HC Deb 22 February 1878 vol 238 cc159-258

, in rising to move— That, in the opinion of this House, it would be desirable to establish, throughout the whole of the United Kingdom, a Household Franchise similar to that now established in the English Boroughs; that it would be desirable so to redistribute political power as to obtain a more complete representation of the opinion of the electoral body, said, in raising that Amendment to the Speaker leaving the Chair, he might, perhaps, be allowed to say that he expected they would have a very interesting discussion. The reason for that he would shortly state to the House. The peculiarity of that question had been that it had not followed the course that had usually been followed by questions of equal importance that had been brought before the House. Hon. Members on both sides of the House who brought on great questions would, he thought, generally allow that what happened was that when they brought forward these questions they were instantly met by all the arguments that could be brought against them; but that had not happened to those who in the past years had been bringing before the House the question of household suffrage. As long as the question was new, and as long as the Members who voted for it were few, so long the speakers who opposed it did not even attempt to touch the question. He was sure hon. Members would recollect the tone of the Prime Minister, who constituted himself the spokesman of the opposition to the measure. They were told by the right hon. Gentleman that the question was untimely and inopportune, but his objections never went to the heart of the question; but all that was altered last year, when the section of Members, who had always supported this proposition, were reinforced by a very important body—the Front Bench of the Opposition. Then they witnessed the curious phenomenon that a measure which, while it was new, while it was feebly supported, received pretty general acceptance in theory, the moment it received the pretty unanimous suffrage of one side of the House, was opposed as erroneous and dangerous. Then the Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. E. Stanhope) fell tooth-and-nail on the supporters of the Motion, with a vigour which did the hearts good even of those who opposed his views, and he was followed by the intelligent Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschon), in a speech which established for ever, if it wanted establishing, his reputation for courage and sincerity. But this was not all, or nearly all, for since last Session all the arguments for and against this Bill had been put in a very strong light, and a very able manner, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe). By what he had done the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lowe) had earned the gratitude of a great part of the community—of all people who looked to hear a great measure discussed in a worthy manner, and written about by a pen which literature grudged to politics. He had earned still more the gratitude of those who had so long urged this question on the notice of the House, for he had given them someone to argue with as well as something to vote for. He had, besides, put his arguments in so complete, terse, and compact a form that he hoped to be able to put his case before the House with more point and certainly more brevity than usual. Before he dealt with these arguments, however, he must say a word as to the Amendment which was to be proposed by his hon. Friend the Member for West Gloucestershire (Mr. Plunkett), which proposed an educational test. As he wished to get as large an expression of House of Commons opinion as possible in favour of his views, he should in any case oppose the Amendment; but he was not sure that they did not cordially agree with him. If by his Amendment his hon. Friend meant to propose an educational franchise—that was to say, if he proposed to give a vote to anyone who had passed a certain examination, or attained a certain degree, he could not but think he was going in a wrong direction. The arguments against such a proposal were put with force, and with convincing force, when Mr. Clay, the late lamented Member for Hull, introduced an Elective Franchise Bill in 1866, proposing to give a vote to anybody who could satisfy the Civil Service Commissioners of his ability to do dictation, and the first five rules of simple and compound arithmetic. That measure did not go to a division; but, had a vote been taken, he certainly would have opposed it, because he was convinced by the extremely able arguments of the right hon. Gentlemen the Members for Greenwich and Birmingham (Mr. Gladstone and Mr. John Bright). The former right hon. Gentleman then said— I do not deny that there is something abstractedly good in an educational test, provided it could be reduced to a form of extreme simplicity. If some test, simple, definite, and unambiguous in its character, could be devised …it might be wise to require all classes of persons to conform to that test."—[3 Hansard, clxxxiii. 1477–78.] He presumed that the right hon. Gentleman meant that, while he was opposed to an educational franchise which gave the vote to anyone who passed a certain examination, yet he was in favour of an educational test, which withheld the vote from those who did not come up to a certain intellectual standard. But such a test they had had ready made to their hands, and they threw it away. The Ballot Bill, as originally brought forward, required every elector to mark his own paper. This was a test, simple in its working, uni- form over the whole country, and therefore not subject to the whims and fancies of any particular examiner, and easy in its application. But, unfortunately, the test did not find favour with the gentlemen who wished to give the vote to men who must have been not only illiterate, but so stupid that they could not carry in their minds for five minutes the appearance of a piece of paper with two names printed on it. He voted for the test—the first time in a majority of 208, the second time in a minority of 87, and he was proud to remember that the minority was composed almost exclusively of Members of the Party who were generally accused of being anxious to take political power out of the hands of the cultured and the intellectual, and put it into the hands of the ignorant. He firmly believed that this was a question which must come before the House again, and when it did, he hoped his hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Plunkett), and those voting with him, would be found giving a Conservative vote—a vote that would be Conservative in the proper sense of the word. But, as he did not know the arguments his hon. Friend would bring forward, he would leave those which followed him to deal with his speech, and turn to the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lowe). First and foremost among these was his argument that the reduction of the county franchise would be but one step on the way to universal suffrage. A few years ago, says the right hon. Gentleman, you brought in a very sweeping Reform Bill, so sweeping that you never could have induced the House of Common to pass it unless you had called it a final settlement. Now you come forward with another enfranchising Bill, more sweeping than its predecessors, and you expect me to believe you when you say it is a final step. Ten years hence, says the right hon. Gentleman, a Bill will be introduced enfranchising every citizen over 21, and that 10 years after that we shall have a Bill to enfranchise the brute creation. The simple and plain answer to this was, that the Bill did not lower the franchise below the point at which it was reduced in 1867. It was merely to extend what Parliament considered to be the soundest and most permanent basis of the franchise to those parts of the country to which it had not been extended already. Parliament, in its wisdom, had come to the conclusion that, until every adult householder and ratepayer in cities had a vote, so long would there be a dangerous agitation going on in these great cities. The proof that Parliament was right was found in the fact that before the Reform Bill there was a good deal of agitation of a dangerous sort in the great cities; but since it had been passed, so far as the great cities were concerned, they had heard of none at all. It was no use to tell them, who had been twice returned to Parliament by household suffrage, that it led to universal suffrage. They heard less and less of it in boroughs every year. He did not believe there was a borough Member in the House who was pledged to universal suffrage, and he did not believe one Petition a-year was presented from a borough asking for universal suffrage. They were presented, for he had presented them in dozens himself; but they were sent, not from boroughs, where there existed an extended franchise, but in the counties, where an exclusion existed which he and those who acted with him wished to remove. That carried him to another argument often brought against this measure, but which had never been so audaciously put—if he might use the words—as it had been by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lowe). They were often told that there was no demand for the franchise on the part of those to whom they wished to give it, and that they must wait until the labourers asked and agitated for it. This was what the right hon. Gentleman said on this point— I am quite ready to concede that were we menaced by any great and pressing danger, such as civil war, for instance, it might he wise to accede somewhat, and to incur the chance of a future rather than to submit to the certainty of a present calamity. Here was a very good specimen of the sort of immunities and privileges which belonged to the Gentlemen who took the Conservative side in controversy. If he had said anything of this sort—he, who belonged to that part of the House which the hon. Member for Mid Cheshire (Mr. Warburton), the other day, using words which he earnestly hoped and believed the hon. Gentleman was sorry to have used, described as the "scum of the Opposition"—if he, who belonged to that side of the House, had told an audience of farm labourers that if they wanted the franchise they must engage in civil war, he would never have heard the last of it, either inside the House or outside it. But here came a right hon. Gentleman, who was known as an advocate of restricted suffrage, and told the farm labourers he would not pay any attention to their Petitions or public meetings; but if they made themselves dangerous to the public peace, then, and then only, he would concede their demands. The right hon. Gentleman did not appear to know that these poor people had already attempted to call the attention of Parliament to their case in every possible way that they could contrive. They had petitioned until he was almost ashamed to advise them to petition any more. They had called meetings in the country, and during the two last years they had in the metropolis a meeting so important that the right hon. Gentleman the senior Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright) described one of them as the most remarkable conference that he was ever present at. And now they had done all that they could do, and spent all that they could afford, the House was told that they did not ask for the franchise, and that he and others were trying to thrust it into their hands. There was another argument of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lowe) to which he would call attention for a few minutes. The right hon. Gentleman told them that the debates on Reform were always quite different from any other debates that were held in the House on any other subject whatsoever. The right hon. Gentleman said that when they were discussing any such topics, they always referred to the history of the past, and the experience of other nations; that our own history especially was investigated with unflinching industry; but as soon as Reform came before the House the whole process underwent an entire change, and they said nothing about the history of the past or the political experience of other nations, but indulged in vague declamations about the rights of man. He (Mr. Trevelyan) was quite certain that hon. Members who had listened to the numerous debates they had had on this question would allow that if there was any difference between Reform debates and other debates they had in this House, the difference was not in the debates, but in the right hon. Gentleman. On any other subject the right hon. Gentleman was very happy in catching up and answering an argument in any part of the House. But when the right hon. Gentleman said that they did not refer to the history of foreign countries in their speeches, he feared that the right hon. Gentleman must be deaf in the left ear. But on this occasion, at any rate, something should be said about foreign countries. The right hon. Gentleman told them that one effect of universal suffrage was to produce jobbery, corruption, and inefficiency in the administration of a country. He would read the actual words— The suffrage in America is universal, and in England comparatively restricted, and the corruption in the Civil Service in America is becoming an intolerable evil; while England, by throwing it open to merit, is placing it every day higher in the estimation of the country. The right hon. Gentleman was far too good a logician to think it was enough to state two perfectly true and sound propositions if they had not a link to connect them together. They all admitted that a century ago the public service of this country was comparatively corrupt. Patronage nourished, but now in most of our public services it was virtually extinct. The improvement was not due to restricted franchise. Was it not more the case that the public service had become pure in proportion, and almost exactly in proportion, as our political constitution had become popular? Why, in times past, when a Minister came to an appointment in the public service he scarcely over was guided by public spirit. ["Oh, oh!"] He would not detain the House with extracts from Walpole's Diaries or George Selwyn's Letters. All he would say was that he was not so frequently guided by it as the right hon. Gentleman whom he saw opposite him. It was the Reform Bill of 1832 which made the nation look after its own affairs, and put a stop to the system of jobbery, and enabled the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House and Chancellor of the Exchequer to carry out, to a great extent, that admirable scheme of Civil Service Reform which he had so large a hand in devising. Unfortunately, in the last Parliament he was not able to complete this work. In the last Parliament, hon. Gentlemen were not prepared for completing the system of open competition, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen) in vain appealed to the last Parliament —that Parliament of which he was so much enamoured—to complete it. After the Reform Bill of 1867, when household suffrage was the rule of the boroughs, twice the Chancellor of the Exchequer carried through with his own hand that system of open competition of which he was so greatly and justly enamoured. He had, he thought, answered that argument of the right hon. Gentleman; and before he quitted altogether that question of open competition, he should like to say that if they looked to the two sides of the House, they should find the result calculated to perplex the right hon. Gentleman. He (Mr. Trevelyan) made a speech in the country in the course of the Recess. In that speech he made some remarks upon open competition, with the argumentative and substantial part of which he concurred still, and was prepared to support. But these remarks contained what certainly appeared like an imputation of motive, which he sincerely regretted, and which he should take very great care not to repeat. But he thought hon. Gentlemen opposite would allow him to say just this much—that the hon. Gentlemen in this House, who were not what he would call insane admirers of the system of open competition, were, for the most part, returned by the suffrage which the right hon. Gentleman wished to preserve, and that the most thorough-going admirers of the system were returned by a suffrage which the right hon. Gentleman sincerely deplored. "Then," said the right hon. Gentleman, "look at the fruits of universal suffrage. France proved that universal suffrage might co-exist with conscription, a protective tariff, and with arbitrary prohibition of the right of free speech and free thought." Surely this sentence was nothing more than one long nonsequitur. Conscription was a necessity of the Continental position. The reason we were free from conscription—and long might we remain so— was not that we had a restricted franchise, but that we were surrounded by a sea which our Fleets commanded. Was it not obvious, too, that protection was not a monoply of countries with an extended franchise? They had been told during the last month that despotic Russia was as much protective in her tariff as Republican France or democratic America. Did the right hon. Gentleman not think that the events of the last year in France should lead him to believe that the popular voice was in favour of free speech and free thought? The weapon most relied on by the conspirators of May last was the gagging of free thought and free speech; and he ventured to say that if the suffrage in France had been confined to a few instead of extended to the many, there would at this time not be an outspoken journal in Paris or an outspoken orator at Versailles. France had been saved from civil war; but what had saved it? He said boldly in the face of the House that it was the extended franchise. It was no use multiplying instances of foreign countries unless they were willing to answer the question the right hon. Gentleman had put so boldly. The right hon. Gentleman had said— Is there any man bold enough to assort that the Reform Bill of 1867 has improved the House of Commons? We maintain that it has loft the House as it found it. So far as his (Mr. Trevelyan's) experience went, he was sorry it was so limited. He answered the question unhesitatingly in the affirmative. He had heard a great deal lately about the decline of the debating power in the House. If that meant that speeches were shorter and less pretentious than before, he cordially endorsed it; but if it meant that speakers spoke less ably and less to the point, he disputed it. If they came from debating to legislating, he boldly asserted that the Members of the House were ready to adopt measures bolder, more truly remedial, than Members in the former Parliaments, and these measures were not marked by violence or injustice. Let the right hon. Gentleman run over in his mind the Bills which had been turned into Acts by this and the last Parliament; let him name an Act which bore upon it the stamp of that democratic selfishness and democratic recklessness and violence of which he so eloquently warned them 10 years ago. The first two Bills of any great character which were brought into the Parliament of 1868 were two Bills which were honestly intended to pacify Ireland. Hon. Gentlemen opposite might not like the Bills, but they would not deny the honesty of the intention. Over these two Bills Parliament spent two Sessions without a murmur on the part of the new voters. The next important Bill was one for throwing open the grammar schools of the country to the middle classes, not to the new voters; and another Bill was for throwing open the Universities, to which not one in 100,000 of the new voters would ever send his son. Did this show democratic selfishness? The first Bill passed concerning the new voters was the Education Bill, by which the new voters boldly surrendered their hold over their own children for the good of the country, and recognized the obligation to educate those children, and to forego the assistance of their wages. That Bill, whatever it showed, did not show democratic recklessness or selfishness. He did not wonder that persons who reviewed the proceedings of the last Parliament and this had ceased to bring against Liberals the old trite hackneyed accusation of setting class against class. It was known now that the effect of household suffrage was not to divide classes, but to unite them— to bring them face to face, to let them know each others minds, and to do away with those misunderstandings and misrepresentations which were the cause of class hostility. He was reading lately an article written 10 or 12 years ago, which was remarkable for this—that the writer to a most extraordinary extent had acquired the manner—and a most telling literary manner it was—of a certain noble Marquess who held high Office in the present Cabinet. In that article were these words— The workman has become more independent, more obstinate, and more extravagant. Whether in strikes or revolutionary outbreaks, every opportunity has been used with unremitting vigilance during the last twenty years to accomplish the wild visions of the victory of labour over capital on which the workman, undiscouraged by failure, resolutely broods. But household suffrage showed that what the workman was really brooding over and wanted to accomplish by practical legislation, was certain salutary and judicious changes in the laws of conspiracy and of contract; and it actually came to this, that the Cabinet which the writer of that article supported, and in which, perhaps, he sat, itself brought in a Bill — and an excellent Bill it was — which turned the wild visions of those workmen into the sober reality of the Statute Book. He would conclude by asking the House to do with this Resolution what the Reform Bill of 1867 did for the householders of the towns. The Resolution asked them to add a very great proportion of the population to the ranks of citizens; to hear what they wanted in matters that concerned themselves; and to hear what they thought in those matters of Church and State, and peace and war, which concerned them every whit as much as they concerned the inhabitants of boroughs. He thought they must all allow that from the first stage of the Eastern Question to the last, a most unsatisfactory feature had been that, taking England and Ireland together, 1,000,000 and 200,000 or 300,000 of their countrymen, who had the nearest and dearest interest in the question, who had strong opinions on the question, had not been able at such a crisis to make their views known by the legal methods which ought to be open to every respectable man at a time when the fortunes of the country were at stake. This was his case. This it was to which he asked the House to apply a remedy. That side of the House last year gave its adhesion to the first Resolution with a unanimity which he hoped would be repeated that night. He did not expect the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe) to vote with him. It was not the way of the right hon. Gentleman to change his mind at the eleventh or any other hour, and that was one of the qualities for which they were proud to have him as one of the ornaments of their Party. But he did ask Her Majesty's Ministers to do what they had not yet done, and to make an unmistakable declaration on the merits of a question which concerned three-fifths of the population which they governed, and which he had endeavoured—and he hoped with tolerable success—to argue in a manner free from Party bias.


