, R. H.
Helmsley, Viscount Palk, Sir L.
Herbert, hon. S. Parker, Lt.-Col. W.
Hermon, E. Pateshall, E.
Hervey, Lord F. Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.
Heygate, W. U. Pell, A.
Hinchingbrook, Visct. Pemberton, E. L.
Holford, J. P. G. Pennant, hon. G.
Holker, Sir J. Poploe, Major
Holland, Sir H. T. Percy, Earl
Holmesdale, Viscount Pim, Captain B.
Home, Captain Plunket, hon. D. R.
Hood, Captain hon. A. W. A. N. Plunkett, hon. R.
Powell, W.
Hope, A. J. B. B. Praed, C. T.
Hubbard, E. Praed, H. B.
Isaac, S. Price, Captain
Jervis, Colonel Puleston, J. H.
Johnson, J. G. Raikes, H. C.
Johnstone, Sir F. Read, C. S.
Jolliffe, hon. S. Rendlesham, Lord
Jones, J. Repton, G. W.
Kavanagh, A. MacM. Ridley, M. W.
Kennard, Colonel Ritchie, C. T.
Kennaway, Sir J. H. Rodwell, B. B. H.
King-Harman, E. R. Round, J.
Knight, F. W. Russell, Sir C.
Knightley, Sir R. Ryder, G. R.
Lacon, Sir E. H. K. Sackville, S. G. S.
Lawrence, Sir T. Salt, T.
Learmonth, A. Sanderson, T. K.
Lechmere, Sir E. A. H. Sandon, Viscount
Leo, Major V. Sclater-Booth, rt. hn. G.
Legard, Sir C. Scott, Lord H.
Legh, W. J. Scott, M. D.
Leighton, S. Selwin-Ibbetson, Sir H. J.
Lennox, Lord H. G.
Leslie, Sir J. Severne, J. E.
Lewis, C. E. Shirley, S. E.
Lindsay, Col. R. L. Sidebottom, T. H.
Lindsay, Lord Simonds, W. B.
Lloyd, S. Smith, A.
Lloyd, T. E. Smith, F. C.
Lopes, Sir M. Smith, S. G.
Lowe, rt. hon. R. Smith, W. H.
Lowther, hon. W. Smollett, P. B.
Lowther, J. Somerset, Lord H. R. C.
Macartney, J. W. E. Sotheron-Estcourt, G.
Mac Iver, D. Stanhope, hon. E.
M'Garel-Hogg, Sir J. Stanhope, W. T. W. S.
Stanley, hon. F. Waterhouse, S.
Steere, L. Watney, J.
Stewart, M. J. Watson, W.
Storer, G. Welby-Gregory, Sir W.
Sykes, C. Wellesley, Colonel
Talbot, J. G. Wells, E.
Taylor, rt. hon. Col. Wilmot, Sir J. E.
Thornhill, T. Wilson, W.
Thwaites, D. Wolff, Sir H. D.
Thynne, Lord H. F. Woodd, B. T.
Tollemache, hon. W. F. Wroughton, P.
Torr, J. Wyndham, hon. P.
Trevor, Lord A. E. Hill- Wynn, C. W. W.
Turnor, E. Yarmouth, Earl of
Verner, E. W. Yorke, hon. E.
Wait, W. K. Yorke, J. R.
Walker, T. E.
Wallace, Sir E. TELLERS.
Walpole, rt. hon. S. Dyke, Sir W. H.
Warburton, P. E. Winn, R.
Acland, Sir T. D. Cowan, J.
Adam, rt. hon. W. P. Cowen, J.
Allen, W. S. Cowper, hon. H. F.
Anderson, G. Crawford, J. S.
Anstruther, Sir R. Cross, J. K.
Ashley, hon. E. M. Davie, Sir H. R. F.
Backhouse, E. Davies, R.
Balfour, Sir G. Dease, E.
Barclay, J. W. Dillwyn, L. L.
Barran, J. Dodson, rt. hon. J. G.
Baxter, rt. hon. W. E. Downing, M'C.
Bazley, Sir T. Duff, M. E. G.
Beaumont, Major F. Duff, R. W.
Beaumont, W. B. Dundas, J. C.
Bell, I. L. Earp, T.
Biddulph, M. Edwards, H.
Blake, T. Egerton, Adm. hon. F.
Blennerhassett, R. P. Errington, G.
Bolckow, H. W. F. Eyton, P. E.
Brady, J. Fawcett, H.
Brassey, H. A. Ferguson, R.
Brassey, T. Fitzmaurice, Lord E.