, in seconding the Resolution, said, that in speaking, as he and his hon. Friend had to do at the beginning of the debate, and before they had heard the arguments on the other side, they were forced, much against their will, to deal with speeches which had been made, and with articles which had been written, on previous occasions when the subject had been discussed. His hon. Friend the Member for the Border Boroughs had dealt very fully with the views of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe). The right hon. Gentleman was, indeed, a fanatic in his cause. He far exceeded in the bitterness of his opposition the bitterest Tory who could be found within that House. He out-Heroded Herod. He had called the exclusion of the householders who happened to live outside the boundaries of the existing boroughs—"one of the best and noblest causes that ever asked for sympathy and support." Besides the arguments which had already been met by his hon. Friend, the right hon. Gentleman had made use of some which it remained for him to answer—as, for instance, that the mere addition of large numbers to the constituencies would greatly increase the legitimate expense of elections. That statement was entirely the opposite of the fact. The present constituencies chiefly consisted of constituencies that were vastly too large and constituencies that were sadly too small. Such constituencies were the most costly to contest; the enormous and unwieldy, from the immense expense of printing and of postage, of circulars, addresses, polling-cards, and the like; the very small, from the extreme importance which in them attached to the winning of each particular vote, and the consequent constant tendency towards bribery, treating, and other costly forms of corruption. The cheapest constituencies were the middle-sized ones—constituencies of that size and character which all constituencies should possess, unless, indeed, they were prepared to revolutionize their representative system, and to abandon its local character. The right hon. Gentleman had been followed by his hon. Friend into the discussion of the old Conservative argument, drawn from American experience. He (Sir Charles W. Dilke) was not in the least concerned to defend the Government of the United States; but those of its faults, and supposed faults, which had been pointed to by the right hon. Gentleman had, he would undertake to say, no kind of connection with the wideness of the suffrage. The right hon. Gentleman seemed, to think that Protection had been imposed upon America by the poorer classes of voters. All who know that country well, would, he thought, admit that the right hon. Gentleman was quite wrong, and that, taking the country through, a majority of the wealthy voters had hitherto been at least as strongly inclined to a policy of partial Protection as had been the poor. Turning from the Eastern to the far Western States, the right hon. Gentleman accused democracy of driving away cheap labour from California. He could assure him that he himself had heard some of the most educated and accomplished political economists in England—and the right hon. Gentleman believed in political economists and political economy—at a meeting of a famous body, of which the right hon. Gentleman was himself a distinguished member, give with much detail their reasons for entertaining the belief that, under the political and social circumstances of California, the placing of some check upon an enormous Chinese immigration into that State was a step in which they, though very far indeed from being democrats, would heartily concur. The right hon. Gentleman was not happy in dealing with the case of foreign countries. He said, that in Prance we see that universal suffrage may coexist with arbitary prohibition of the right of free speech and free writing. Surely the right hon. Gentleman must be perfectly aware that manhood suffrage would make an end in Prance of all prohibition of the right of free speech, and of free writing, if it were allowed to have its way. He (Sir Charles W. Dilke), however, was not there to defend manhood suffrage, but to argue against that inequality of suffrage which existed at the present time in England, and to argue that question before a Body which, with the exception of the right hon. Gentleman and of a very few others, had agreed in establishing household suffrage in the towns. Parliament, in 1867, had established for the boroughs of England household suffrage, limited by two years' residence —for two years, and not one year, it really was—and those who now opposed them, but who concurred in what had been done in 1867, were bound to show as against them, that which the right hon. Gentleman, with his opinions, was not bound to show—namely, that there was some special reason for maintaining a different franchise in the counties, from that which existed in the towns. He entirely agreed with the right hon. Gentleman in arguing the matter as a question of expediency rather than of right. Eight and wrong were in politics confusing terms. For his part, he thought it expedient that the franchise should be equalized throughout the land. He apprehended from the change no harm; no degradation of the House of Commons; no impairment of its efficiency. He looked upon the change as one which would greatly facilitate a most needed and most just re-distribution of political power, and which carried with, it the enormous additional advantage of bringing half the population into a responsible and active share in the duties of citizenship of the State. The right hon. Gentleman appealed to modern experience to show a single instance where Government, resting on the basis of universal suffrage, has been conducted in accordance with the opinions of the educated part of society. He repeated that he was not there to defend a wider franchise than that which at present existed within the English towns. But when the right hon. Gentleman made so startling a request as that which he had just quoted to the House, he might be allowed to point out that the existing Governments of the German Empire and of Prance, both of which rested on manhood suffrage, were Governments conducted as much in accordance with the opinions of the educated part of German and of French society as could be the case with any Government that the world would ever see. If they compared the existing Governments of Prance and of the German Empire, resting upon manhood suffrage, with the existing Governments of Belgium and of Italy, resting upon a high and artificial suffrage, they could discover no inferiority in the first two Governments which he had named; and he hoped that the next time the right hon. Gentleman appealed to foreign experience it would not be in quite such confident and sweep- ing terms. The right hon. Gentleman professed to have been terrified by the overwhelming success of demagogues under a widely-extended franchise. Where were the demagogues in the German Empire? He was no admirer of many of the laws and institutions of that new State, but certainly they did not err in the direction of democracy; and, while the character of the Members returned to the German Parliament by free manhood suffrage and ballot might be too Governmental, it could not, with any kind of truth, be termed demagogic. The right hon. Gentleman refused, in his articles, to admit that anything was to be considered except how to obtain the best possible House of Commons. It was, of course, possible to conceive a better elective Assembly than any which ever existed or would exist. But the real question was, whether, under an extended county franchise, coupled with re-distribution, a worse House of Commons than the present would be brought together? This he was prepared altogether to deny. He should expect to see the same men returned; but many who at present sat for decayed, and some who sat for corrupt, communities, would be more active and more efficient Members of that House if they sat for constituencies which were worthy of the name. After all, while the right hon. Gentleman used high-flown arguments, founded upon false history, his real view, as might be gathered from some passages in his articles, appeared to be that the franchise ought not to be extended because the householders of the towns had returned a Conservative majority, and the householders of the counties might possibly do the same. Of course, he would deny that that was the view he took. It was too nakedly stated to be acceptable to his refining intellect. But he had read the articles with care, and that was the opinion which he had formed of their real drift. They had all an ideal in their view; and the ideal of the right hon. Gentleman was a Parliament which should contain 651 Members, like himself, all sitting for University constituencies. Perhaps, on the whole, they were better off as they were, and would be better off still under an extended franchise, accompanied as it must be by re-distribution. If the right hon. Gentleman was right in his opposition to the extension of the suffrage, there ought to have been noted, and he himself ought to be able to point to, a great inferiority existing since 1868 in the borough Members as contrasted with the county Members of that House. The borough Members were returned by that franchise which, in 1867, the right hon. Gentleman had so bitterly opposed. The right hon. Gentleman had not been able to make use of any argument of the kind. Why was this? For one of two reasons. Either because the borough Members, elected by the franchise of which he disapproved, had kept him and his Friends in Office during the last Parliament, and had carried for them all their great reforms; or else because no such inferiority in fact existed. There was one consideration with regard to the measure which they proposed which he wished to press upon the attention of the House. It ought to be remembered that while in most public questions the presumption was against changes in the matter of the Parliamentary franchise, the presumption was in favour of a change. In every State the presumption must be in favour of the exercise of the rights of citizenship by the largest possible proportion of the inhabitants. They could not be prevented from forming opinions upon public affairs. For the sake of orderly and peaceful Government, and for their own sake as men, it was desirable that those opinions should be expressed that they might receive due weight. The only Constitutional, and the only safe mode for their expression, was through Parliamentary Elections and the return of Members to that House. They should, then, be admitted to the franchise unless there existed reasons upon the contrary so strong as to upset the presumption in favour of the change. But their contention was that no evil consequences had followed from the admission of the householders of the towns, and that there was no essential difference between them and the householders whom it was now proposed to admit. The majority of them, indeed, consisted of persons of exactly the same class, accidentally excluded because they happened to live outside the limit of the particular towns to which it had pleased them to confine the name and the privileges of Parliamentary boroughs. All men had their hobbies, and resistance to Parliamentary Reform was the hobby of his right hon. Friend—his dandy, if he might use a word by which the right hon. Gentleman had himself described the kind of hobby-horse which in his youth he used to ride. Upon their side of the House they had become used to the dandy of the right hon. Gentleman, just as horses would become used to bicycles in the present day, and had ceased to shy at it. But two of him was too much, and in the debate of last year he had received a great accession of strength. The right, hon. Gentleman had been reinforced by another of his right hon. Friends; and, upon the division which occurred, 220 Liberals had gone into the one Lobby and three Liberals into the other—his two right hon. Friends, and the noble Lord (Lord Ernest Bruce), now a Member of another House, who at that time sat for Marlborough—two leaders and one follower; two right hon. Gentlemen from the Front Bench; and one other Member of the Party, against 220 Liberals on the other side. Surely, if those two right hon. Gentlemen had made out a good case, they would have got somebody besides the noble Lord. Had their eloquence fallen upon deaf ears as regarded every other Member? As for the vote which had been given by his right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen), he might point out that the City had four Members in that House—three Tories and one Liberal. The Liberal spoke and voted against a further extension of the franchise to the people; but not one of the three Tories went with him into the same Lobby. As for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe), they had understood the vote which he had given; but that of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London they had not understood, either before or after they had heard the reasons which he had given. He had told the House that it was the awful doings—"terrible" was his word—of the last or of the present Parliament that had frightened him. He had hinted at socialistic measures wrung from the House by demagogic pressure since 1868. Where were they? What were they? He wished to know. Were they the measures which the Cabinet of which the right hon. Gentleman had been a Member had introduced, or were they the measures of the present Govern- ment? If they were the measures of the last Cabinet and Parliament to which he referred, it would have been his duty to leave the Cabinet and to protest, and he certainly had done nothing of the kind. In the other case, let him tell the House what measures he had in view. A search through the records of the proceedings of the present Parliament did not show that the right hon. Gentleman had taken any very active part in opposition to any measures which might be described as being of a semi-socialistic kind. He had talked a great deal about the Navy, and about the Universities, but these could not be the matters which he had in view. If it was the Artizans Dwellings Act of which he had been thinking, there were two answers to be made to him, of which the chief would be that he ran away from and deserted those who had opposed that Bill, and had left them altogether in the lurch. It should be observed that in what the right hon. Gentleman had said he had spoken not of the future, but of the past. These had been his words— It appeared to him that political economy had been dethroned in that House, and that philanthropy had been allowed to take its place."—[3 Mansard, ccxxxv. 664.] The right hon. Gentleman ought not to make general charges of this kind without bringing any particular instance before the House. There were many who thought that these "terrible" measures which he denounced had never had any existence at all in fact, and were a squadron of Legislative Flying Dutchmen. It was just possible that what his right hon. Friend might have had in view might have been the introduction of exemptions from the income tax. He should not have thought of this had it not been suggested to him, because the policy of exempting a portion of the smallest incomes from the income tax was a policy which had received the support of the right hon. Gentleman himself. It was in 1864 that the policy had been introduced. In 1872 the Cabinet, of which the right hon. Gentleman was a Member, extended the amount of the abatements, and the number of incomes to which it applied. Another extension took place in 1876. The House would observe that the introduction of the principle went back before the Reform Bill of 1867, and that its extension did not immediately follow upon the Dissolution of 1868. On the contrary, until four years after the General Election, nothing at all in that direction had been done. He thought that it was a far-fetched argument to ascribe the change that had been made in 1872, or the change that had been made in 1876, to the working of an extended suffrage, because in neither case did the change either immediately precede or immediately follow a General Election. But, if he were wrong, it did not lie in the mouth of the right hon. Gentleman to use that argument. It was the Government of which he was a Member which had extended the exemptions in 1872; and when they had been again extended by the present Government in 1876, the right hon. Gentleman had not either divided the House or offered a single word of protest against the change. He had said that in the division of last year 220 Members had voted for the Resolutions; 276 Members had voted the other way. Taking the electoral weight of those Members' votes into consideration—that was to say, assigning to each Member the number of voters represented by the total number of voters in his constituency, divided by the total number of Members who represented that constituency—the 222 Liberal Members who, counting Tellers, had voted in the minority in that division, had represented 1,215,151 electors; and the Gentlemen who had voted the other way—that was to say, the 275 Conservatives, plus the two right hon. Gentlemen and the noble Lord—the 278 Members, including Tellers, of the majority, represented 1,083,758 electors. That was to say, that although the Liberals had been beaten by a majority of 56, they had represented, nevertheless, on that division a majority of about 132,000 electors. This fact was a remarkable illustration of that inequality in the existing size of constituencies, of the effects of which he had so often in that House complained. He would not weary the House with electoral statistics to show the absurdity of our existing electoral system, which in one borough allowed 76 electors to return a Member to that House, and in another a candidate who received 21,000 votes to be defeated. He had placed such statistics so repeatedly before the House that he felt it utterly useless to add anything to what he had already said in many previous years. The Motion which they made that day applied to the three Kingdoms. He claimed the vote of the hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Committees (Mr. Raikes), who, on the 26th of February, 1869, had made a great speech on representative reform in Ireland. He had called the present Irish Parliamentary system "a mere mockery of representative institutions," and had used many other hard words with regard to it, which he recommended hon. Members to read. Surely in these present days, when the Conservative Party had taken to holding public meetings in all the larger towns, and when they claimed for the first time for many years to have a majority of all sections of the people upon their side, they ought not to be afraid of Parliamentary Reform. No doubt it was not necessary to them. They had their majority, and they could do without it. But if they could be brought to the belief that an equalization of the franchise throughout the land would rest the institutions of the country on a stable base, they need not, at all events, be frightened at any prospect of the change being accompanied by Party danger to themselves.

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 be desirable to establish, throughout the whole of the United Kingdom, a Household Franchise similar to that now established in the English Boroughs,"—(Mr. Trevelyan,) —instead thereof.

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


Mr. Speaker, there are three degrees of comparison. It may be—perhaps it is—a foolish thing for Members of this House, who have the enormous advantage of being allowed to address it, to diversify the leisure of their vacation by writing articles in the Reviews. It may be a foolish thing to do; but it cannot be a wise thing for Gentlemen who wish to impress the Members of this House with the idea of their great earnestness upon the questions they bring before it, instead of adducing arguments in favour of their views, to take up the time of the House in criticizing the articles in the Reviews. I am quite sure that the acme of pessimism would he reached by myself were I to follow their example and take up a minute in defending myself against anything they are pleased to say with regard to my lucubrations. I value too much the time of the House and the opportunity I have of addressing it; I hold the question to be much too important to spend time on anything relating to myself. I accept with all humility the castigation I have received; and, as I cannot address the House long, I hope hon. Members will excuse me if I address myself to what I deem to be the great questions raised by this Motion, which are assuming larger proportions every day. What I have always held is, that there is a wonderful poverty of reasons in favour of this measure. I have listened to a great many speeches, and, so far as I can tell, the only arguments in favour of it which seem to be relied upon at all are these— that there is a great desire on the part of a large number of people to be admitted to the franchise, and that there are a great many people already admitted to the franchise who are not a bit more fit to exercise it than those who are excluded from it. There is also something thrown in occasionally; an occasional denial, and an occasional assertion, as it suits the exigencies of the argument, of the rights of man. These, so far as I know, are the arguments relied upon; but I do my two hon. Friends too much credit when I say they have relied upon them because they have offered to the House no argument at all, but only a criticism of my unworthy lucubrations. They have advanced nothing that would assist the House in forming a judgment as to whether the measure is desirable or not. I will not imitate their example; but I will endeavour to show the reasons why I think they ought not to succeed in the Motion to-night. The objection to the arguments usually relied on for reducing the county franchise to the level of the borough franchise is that it will be just as valid as ever for immediately reducing the franchise still lower, because it will still be possible to urge on behalf of the unenfranchised the wishes of the people, the rights of the people, and the expediency and propriety of equality. If you do what is proposed, there will still remain persons who will wish to have the franchise; there will be a great number who will wish to have it; there will be people who will think they have a right to it, and that equality ought to be extended much further; and, above all, there will be people who will say that there will be no justice in the world until there is absolute equality among all men. Therefore, if we were to concede all that is asked for, the only effect of the concession will be we shall have established this as a leading and guiding principle by which we are to be actuated, and made it so much easier to have the franchise lowered still further. This will be a precedent in their favour, because there will remain people without the franchise as fit to have it as those who have got it; and how can you, with any semblance of justice, refuseitto them? So the matter will go on, strengthened enormously by the precedent set on these grounds, until we arrive by necessary gradation at universal suffrage. I maintain that a good and valid argument ought to be an argument which, as it were, defines and limits itself, and not one which admits of a much wider application than those who use it choose to admit or acknowledge; and that when you argue for a reduction of the borough franchise on reasoning, that would carry you just- as well to universal suffrage, you are not merely arguing for the reduction of the borough franchise, but you are paving the way, and doing the best you can, towards accelerating the momentum which is carrying us downwards to universal suffrage. I also maintain—with great deference to hon. Gentlemen who confine themselves exclusively to that kind of argument—that there is another side to this matter. It is not a question of what people want, nor is it a question of equality; but it is a question of the public good. What you have to show is, not that people want this thing or that, or that the people are fit or unfit for exercising it, but that the safety and the welfare of the Empire will be promoted by your proposal; and that is a thing which I have never yet heard that anybody has at all attempted to prove. One great argument which is used is that the present state of things is anomalous. Well, but if you look at the matter from the side of the public good, and not merely from the side of the people whom you wish to enfranchise, an anomaly may be a good thing, and it may be a great deal better than uniformity, which may be a very bad thing. What we desire, or used to desire, for the House of Commons is that it should be a fair representative of everything in the community, and not of particular classes only—that everything should here have its spokesman and its advocate, and that everything should be, as far as possible, evenly balanced. Therefore, with that view, I can understand that, so far from uniformity being a good thing, it may be an evil thing; and so far from an anomaly being an evil, it may, under certain circumstances, be a great good. And now what is the real pith of the whole matter? The Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for the Border Boroughs proposes that we should extend the borough franchise to the county constituencies, and that we should have a re-distribution of seats— that is to say, in the first place, that we should give to one class, and that the poorest and the least educated in the community, a preponderating influence in a great many constituencies; and then that we should re-divide the Parliamentary representation, so as to give that class a preponderating influence in all the constituencies. I want to point out to the House how this matter stands. The proposal is that we are to give to one class of the community, which is the poorest and the least educated, not the franchise merely, but an absolute control over Parliament. Even if we were to stop at the point which is now proposed, what candid man can doubt that that would be the practical result of the measure? But we should not stop at that point. Nobody supposes that we should not be carried further, and there would not still be persons—perhaps the very' persons who now argue that this is a final measure —who would say that, having given so much, it was not worth quarrelling about the rest, and that we should satisfy the just aspirations of the people by giving them universal suffrage. At any rate, no candid man will dispute but that what you are really doing is placing in the hands of one portion of the community the whole power of the community. The House of Commons has engrossed to itself almost the whole power of the State. The Crown has long ago given up its veto on legislation; and, since the Reform Bill, the control exercised over the House of Commons by the House of Lords has become very much restricted—almost the whole power of the State, legislative, administrative, and executive is really exercised by the House of Commons. You are going to take away that power—or to do what exactly comes to the same thing—from the hands in which it is now vested, and to place it entirely in the hands of the lowest class of voters in this country— in the hands of the least educated, the poorest, those who have the most wants —and who are the most easily deceived and led away. No fair-minded man can doubt that that is the necessary result of the course we are asked to enter upon. I cannot consent to follow those who argue this matter as if it were a mere question of going down to a particular point and no further. We have had that sort of thing before. We know, for instance, that the Reform Bill of 1832 was to have been a final measure; but, afterwards, Ministers over and over again introduced Reform Bills because the first one was popular, and it was thought that others would be popular also. We had the measure of 10 years ago which, too, was to be final. There was, however, no finality in it; it has only called for this proposed change; and, as certainly as this change is granted, you would be asked to make still further changes, and you would be weaker to resist them than you were before. You are immensely weaker by what was done in 1867, and you will be immensely weaker by what you do now if you accept this proposal. Therefore, I say the question now at issue is nothing less than this—whether you are to hand over political power in this country to the poorest and least educated class. And observe this. Whatever the rights of man may say about a man having a right to the franchise, the rights of man, as I conceive, do not touch the question of the manner in which we decide questions in the House of Commons. Our principle of deciding questions in this House is evidently founded on the principle that the Legislature is believed to be a faithful representation of the country—of the whole country—and that all classes meet on an equality. That is the only ground on which we can justify for a moment the principle on which we take our divisions. For what is our method of dividing in this House? It is not that the majority has a certain power over the minority; but that the majority is everything, and the minority is nothing. The majority is like a large quantity in mathematics, and the minority a small one which is neglected. The minority is neglected, and ceases, as it were, to exist. Now, there might be no particular objection to allow persons of any class of the community, higher or lower, to be represented if it was not that, from the very necessity of the case, being the poorest, and, therefore, the most numerous, they would become absolute masters of the situation, and all other classes of the community would be outnumbered by them. That they would become absolute masters of the whole community is so perfectly clear to me— it may be from some of those moral and intellectual defects in my character which have been pointed out—that I cannot see how the matter admits of any doubt. But let me go by steps. If I have succeeded in showing that the proposed enfranchisement of the lower class, particularly when coupled with a re-distribution of seats all over the country, would necessarily place the power of government in the hands of that class, then the next question we have to consider is, whether they will use that power, or will they not? "Will the class so enfranchised act vertically or laterally? Will they attach themselves to leaders of the higher and upper class, and be content merely to follow them; or will they, instead of acting vertically, be cut across laterally and form a compact body which will control and influence, as it must do, the whole power of Parliament and the State? I do not say that it will happen immediately—it may take a considerable time before it does; but unless human nature is much altered for the benefit of the House of Commons, I say it must happen. You will have a vast body of men with power in their hands if they choose to make use of it. And why are you to suppose they will not use it? Perhaps they may at first be wanting in union and cohesion, and it may take some time for them to understand what their power is; but there are those who will make it their business to enlighten them on that head. There would be no pleasanter thing for certain gentlemen who are eloquent, ambitious, and not over scrupulous than to inform the lower classes of their power and how to use it. I remember seeing in Australia a man who was much ill-treating five or six bullocks and driving them sorely. Another person who was looking on said—"Lor', sir, if these bullocks only knew their own strength, what would become of that man?" Fortunately, we have not yet found a language by which to inoculate bullocks with the secret of their strength; but it would be easy to find a language by which to inoculate the lower class. I do not make any charge against the lower class—I do not speak against them; but I object to any class, high or low, having the whole political power of the State. Be it a plutocracy or a democracy, the objection is the same. No one class is fit to govern by itself. Before the time of the Reform Bill a legion of rotten boroughs existed, and numbers of persons were willing even to brave the dangers of a revolution rather than give up that system. And, later still, did we not see a number of gentlemen turn against a great Minister—the late Sir Robert Peel—because at a period of sore famine, when hundreds of thousands of our people died from starvation, he sought to abolish the Corn Laws? If such was the conduct of the upper class, why are we to expect the lower class to show a different spirit? The higher class may have been able to communicate together more readily and understand their power better than the lower class; but there will be gentlemen found who will remove that little difficulty, and who will make the lower class perfectly au fait in all these things; and no doubt they will learn how to use their power most efficiently. I repeat that I impute nothing bad or disgraceful; I only say what people will do when they know that they have power. If they have it and do not use it, it is because they do not know they have it. If they have it, and know that they have it, they are sure to use it if they think they can get benefit from it. I think I have made out my case that if you determine to lower the franchise it can only have one result, and that is to place power in the hands of the poorest and least educated class in the community, to the exclusion of all the other classes put together. Secondly, having done so, you cannot expect—unless you attribute to them greater virtue than there is in human nature—that they will not avail themselves of the power you have placed in their hands, as they have done in America, and then you will find in England, as you find in America, that wire-pullers are above the statesmen, and will govern the nation. Let me mention one illustration of what I have said. Hon. Gentlemen are aware that the votes in joint-stock companies are given according to the quantity of stock held by an owner. Suppose that we passed a law to alter that, and to say that anyone who has a single share in a joint-stock company can have as many votes as a man who has 100 shares; what effect would that have on joint-stock companies? The effect would be that they would all dissolve and cease to exist. That is not true of the Government of England, for we cannot dissolve and destroy the Government of England, and the result, therefore, would be that the people who had the least stake in the country, who were the least educated, would be the masters of the situation, and the intellect and all that adorns the legislation, and gives strength to the nation in its Legislature would be trampled under foot. I beg now to point out another matter, which is this. We hear nothing on these occasions but praise of the lower classes. I am not going to say one word against the lower classes; but I say that, low or high, I do not want to be governed by one class. I have been taunted to-night with saying that the House deals with the question of Reform in a manner totally different from the way in which it deals with other questions. Just let us look how that applies to this matter. What is the opinion of the House, judging by its legislation and conduct, in regard to those who are called the lower classes—I mean those who earn their bread by daily labour? If we look at our Statute Book, we find that a man is not allowed to be a common juror unless he has got £20 in land, or is rated to the amount of £20. Why is it, if, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone) says, the poor judge of so many questions better than the rich, that we exclude the poor from the jury-box? There is another case still more striking. Rich people who can get into debt to the amount of £50 are allowed to become bankrupt, and becoming bankrupt are saved from arrest, which, notwithstanding the so-called abolition of imprisonment for debt, is an extremely important privilege. But why is that privilege not to be enjoyed when the debt is under £50? I cannot say why. I suppose that limit was imposed under the belief that if the poorer classes could get rid of their debts in this manner, they would never pay their debts at all. At any rate, whatever the reason, when we try to mend the matter in Parliament we have failed to do so; and it shows that Parliament, and this Parliament, draws a strong and decided line in its own mind between persons who are possessed of a certain kind of property and those who are not. But the most striking case of all is the case of spirituous liquors. Look how we treat the persons of whom we are speaking— those who are below us—the persons against whom our legislation as regards spirituous liquors is directed. What is our legislation? In the first place, we put on a duty. That may be reasonable enough. Then we license the places where liquor is sold, and create an artificial monopoly in order to make it difficult for them to get it; and then, beyond that, there are all sorts of schemes for making it more and more difficult. We wish to prevent these people from buying these things from a retailer and consuming them in their own houses. That certainly is very striking. The facetious Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) began the new year by making a declaration in favour of lowering the franchise; but the hon. Baronet is entirely in favour of depriving these poorer classes of the facility of obtaining stimulants of any kind. Now, it is said of Lucretia—"If she was chaste, why was she killed; if she was unchaste, why was she praised?" Well, I would like to put this to the hon. Baronet. If these men are fit, as he says, to manage the affairs of the State, why are they not fit to regulate their own meals? If they are not fit to regulate their own meals, are they fit to regulate the affairs of the State? I apologize to the House for having detained it so long; but I cannot help asking for its indulgence a little longer. I would venture just to point out how utterly inconsistent this is. Just look at the feeling that has been excited in this House by what has been passing in the East of Europe—the anxiety —the honest anxiety — and almost the agony of suspense, in which so many of us have been, with regard to the possibility of Russia obtaining possessions from which she might seize on a position which might materially influence something else that is some 10,000 or 12,000 miles off. It is not the time at present to discuss the propriety of that view; but, at any rate the things to which it refers, compared with the great national interests of this country, are small and remote. Even if some things were done which we should dislike, they would be, after all, remediable, for foreign political affairs are constantly changing, and opportunities would be afforded of regaining what we had lost. But while we are in agony about these affairs, we view with great indifference, as it seems to me, as a matter scarcely worth thinking of, this most serious and momentous question, which is nothing more nor less than taking away power from those who now wield it in this country and placing it in the hands of a class unknown, untried, and only to be remarked upon as being, from the necessity of their poverty and their daily labour, the least likely to discharge this duty satisfactorily to the State. What may be done in the East of Europe is comparatively small in its consequence to us compared with the total, the entire revolution by which you propose to place in the House of Commons, as the governing body of this country, without the possibility of displacing them, in any way, short of revolution and violence, persons utterly untried in legislation and government. That step once taken admits of no recall whatever. There is no means of remedying it in any way. If hon. Gentlemen will just consider the two things, I think they will be led to the conviction that, while we all have, perhaps, attached as much importance as it was worth to those transactions with regard to Russia, we have been guilty of not considering, one-hundredth part as much, the momentous and enormous importance of the matter which we are discussing so glibly in this House. It is nothing more or less than revolution— not the less a revolution because brought about by remissness and selfishness, and all sorts of meannesses, instead of being brought about by violence. It is a revolution which we can never undo, and which, when once done, will part us once and for ever from the England which we are all so proud of, and whose history for a thousand years we read with triumph and joy, and leave us no prospect except that of sinking far below the level of the United States.


, who had given Notice of his intention to move the following Amendment:— That no further extension of the Parliamentary franchise is desirable unaccompanied by an educational qualification, said, he thought it was the opinion of the House that this question should not be treated as a Party question. The hon. Member for the Border Boroughs (Mr. Trevelyan), in referring to the Amendment which he had placed upon the Paper, but which the Forms of the House would prevent him from moving, was mistaken in assuming that it showed a desire on his part to establish an educational franchise. His object in placing that Amendment upon the Paper was simply to set up the minimum test of reading and writing, which all must pass before they could be allowed to vote. What he proposed now to do was to put before the House what would be the result of the proposition of the hon. Member for the Border Boroughs if it were carried out. He must ask the House to listen to a few statistics which he had collected with some trouble from different Censuses and Parliamentary Returns. He assumed that the hon. Member did not, amongst the other changes he suggested, propose to increase the number of the Members of that House; because, even with the present number, if every hon. Gentleman were to occupy merely two hours of their time each Session, the result would be that, with the House sitting eight and a-half hours on ordinary days, and six hours on Wednesdays, the Session would last eight months and three days, exclusive of holidays. He, therefore, proposed to deal with the subject of household suffrage as it would affect the House, as at present constituted. There were in England and Wales, according to the Census of 1871, 1,814,684 houses in boroughs, 2,444,433 in counties. Household franchise in these boroughs gave 1,250,019 voters, and at the same rate in counties it would give 1,685,815 voters. There were in Scotland, according to the same Census, 99,706 houses in boroughs, against 312,479 in counties. Household franchise in the boroughs gave 175,984 voters, and at the same rate in the counties it would give 546,837. In Ireland there were, according to the same Census, 121,613 houses in boroughs, 839,767 in counties. The present franchise in the boroughs gave 49,025 electors, and at the same rate it would give in counties 335,906. The whole electorate would then be—Of England and Wales, 2,935,834—an increase of 884,706; of Scotland, 722,821—an increase of 466,058; of Ireland, 384,931 —an increase of 160,467;—making a total increase of 1,511,231. But England and Wales had 484 Members, so they would average 6,065 electors each. Scotland's 58 Members would average 12,462 each; Ireland's 101 would average 3,811 each. This calculation was made throughout to exclude University Members and their electors. This would be the result of the measure which the hon. Member for the Border Boroughs had introduced to meet the inequalities arising from the present distribution of the franchise. But if the hon. Member went back to his former proposal of equal electoral districts, then he would point out that under that system England and Wales would have 467 Members, Scotland 115 Members, and Ireland 61 Members. Or if he would not interfere with the representation of counties, but would distribute the seats of each country equally within its boundaries, England and Wales would have 278 county and 206 borough Members; Scotland 44 county and 14 borough Members; Ireland 88 county and 13 borough Members—that was to say, 191 borough seats must be thrown into the counties, and he was almost afraid they might lose the hon. Member for the Border Boroughs. In touching upon the question of education, which, it might be said, was the theme of his Amendment, he should be met on the onset with a difficulty; because, although they had ample Returns with regard to the educational qualifications of children, they had none with regard to those of the persons whom it was now proposed to enfranchise. The best evidence he could obtain with regard to the educational qualifications of that class was that furnished by the Returns of the Registrar General, which showed the number of persons who signed the marriage registers with a mark, they being unable to write. The last Returns on this subject for England and Wales were those for the year 1875; but the latest Returns for Scotland were only down to the end of 1874. The only Scotch statistics for the year 1875 appeared to relate to the number of illegitimate children born in that country. The number of such children born in Scotland appeared to be remarkably large; but it was explained that although the number might be large the children were not so illegitimate as they would have been if they had been born in this country. If hon. Members desired further information in this direction, the Returns showed the number of children in Scotland who had been vaccinated. Taking the number of males who had signed the register with a mark in 1875, he found that the percentage so doing in England and Wales was 17.2; in Scotland about 9; and in Ireland 30.3. The illiterate among the proposed new voters would show a much higher percentage than these figures did; because this calculation was made from the marriages of all classes, while the new voters would be taken exclusively from the lowest class. Therefore, when they thought of the 884,706 new voters who would be added to England and Wales, they must put the wholly illiterate among them much above 17.2 per cent. In Scotland the addition would be smaller and the illiteracy less, though yet an addition of over 51,000 voters unable to sign their own names was a very serious matter. In Ireland, where the percentage through all classes of married men was 30.3, the ignorance of the 160,467 whom this measure would add to the Parliamentary Register would be terrible. At 40 per cent there would be over 64,000 among them who could not sign their own names. If of the present voters 20 per cent were illiterate, there would be under this measure 205,359 illiterate voters in a total electorate of 335,906. Thus the objection against this proposal was not the old one that the new electors would outnumber the old, but that the whole body of voters who had received any education at all would be immensely outvoted by those who could not sign their own names. And this was the scheme of an enlightened Liberal, who had introduced a measure which would be the apotheosis of the illiterate voter! They had heard a great deal whenever this measure was discussed of the agricultural labourer. But the agricultural labourer in this question was only the stalking-horse of the trade unionist. If they enfranchised every labourer tomorrow, all they would have done would be to put every county seat where there were mines or mills into the hands of the unions. The editor of the trades' union organ said the agricultural labourer would be a mere "chip in the porridge pot." The agricultural labourer, the shepherd, the carter, were scattered abroad in the fields and on the hills, and they would not sacrifice a day's wages to go to the poll. The miners and operatives were collected round centres of industry, polling-places could easily be placed within their reach, and they could vote after work or in the dinner hour without losing pay. It was true that in France they polled, the agricultural population on Sunday; but he did not think that plan would find many supporters here. While the supporters of the views held by the hon. Member for the Border Boroughs were talking of the merit—which their opponents did not deny—of the agricultural labourer, they were throwing the ultimate government of the country into the hands of trades' unions. And had their management of their own affairs—of which they might be supposed to know something— been such as to encourage Parliament to commit to them the guidance of the country in affairs of most of which they could know nothing? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), who had taken a great interest in the working classes, had spoken of their "teachableness." No doubt he found them docile— Movit Amphion lapidea canendo. But it was the voice of Amphion that moved the stones, the hand of the master that swept the lyre. The change they were asked to make was irrevocable, and when they missed the touch of a vanished hand, And the sound of a voice that is still, might they not find that stones were somewhat stolid after all? And was the experience of the right hon. Gentleman —exceptional as it was—a fair criterion in other ways? The lesson which he had had to teach had been to urge men to ask for this gift—to accept that offer. There was a predisposition in human nature to be docile in this direction. But let the right hon. Gentleman take a fairer test. It had been urged by a Member of his own Cabinet, that those whom on one night of the Session they were assured might not only be safely entrusted with overwhelming political power, but were actually entitled to sway it, were, when a Licensing Bill was before the House, represented as being helpless wretches, without manhood enough to carry them past the doors of a ginshop. If, then, their workmen were so teachable, let the right hon. Gentleman put an end to this taunt for ever. Let him persuade them to accept a greater boon than any statesmen had ever yet conferred upon them; happiness for their families, health for their children, manhood for themselves. The manhood of self-control would be a greater blessing than manhood suffrage. But if the right hon. Gentleman could not persuade men to control themselves, could Parliament accept them as fit to outvote their fellow-subjects and control the country? The workmen of this country had before them a matter to solve which would tax all their powers, and they must solve it for themselves. They had been petted and abused, flattered and befooled; and the result had not been to their advantage. Let Parliament give them decent houses and pure water, educate their children, and give them a fair chance of finding the solution of the labour question. Confuse it with a sudden flood of political power, and the Legislature would have undone all the teaching of past prosperity and present distress; it would send the working classes on a worse wild-goose chase after high wages by Act of Parliament than they were ever led by trade unions. People talked of the great Reform Bill and the good it did. That Act was fairly won by the people, as all the privileges of the House of Commons had been slowly won; and the long struggle which deserved that triumph was in itself a political education. But would anybody presume to say that, reading the grounds upon which the claims for that Reform Bill were based, he saw such grounds for one now? Could anyone advance arguments now which those who carried that Reform Bill would have deemed sufficient? As far as that Reform Bill bore upon the case, it was an argument against the proposition of his hon. Friend. That was an enfranchisement long fought for and fairly won; it was sparingly given, and it worked well. The Reform Bill of 1867 was granted more lavishly and of a less necessity, and it had worked less well. That which was lightly won was lightly held, and every Member knew how hard it was to bring electors to the poll. Now, on weaker pleas than any extension of the franchise had ever yet been asked, a larger extension was sought than had ever yet been granted. It was useless to plead that Parliament had already gone so far that it must go farther. If it was urged that they should have stopped before, à fortiori, they should stop now. If it was said that the extension was right before, therefore it would be right now, the argument amounted to this—"You have a small educated class; the power originally wielded by this is now shared by a much larger class, very imperfectly educated. It will make no difference now how large an uneducated mass you add to this. You have watered your wine, pour the whole Thames over your glass, it is all equally water." Yes; but what of the strength at last? It was well that the foundations of the Constitution should be broadly laid; and to give the comparatively uneducated any influence at all they must have given to them numerical strength. An oligarchy, even of the wisest, cramped the free growth of the nation. It had itself a tendency to narrowness and selfishness, from a want of that large intercourse with the people which gave a broader view and a wider humanity. And as long as the numbers of the comparatively uneducated were not so large as to put them beyond the reach of political education, they might be intrusted with a share of political power. It was only when this limit was exceeded, when the political unit was no longer the man who might be taught, but the association, the interest, which would hear no reason and feel no shame—then it was that the danger arose. Then they had overdone their franchise; then they had enthroned the caucus. To avoid one oligarchy of the best, they had set up a hundred of the worst and the most impracticable. This was the difference between the effect of extending the franchise as the neces- sity arose, and squandering it from Party jealousy or for the theories of doctrinaires. It was urged that though those who had the franchise were slack in using it, there was an earnest desire for it among those who had it not. This was not in accordance with his own observation as a Representative of over 150,000 constituents; but if there were this earnest desire let them turn it to account. They had a difficulty in getting children to school. To meet this they had provided that under 14 no child should work until he had passed a certain educational standard. They had also decided that no man who was supported by the rates should have a vote. Yet they did not undertake to provide him with an opportunity of earning an independent livelihood, while they did provide every child with the opportunity of being educated. Might they not, then, fairly impose upon every future extension of the franchise the condition that every voter should, at least, be able to read and write? But the measure advocated by his hon. Friend would flood the constituencies with illiterate voters. He had already shown that it would add over 64,000 illiterate voters to Ireland, where already among the men who married 30 per cent were illiterate. Surely, when they considered that with the last generation this state of ignorance would pass away-—that the children of these men were now receiving a good education—they might refuse to give to the uneducated parent that which the educated child would soon be ready to receive. By this measure they were asked to squander the franchise, and to pauperize the political energies of the people. They were often referred to America as an instance where the most extended franchise worked well. Nothing had so firmly convinced him of the inexpediency of this measure as a study of the question of franchise in America. It was allowed on both sides that Parliament had deteriorated; that the present Parliament had less power of getting through business than those of earlier date; and that there was more talk and less work. During the existence of the present Parliament they had had to curtail those privileges which were not abused before; and at the present moment a Committee was sitting to discuss the means which should be taken—well, to enable the House to do something in the course of a Session. It was in no disrespectful sense that he made these remarks. He felt that the blame must mainly rest with those who, like himself, were comparatively new Members of the House. But wherever the blame be laid, the fact remained. Simultaneously with the extension of the franchise Parliament had deteriorated. He said simultaneously; he did not yet allege causation. Now, let them turn to America. In race, the people were very much like ourselves; in education, they were our superiors; in public spirit they certainly were not behind us. But they had realized that dream of our Radicals — universal franchise. And what of their Parliament? If an Englishman wanted to insult an American, he might ask him if he was a Member of Congress. He did not for a moment say that there were not in Congress men deserving of the greatest respect—men whom he himself respected highly. But, speaking of the system, not of the men, he must say that there was no American who would compare the House of Representatives with the English House of Commons. Why, in America, to call a man a "politician," was to apply to him about the worst term that could be used in polite society. But he need not rely upon the sentence of society. The jealousy with which the powers of Congress were circumscribed, and the way in which all power over the Executive was removed from it, sufficiently proved the comparatively low estimation in which it was held. And had not the country suffered from this? The Civil War of 1860—which Englishmen were apt to talk of loosely as a war between slave-owners and liberationists—was really a struggle for political power. It was the "politicians" who raised that war; and but for them North and South would have shaken hands before half that awful struggle had been endured—before half those lives had been sacrificed. What that war was — in which more men were killed than a European nation could put into the field: in which one side fought on, the wounded coming back as soon as they could march at all into the ranks of regiments formed out of the remnants of those who began the war, till none were left to fight—none could realize who had not visited those battle-fields and lived with those who fought that war. That was the effect of universal franchise among the Whites. During the war it was necessary, in the extremity of the crisis, to enfranchise the whole population, and what had been the effect of this? They again saw the South and West holding a preponderance of political power. The whole result of the war was being undone and the credit of America—upheld through all that awful struggle—was shaken by an act of repudiation. Surely the English House of Commons would do well to take warning by that fact. He did not wish to push the argument to any unfair extent, nor did he pretend that manhood suffrage had ruined America, though it had cost her dear, nor did he think that even that could ruin England. He believed that there was in both countries a life which no misgovernment could kill—that each had a high destiny to fulfil. But when they saw a people with all the public spirit of Englishmen and more than English energy, a people who spoke with generous admiration of our public men and of our Parliament—when they saw that in such a people the best and noblest could take no part in politics; that those who directed all its enterprises had no voice in the government of the country, he thought they were bound to confess that America flourished in spite of its system of representation. He was in New York when the Silver Bill was introduced. At a public dinner given to Mr. Morgan there were collected the proprietors and chiefs of nearly every great enterprize in the country. Could the men in that room have been suddenly removed from the country, the whole trade of America would have been paralyzed. The Silver Bill was discussed after dinner, and every speaker thoroughly condemned it, with the entire concurrence of the whole assembly. He thought that such a declaration of opinion from such men would have settled the question. In this country it would have done so at once. But on asking the gentleman sitting next him whether this would be the ease, he said that it would have no effect at all upon the politicians at Washington. And so it proved. The men whom he met that night might make the country; but they could not protect their own credit against its representatives. Before he left New York he witnessed a State Election, and found all Fifth Avenue constrained to vote for the keeper of a poker hell in Broadway in a vain attempt to shake off the yoke of Tammany. But America had realized the full blessings of the Radical programme—universal franchise, paid Members, and the omnipotent caucus. If the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) went to America to-morrow he would find nothing wanting to his organization. Should the time ever come when the Radical programme would be carried out; when the free Constitution of this country was throttled by the organization of the Birmingham League; when boroughs should no longer select their own Members, and the paid delegates should have succeeded the Knights of the Shire—England, he thought, might look back with regret to those days when they sat there, pledged to no platform, nominated on no tickets, but bound by private honour and by public faith to use that judgment God had given them, and to support that policy which might best promote the honour of their country and the welfare of mankind. They were called upon to use that judgment now. A question was before them which must not be trifled with. This was tie last step which separated them from universal suffrage—the last place where they could make a stand against mob rule and the political annihilation of all those who had one single qualification which had as yet been thought necessary for the franchise. In conclusion, he wished to state that he had spoken in no Party spirit and made no attacks on any Member of the House, and therefore had aroused no feeling against the views which he had advocated. He had not consulted his Friends around him; but he believed he had spoken the sentiments of the great majority of his hon. Friends, who would give an independent vote on the question. For his part, he could not believe that what would debase our Parliament could be a benefit to our country.