Briggs, W. E. Fletcher, I.
Bright, J. Foljambe, F. J. S.
Bright, rt. hon. J. Forster, Sir C.
Bristowe, S. B. Forster, rt. hon. W. E.
Brocklehurst, W. C. Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.
Brogden, A. Gladstone, W. H.
Brown, A. H. Goldsmid, J.
Brown, J. C. Gordon, Lord D.
Burt, T. Gourley, E. T.
Cameron, C. Gower, hon. E. F. L.
Campbell, Sir G. Grey, Earl de
Campbell-Bannerman, H. Grosvenor, Lord R.
Hankey, T.
Carington, hon. Col. W. Harcourt, Sir W. V.
Cave, T. Harrison, C.
Cavendish, Lord F. C. Harrison, J. F.
Cavendish, Lord G. Hartington, Marq. of
Chadwick, D. Havelock, Sir H.
Chamberlain, J. Hayter, A. D.
Childers, rt. hon. H. Henry, M.
Cholmeley, Sir H. Hibbert, J. T.
Clifford, C. C. Hill, T. R.
Cole, H. T. Hodgson, K. D.
Colebrooke, Sir T. E. Holms, J.
Colman, J. J. Holms, W.
Conyngham, Lord F. Hopwood, C. H.
Corbett, J. Howard, hon. C.
Cotes, C. C. Howard, E. S.
Hughes, W. B. O'Loghlen, rt. hon. Sir C. M.
Hutchinson, J. D.
Ingram, W. J. O'Shaughnessy, R.
Jackson, Sir H. M. Palmer, C. M.
James, Sir H. Parnell, C. S.
James, W. H. Pease, J. W.
Jenkins, D. J. Peel, A. W.
Johnstone, Sir H. Pennington, F.
Kay-Shuttleworth, Sir U. Perkins, Sir F.
Philips, R. N.
Kensington, Lord Playfair, rt. hon. L.
Kingscote, Colonel Portman, hon. W. H. B.
Kinnaird, hon. A. F. Potter, T. B.
Knatchbull-Hugessen, rt. hon. E. Power, J. O'C.
Power, R.
Laing, S. Price, W. E.
Lambert, N. G. Ramsay, J.
Laverton, A. Rashleigh, Sir C.
Law, rt. hon. H. Rathbone, W.
Lawrence, Sir J. C. Redmond, W. A.
Lawson, Sir W. Reed, E. J.
Leatham, E. A. Richard, H.
Leeman, G. Robertson, H.
Lefevre, G. J. S. Rothschild, Sir N. M. de
Leith, J. F. Rylands, P.
Lloyd, M. St. Aubyn, Sir J.
Locke, J. Samuda, J. D'A.
Lorne, Marquess of Samuelson, B.
Lush, Dr. Samuelson, H.
Lusk, Sir A. Seely, C.
Macdonald, A. Sheil, E.
Macduff, Viscount Sheridan, H. B.
Macgregor, D. Sherriff, A. C.
Mackintosh, C. F. Simon, Mr. Serjeant
M'Arthur, A. Sinclair, Sir J. G. T.
M'Arthur, W. Smith, E.
M'Kenna, Sir J. N. Smyth, R.
M'Lagan, P. Spinks, Mr. Serjeant
M'Laren, D. Stansfeld, rt. hon. J.
Maitland, J. Stepney, Sir A.
Maitland, W. F. Stuart, Colonel
Marjoribanks, Sir D. C. Swanston, A.
Marling, S. S. Tavistock, Marquess of
Martin, P. W. Taylor, P. A.
Massey, rt. hon. W. N. Torrens, W. T. M'C.
Middleton, Sir A. E. Tracy, hon. F. S. A. Hanbury-
Milbank, F. A.
Monk, C. J. Villiers, rt. hon. C. P.
Montagu, rt. hn. Lord R. Vivian, A. P.
Moore, A. Vivian, H. H.
Morgan, G. O. Waddy, S. D.
Morley, S. Walter, J.
Mundella, A. J. Ward, M. F.
Muntz, P. H. Whalley, G. H.
Mure, Colonel Whitbread, S.
Murphy, N. D. Whitworth, B.
Noel, E. Williams, W.
Nolan, Captain Wilson, C.
Norwood, C. M. Wilson, Sir M.
O'Beirne, Captain Yeaman, J.
O'Byrne, W. R. Young, A. W.
O'Clery, K. TELLERS.
O'Donnell, F. H. Dilke, Sir C. W.
O'Gorman, P. Trevelyan, G. O.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

Main Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."

Original Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Committee deferred till Monday next.