gave the right hon. Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe) credit for a thorough and consistent opposition to this question, and the real vital argument he had used against it was that it would hand over the government of the country to a class, and the right hon. Gentleman objected to be governed by a class. That argument could be used against the enfranchisement of any numerous body, and the only logical result of such argument was that classes should be represented, and not bodies of electors consisting of all sorts of people. He did not think that the right hon. Gentleman would go so far as that. The question raised was a practical one, and it was assumed that the class which it was now proposed should be enfranchised would vote together against all the other classes of society. He had heard the same remarks made by the right hon. Gentleman with greater confidence and more positively asserted before the Reform Act of 1867 was passed; but experience showed that the people enfranchised by that Act had not voted altogether against the classes above them, but they had sent a Conservative majority to this House, and he might take it that the Conservative Party represented the higher classes and the wealthier classes of the community. The hon. Member who had last spoken said the extension of the franchise would place the affairs of the country in the hands of the trades' unions; but they all knew that trades' unions were not numerous in the country districts. They were told by t he right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lowe) that his prophecies would come true sooner or later, and this sooner or later was now introduced by the right hon. Gentleman for the first time. In 1867 the threatened evils which he predicted were to immediately follow the passing of the Act, but they did not come, and now he said "sooner or later." They had extended the franchise to householders in the boroughs; why would they refuse it to householders in the counties? Why draw a hard-and-fast line—for that was what it was—between the boroughs and the counties? Speaking of the householders in the Irish counties, he could say that those who would be admitted by this proposal would be found exactly of the same class as the present holders of the franchise —neither better nor worse; and such, he believed, would be the result in the English counties. There was no class less likely to vote as a class than the county householders; and, perhaps, there was no class in the country more leavened by the influence of those among whom they lived, and who were above them, than the section of the population to which it was now proposed to extend the franchise. He could not conceive of a single class interest for which they would combine. Of course, it was to be expected that America would be paraded in this discussion. He was not going to defend America; but he ventured to say, as far as he had been able to study the matter, that the root of the evil in America was, not so much the extension of the suffrage, as the unfortunate state of the Civil Service of America. That, too, was the evil in France, a country which, however, had recently given this country not a warning, but an example. He was in France during the whole of the late eventful struggle, and it was the first time he could remember that she had settled a great political crisis, at the polling booths; and the one thing which preserved France from violent action, besides the intrepid and unbending honesty of her President—an honesty which would not swerve either from the right or the left —was that spreading and abiding belief of the whole people that whatever change they desired would be obtained at the polling-booths through the extended suffrage. Those men who in old days built barricades in the streets, crowded to the polling-booths, and saved the country from the threatened revolution.


wished to remind the hon. Member that, with regard to France, what he had said was this. During the whole period of the rule of Napoleon III. France was in the enjoyment of universal suffrage.


said, he was thankful for the reminder; but during the period referred to universal suffrage never felt free, never felt the power of carrying out its will through the vote. He believed that the classes to whom it was now proposed to extend the suffrage were, to say the least, quite as fit for it as those who had already received it, and that they would use it wisely. A low educational qualification would, he thought, have a detrimental rather than a beneficial effect; and, as regarded redistribution, some method ought, in his opinion, to be adopted which would remedy the defect of majorities only being represented, and would secure to intelligent minorities a fair share of political representation. He believed that the more voters were introduced to the Constitution the more they would be likely to strengthen it. He was strongly of opinion that in times of danger and difficulty—and they knew not how soon they might come—the hands of the Government would be materially strengthened by the thought that the wider, the more extensive the suffrage, the more would the Government be looked on as representing the whole nation.


said, he might say at once that he could not oppose the extension of household suffrage to counties upon any ground of principle. That was a statement which he had recently made to his constituents, and from the manner in which it was received, he believed that it was acceptable both to the Liberals and Conservatives of Salford. There was a principle underlying household suffrage which did not apply to the existing suffrage in counties. It was expressed in the well-known maxim—"Qui sentit onus sentire debet et commodum," which might be freely rendered —"Those who bear the burdens of the State should enjoy its benefits. "The enfranchisement of the compound householder was, no doubt, to some extent an infringement of that principle; but it was impossible to apply a moral principle with mathematical precision. He was glad to hear it stated that this was not a Party question. He should sincerely regret to see it made a Party question. It was not a question of Liberal or Conservative; it was simply a question of justice. He entertained the view that the suffrage was not a right, but a privilege, and that it rested with those who sought to introduce new electors into the constituencies to prove their case. After, however, having conceded household suffrage to the inhabitants of towns, he did not see on what grounds of justice it could be withheld from those who lived in counties. There would be great force in the remark of the right hon. Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe), that it was too soon to bring forward a new scheme of Reform, if it was sought to introduce a new principle of representation. But the hon. Member for the Border Boroughs (Mr. Trevelyan) did not seek to introduce a new principle of representation; he sought merely to extend an old one. The Government, however, were perfectly entitled to refuse their support to the abstract Resolution of the hon. Member, as it failed to set forth any scheme for a re-distribution of seats—and an extension of household suffrage without a re-distribution of seats would be a cruel farce, because it would aggravate instead of remedying the existing anomalies. There were in the counties some 11,000,000 of inhabitants, and in the towns only 8,000,000, yet the towns had two-thirds of the whole representation of the country. If another 1,000,000 of voters were added in the counties without any re-distribution of seats, the existing anomalies would become still more glaring. The second Resolution of the hon. Member spoke of a re-distribution of political power; but he hoped he did not mean by that phrase equal electoral districts, to which he, for one, was entirely opposed. The hon. Member should have introduced a Bill, and have set out in it his scheme for the re-distribution of seats, and have asked the Government to name a night for its discussion. As the hon. Gentleman had put his views into the form of an abstract Resolution, and not in a Bill, and had withheld from the House all information with respect to the re-distribution of political power, he could not vote for his Motion. On the other hand, he approved of the extension of household suffrage to the counties, and he therefore should not vote against it. He must not omit to express his entire dissent from what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe) with respect to the humbler classes of the community. He had the honour to represent a constituency which contained, in proportion to its population, a larger number of working class voters, perhaps, than any other; and his experience was that they were better able to rise to the contemplation and vindication of great principles than the class immediately above them. In counties, too, he believed the agricultural labourers would be found to exercise the franchise for the welfare of the country at large quite as much as the artizans in towns.


said, he would not have taken part in the discussion, but for some remarks of the hon. Member (Mr. Plunkett). That hon. Member had spoken largely and strongly upon the American Silver Bill, and had left the impression on his (Mr. Macdonald's) mind that that Bill had become law. He ventured to say that whatever knowledge of America the hon. Member might have had when he was in that country, at present he was perfectly ignorant of the position of the Silver Bill. It had been discussed in the Senate, and had gone down to the House of Representatives, where it might be strangled. The hon. Member had spoken of the New York elections, and also of the election of a prizefighter. Now, he (Mr. Macdonald) had been at an election in New York, a Presidential election, where far more interest was excited than in any ordinary election. In company with distinguished Americans, he had walked from polling-booth to polling-booth, to the number of 32, and anything more orderly and well-conducted he had never seen. As to a prizefighter being elected as a Member of Congress, if his memory served him aright a prize-fighter had sat in the House of Commons, a former Member for Pontefract (Mr. Gully), having been a distinguished ornament of the Conservative Benches. ["No, no!"] Well, he had qualified the statement by saying "if his memory served him aright." The citizens of New York, therefore, in electing a prize-fighter followed the example of the grand old country, whose precedents of thousands of years were not without their influence on the most vigorous if not the youngest of her offshoots. If the people had equal rights with those above them, he ventured to say that they would need no help from any class whatever. It was all very well to abuse trades' unions; but they had done great good. He was not prepared to defend all their acts; but they had certainly done much that was worthy of commendation. Let them look at what some of these trade societies had done. The Amalgamated Engineers had done a great deal to enable working men to get rid of the workhouse, to enable them to help themselves in sickness and provide against the wants of old age. The Iron-founders and other similar associations had done similar good service. His firm belief was that if the management and the personnel of trades' unions was compared with those of any other institutions it would be found that the comparison would be in their favour. Nay, more, if the characters of the Members, man for man, were examined and tested with an equal number of those of the class to which the hon. Gentleman be- longed, he would venture to affirm they would compare most favourably with them, and exceed them in all the virtues that made society great and good. He believed the speeches made against the Bill that night would do more to aid the movement than all the speeches in its favour, and that the people of the country would soon demand, with a voice which the House would be unable to withstand, the privilege which it was now proposed to accord, them.


said, that he thought the House would agree with him that the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Mac-donald) had wasted a great deal of unnecessary indignation on the remarks that fell from the hon. Member for West Gloucestershire (Mr. Plunkett), from his failing to appreciate their real intention, or he would not have spoken of him in the manner he did. He (Mr. Heygate) wished to explain the vote he proposed to give against the Resolution, because, like his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Salford (Mr. Charley), he thought it was a vote which did require explanation on the face of it. It was very difficult, in fact, it was theoretically impossible, to defend the present imaginary line which divided the borough householder from the county householder. He admitted, moreover, that, as a matter of fact, the county householder was often more fitted by education and intelligence for the exercise of the franchise than the man who possessed the household franchise in a borough. But because he conceded this, the reason for objecting to the Resolution of the hon. Member for the Border Boroughs was not removed. In the matter of the franchise he did not think it necessary to have an exact system. On the contrary, he thought it better to have a system containing some anomalies, since by means of them they got at the various interests of the country, and they gained greatly thereby. The best way to redress the anomalies complained of was by the re-adjustment from time to time of borough boundaries, the effect of which would be to include the strongest cases for re-distribution. The hon. Member for the Border Boroughs failed to see the real difficulties attaching to this question, and had therefore failed to grapple with them. He appeared to be afraid to show to the House the immense disturbance that would be the result of his Resolution. The great and main objection he had to the Resolution was that it was now only 10 years since the passing of a Reform Bill, which had received full discussion, and which had succeeded another Reform Bill that had lasted 35 years; and he objected to this constant disturbance of our electoral system as bad in principle, and the disturbance now proposed was a very serious one. He found from the statistics that there would be with household fran-chisel,742,000 county voters in England, and 1,254,000 borough voters. At present the county voters were represented by 187 Members, and the borough voters by 297 Members. Let the House consider the enormous change which would be rendered necessary if the Resolution and a Bill founded upon it should pass. They might transfer at least 120 seats from the boroughs to the counties. In fact, it would be absurd to talk of boroughs after that; it would be an effacement of the borough system. It would be absurd to continue the freeholder quâ freeholder after that; or, at all events, the freehold vote would have to be given where it was found —in the borough or in the county— or it would not be "equalization." Another objection to the Resolution was the enormous increase of election expenses which would follow. He should regret the time when money bags were the necessary passport to the portals of this House; because, as the constituencies were enlarged, the expenses of elections would be greater, from the necessity there would be of increasing the number of polling places, rendering it impossible for men of moderate means to canvas the electors and bring them to the poll. It was not an uncommon circumstance for a village to be five miles from a polling place. That was a considerable walk for a common labourer; and they all knew how disinclined the great majority of voters were to lose a day's work for the sake of recording their votes. That being so, either a polling place must be provided in every village, or the voter must be carried to the poll; and whichever plan was adopted, it would entail no inconsiderable expense. In fact, the candidate who employed most legal agencies would always win. These reasons, he acknowledged, were not sufficient to justify the House in refusing an act of fairness or of justice, if such could be proved, or if any grievance could be shown to exist. But he denied that any grievance did exist. Hardly an attempt had been made to show that the interests of the rural householder were one whit less regarded now, because he had no vote. It had been said that if there had been household suffrage in the counties, the Artizans' Dwellings Act would not have been confined to towns, but would have been extended to country villages; but anyone acquainted with country districts must know that such a measure would be utterly absurd, for the worst country cottages were generally better than the worst of the dwellings in towns. Sanitary arrangements might be improved, it was said; but to establish waterworks for a small population was a different thing from erecting similar works in large towns. It had been suggested, in regard to the rural householder, that there would not have been a parish without compulsory powers for the education of children if every householder had had a vote. That statement was untrue at the time it was made; because since 1870 every parish had had the power to establish for itself a school board, and every ratepayer to vote for its establishment. For that purpose there was vote by ballot, and everything in the way of electoral machinery that hon. Gentlemen opposite could wish, and they knew how seldom those powers had been availed of. But if any difficulty remained, it had been since removed by the Act of 1875, giving compulsory powers to Boards of Guardians in districts where school boards did not exist. The noble Lord who so ably led the Opposition observed, when he changed his opinion on this subject, that "no one had directly controverted the proposition for equalization" of the franchise. Now, he opposed equalization because it was equalization. It was entirely new for the great Liberal Party to stand up for equalization. In 1859, the Government of Lord Derby brought in a Reform Bill, which was eventually thrown over, mainly on the ground of equalization. It proposed to leave the borough franchise at £10, at which it then stood, and to reduce the county franchise to the same amount. Mr. Henley, whose loss to the House they all deplored, and the right hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Spencer Walpole), left the Government on that very ground. The question was taken up by the Whig Party, and relied on as the reason why the Bill should be thrown out. Mr. Henley, on that occasion, said— I believe that identity of suffrage, which is the principle of the Government Bill, is fatal to the Constitution of this country. I care not whether the franchise is £10, or £15, or £5—I care not at what sum you fix it—but I hold that, if you take a paint brush and draw a line across the country, and say that all the people upon one side are to have the franchise, and all the people upon the other are not to have it, although you may have no trouble for a few years, yet as sure as the sun is in heaven you will have all the people upon the outside of the line, at some time or other, making a very ugly rush to break over it."—[3 Hansard, clii. 1065.] That was the celebrated "ugly rush" speech; but it exactly proved the point now before the House. It was proposed to draw a paint-brush across the country, and to say that everybody who lived in a house should have a vote, and that a vote should be denied to a large number who would be outside that line. He objected to that proposition, not from distrust of the class proposed to be enfranchised, nor from any idea of their unfitness to exercise it, but because it was not advisable that all the Representatives of the people should be elected by one and the same franchise, a proposition which would hand over the control of every constituency to one class, because it was the most numerous class —namely, the class which lived by manual labour, and because he disliked these continual changes in the Constitution. They had not yet had sufficient experience of the last Reform Bill. Only two Elections had been held under it, and his belief was, if the last Election had not turned out as it did, they would not have heard of this new Reform Bill. It was from these reasons and particularly from a dislike of the principle of the uniformity of the franchise that he should give his vote in opposition to the Motion before the House.


, in supporting the Resolution, said, it was a question which had engaged his attention for years, and he had been very much struck and pleased with the kind, generous, and statesmanlike views of the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Border Boroughs (Mr. Trevelyan) in bringing forward the Motion. The right hon. Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe) had given certain reasons why people who were now seeking the franchise should not obtain it; and one of those reasons was that they would combine with their own class who were already enfranchised to carry measures which would be fraught with danger to the country. If this was a mere question of physical force or of passion, he (Mr. Barran) might be disposed to agree with him; but in this country there was a power far stronger than either of those, and he believed in the effect of the training and education which the people had had. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to him to regard the subject in the same way as those who should only consider the strength of the brute creation subjected to man—the horse, for instance—without bearing in mind the effect of training. The educational and other institutions to be found in the urban districts of the counties—in such a town as Keighley, for instance—where there was a Mechanics' Institution, Science and Art Galleries, School Board, &c.—furnished ample safeguards against the men brought under their influence using the privileges of the franchise to the injury of the nation, and they afforded a training which qualified them to assume and discharge political obligations and responsibilities. If the House looked at the anomalies which existed in connection with the present arrangements of the franchise, it must feel that those anomalies could not exist for a long time. It was impossible to maintain for ever a condition of things by which workmen might stand side by side in the same mill; and yet some, because they had to find houses outside the borough, were deprived of their votes, while their fellows who were more fortunate in securing houses in the borough could exercise their privilege of returning Representatives to Parliament. They had recently had important debates on the Eastern Question, and it might be that, in case of war, they would have to call upon people to undertake serious duties who had no direct connection with the administration of public affairs, seeing that the whole class, whether enfranchised or not, would be compelled to bear their share of the burden which such a calamity would throw on the nation. There was no question to which there was so much interest attached by his constituents as the extension of the franchise, and he hoped that something would be done in this direction, and that it would be done immediately. They were told by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen) that an agricultural labourer ordinarily looked forward to end his days on the list of paupers. If that were so, the change which was now proposed could not by any possibility make matters worse; and it was time we tried whether political education would improve their social position and make them more independent and useful citizens. In proportion as their faculties were developed they would be elevated, and also enabled to do a fair day's work for a fair day's wage, which some could not do at present. Their present condition, as described in this debate, furnished the strongest argument for trying whether political privileges would not encourage them to entertain loftier ambitions and to emulate the workmen of the towns in securing their own advancement and independence.


It appears that the question of Parliamentary Reform is as likely to engage our attention for the next few years as much as it did from 1856 to 1868; and if the House and the country are determined to have another Reform Bill, I think we must be prepared to give up all other legislation, and to devote ourselves entirely to the question of Parliamentary Reform. But, Sir, I venture to think, that if this question is seriously to be taken up, it should either be brought forward by some responsible Member of the Opposition, or by the Government of the day. It surely cannot be right that a question of such vast importance should be brought forward by a private Member, however able and distinguished; but before I admit, which I do not, that this question is ripe for discussion, I should like to ask, is it necessary? Is the necessity of such a character as to justify the present Government, or a Liberal Government, in giving up all other legislation, and to sacrifice the passing of all other important and useful measures? I do not see why hon. Members on that side of the House should have any reason to fear, if it were necessary, the extension of the borough franchise to counties. But we have a great objection to the perpetually tinkering of the Constitution. It seems to me that Parliamentary Reform is the panacea for every evil. I read somewhere a story of an artist who had attained great eminence in painting, but who had directed his art chiefly to one favourite object. That object happened to be a red lion. His first employment was at a public-house, where the landlord allowed him to follow his fancy. Of course, the artist recommended a red lion. A gentleman in the neighbourhood, having a new dining-room to ornament, applied to the artist for his assistance, and in order that he might have full scope for his talent, left to him the choice of a subject for the principal compartment of the room. The painter took due time to deliberate, and then, with the utmost gravity, said to his employer—"Don't you think that a handsome red lion would have a fine effect in this situation?" The gentleman was not entirely convinced, however; but he let the painter have his way in this instance, determined, nevertheless, that in his library, to which he next conducted the artist, he would have something of a more exquisite device and ornament. He showed him a small panel over his chimney-piece. "Here," says he, "I must have something striking. The space, you see, is small; but I must have something proportionately delicate." "What think you"—says the painter, after deep reflection—"what think you of a small red lion?" Just so it is with Parliamentary Reform; whatever may be the evil, the remedy is Parliamentary Reform; and the utmost variety that you can extort from those who call themselves "moderate Reformers" is that they will be content with a small red lion. Sir, I wish that these theories were only entertained; but they have mischief in them. I confess at the present time I am against the smallest of these red lions. I fear the smallest would be the precursor of the whole menagerie; and that, if once propitiated by his smallness, you open the door for his admission, you would find, when you wanted to turn him out again, that he had grown to a formidable size in his cage. If the reforms to which the success of this Resolution would lead are carried, it is difficult to imagine a Constitution of which one-third part shall be an Assembly delegated by the people —not to consult for the good of the nation, but to speak day by day the people's will—which must not in a few days' sitting sweep away every branch of the Constitution that might attempt to oppose or control it. If anyone will turn to the history of the transactions in this country of January 4, 1648, he will find that the House of Commons of that day passed the following Resolution:— Resolved, that the Commons of England, in Parliament assembled, being chosen by, and representing the people, have the Supreme Power in this Nation. It was then resolved, without one dissenting voice— That whatsoever is enacted, or declared for law by the commons, in parliament assembled, hath the force of a law; and all the people of this nation are concluded thereby, although the consent and concurrence of king or house of peers, be not had thereunto."—[Parl. Hist., iii. 1257.] Such was the theory. The practical inferences were not tardy in their arrival after the theory. In a few weeks—on the 6th February, 1648—the House of Peers was voted useless. We all know what became of the Crown. Such, Sir, were the Radical doctrines of 1648, and such the consequence to which they naturally led. If we are induced to admit the same premises now, who is it, I should be glad to know, that is to guarantee us against similar conclusions? Sir, it seems rather strange that this measure, which is now supported by hon. Gentlemen opposite, should always have been opposed by the Leaders of the Liberal Party when they were in power. It rather reminds me of what Mr. Wilberforce once said in this House—"that he did not believe an Opposition," &c. I cannot help thinking that there are some hon. Members finessing with the question. Surely the object of men ought rather to be to reconcile the nation to the lot which has fallen to them— surely a most glorious and blessed lot amongst nations—than to aggravate incurable imperfections, and to point out imaginary and unattainable excellence for their admiration. I can never look at this question in any Party light. Although I believe it is possible to devise more splendidly popular systems of government, it is, I believe, impossible to devise one in which all the good qualities of human nature can be brought more beneficially into action; in which property could operate so fairly with, a just, but not an overwhelming, weight; in which industry should be so sure of its reward, talents of their due ascendancy, and virtue of the general esteem.


, in supporting the Resolution, said, that in comparison with many subjects which occupied much of the time of the House of Commons, he believed that the question of the county franchise was of far greater importance. It affected the well-being of every man in the Kingdom, and would accomplish a vast amount of good. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe) said he had heard no arguments in support of the Resolution founded upon the question of public good. He (Mr. Blake) joined issue with the right hon. Gentleman upon the point, and was prepared to argue that this was a reform which would very materially promote the public good, as all the reforms of the past had done. It had been said that this measure was not asked for by the people, and that they felt no grievance. The Prime Minister appeared to be of that opinion, because he said in November last, at the Mansion House, that "you could not get six men to meet together to pretend to discuss a typical grievance." If, however, those who used that argument had mixed with the unenfranchised classes, as he (Mr. Blake) had done, they would find that they regarded their exclusion from the franchise as a great injustice. It was certain they could never have been at any of the great demonstrations which had been held throughout the country where the right was demanded. The advocates of the measure did not desire to weaken or destroy the Government of the country, but to improve it, and to make that House in fact and reality what it was in name and theory, a truly Representative Assembly of the whole people. In no other country in the world professing to have Representative Government were there so many inequalities in the representation of the people as in England. Three-fifths of the population were not represented at all, and there were 100 towns, containing each over 10,000 inhabitants, the population of which had no Representative. That was a state of things which should not be allowed to continue. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Lon- don argued that the classes to whom it was proposed to give the franchise were untried and unknown, but that statement was not correct. In the towns to which he (Mr. Blake) had referred they had the privilege of electing Boards of Guardians, members of municipal bodies, and school boards; and having been tried in those respects, he thought they should be further tried by being permitted to elect men to represent them in Parliament. They had shown by the Petitions presented to the House containing 153,490 signatures, against none in opposition, that they desired to have that privilege, and a deaf ear had hitherto been turned to their prayer. That course of conduct could not be persisted in long with impunity, for he would tell the House they believed they were entitled to it, and they would never cease to importune Parliament until they got the grievance redressed. Although he (Mr. Blake) was aware it was not so regarded by any hon. Member of that House, they believed that the refusal to admit them to the franchise was a stigma upon their poverty. He, however, believed the feeling which induced hon. Members opposite to oppose the Resolution was one of timidity and fear. They were afraid of the consequences, if the present constituencies were greatly augmented; but if the demand of the people was just and reasonable, it ought not to be refused. The result of the last extension of the franchise was to strengthen the Conservatives, and possibly a further extension might increase the Conservative majority. But the House had nothing to do with the question what political Party would benefit by an extension of the franchise. All the House had to do was to discharge their duty— to give the franchise to these people who were entitled to it. The responsibility of the use of the franchise would rest with these people, and they had no right to ask people who were entitled to the franchise what use they would make of it if the privilege were conferred upon them. He believed the House would not always refuse what was now asked. The majority against extension of the franchise was decreasing year by year, and he hoped the result of that night's division would show a considerable reduction of the majority by which this measure was rejected last year. In 1874 the majority against the extension of household suffrage to the counties was 114; in 1875 it declined to 102; in 1876 to 99; and in 1877 to 56. On that day week, when a similar measure was discussed in reference to the Irish boroughs, the majority against the Motion was only 8. This encouraged him to hope for the speedy success of the measure; and he trusted that on the present occasion many hon. Members opposite, if they would not support the Resolution, at least would not vote against it, so that they might get rid of the 56 altogether. It had been said that the time was not yet come for a measure of this nature; but his answer to that argument was, that it was never premature to do right. Notwithstanding the reforms which had been granted, property and life were as safe as ever they had been, if not safer, and people were as happy and contented as ever. He could quote the opinions of several statesmen of eminence in favour of his side of the question; for instance, they had the opinion of Lord Beacons-field, that if the working classes had the franchise, they would exercise it as good British subjects; but, perhaps, the most respect would be paid to the opinion of Earl Russell, who said to a deputation of working men that every measure by which more power had been placed in the hands of mechanics, artizans, and labourers had justified the hopes of those who had fought their battles, and had given the lie to the fears of those who foretold, on the occasion of every reform, the downfall and ruin of the country. He (Mr. Blake) would recommend these words to the consideration of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London. The Liberal Party had been accused of always destroying; but if that were true, considering the periods during the last 40 years they had been in power, everything ought by now to have been destroyed. What had been the history of the country during the past 40 years however? Let them compare the beneficial changes which followed the Reform Bill with the state of the country previously. There had been enormous sacrifices of blood and treasure, and the National Debt since 1793 had been increased £700,000,000. The Chancellors of the Exchequer in those days must have had their ingenuity exercised to find anything more which they could tax. They were told on high authority that taxes were imposed on everything which entered the mouth or covered the back, or was placed under the feet, on everything which it was pleasant to hear, feel, smell, or taste—on warmth, light, locomotion, the waters on the earth and under the earth, on raw material and the manufactured article, on the ermine which decorated the Judge, and the rope which hanged the criminal; even the school-boy whipped his taxed top.


called the hon. Member to Order, and said that he failed to see the connection of his remarks with the subject under discussion.


said, he was explaining that all this state of things had passed away, and from that he argued the public good that would proceed from adopting the present proposal. Enough had been said to banish the fears that had been expressed as to the results of doing so. He was pleading for those who could not plead for themselves, for they had not the facilities for meeting together which were possessed by those living in large towns. Last year, however, 1,500 of them came up to London at their own expense, and made it manifest that they were anxious for what was now asked, and which he thought the House ought not to deny. Those for whom the demand was made were not all agricultural labourers, though even agricultural labourers were not what they used to be. They used to be looked upon as simpletons in smock frocks, who were expected to cringe to their superiors, but they were a very different class from that now, and if they were not educated themselves their children were. He believed that, as a class, they were entirely deserving the confidence of Parliament; and he trusted the House, by passing the Resolution, would say that, in its opinion, it would be desirable to rectify the inequalities which existed.


said, that although he was quite prepared to vote against the Resolution, he could not do so on the ground that the defective education of the agricultural labourer did not permit of his being admitted to the franchise. In his opinion, there were many districts, including his own, in these Kingdoms in which the agricultural labourer was fully qualified to exercise his duties as a citizen. Nevertheless, he contended that this was not a partial measure which could be limited to any district, but was one which, when once granted, must be extended to all; and therefore those in the North and elsewhere, who were the most fit for the franchise, must wait patiently until their brethren in the South were trained to receive it. Lord Beaconsfield had said that the franchise should not be degraded to the man, but the man raised to the franchise, and in that opinion he (Colonel Alexander) fully concurred; but to carry such a measure as was proposed in the Resolution would be exactly the reverse of that doctrine. It was most inopportune at this particular moment, when we were considering the question of peace or war, and when the last might be said to be trembling in the scale, to bring forward that Resolution, and to attempt to tinker up the constitution of that House. Lord Beaconsfield had truly said that finality was not the language of politics; but 10 years ago the Conservatives passed a large measure of reform, and it was not right that that House should be called upon to disturb so soon what they were fairly entitled to consider was a satisfactory, if not an altogether final, settlement of the representation question. Hon. Members had referred to the case of America a great deal in the course of this debate, and therefore he would repeat the remark of President Lincoln, that "you should not have your coach always at the coachmakers." As our coach had been recently put in thorough order and completely remodelled, and as we had it now for immediate use, he trusted that the House would not be led by the eloquence of the hon. Member for the Border Boroughs (Mr. Trevelyan) to send it back to the coachmakers. To hear the hon. Member dilate upon the woes of the county householder it might be supposed that in the settlement of 1867 the county householder had been altogether overlooked and left out in the cold; whereas the county franchise had been lowered from £50 to £12. Surely that was no small or insignificant reduction. Hon. Members opposite now clamoured for an assimilation of the county and the borough franchises; but they had rejected the offer of the late Lord Derby, when he proposed to assimilate those franchises. In speaking on the subject in 1851, Lord John Russell said that it had always been his opinion that there should be various rights of voting; and that he had come to the conclusion that no improvement would be effected by the introduction of uniformity into the franchise; and that the voters for representatives of land in the counties and of trade in the boroughs should possess different qualifications. He (Colonel Alexander) submitted that the Members for the counties represented the land, and those of the boroughs trade and commerce. The right hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld) was unable to deny the accuracy of that reasoning; but he sought to get over the difficulty by saying that many things had occurred since 1851. The right hon. Gentleman, however, appeared to have forgotten that one of the most important circumstances that had occurred since that date was that, by the working of household suffrage in the boroughs, the Liberal Party had been turned out of office. He supposed, however, that the right hon. Gentleman hoped by extending household suffrage to the counties, that they might return to office again on the crest of the advancing wave. It was said that the Conservatives were afraid of the people in connection with the extension of the household suffrage to the counties; but, in his opinion, they had no reason to be afraid of them, and neither did they mistrust them. He did not doubt, if the proposal made were agreed to, that the effect would be to prolong the tenure of power of the Conservative Party; but he thought they should emancipate themselves from such considerations, and act only with an honest endeavour to secure the better representation of the people in that House. Last year it was asked why the householders in Barrow-in-Furness were not to be allowed the same electoral rights as were possessed by Frenchmen; but that argument, if worth anything, was equally strong in favour of manhood suffrage, and he did not think the advantages which had accrued from it abroad were sufficient to induce its immediate adoption in this country. When hon. Members opposite complained that it had always been the policy of the Conservative Party to restrict the franchise in the counties, they forgot that, as Lord Beaconsfield had pointed out, before 1832 every class in the country had the right of electing Representatives to the House, but the Reform Bill abrogated those rights, and took away from the freemen of Newark and other places rights for which it gave them nothing in return. Much had been said about the passing of a Reform Bill in 1832 by the Liberal Party, and that the question was their peculiar and glorious inheritance; but what had they done in the same direction since? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright), and the late Mr. Hume, both Liberals, characterized Lord John Russell's Reform Bill, in 1852, as a "peddling measure;" and the Liberal noble Lord the Member for Calne (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice), applied the epithet "tinkering" to the Reform Bill of 1866. The Liberal Party could not trade for ever on a measure passed nearly half-a-century ago. Experience had shown that the Whig Party would do nothing for reform; and, as a matter of fact, all the reforming measures since 1832 had been introduced when the Whigs were out of office. As bees, on flowers alighting, cease their hum, So, settling into office, Whigs are dumb. The hon. Gentleman who introduced the Resolution, knew very well that he had more chance of getting an assimilation of the borough and county franchise from the Conservative Party, than from his own front bench. Two of his strongest opponents were to be found there; and what would any measure of reform proposed by hon. Members who sat on that side of the House be without the concurrence of those two right hon. Gentlemen? The time would probably come when another great and stupendous measure of Reform, as compendious as that of 1867, would be brought in and carried by the Conservative Party, but it had not yet arrived; and he hoped the House would reject the premature and illusory Resolution now before it by a decisive majority.


said, he would admit that 12 years ago he was one who agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe) on the question of the extension of the franchise, and that he was one who followed him into a certain celebrated "Cave," whereby he had incurred a great deal of obloquy. He wished to explain, however, that since that time he had been converted from his former opposition to the present Motion into a steady supporter of it, simply by a study of the classes of persons whom it would affect, and he felt that it would be only fair in him to confess the error of his ways. Still, to a certain extent he agreed with the right hon. Gentleman. He concurred with him in thinking that to secure the best possible government of the country ought to be the first consideration. Wise and good government was such an indispensable thing to be aimed at that all theoretical considerations must give way to it. In reference to the right hon. Gentleman's complaints about a criticism of his article, he thought it was one of the penalties of intellectual eminence that if a leading Member of that House gave his time to the discussion in periodicals of political questions, he must expect those who differed from him to take notice of the arguments he so used. While concurring in the proposition that they were not to go into such sentimental questions as the rights of man, he pointed out that, on the other hand, they would be a long time in settling questions of this sort if they were to deal with them on merely pessimist considerations. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to him to be what he would call a pessimist politician. He had professed to base his conclusions upon hard experience; but he seemed to be acting under the influence of a dominant theory. He seemed to think that all men above a certain hard-and-fast line were intelligent, wise in political matters, and gifted with caution so as to be worthy of trust; while all below it were an ignorant, hungry, and rapacious class, who, if endowed with extra political power, would exercise it as soon as they acquired it, and exercise it in a wrong direction. He (Mr. Laing) had formed his opinions upon an experience which led him to believe that in other countries a wide extension of the electoral power had been followed by good results. The practical question to ask was, whether good government had not been found consistent with a widely-extended franchise, and whether it was not as apparent in an extended as in a restricted franchise? There were certainly great national advantages in an extended franchise. The wider they made the basis of government by extending the franchise, the stronger must the government be for the repression either of selfish privileged interests or of dangerous classes. For instance, he thought the repression of the Commune in France was effected with, vastly more energy and vigour by the Republican Government, based on a widely-extended franchise, than it would have been by the Government of, say, Louis Philippe, which had its stand upon a narrow electoral franchise. Again, in his belief, the educational effects of an extended franchise were also very considerable. He did not use the word educational in its ordinary sense; but he meant that it would tend to raise man in his own self-esteem, and by making him feel that he had some position, not an inferior and dependent one, in the State, would cause him to look into political questions. These were considerations which, to his mind, were eminently applicable to the agricultural labourer, who, in his opinion, was as sound and sensible and loyal a fellow, and as well fitted for the exercise of the franchise, as any other in the country. As to extension of the suffrage tending to degrade government, his reading of contemporary history led him to a totally opposite conclusion. Some hon. Gentlemen had referred for illustrations to the United States, and he would mention that the first thing which had converted him to a favourable view of the policy of extending the franchise was watching closely the course of public events in the United States. Though perfectly sensible of the defects which came to the surface of American society, of the "bunkum" and "tall talk" which were indulged in, any one who had watched the course of the American Government for the last 10 years must admit that, on the whole, it had been characterized by very great wisdom and success. A test of good government was first and foremost the adoption of a wise foreign policy. Errors in domestic policy might be remedied; but in foreign policy an unwise departure might be felt generation after generation in the shape of vast military armaments. Where was there any parallel to the case of the United States, who, having at the close of the Civil War an army of 500,000 men, had disbanded that army down to 25,000, absorbing all the others quietly into the ranks of the civil population? Was there any country in Europe where political power was in the hands of a limited number of the upper classes where that would have been done? There had been temptation to the United States in the state of surrounding countries to have gone in for a policy of annexation-Mexico, Cuba, St. Domingo, and even Canada, or at any rate British Columbia, offering a fair chance of success for a policy of aggression; but the American Government, the offspring of universal suffrage, had adopted the wisest course of keeping the peace, had disbanded its vast army, and, what was more remarkable for a Democratic country, had submitted to an excessive load of taxation in order to avoid national bankruptcy, to keep up the credit of the nation, and to make an impression on the vast National Debt. It was true that in bye-elections men of an inferior stamp often came to the front; but the election for President corresponded most closely with the General Election for the House of Commons, and no one would say that the Presidential elections in the case of Mr. Lincoln, General Grant, and Mr. Pierce had not returned men worthy of that high position. Another proof of the value of an extended suffrage was furnished by America, and that was that they were an eminently law-abiding people. That was proved by the way in which the people had accepted the decision of the Judges and Committee to whom the question of the Election in the last Presidential campaign had been submitted; and a man elected by a popular majority had been set aside and the other candidate put in his place as quietly as if he had been the 100th successor of a legitimate line of Monarchs. France might be taken as another illustration of the value of an extended suffrage. He had been surprised to hear France cited on the other side of the question during the debate; for he thought no one who had watched the course of France during the last few years could doubt that an extended suffrage had not only been the means of saving her in what had been a most formidable crisis, but that it had, to a great extent, sobered and improved the French character. France had never displayed so much sobriety and good sense as she had done since she had had a Republican Government with a widely - extended suffrage. Under any other Government the affair of the 16th of May would have led to a military Pronunciamento and to civil war. The French, however, had so rapidly acquired the character of a law-abiding people as to have been saved from those calamities. However, the circumstances of other countries were so different that after all we must look at home to try and predict what would be the effect of that great extension of the suffrage which so alarmed the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lowe), but which after all had, to a great extent, already taken place. A considerable majority in that House had for more than 10 years been returned by the very class who, according to prediction before the last extension, were to do all sorts of horrible things. He wished to know, however, where were the political, social, and financial atrocities which had been committed by hon. Members returned by the very same suffrage which it was now proposed to extend to the counties? It was a plausible theory that a limited Aristocracy, with the advantages of wealth, position, and leisure to attend to politics, were the only safe depositories of political knowledge, and especially of a sound foreign policy as opposed to the impulses of an ignorant Democracy, who had no time to study such questions, and who were liable to be swayed backwards and forwards by every impulse of popular passion or delusion. That might have been true of ancient Rome or mediaeval Venice; but he denied that it was anything approaching the truth in regard to modern history. Taking foreign policy —and excluding the present crisis, because passions were too much influenced with respect to that to treat it calmly— there were occasions of late years in regard to which they might discuss what the right hon. Gentleman would call the folly of the many and the wisdom of the few; but which he (Mr. Laing), reversing the terms, would describe as the wisdom of the many saving us from the folly of the few. Take the Civil War in the United States. Was it not the fact that the majority of the upper classes, who, according to the right hon. Gentleman, had the monopoly of sound views as to what was really for the interests of the country, had favoured the Southern as against the Northern States, and desired to see two rival Republics? Did anyone now think that it would have been, he would not say for the benefit of humanity and civilization, but merely for our own interests, that the United States should have been divided into two rival Republics, each keeping up large military establishments, and liable at any moment, in order to avoid domestic difficulty, to combine against a power having possessions on the American Continent? Take, again, the rise of the great German Empire, and in the wars first of Prussia and Austria against Denmark, then of Prussia against Austria, and lastly of Germany against France, the policy and feeling of the upper classes here to whom the right hon. Gentleman wished to give the monopoly of our foreign policy had been on the side most entirely adverse to real British interests, while the sentiments of the mass of the nation had been just the other way. No one could now doubt that the rise of the great German Empire had been of the greatest benefit to this country. ["No, no!"] He believed it had; and he would be glad if any hon. Member who thought otherwise would get up and tell him that we had been in a safer position, when, with our good and trustworthy Ally Louis Napoleon, we had been in perpetual apprehensions lest some belligerent turmoil or domestic difficulty should lead him to attack our shores. ["Oh, oh!"] Well, what had originated the great Volunteer movement? Had it been apprehensions of France, or of Germany? It was notorious to all the world that it had originated in apprehension of France, while the rise of the German Power—a race kindred to us in blood, genius, and religion —had been the greatest possible security for British interests. ["No, no!"] On that point he was perfectly willing to challenge public opinion. Coming next to questions of finance, which were also next in importance, was it true that since the power of electing a majority to the House of Commons was given to the poorer classes there had been a tendency to shift the burden of taxation from the shoulders of the poor to those of the rich? That was a crucial experiment. It was perfectly notorious that nothing of the sort had taken place. With regard to the many questions which had been before Parliament, he would ask whether legislation had not been greatly aided by the extension of the franchise? Take, for instance, the disestablishment of the Irish Church. Would that measure ever have been passed if an appeal had not been made to the mass of the community, and whose decision had been given on a question as to whether the country would do unto others as others should do unto them? That was an appeal to the law of common sense and the good feeling of the country. Having touched very shortly on some of the objections which had been urged against the extension of the franchise, and the danger to be apprehended from such extension, he would just refer to one which was put forward last year by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen), in a speech of great ability and evident sincerity, as to the danger that with an extended suffrage we might relapse into the heretical policy of protection. But they did not find that countries where the suffrage was extended were necessarily Protectionist. In this country Free Trade measures had been carried almost solely by the extension of the suffrage; and there could be no doubt that an extended suffrage would considerably strengthen the feeling in favour of Free Trade. No doubt the United States and some of our colonists were Protectionist; but it really did not follow that everybody must be a heretic that dissented from Free Trade. Although the effect of an extension of the suffrage might be doubtful with respect to some younger countries, he contended that it would not have an injurious effect in this country so far as Free Trade was concerned. Then it had been said that the extension of the franchise would tend to a deterioration of the House of Commons. That was a subject on which he had had an experience of nearly 30 years in the House, and during which he had been a constant attendant at the debates. No doubt the House had changed, so had the electoral element; but the House had not deteriorated. No doubt it contained a much larger number than formerly of men of the world—practical men of business, who had been the architects of their own fortunes, and it was now more prosaic than poetic; but the debates were certainly not inferior to those which took place many years ago. If anyone told him that since the extension of the franchise the demagogic element had increased in the House, he would ask him to look at the Leaders of the political Parties in that House and say whether either of them was a demagogue. He did not see how the right hon. Member for the University of London could reconcile these facts with his sweeping denunciation of an extended suffrage. What was now proposed was but a small step in the extension of the franchise. What was it compared to the "leap in the dark" 10 years ago? They had had experience of household suffrage; it was no very hazardous experiment to extend its boundaries. Experience had proved that its dangers were infinitely less than anyone supposed—that the measure now proposed would redress some of the glaring anomalies which at present existed, one of which said that because a man lived in the country, or in the suburbs of a town, he was not equally capable of exercising a vote as a man who lived in town itself; and that it would materially improve the constitution of the House of Commons, and at the same time exercise a great influence on large classes of the community. He should, therefore, give his hearty support to the Resolution of his hon. Friend.


was ready to admit that the hon. Gentleman who had last spoken in the early part of his speech approached the question before the House in a right spirit, because he rested his conclusions on the basis of experience. He believed the hon. Gentleman was a convert to his present opinions; but he confessed he failed to see the force of the reasons which he assigned for that change. He appeared to justify it by the experience of the last 10 years, and he specially alluded to the case of America. He was hardly fortunate in his choice of an example. That country had lately been in a constant state of alarm for her national credit, and had, in fact, passed a measure which seemed to strike at its foundation. He could not discuss at the present moment the merits of the Silver Bill; but of the alarm it produced among economists there was no doubt. It was noticeable that there had been this year a marked change in the style of the arguments in favour of the extension of the county franchise—a change largely to be attributed to the articles written by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London, and to the recent discussion on them. Many old arguments had, in consequence, disappeared almost entirely; and the chief speakers had been content to address themselves to the more minute points of the controversy, without dealing with the general question. At one time the commonest argument had been based on the partiality of the present law, and the wrong done by including one set of men and excluding another set of men not less competent to exercise the franchise; but, though there had been indications of that contention in the speech of the introducer of the Motion, he had dealt chiefly on the more practical question of how the proposed measure would affect legislation. His hon. Friend had drawn comfort from the experience of this country since the last Reform Bill. He had asked, where were the signs of hasty or revolutionary legislation since householders in the boroughs were admitted to a vote? With much that had been said on this point he fully agreed, and saw at present no sign of those evils; but an experience of 10 years in one country was far too short to admit of any profitable speculation on so intricate a problem, through the difficulties of which the experience of the whole world was hardly a sufficient guide. There was one danger, indeed, which he feared from the proposed measure, and about which the experience of the country in the last decade was not altogether re-assuring—he meant the danger of sudden changes and revulsion of feeling. In proportion as they made one class the depositories of all political power, and that class the one most affected by sentiment and least affected by reason, he feared this danger would increase; and, in this respect, America would be more favourably situated under democratic rule than they would be, because local differences there—the differences between different States, between North and South and East and West was, to some extent, a substitute for the differences which existed in this country between different classes. It only remained for him to notice the argument of his hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea—that, namely, which implied that it was desirable to rest the State on as wide a foundation as possible, because a pyramid was more secure if it rested on its base than if it rested on its apex. This was a comparison which, if meant for anything more than a simile, begged the whole question at issue. The problem before him was not to be solved by arguments like these, any more than by metaphysical arguments drawn from supposed abstract rights. What they had to decide on was not a question of justice but a question of expediency. They had to determine on such grounds as reason and experience afforded them, what the effect of the proposed change would be on the constitution of the House of Commons; and if they came to the conclu-sion—which was forced upon him—that the House would neither be a safer nor a more effective legislative and administrative machine, but rather the contrary, it was their business to resist the change to the uttermost. Inconclusion, he hoped that no successful Motion for the extension of the franchise would take away the hon. Member's (Mr. Trevelyan's) yearly occupation, but that a plan so uncertain in its results would be decisively rejected.


said, that he had no wish to address the House that evening, and he would re-assure hon. Members who thought him likely to trouble them much on the subject, by saying at once that if his hon. Friend the Member for the Border Boroughs (Mr. Trevelyan) intended to make the Motion annually, he had no desire to make an annual speech on the subject. However, the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke) had apparently wished him to speak, and had put some pointed questions to which he felt bound to reply, though he was sorry to say that he could not think himself indemnified by any support which he might receive from his political opponents on that question, for the pained silence of his Friends on that side of the House. Indeed, he would rather have been silent had he not been challenged. In the few remarks he proposed to make he would not allow any controversial feeling, or any desire to prove his political consistency, to prevent his owning a mistake if he had indeed taken a wrong view of the case. He would endeavour to avoid the danger incurred in defending opinions, of exaggerating them, and of being induced to hold them in a still stronger measure than before. The hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea had been rather merry on the subject of the small following which the right hon. Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe) and himself (Mr. Goschen) had received in the debate last year. Perhaps the hon. Baronet would allow him to say that when he first spoke out on this subject —when he gave expression to the opinions which he strongly held—he certainly did not wish to create for a moment a division among the Party to which he belonged. He regretted that too often when questions of this kind were brought forward there should be "Lobby" agitation, newspaper agitation, and public agitation brought to bear upon hon. Members, in order to secure adherence to particular views. All he could say was, that while considering it his duty to express most strongly his opinions upon this question in that House, he had in no way attempted to influence a single hon. Member to vote in support of his particular views in relation to it. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London and himself had felt it to be their duty to state the opinions they held on this question, and he, for one, should abide by those opinions until he was converted. Neither he nor his right hon. Friend were to be diverted from the course they had thought it their duty to take by taunts that they were not in harmony with their own Party. He would not ask—perhaps, indeed, he ought not to ask—whether, although they were not followed into the Lobby, the words which he and his right hon. Friend had addressed to the House were entirely without response and without echo in the consciences of hon. Members on that side. ["Oh, oh!"] He should not like to say that there were no hon. Members near him who had not felt the force of those arguments, and who did not, in a considerable degree, share in their opinions. But, itwassaid—"Thischange is inevitable, and therefore it is unwise to resist it. "That was an argument against which he had strongly declared himself last year. He did not think that because a thing of which he, in his conscience, did not approve, was inevitable, he was, therefore, bound to vote for it. His hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea had alluded—he did not know for what reason—to the fact that he (Mr. Goschen) only, out of the four Members for the City of London, had voted against this Motion last year. No doubt that was a statement addressed by the hon. Baronet to the constituency he had the honour to represent. No doubt the hon. Baronet had his motives in doing so, and no doubt these motives were stronger than the mere desire to point a sentence or evoke a cheer. But he would ask the hon. Baronet, who had stated that he (Mr. Goschen) alone had voted against this Motion, and who had conveyed to the House the impression that he, the Liberal Member for the City of London, had alone, among its Representatives, voted against this Resolution, whether he had consulted the list of pairs on that division? Had he asked himself whether, by the process of pairing, any other Member for the City had taken part in the determination of the question at issue?


said, that he had examined the list of pairs, and that he found that one Representative of the City of London had paired on the question, but that the two others had not done so.


observed that it would have been more candid of the hon. Baronet if, knowing that fact, he had not held him (Mr. Goschen) up in his solitude as having alone among his Colleagues voted against this Resolution. These personal matters, however, were but small ones as compared with the larger question at issue, which had been the cause of creating the breach between himself and those with whom he was accustomed to act, which he so much deplored; but none the less must he deal with the arguments which the hon. Baronet and others had put forward during the debate. The hon. Member for the Border Boroughs, and other hon. Members on that side of the House, had stated that it was their main duty that evening to deal with the speeches and articles of the right hon. Member for the London University, and of himself. He had looked through his own speech just after the hon. Baronet had concluded his address, and there was one portion of it to which he attached most serious importance. One of the main arguments on which he had relied last year in objecting to this Resolution was the relation of the agricultural class to the Poor Laws of the country. Those laws were a most important element in our social economy, and it was impossible to overlook them in carrying into effect great Constitutional changes such as those proposed by the hon. Member. It was, however, not a little singular that, although that point would have to be dealt with in connection with the scheme under consideration, the hon. Member for the Border Boroughs, in dealing with his (Mr. Goschen's) speech, had not by one single word alluded to this very important part of his argument against the proposal. This was a subject on which he (Mr. Goschen) was most anxious to be shown that he was wrong; but, as at present advised, he held that, standing as the agricultural classes did in relation to the Poor Laws, it would be introducing a dangerous element into the representation of the country to give them household suffrage—not because he believed that the agricultural classes were opposed to the Constitution, nor because they were ignorant, but because of their status in relation to the Poor Laws. He said, with great satisfaction and pleasure, that the statement of the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Macdonald), that the amalgamated engineers and iron founders endeavoured to prevent their members from coming into the workhouse, had made a deep impression upon him; and when the agricultural labourer, acting under any influence, could emancipate himself from the action of the Poor Laws, the whole situation would, in his opinion, be changed, a great object would be achieved, and he should look upon this question of his admission to the franchise from a very different point of view, as it would become far more safe to admit them within the pale of the Constitution. It had been said that his remarks last year showed distrust of the working classes; but surely it was expressing no distrust of the working classes to say that he was not prepared to give them a preponderating power and influence within the Constitution, an influence and power which could not be given to any other class or any other interests. He was not opposed to, neither did he wish to evade or delay, the representation of the agricultural labourers in that House. On the contrary, if any scheme or mode could be devised in order to secure their representation without imperilling the representation of other classes it would receive his support, and he would be the first to welcome it. He was not opposed to the admission of the labourers to the franchise; but what he was opposed to was the danger of destroying the representation of the other classes. He willingly acknowledged the force of the argument that an extension of the suffrage would increase the safety of the Constitution, and admitted that it would be well, if possible, to have the agricultural labourers fairly represented; but he could not help being struck the other night by the fact that hon. Members opposite, and many hon. Members on his own side of the House, were not prepared to concede to the agricultural labourer that share in local government which would have been his best preparation for political duties. Considering that 1,000,000 voters were admitted within the pale of the Constitution by the last Reform Bill, the admission of the same number whom it was now proposed to enfranchise would, as his right hon. Friend had shown, give the working classes an absolute majority in almost every county and borough, and be fatal to the representation of the other classes. It had been said that it would be fatal if, as the result of such a measure, the working classes were likely all to vote in the same way, but that it was highly improbable any such thing would ever take place on any given subject. It had also been said that the classes it was now proposed to enfranchise would be divided into Liberals and Conservatives, and that, therefore, no political danger would accrue; but that was not a question as between Conservatives and Liberals. The question was, were there a number of subjects upon which all these newly-enfranchised classes would practically be united? They had heard of the anomaly of one man on one side of the street having a vote, while a man on the other had none, and injustice being thereby done to that other. That argument made no impression upon his mind whatever. Our Friends on that side of the House should not be carried away by that argument. It was said they gave household franchise in the boroughs, therefore it was only consistent that it should be given in the counties; but in the Reform Bill of 1867 they dealt with counties as well as boroughs, and the county franchise was lowered to £12 in order that there might be a settlement for some time. They were all parties to that settlement. The anomaly of the two sides of the street existed then as now. But it was said, the inhabitant on one side of the street was injured by reason of his not being represented. But, what was the result? Such persons, not now enfranchised, were already represented by an enormous number of persons precisely simi- lar to themselves. Persons united on the same subjects, and likely to vote in the same manner, were already in very large numbers entitled to the franchise. The argument was this—that for the sake of remedying that anomaly, they were, to the overwhelming power within the Constitution exercised by those classes, to add another 1,000,000 interested in the same subjects, and likely, he thought he might say, to vote on class questions, on labour questions, on Poor Law questions, on social questions generally, in the same direction as those of their fellows who were now in possession of the franchise. Would it be fair to say that they felt a distrust of the moneyed class, because they declined to give them a preponderance of power, or of the aristocratic class, because they declined to give them the majority in that House? Neither was it fair to say they distrusted the working classes. They distrusted no class; but they were adverse to conceding to any one class a supremacy at the polling-booth. His hon. Friend had twitted those hon. Members on the Opposition side who held these opinions with being so few in number. Perhaps-on that very account they might ask for more indulgence when they put forward their opinions. He wished to say a few words in reply to the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea, because his hon. Friend challenged him distinctly with respect to some of the remarks which he (Mr. Goschen) made last year on this subject. His hon. Friend was not very fair in his representation of the views to which he then gave expression. What he asked on that, as on the present, occasion, when it was proposed again to admit an enormous number of voters to the Constitution, was—"What is our experience of the late Reform Act, and what are generally the political signs of the times?" The main point of his argument—as would be remembered by those who did him the honour to listen to his arguments on that occasion—was negative rather than positive. He remarked that Ave had not yet had sufficient experience of the new electors to enable us to judge from their conduct whether we could safely proceed further in the same direction. That was the gist of his speech, in which occurred the phrase—"The now levies have not yet been under fire." He said that we had passed through prosperous times; that legislation and finance had both done very much in their favour; and that we had not yet seen whether the men returned by the new constituencies possessed the power of resistance to democratic demands, if such demands should be made. But he did not say that any of the legislation of the last 10 years had been of a terrible character. One phrase which he used last year summed up his opinions. It was— He did not say that the House ought to have resisted on any of those occasions, hut 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."—[3 Hansard, cc xxxv. 504.] That was his point. We travelled fast in these days, but 10 years was a short time to allow to elapse between one great Reform Bill and another. It was a little unfair, because he was unable to advance with these giant steps and to admit 1,000,000 voters every 10 years, for his hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) to say last year that he (Mr. Goschen) had ceased to be a Liberal. Why, he was as "good a Liberal now as the great bulk of his Party were 10 years ago, when they made that settlement. The hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea had challenged him to say what measures he had resisted during the last 10 years. Without mentioning particular instances, he might say that he did not think it wise or becoming on every occasion when he thought political economy was suffering to make long speeches to enforce his opinions respecting them; but he had repeatedly spoken of the increase of the philanthropic spirit in that House and in the constituencies, and had compared the public opinion of the present time with the political economy of older days. He now wished to repeat in the strongest way that, while he did not say that any of the legislation of the last 10 years was wrong, yet he continually saw symptoms in the House, in the Executive Government, and in the constituencies themselves of a weaker power of resistance to philanthropic demands, and a weaker attachment to the great principles of political economy. He admitted to the full, however, that it was exceedingly difficult to prove this. [Mr. MUNDELLA: Hear, hear!] No doubt it was a matter which was not capable of demonstration; but he felt, even when the hon. Member for Chelsea was speaking, that his hon. Friend himself was under that influence, and that he had lost the regard for political economy which used to be entertained by the great bulk of the Liberal Party in the House of Commons. If he could not give his hon. Friend an instance he might, at least, give him an illustration of what he meant. He would honestly say he thought he could trace his great reluctance and hesitations on this question to the experience he had gained when he filled the post of President of the Poor Law Board. At that period, he saw that a number of measures of dangerous tendencies might result if the classes engaged in labour should make laws to regulate the administration of in-door and out-door relief. Now, he was asked, was it likely that the poorer classes in the towns and in the country districts would combine on any subject whatever, and his answer was that he could conceive such a state of things— namely, on the subject of the Poor Laws. Were hon. Members aware that there wore laws affecting the poor which forbade the supplementing of wages by Poor Law relief? It was demanded by the Poor Law authorities that the harsh doctrine was to be enforced—the doctrine of political economy—that wages were not to be supplemented by Poor Law relief. He asked, what would be the probable attitude of constituencies in which the labourers were in a majority, if in an election there were such a test question as this—namely, greater or less stringency in Poor Law relief? When the time came that agricultural labourers would be less dependent on the Poor Law, then we should have clearer and safer ground. But there was danger to the State on those labour questions in having constituencies where the labourers, whether in town or country, were in a majority as to political power. He asked the House to consider what was the relation of those agricultural labourers now to the State, what was their relation to local authorities, what their relation to society? What was authority to the labourers in our rural districts? It was the constable in pursuit of the poacher and the tramp. What was justice to them? A few squires sitting in a public-house in petty sessions. ["Oh, oh!"] He wished to be candid in the matter, and before he sat down he feared he might have to say several things not palatable to hon. Members opposite. In short, the relations of the agricultural labourer to society were not satisfactory. What was local government to him? It was the union, with its blank walls and the blank faces of the elder inhabitants of his parish ranged along those walls. He trusted, however, hon. Gentlemen on that (the Opposition) side might be divided, and yet they were not much divided, for few held the opinions which he entertained on this subject—that they would use all their united efforts in order to secure more civic life for the labourers, and endeavour more thoroughly to educate them to be fit for the political power they would confer upon them. He would be very much surprised if hon. Gentlemen behind him, who might think him a retrograde Liberal in that respect, would refuse to be in the same Lobby with him in regard to the direct representation of labourers in local affairs. He was, however, afraid there were still in the rural districts reasons which made it dangerous to place so much political power in the hands of one class. One question more before he sat down, and hon. Members opposite must forgive him if it was more or less directed at them. It was said—"Look at the result of the last Reform Bill. The result was to return a greater Conservative majority than before. See how safe it is. See how even that democratic measure has resulted in increasing the power of the Conservative Party." Well, but had it increased Conservatism in this country? It had not. Hon. Members opposite returned by the enlarged constituencies were no longer Conservatives in the old sense. They no longer performed the function which they used to perform—they had not the power of resistance. They showed it in their attitude on great questions, upon which they came more under democratic influence. Hon. Members on that (the Opposition) side might be glad that it was so, because certain measures had passed which otherwise would not have passed. Hon. Members opposite sometimes made a great show of resistance and were very successful in defending matters upon which they had set their hearts; they were able to defend a monopoly here and there, or to perform some piece of class legislation. ["No, no!"] Yes; they were successful when they tried. They refused the other day to let Dissenters be buried by the side of Churchmen, and they set themselves to please various interests in the country by resisting various Bills; but when it was a question of resisting any really popular demand, he had not yet seen during the time the present Government had been in Office any great powers of resistance. As the basis of the Constitution was widened and the suffrage extended, he wanted to know—it was a delicate question—was the Executive Power strong enough to hold its own— did statesmen still hold their own— against all the gusts of popular opinion and passion? He did not see that the Conservative Party in that case had the same power of resistance, and that well-known characteristic of democracy, the weakening of individual responsibility and of the responsibility of statesmen, was clearly becoming a characteristic of the present time. He wanted, therefore, to know, whether it was safe for the House or the country at this time of day to cast its sword into the scale of democracy? He did not think it was, because the power of resistance was less, and if hon. Members opposite would reluctantly admit it, he would call their own Foreign Secretary into the witness-box. He would remind them of what Lord Derby himself had said on a great question of foreign policy. He said that he waited the wishes of the public his masters. If we had come to that, that the Conservative Foreign Secretary, backed by an immense majority, admitted in the face of Europe that he waited the wish and the decision of the public his masters; if that were so—and it was so—if we had seen the Government swayed to and fro by the gusts of popular opinion, then the times had changed and new influences were at work which must affect the conduct of every Member of that House. But this was not confined to foreign policy. Had they not seen, not only in questions of foreign policy, but even in questions of judicial authority, in questions of trials settled by sworn jurymen, that the public came forward and wished to invade judicial authority? Had they not seen that public meetings had almost usurped the powers of the Executive Government? [Ministerial cheers.] He did not know whether they cheered because they thought he was thinking of public meetings on one side of the House. He was not thinking of one side or the other. His feelings were not of that kind at the moment; but he said whether he looked to the spirit of the country, which more and more appeared to him to be abandoning its old spirit of self-reliance and of looking to Parliament and the Executive Power for remedial legislation, or whether, on the other hand, he looked to the Executive Power, seeing it weakened in this House and out of it, wherever he looked to the one or the other, he could not help asking whether this was the time to make a great change by admitting fresh and large numbers within the pale of the Constitution. His hon. Friend the Member for the Border Boroughs in his peroration spoke of the Eastern Question, and how undeniable it was that there was a large portion outside the pale of the Constitution who might have been compelled to make demonstrations because they had not got legal means of giving effect to their views. But had the demonstrations on one side or the other been composed of non-electors? That could certainly not be said. It was public opinion that wished to sway the Government; and he wanted to know whether they in Parliament were strong enough and bold enough to accept their own responsibility, and resist this increasing tendency to invade what he considered their legitimate functions? He felt how entirely inadequate he was to give expression to the views he held on this question within reasonable time. His hon. Friend (Mr. Trevelyan) had staggered up to the Table under the weight of the Petitions that he carried. He (Mr. Goschen) had himself staggered in his speech under the weight of the strong convictions which he held upon this question. He regretted that again he should have to pass through the Lobby not in company with his usual political Friends; but he wished to state in the face of the House and the country that upon that subject he was not influenced by any disloyalty to his Party or to its Leader. He should carry into that Lobby the conscientious belief that he was doing his duty; but, at the same time, he would express the earnest hope that it might he found he was mistaken, and that the tendency he had feared would not exist; or, at all events, if these additional numbers were to be admitted into the Constitution, he trusted that such measures might be accompanied by safeguards which would secure that other classes besides the most numerous might be represented in the House of Commons.


said, he was fully sensible of the conscientious courage manifested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen), for he (Mr. Newdegate) knew the pain it cost to separate oneself in that House from those with whom a Member usually acted. The right hon. Gentleman's speech, delivered as it was from the Opposition benches, would go forth to the country with far greater force and effect than anything that could be said from the Ministerial side of the House. He regretted, however, to have listened just before to a speech of a very different character—he meant the speech of the hon. Member for Orkney (Mr. Laing). That hon. Member had referred to the passing of the last Reform Act. And what occurred during the discussions on that measure? The hon. Gentleman and he (Mr. Newdegate) then united, and by their joint action secured an addition of 10 to the county seats for England, to those appropriated to the higher franchise, and the hon. Gentleman also, by that arrangement, secured seven additional seats for Scotland; but the hon. Member now seemed to say—"Tempora, mutantur nos et mutamur in illis," and was about to reverse the course he had taken on that occasion; and yet the hon. Member congratulated the House because, in his opinion, its character had remained unchanged by the measure of 1867—just when he was about to reverse the very principle which he had so powerfully supported in 1868. The hon. Member asked—"What could be more successful than the government of the United States of America under universal suffrage?" He lauded the great Republic, and held up its democratic Constitution as an example of that we should seek to establish in this ancient Monarchy. The hon. Member was unfortunate in his historical statement, for universal suffrage existed in the United States long before the Civil War, by which the existence of the Republic was so grievously imperilled. The Civil War was the product of universal manhood suffrage. And then he pointed to the success with which that war had been brought to a close, and illustrated it by the fact that the successful General had been able to disband his victorious army even under universal suffrage. From the United States the hon. Member passed to France, and endeavoured to prove the success of universal suffrage there. But, as in the case of the United States, he was careful not to carry his illustration too far back for his purpose. Universal suffrage was established in France in the year 1848 under the Republic, which was overthrown by the despotism of 1852; that despotism lasted 25 years, and was terminated by the German conquest of France. Such, then, were the hon. Member's illustrations of the success of Republics under universal suffrage. Let the House mark, also, that, in advocating this proposal to extend household suffrage to the counties, the hon. Member had based his arguments upon the success of manhood suffrage in two great Republics. Let the House not forget that in this country they had to preserve an ancient Monarchy. Then the hon. Member referred to the success of universal suffrage, as illustrated by the triumphs of Germany. But was it under universal suffrage that Prussia overcame Austria? Was it under universal suffrage that Germany was so victorious in the Franco-German War? It was well known that universal suffrage was not generally adopted throughout Germany until after that war; and was it to be understood that the hon. Member desired when, as he seemed to hope, the House should have adopted this measure of household suffrage in the counties, England should be internally ruled by a power as despotic as that which characterized the Government of Germany? A few years ago there lived a great writer who thoroughly understood this subject—M. de Tocqueville—and what said he? He clearly distinguished between equality and liberty, and, on the Reform Act of 1867, he said, in substance— Your approach to equality alarms me; equality is not freedom. Your liberty depends upon the preservation of your aristocracy; and, if you lose that in England, you may prepare to see equality, perhaps, but an equality followed by a loss of freedom you will have to regret. Such, in substance, was the language of the distinguished author of La Democratic en Amerique, a work which had become a standard authority, and by which he introduced among the great body of American citizens, for the first time, a clear perception of the real nature of their country's Constitution. Every word that had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London with respect to the weakening of the power of resistance in this country—of the weakening of the Conservative principle in this country—since the Reform Act of 1868, had found a response in his (Mr. Newdegate's) heart; for he, too, had observed the difference; and when the hon. Member for Orkney congratulated the House upon its improved condition, he thought that, if the hon. Member had heard the speeches which had been made earlier that evening by the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Barran) and the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Blake), who talked as though this measure might be safely passed on account of the increasing education and intelligence of the labouring classes, he must have felt with him (Mr. Newdegate) that those new Members for borough constituencies needed some little time before they would be able to understand the force of those admirable articles by which the right hon. Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe) had instructed the public, and the power of the speech he had, early in that debate, addressed to the House. He (Mr. Newdegate) rejoiced that the Conservative Party were about to resume their ancient functions and duty —resistance to democratic change. They could not be insensible to the fact that the conduct of the Business of the House needed improvement; for its recent conduct had so deteriorated, that they had been obliged to appoint a Committee to consider some means of prevention, so that it might no longer be in the power of a small minority of Members to obstruct the Business of the House arbitrarily and indefinitely. If that proved anything, it was not a proof of improvement. He (Mr. Newdegate) thought it was time that they should pause before they further introduced into that House the element of popular agitation, which already commanded the action of public men far more than was conducive to the welfare and safety of the country. ["No, no!"] Such, at any rate, was his conviction. He could add nothing to the admirable arguments of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London, as illustrated by the able statistics of the hon. Member for West Gloucestershire (Mr. Plunkett); nothing to the able speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London, with regard to the probable effect of the measure the hon. Member for the Border Boroughs (Mr. Trevelyan) invited the House to adopt. That hon. Member asked the House to admit to a predominance of electoral power classes of men who were already combined under able Leaders like the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Mac-donald), whose trade combinations, threatening the security of capital, had already aggravated commercial distress to an extent he (Mr. Newdegate) lamented. The industrial classes had shown that they were deficient in knowledge of commercial affairs; they did not always seem to understand their own interests; their conduct had sometimes been marked by a tendency to violence, which the House had deemed it necessary to restrain by law. When these unfavourable characteristics and results of the trade unions were manifest, it was but common sense that Parliament should pause before admitting these classes to the possession of still greater power.


Sir, I agree with the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. Balfour) that this debate has taken a different course from that which it has followed during the last three or four Sessions. We have heard to-night a great deal of abstract argument on the question than we have been accustomed to before. I am not surprised that my hon. Friends the Members for the Border Boroughs (Mr. Trevelyan), Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke), and Orkney (Mr. Laing), and others who have addressed the House, have eagerly grasped the opportunity of grappling with some of the arguments, and have fastened, as they have done with some avidity, upon the material afforded them by my right hon. Friends the Members for the University of London (Mr. Lowe) and the City of London (Mr. Goschen). I will state by-and-bye why it appears to me that the issue which is before us is not very greatly advanced by the dis- cussion of abstract arguments either on the one side or on the other. But I want first to point out to the House the singular position in which we find ourselves with regard to this question. We have been led on this question of Parliamentary Reform up to a certain point by the Party opposite. Having been led to that point, we have been left without further guidance, and, not only that, but we find that they refuse to proceed with us further in the direction in which they have been leading us. Sir, I am not referring only to the action of the Conservative Party in 1867. I can go back further than that. I can go back to the action of the Conservative Party in 1832. The Reform Bill of 1832, as originally introduced and supported by the Liberal Party, did not propose any fundamental alteration in the principles of our Parliamentary representation. What the Reform Bill of 1832 aimed at, and in the main did, was to restore to the inhabitants of boroughs that power of choosing their own Representatives which, from a variety of causes, had fallen into other hands. What that Bill also aimed to do, and did, was to recognize the great changes which had taken place in the country in the distribution of wealth, of population, and of intelligence, and it gave representation to places which at that time were not represented at all. But the Reform Bill, as introduced by its promoters, did not aim at making any fundamental change in the principles of our Parliamentary representation. It maintained the distinction between the borough franchise and the county franchise; and while it fixed an occupation franchise as the qualification to vote in a borough, it left the property qualification for the county. Well, Sir, that principle was broken down, but not by the Whigs, and not by the Liberal Party. That principle was broken down by the Conservative Party, who introduced into the Reform Bill of 1832 the principle of a county franchise by occupation; and it was in consequence of the efforts of that Party that the alteration was made. Well, that was one step. What was the next step taken in hand by the Conservative Party? In 1867 that Party abandoned the test of the value of the house as a test of the qualification of the voter, and substituted for the qualification of value the qualification of the mere occupation of a house, It adopted the principle of giving a vote to every rateable householder. Now, this is the point up to which we have been led by the Conservative Party. We have got the occupation franchise in the county and the principle of the occupation of a house as the qualification for a vote in boroughs. I think that, under these circumstances, it is for the Conservative Party to say why we are to stop at this particular point. There is one answer which might be given to us, and which would, if it were given and could be maintained, be a conclusive answer. If hon. Gentlemen opposite would say, and would maintain and. prove, that the class which are excluded now are different from those which have been admitted— or are inferior in any respect to those which have been admitted, or less qualified for the possession of the vote—that would be an intelligible ground why we should stop at the point to which they have led us, and it would be one which would require the most serious consideration. But that is precisely the argument which we do not hear, and which is not urged. On the contrary, every hon. Gentleman who gets up to speak against this Motion on the other side says he has not the slightest distrust of the agricultural labourer or of the voters who would be admitted under the proposal of my hon. Friend; that he views them exactly in the same light as he views the householders who are already admitted; and we fail to get from the Party opposite any assurance whatever that it is on that ground that they object to this extension of the suffrage. Well then, Sir, in that state of things it seems to me that it is only a question of time when this concession is to be granted. There is a word which we have often heard in these debates, and we have heard it to-night, both from the supporters and the opponents of this measure. It is "inevitable." "It is inevitable," say some of the opponents of the measure. But why? I think my right hon. Friend said last year, if he has not said this, that it is inevitable because no one would speak out on this question. Well, I think my right hon. Friend and those who speak in this way of themselves do their courage and the courage of their friends an injustice. I believe that if they were really convinced that there was mischief or danger in this proposal, they would speak out loud enough. But I believe the reason why there is no one found to speak against this proposal is, that they are not convinced of the danger, and that they cannot find any logical ground on which to resist it, "Inevitable" this change is, say also the supporters of the Motion, and they say it, it seems to me, with infinitely more justice, because, according to what they maintain, this is a claim which seems to be founded upon justice, and not upon justice only, but also upon expediency. I do not in the least want to contend that our Parliamentary institutions ought to be framed upon a model of perfect symmetry. I do not believe we are ever likely to attain such a point as that; but I do say, that unless practical reasons can be alleged against the proposition, there is a point beyond which it is clear that inequality and incongruity may be pushed, and as to which inequality and incongruity may become inexpedient. There is no advantage in apportioning our Parliamentary representation on a system of mere caprice, and so long as persons living under exactly the same conditions in different parts of the country are admitted here to the franchise, and those are absolutely excluded, I cannot do otherwise but hold that our Parliamentary system of representation is at present founded solely upon a principle of caprice. Sir, it is almost admitted that if this claim were urged with passion and with excitement, it would soon be granted. Well, now, Sir, I want to ask the House whether the fact that it is a claim not urged with passion and excitement is any good ground for its rejection. There is no doubt that the time will come when questions which interest largely the excluded portion of the population will be urged, I hope not with violence, but, certainly, with more excitement and more passion than it is now. I cannot help thinking it will be to the advantage of our Constitution and to the dignity of Parliament that this question should receive greater and more candid consideration under those circumstances than it does now. I say, as has been said by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Lowe), it is one of the greatest and most important subjects with which Parliament can ever have to deal. As to the re-distribution part of the question, it is one of the most difficult subjects we can have to deal with; but, surely, if the justice and expediency of the claim cannot be denied, it is on that account far more desirable that it should be dealt with, and should, if possible, be settled at a time when it is urged with calmness and moderation, than when it is urged with clamour and popular agitation. In this position of the question, it seems to me that the abstract arguments, of which we have heard so much in the discussion of to-night, are not of so much value as they might be under other circumstances. They are extremely interesting; but I cannot help thinking that they are not altogether relative to the point at issue. The fact is, that the case has been fully argued before another tribunal which has already decided; the question has been argued in the case of the householders in towns, and it has been decided in their favour. Without going into detail on the arguments which have been used to-night, I should like to ask the House whether there is one of the abstract arguments which have been used against this proposition to-night which might not have been urged with equal force—and, probably, was urged with equal force—in the case of the householders in towns? I hold, that unless new evidence has been brought — and I submit that no new evidence has been brought — the precedent of the boroughs must be decisive in this case also. Sooner or later it is a case that will be pressed. Therefore, unless new arguments and new evidence can be adduced against this claim, I hold that the verdict of this House must be in accordance with the verdict of preceding Parliaments, and must be in favour of the rated householders in counties. There is one argument of my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe) which I do not like to pass over altogether. My right hon. Friend laid great stress upon the point—and it was the main point of his argument—that this measure would be a precedent for further extension to manhood suffrage. Well, now, Sir, I must say I am quite unable to follow my right hon. Friend in that part of his argument. It seems to me that a precedent which has been established in boroughs is a very valid and weighty precedent in favour of extending the franchise to householders living in exactly the same position in counties. I cannot see that a precedent which has been established in boroughs, by being extended to counties would, in any degree whatever, be a precedent in favour of the admission to the franchise of persons living altogether in different positions and circumstances. I suppose my right hon. Friend will allow that there is a greater difference between a person who has not got a house of his own and a householder, than there is between a householder living outside a Parliamentary borough and a householder living within it. Because the extension of the franchise to a householder within a borough is an example to be followed in the case of his neighbour outside the boundary, I cannot see that that is any precedent whatever in the case of a person who lives in an altogether different position of things. At all events, on this point I may appeal to hon. Gentlemen who sit on the other side of the House. Do they think, or do they not think, that there was any principle in the measure that they passed in 1867? If they think that there was a principle in household suffrage; if they think that the adoption of household suffrage was a bar against a further lowering of the suffrage, why have they no confidence in that principle now; and why should they hesitate to extend to counties that suffrage they thought so excellent for the Parliamentary borough? Sir, I am inclined to think it is not abstract arguments, however they may be urged, that will weigh in this House. I believe that their hesitation is caused rather by the practical difficulty of the case in regard to the re-distribution of seats than by anything else. I think my hon. Friend the Member for the Border Boroughs (Mr. Trevelyan) has done very well to bring these two subjects together under the view of the House. He has done well, because I believe that whenever the House does proceed to deal practically with this question it will insist, as it has done before, that the question shall not be dealt with partially, but shall be dealt with as a whole. At the same time, I must protest against the idea that the two questions are to be confounded together. The question of the extension of the franchise should be altogether distinct and separate from that of re-distribution of seats. The case for re-distribution rests on very different grounds from those for the extension of the franchise. Sir, I have no doubt the House is acquainted with some statistics which were given in this House by the Earl of Beaconsfield, and which produced at that time a great impression on the House, and, with the permission of the House, I should like to refer to them for a moment. Shortly speaking, they were these—the Earl of Beaconsfield showed that there were 1,250,000 electors in boroughs, who returned 297 Members, and that under this proposal 1,750,000 in the counties would only return 187; and he said it would be impossible that the House could, without very great consideration, proceed to sanction a change which would bring about such an anomaly as that. I admit that it would be an anomaly to a certain extent; but it would not be an anomaly that would be created for the first time by the proposal of the hon. Member. What is the state of things now? What is the population of these counties which are represented by 187 Members? The population is 12,059,000, as compared with a borough population of 10,600,000. To a certain extent, therefore, that anomaly exists already, unless you admit that the unenfranchised class are unworthy of representation. Then the 900,000 or 1,000,000 voters will, you say, destroy the balance of the borough representation. Why will it destroy the representation? The balance of representation will be fairer than it is now. Those 1,000,000 voters will have a share—a small share, it is true—of the representation, whereas they have none now. The true statement of the case seems to be this—-that the 800,000 who now have the franchise will no doubt, by the proposal of my hon. Friend, lose a portion of their Parliamentary representation. If you think they will lose too large a share of their Parliamentary power, the only remedy, no doubt, is that that share should be made up to them from some of the smaller boroughs which now possess representation altogether disproportionate to their size and importance. Well, Sir, I must confess that I am surprised that statistics of this character, depending upon an anomaly in our representation, should have been brought forward on that side of the House, and should have as much weight on that side of the House. Sir, my hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke) has on other occasions brought forward exhaustive statistics for the purpose of showing the anomalies of our borough representation. I will not trouble the House at this late hour of the night with any details on that subject; but I will only mention one comparison, which I have no doubt is familiar to most hon. Members, and which, it appears to me, exhibits a great deal more curious anomaly than any to which the Earl of Beaconsfield referred. Compare the borough representation in boroughs with a population under 50,000, with those with a population over 50,000, and what is the result? In 191 boroughs, with a population of under 50,000, having in all a population of about 3,500,000, with 490,000 voters, 245 Members were returned; while in 60 boroughs, with a population of above 50,000, containing 9,500,000inhabitants, or three times as many inhabitants, 1,244,000 electors, or about three times as many electors, only 114 Members, or less than half the other number, were returned. "When anomalies of that sort exist, I do not say that they are necessarily to be swept away by perfect uniformity; but when anomalies of that sort exist, I do not understand a measure of expediency and justice such as I understand this to be, resisted on the other side merely on the ground of your creating such an anomaly as that stated by the Prime Minister. I do not think that my hon. Friend the Member for the Border Boroughs is called upon to produce any plan, and I do not think that we on this side are called upon to produce any plan for the re-distribution of seats by which this measure ought to be accompanied; but I adhere to what I said last year— that I have no wish to see the country divided into equal electoral districts. I have no desire—indeed, I should greatly regret—to see any city or community possessing any vitality deprived of its Representative in this House; but there are small, decaying boroughs which do not represent anything in particular; which do not represent any great interests of the nation; which are not progressive themselves, and which, in my opinion, are over represented. And, I believe, there are communities—rising and growing communities—and to which some of the Members for these small and decaying boroughs might with advantage be transferred. I believe there are other communities — agricultural, industrial, manufacturing, and commercial communities which do not possess that amount of representation which, by their importance, they are entitled, to. I believe that, without going into equal electoral districts, or any scheme of that sort, it would not be difficult to frame a plan of re-distribution which would add strength and vitality to our Parliamentary representation, and I trust that some day or other the Parliament and the Government will be found which will undertake this task. I do not suppose it can be expected that in the midst of the arduous occupations which are now engrossing them, Her Majesty's Government will address themselves to this question; but I think it is to be regretted that during the four years which this Parliament has sat, and during which time no great or exciting question has occupied the time of the House, this question should not have received a greater amount of consideration and attention than it has had. They have not attempted to settle the question. It will have to be settled sooner or later, and if left to the future the question probably will have to be settled under circumstances less advantageous than those we have had up to now.


Sir, I agree with the noble Lord, that the debate which is now drawing to a conclusion has turned much more upon abstract arguments than upon practical considerations, and I shall not find it necessary to enter at very great length into the discussion of those arguments. We are not now in the position of a mere debating society; we are considering a question with a view to practical legislation. But, Sir, before I say a word on the general conduct and course of the debate, I wish to reply to an observation of the noble Lord as to the, as he said, inconsistent conduct of Her Majesty's Government respecting the question of Reform. The noble Lord asked how it was that the Conservative Party, who had for a considerable time been leading us in this matter, had all of a sudden come to a standstill, and refused to proceed any further in the same path. The noble Lord referred, too, to the Chandos Clause of the Act of 1832 and to the provisions of the Act of 1867, and he said that those proceedings implied such views on the part of those who now sit on these benches that it would be inconsistent of them if they now refused to go further in the same path—that is to say, in the direction of the Resolution of the hon. Member for the Border Boroughs. Well, I really do not understand what the meaning and feeling of the noble Lord can be in this matter. He said—"Having gone so far in 1867, why are you not prepared to go further now? Why do you maintain with respect to the counties a distinction which you did away with in that year with regard to the boroughs?" Well, but the noble Lord was himself a Member of the House in 1867. If I mistake not, he had a seat in the Cabinet which initiated the Reform Bill of the preceding year. The noble Lord knew perfectly well the course of the argument then, and I ask him, does he not remember the circumstances under which legislation proceeded? Does he not know that the distinction — the difference — between county and borough franchise was under consideration, and that the House of Commons deliberately decided that that difference should be maintained? Anyone not in that Parliament listening to the noble Lord to-night might imagine that in 1867 we were legislating with respect to the borough franchise, and nothing else. But that is not the case. We had at that time undertaken a great re-settlement of the representation of the country, and had to consider, not only the borough, but also the county franchise—and in the county franchise a great change was made. It was, in fact, reduced from £50 to £12. How was that done? It was done by a proposal made by the Government of the day to substitute £15 for £50. Then the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Locke King) who had always taken a deep interest in the question, proposed that instead of the £15 being agreed to, it should be £10. Then a discussion arose, and I think Sir Edward Dering proposed, as a compromise, that the intermediate sum of £12 should be adopted. After some discussion that compromise of £12 was adopted, not only without serious opposition, but without any opposition at all; and the noble Lord and his Friends not only sat by and assented to that being done, but they expressed by their Leader their approval of the maintenance of the franchise on a rating basis. I have here a speech made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), and what did he say? He said that upon the whole they preferred the £10 rating, but they were prepared to accept the compromise; and then he expressed an earnest wish that it would be desirable so to settle this question that agitation should not be renewed. He said, further, that it was wise to make a settlement once for all, so as to avoid a renewal, at least on an early date, of the agitation on this question. Now, that was very important when we come to deal with the matter, not as an abstract question, nor as a debating society. When we come to deal with it as a question of practical legislation, you will have to consider what was the policy adopted at the time of the previous settlement by Parliament, when its attention had been concentrated upon a question which had been agitating the country for a considerable time, and which had been before that Parliament for two or three Sessions consecutively, and when a general settlement was being made. You must bear in mind that that settlement was made with a view to its being of a durable character. I do not say it was a question of its being of a final character—that is a wholly different question. From time to time, at long intervals, it may be wise to re-consider the representation of the country; but I say to re-consider it and pull it about every 10 years is a very serious consideration, and one to be very much guarded against. The hon. Member for the Border Boroughs comes forward and makes a proposal of a very large and serious character; I think the hon. Member for Orkney (Mr.Laing) spoke of it as a very small step, and there have been some observations from the noble Lord, I think, to the same effect. Indeed, anyone listening to this debate would suppose that the matter was of a very trivial character, and that the proposal was one to rectify a small and obvious anomaly. But, in point of fact, the effect of the proposal of the hon. Member for the Border Boroughs, if it were adopted, would be to introduce into the electoral body of the United Kingdom a larger number of new electors than was ever before introduced by any single Reform Bill. The great Reform Bill of 1867 introduced, all told, something like 1,200,000; but as far as I can see—I do not pretend to have studied the statistics very minutely—this proposal would introduce something not far from 1,500,000 new voters. At all events, without going minutely into the question of figures, the numbers that would be introduced would be so very large that they would very materially disturb and unsettle the bases of representation in this country. There can be no doubt that what the noble Lord said is perfectly true, that if you take such a step as this you would be obliged to accompany it with a very serious re-distribution of seats. It is always found necessary that that should be done; and, without attempting to go into the argument, you would find it impossible to introduce so large a measure of electoral extension without a very considerable re-distribution of seats. I will also express this opinion—that it would be necessary to consider in connection with the redistribution of seats other measures too, if we made so great a change in our electoral system. Perhaps you will have to pass some measure for the representation of minorities, or to make some arrangement that the agricultural labourers shall be fairly represented in proportion to those who live in the centres of population, and whose power is consequently much greater. These are all questions that would have to be considered, and very practical they are; and I think the House would be doing a most unwise thing if it were to assent to an abstract Resolution, not introducing any definite plan, and to commit itself to a principle which it could not leave on the books of Parliament without taking further steps to give effect to it. I could not help remarking that in the speech of the hon. Member for the Border Boroughs, and in the speech of the hon. Member for Chelsea, there was a great want, not only of explanation of the plan by which effect was to be given to the principle, but also a great deficiency of argument to show upon what plan his proposal rested. The arguments of the hon. Member for the Border Boroughs were directed to answering certain objections raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe), in a very ably written article on the subject which appeared some months ago; and even in the speech of the hon. Member for Chelsea, it seemed to me that his ar- guments were for the most part of a negative character, and that he was speaking rather to answer the right hon. Gentleman than to expound the reasons for which he advocated the proposal. But, at the same time, I must say that in the speech of the hon. Member for Chelsea there were one or two indications which appeared to me rather of an ominous nature. He spoke of a comparison between the Legislatures of foreign countries, and compared those in which there was manhood suffrage favourably with those in which there was a restricted suffrage. That showed that he was not particularly alarmed at the prospect of manhood suffrage. I observed, also, that he said that in these cases the presumption is in favour of change, and that the burden of proof lay with those who resisted change. That, I think, is a very significant opinion, and we shall hardly be doing him an injustice if we suppose that he based them on some such principle as the divine right to vote—and if that is the principle that he holds, and that many people hold, I think it is most dangerous, and one to which the House ought most certainly not to consent. I have heard the right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright), who is generally far in advance on these questions, whilst discussing another measure —the propriety of granting the franchise to women—lay down a doctrine which was against the recognition of granting equal rights to all—that it was the right of the State to decide to whom they would entrust the franchise. I therefore do not believe that any large number of hon. Gentlemen opposite would adopt the principle advocated by the hon. Member for Chelsea. But we ought to have that clearly understood, and when we are asked to pass legislation of an abstract character, without any definite plan being laid down, and which is not supported by any sufficient argument, we ought to be careful not to bind ourselves to any principle. There was another observation made by the hon. Baronet to which I wish to refer. He spoke of the division which had taken place last year, and said that although the Motion was defeated here by a majority of the Members who voted, yet if you took the constituencies represented by those Members, you would find that there was a majority of the consti- tuencies who were in favour of the Motion that was then rejected. Now, what is the use of an argument of that sort? Are we not only to take the votes of the Representatives, but to count up the number of persons represented by them. If you act on that principle you will find it a most inconvenient one. The hon. Member for Chelsea pointed to something like an approximation to electoral districts. Now if you are to have electoral districts, some of the consequences must follow which were pointed out by one hon. Member—that the representation of Ireland must be reduced by 40 or 50. ["No, no!"] I am not accepting that calculation; and I daresay if we were to come to discuss it, it would not be precisely correct, but there can be no doubt that the number would be considerably reduced. All these circumstances prove the danger of committing ourselves to an abstract Re-solution of which we cannot foresee the results. Stress has been laid on the existing anomalies; but I would ask whether it is possible to get rid of all the anomalies of the British Constitution without at the same time getting rid of the British Constitution itself? There are anomalies in the British Constitution. It is not apiece of work put together by a clever joiner, but an organization which has grown up in the course of centuries, and which throws its shoots here and there, and presents a surface not entirely uniform and smooth, but all the stronger because it is not so. Other arguments have been adduced in this discussion. We have heard of the interests of a class not being fairly considered, unless that class is directly represented in this House; but I think that is a very dangerous argument to use. I do not think it has been proved that the interests of the class of whom we have been speaking are not regarded in this House. If, however, you lay down the principle that in order to get the interests of every class of the community properly represented in this House, you must admit that class to the franchise, I must ask where you are going to stop. Why are you going to stop at householders? I do not know that persons who are not householders may not have interests which ought to be equally represented with the interests of those who are householders. If you accept the principle to which I have just referred, where are you to find your answer to the claim put forward for granting the franchise to women? They have rights and interests that are to be considered, and they might say, on the principle which I am combating, that their rights could not be fairly considered unless they were admitted into the House of Commons. Therefore you should consider what principles you are admitting before you commit yourselves to an abstract Resolution of this kind. There is another principle which we might seem to be affirming, if we adopted this Resolution. That would be affirming, on the part of this House, an opinion that the present is the time at which it is desirable to take up this question. No one, I think, will doubt that I am right when I say that it is undesirable to pass an abstract Resolution of this kind, and then to say—"We leave it on the Books, and do not intend to do anything further with it." You had better set the matter aside than take a step of that kind, and I think even the promoters of the Resolution will say that this is no unreasonable proposition on my part. I ask hon. Members whether they think it desirable, at the present time, to enter upon a question which must again disturb and reopen from the bottom the whole representation of the country. I venture to think that this is a time when you will require firm and settled government. There was, I think, great force in many of the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen) as to the difficulties experienced by the Executive Government in the state of its present. relations to Parliament and the country. I hope that those difficulties may solve themselves; that, as we go on, we may learn to deal consistently and with courage with the questions which are raised; and that we may find it possible to do ample justice to the interests of those whom we represent without weakness or vacillation on the part of the Government. I am not speaking now of the present Government merely, but of the Executive Government, from whatever Party it may be drawn. To give the Executive Government, a fair chance of taking its proper place in the Constitution of the country it is desirable that we should have a time of repose from questions of this kind. I trust, therefore, that the House will agree with us in voting that the Speaker do leave the Chair, and that we shall not go into the questions which would be raised by the hon. Gentleman's Resolution.


remarked that the population of Ireland was 5,340,000, and the total population of England and Wales was 22,000,000. Ireland had now 103 seats, but according to her population she was entitled to 109.

Question put.

The House divided: —Ayes 271; Noes 219: Majority 52.

Adderley, rt. hn. Sir C. Chaplin, H.
Agnew, R. V. Christie, W. L.
Alexander, Colonel Churchill, Lord R.
Allen, Major Clive, Col. hon. G. W.
Allsopp, C. Close, M. C.
Arkwright, A. P. Clowes, S. W.
Arkwright, F. Cobbold, T. C.
Ashbury, J. L. Cole, Col. hon. H. A.
Assheton, R. Coope, O. E.
Astley, Sir J. D. Cordes, T.
Bagge, Sir W. Corry, hon. H. W. L.
Bailey, Sir J. R. Corry, J. P.
Balfour, A. J. Cotton, W. J. R.
Baring, T. C. Crichton, Viscount
Barne, F. St. J. N. Cross, rt. hon. R. A.
Barttelot, Sir W. B. Cubitt, G.
Bates, E. Cust, H. C.
Bateson, Sir T. Davenport, W. B.
Bathurst, A. A. Deedes, W.
Beach,rt.hon. Sir M. H. Denison, C. B.
Beach, W. W. B. Denison, W. E.
Bective, Earl of Dickson, Major A. G.
Benett-Stanford, V. F. Digby, Col. hon. E.
Bentinck, rt. hon. G. C. Duff, J.
Bentinck, G. W. P. Dyott, Colonel R.
Beresford, Lord C. Eaton, H. W.
Beresford, G. De la P. Edmonstone, Admiral Sir W.
Beresford, Colonel M.
Birley, H. Egerton, hon. A. F.
Blackburne, Col. J. I. Egerton, hon. W.
Bourke, hon. R. Elliot, G. W.
Bourne, Colonel Elphinstone, Sir J. D. H.
Bousfield, Colonel Estcourt, G. S.
Bowen, J. B. Ewing, A. O.
Bowyer, Sir G. Fellowes, E.
Brise, Colonel R. Fielden, J.
Broadley, W. H. H. Finch, G. H.
Brooks, W. C. Folkestone, Viscount
Bruce, Lord C. Forester, C. T. W.
Bruce, hon. T. Forsyth, W.
Bruen, H. Foster, W. H.
Brymer, W. E. Fraser, Sir W. A.
Bulwer, J. R. Fremantle, hon. T. F.
Burghley, Lord Freshfield, C. K.
Burrell, Sir W. W. Galway, Viscount
Buxton, Sir R. J. Gardner, J. T. Agg-
Cameron, D. Gardner, R. Richardson-
Campbell, C.
Cartwright, F. Garnier, J. C.
Cave, rt. hon. S. Gibson, rt. hon. E.
Cecil, Lord E. H. B. G Giffard, Sir H. S.
Chaplin, Colonel E. Goddard, A. L.
Goldney, G. Marten, A. G.
Gordon, Sir A. Mellor, T. W.
Gordon, W. Merewether, C. G.
Goschen, rt. hon. G. J. Mills, Sir C. H.
Grantham, W. Monckton, F.
Greenall, Sir G. Montgomery, Sir G. G.
Greene, E. Moray, H. E. S. H. D.
Gregory, G. B. Morgan, hon. F.
Hall, A. W. Mowbray, rt. hon. J. R.
Halsey, T. F. Mulholland, J.
Hamilton, Lord G. Muncaster, Lord
Hamilton, Marquess of Naghten, Lt.-Colonel
Hamond, C. F. Newdegate, C. N.
Harcourt, E. W. Noel, rt. hon. G. J.
Hardcastle, E. North, Colonel
Hardy, rt. hon. G. Northcote, rt. hon. Sir S. H.
Hardy, S.
Hay, rt. hn. Sir J. C. D. Onslow, D.
Heath, R. Paget, R. H.
Herbert, hon. S. Palk, Sir L.
Hermon, E. Parker, Lt.-Col. W.
Hervey, Lord F. Pateshall, E.
Heygate, W. U. Peek, Sir H.
Hick, J. Peel, rt. hon. Sir R.
Hildyard, T. B. T. Pell, A.
Hinching, brook, Vise. Pemberton, E. L.
Holford, J. P. G. Pennant, hon. G.
Holker, Sir J. Peploe, Major
Holland, Sir H. T. Percy, Earl
Holmesdale, Viscount Plunket, hon. D. R.
Home, Captain Plunkett, hon. R.
Hood, Captain hon. A. W. A. N. Powell, W.
W.A.N. Praed, C. T.
Hope, A. J. B. B. Praed, H. B.
Hubbard, E. Price, Captain
Isaac, S. 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, Sir M. W.
Kennard, Colonel Ritchie, C. T.
Kennaway, Sir J. H. Round, J.
King-Harman, E. R. Russell, Sir C.
Knight, F. W. Ryder, G. R.
Knowles, T. Sackville, S. G. S.
Lawrence, Sir T. Salt, T.
Learmonth, A. Sanderson, T. K.
Lechmere, Sir E. A. H. Sclater-Booth, rt. hn. G.
Lee, Major V. Scott, Lord H.
Legard, Sir C. Scott, M. D.
Logh, W. J. Selwin - Ibbetson, Sir H. J.
Leighton, Sir B.
Leighton, S. Severne, J. E.
Lennox, Lord H. G. Simonds, W. B.
Leslie, Sir J. Smith, A.
Lewis, C. E. Smith, F. C.
Lindsay, Colonel R. L. Smith, S. G.
Lindsay, Lord Smith, rt. hn. W. H.
Lloyd, S. Smollett, P. B.
Lloyd, T. E. Somerset, Lord H. R.C.
Lopes, Sir M. Stanhope, hon. E.
Lowe, rt. hon. R. Stanhope. W. T. W. S.
Lowther, hon. W. Stanley, Col. hon. F.
Lowther, J. Starkie, J. P. C.
Macartney, J. W. E. Steere, L.
M'Garel-Hogg, Sir J. Stewart, M. J.
Majendie, L. A. Storer, G.
Makins, Colonel Sykes, C.
Malcolm, J. W. Talbot, J. G.
Mandeville, Viscount Taylor, rt. hon. Col.
Manners, rt. hn. Lord J. Thornhill, T.
March, Earl of Thynne, Lord H. F,
Tollemaehe,hon. W. F. Wethered, T. O.
Torr, J. Wheel house, W. S. J.
Tremayne, J. Whitelaw, A.
Twells, P. Wilmot, Sir H.
Verner, E. W. Wilmot, Sir J. E.
Wait, W. K. Woodd, B. T.
Walker, T. E. Wroughton, P.
Wallace, Sir E. Wyndham, hon. P.
Walpole, rt. hon. S. Wynn, C. W. W.
Walsh, hon. A. Yarmouth, Earl of
Warburton, P. E. Yorke, J. R.
Watney, J.
Welby-Gregory,SirW. TELLERS.
Wellesley, Colonel Dyke, Sir W. H.
Wells, E. Winn, R.
Acland, Sir T. D. Cowen, J.
Adam, rt. hon. W. P. Cross, J. K.
Allen, W. S. Davies, D.
Anderson, G. Delahunty, J.
Ashley, hon. E. M. Dillwyn, L. L.
Backhouse, E. Dodds, J.
Balfour, Sir G. Dodson, rt. hon. J. G.
Barclay, J. W. Duff, M. E. G.
Barran, J. Dunbar, J.
Bass, A Edwards, H.
Baxter, rt. hon. W. E. Egerton, Adm. hon. F.
Bazley, Sir T. Ennis, N.
Beaumont, Colonel F. Errington, G.
Beaumont, W. B. Eyton, P. E.
Bell, I. L. Fawcett, H.
Biddulph, M. Fay, C. J.
Biggar, J. G. Ferguson, R.
Blake, T. Fitzmaurice, Lord E.
Blennerhassett, R. P. Forster, Sir C.
Brady, J. Forster, rt. hon. W. E.
Brassey, H. A. Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E.
Brassey, T. Gladstone, W. H.
Briggs, W. E. Goldsmid, Sir F.
Bright, J. (Manchester) Goldsmid, J.
Bright, rt. hon. J. Gordon, Lord D.
Bristowe, S. B. Gourley, E. T.
Brocklehurst, W. C. Gower, hon. E. F. L.
Brogden, A. Grant, A.
Brooks, M. Gray, E. D.
Brown, A. H. Grey, Earl do
Brown, J. C. Grosvenor, Lord R.
Browne, G. E. Hankey, T.
Burt, T. Harcourt, Sir W. V.
Cameron, C. Harrison, C.
Campbell, Sir G. Harrison, J. F.
Campbell - Bannerman, H. Hartington, Marq. of
Havelock, Sir H.
Carington, hn. Col. W. Hayter, A. D.
Cartwright, W. C. Herschell, F.
Cavendish, Lord F. C. Hibbert, J. T.
Chadwick. D. Hill, T. E.
Chamberlain, J. Holland, S.
Chambers, Sir T. Holms, W.
Childers, rt. hon. H. Howard, hon. C.
Cholmeley, Sir H. Hutchinson, J. D.
Clarke, J. C. Ingram, W. J.
Clifford, C. C. Jackson, Sir H. M.
Cole, H. T. James, W. H.
Colebrooke, Sir T. E. James, Sir H.
Colman, J. J. Jenkins, D. J.
Conyngham, Lord F. Jenkins, E.
Corbett, J. Johnstone, Sir H.
Cotes, C. C. Kay-Shuttleworth, Sir U.
Cowan, J.
Kenealy, Dr. Playfair, rt. hon. L.
Kensington, Lord Plimsoll, S.
Kingscote, Colonel Potter, T. B.
Kirk, G. H. Power, J. O'C.
Knatchbull-Huggessen, rt. hon. E Price, W. E.
Ralli, P.
Laing, S. Ramsay, J.
Lambert, N. G. Rathbone, W.
Laverton, A. Redmond, W. A.
Lawrence, Sir J. C. Reed, E. J.
Lawson, Sir W. Richard, H.
Leatham, E. A. Robertson, H.
Leeman, G. Rothschild, Sir N. M. de
Lefevre, G. J. S. Russell, Lord A.
Leith, J. F. Rylands, P.
Lloyd, M. St. Aubyn, Sir J.
Locke, J. Samuda, J. D'A.
Lorne, Marquess of Samuelson, B.
Lubbock, Sir J. Seely. C.
Lush, Dr. Sheil, E.
Lusk, Sir A. Sheridan, H. B.
Macdonald, A. Simon, Mr. Serjeant
Macduff, Viscount Sinclair, Sir J. G. T.
Mackintosh, C. F. Smith, E.
M'Arthur, A. Smyth, R.
M'Arthur, W. Spinks, Mr. Serjeant
M'Kenna, Sir J. N. Stansfeld, rt. hon. J.
M'Lagan, P. Stanton, A. J.
M'Laren, D. Stevenson, J. C.
Maitland, J. Stewart, J.
Maitland, W. F. Stuart, Colonel
Marjoribanks, Sir D. C. Sullivan, A. M.
Marling, S. S. Tavistock, Marquess of
Massey, rt. hon. W. N. Taylor, D.
Middleton, Sir A. E. Taylor, P. A.
Milbank, F. A. Temple, right hon. W. Cowper-
Monk, C. J.
Montagu, rt. hn. Lord R. Torrens, W. T. M'C.
Morgan, G. O. Tracy, hon. F. S. A. Hanbury-
Morley, S.
Mundella, A. J. Villiers, rt. hon. C. P.
Muntz, P. H. Vivian, A. P.
Noel, E. Vivian, H. H.
Nolan, Major Waddy, S. D.
Norwood, C. M. Walter, J.
O'Byrne, W. R. Ward, M. F.
O'Clery, K. Waterlow, Sir S. H.
O'Conor, D. M. Weguelin, T. M.
O'Donnell, F. H. Whitbread, S.
O'Reilly, M. Whitwell, J.
O'Shaughnessy, R. Whitworth, B.
O'Sullivan, W. H. Whitworth, W.
Palmer, C. M. Williams, W.
Parker, C. S. Wilson, C.
Parnell, C. S. Yeaman, J.
Peel, A. W. Young, A. W.
Pender, J.
Pennington, F. TELLERS.
Perkins, Sir F. Dilke, Sir C.
Philips, R. N. Trevelyan, G. O.

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

Original Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Committee deferred till Monday next.