HC Deb 21 March 1882 vol 267 cc1443-533

, in rising to call attention to the representation of the people, and to move—

  • "1. That, in the opinion of this House, it would be desirable, so soon as the state of public business shall permit, to establish Uniformity of Franchise, throughout the whole of the United Kingdom, by a Franchise similar in principle to that established in the English boroughs:
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  • "2. That it would he desirable so to redistribute political power as to obtain a more equitable representation of the opinion of the electoral body,"
said, that these were similar, though not identical, Resolutions to those brought forward by his hon. Friend the Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan) in 1879. The verbal changes which he had made did not seem to depart from the meaning of the former proposal, whilst they appeared to express with greater accuracy the sense of the important minority which supported his hon. Friend on that occasion. He had been careful to adhere, as closely as possible, to the lines of his hon. Friend's proposal for three reasons. In the first place, he desired to secure the fullest possible amount of that important body of assent which was given to his hon. Friend; and, secondly, he wished to stand towards Amendments of every kind in the same unequivocal position. The Amendment placed on the Paper by the hon. Member for County Kerry (Mr. Blennerhassett) might very well not be submitted to the House, because there was not a word in these Resolutions which was in any way contradictory of the proposal in that Amendment, or which disentitled him from claiming his hon. Friend's support. His hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Hugh Mason) had exercised forbearance in not proposing an Amendment concerning the addition of female suffrage, a proposal in regard to which he was one of the hon. Gentleman's supporters. But he was glad the hon. Member recognized that the question of women's suffrage was of such importance that it should be discussed on a separate occasion, and that the present Resolutions might be considered without prejudice to the claims of which he was the Parliamentary champion. His third reason for adhering closely to the terms of the proposal of his hon. Friend the Member for the Border Burghs was because, remembering with what persevering eloquence and ever-increasing success he carried forward this great question, it was his anxious desire that the triumphant acceptance by the House of these Resolutions, which he confidently anticipated in the division which would be taken, should be in the least possible degree his own success, and that the honours of victory should rest with his hon. Friend and with those who had supported him before he (Mr. Arnold) had a seat in the House. He would remind the House that in March, 1879, the latest occasion upon which the question of Parliamentary Reform was under discussion, the Motion of his hon. Friend was rejected by a considerable majority, and a Resolution was adopted, without a division, in these terms— That this House is of opinion that it is inexpedient to reopen the question of Parliamentary Reform. It was in accordance with the opinion of the country, and, looking to the results of the General Election of 1880, in accordance with the duty of the House, that that decision should be reversed as speedily as possible, and without waiting until the question—to use a metaphor of Mr. Disraeli's—"shed its last skin," and became, by Royal announcement of legislation, transformed from a Parliamentary question into a Ministerial question. He was far from complaining that the Government had relegated the question to a future Session. To have dealt with it in the present year would have been premature, because measures of this sort could not be submitted to Parliament without being a menace to the life of the existing Parliament; and he felt confident that the electors of the country did not desire a Dissolution unless the Prime Minister should find himself unable to go forward with the programme of legislation which the country had enthusiastically accepted at his hands. Now, his hon. Friend the Member for Kerry proposed to do in an obscure apartment of the House what he proposed to accomplish by the inquest of Parliament with the Government of the country, which had the confidence of the great majority of the Members of the House and of a still greater majority of the people. That was the only difference between his hon. Friend and himself. His hon. Friend proposed an inquiry by a Select Committee, whilst these Resolutions required that there should be an inquiry by that Executive Committee which was made up of the Government, duly informed by the utterances of the Members in debate. He saw no possible advantage in an inquiry such as his hon. Friend suggested; it would be, in his opinion, injurious and productive of dissatisfaction. It seemed to him that the authority of Select Com- mittees would be impaired by employing them to report upon matters which involved the most responsible functions of Government. But, holding that opinion, he was bound to say that, in his view, it was expedient and beneficial that in a matter so vital to the country the Government should learn from Members of the House what, in their judgment, were the best plans and methods of Parliamentary Reform. There were few Members of the Government whose influence would carry greater weight upon this matter than the Postmaster General; and there were few Members of the House who would not agree with him when he said in November last, addressing his constituents at Hackney, that nothing could be a greater misfortune than if, on such a subject, a Government should have to frame a measure without knowing what were the wishes of the people with reference to it. He thought his hon. Friend the Member for Kerry would admit that such information was not to be obtained by the device of a Select Committee. This was not a matter to be decided upon the evidence of experts; it needed the open inquiry of Parliament. The Report of a Select Committee would derive weight only from the names and the character and the talents of those composing it; but they could contribute nothing to that Committee which they could not give to the House by taking part in this debate. He agreed so entirely with the Postmaster General that, except from feelings of personal insufficiency, he had no hesitation in bringing forward these Resolutions, with a view to promote discussion upon them for the information of those who would have, in due time, to introduce legislative proposals upon the subject. What was wanted was not the Report of a Select Committee, but the Report of the Government in the shape of legislative proposals. He would make an effort to treat the matter without any betrayal of Party spirit; but looking at the stage which the question had reached, and having regard to the attitude which he had felt it his duty to assume, it would be disrespectful to the House if he did not state some of the views which he himself held upon the methods of carrying into effect these Resolutions. If legislation proceeded upon theoretical lines this matter would be divided into two great parts; and the enactment of a measure extending the franchise to the counties, and giving, in fact, uniformity of franchise over the whole of the United Kingdom, would precede a measure providing for an equitable redistribution of political power. But the enactment of this uniformity of franchise was not quite so simple a matter as some hon. Members supposed. The extension of the borough franchise to the counties was a large part, but certainly not the most contentious part, of this great matter. He hoped the Government would next year introduce a Bill for the establishment of uniformity of franchise by making universal that borough franchise which recognized a citizen in his house or in his lodging, and abolishing every other franchise except that of the graduates of Universities. He knew that was not a mode of procedure which was favoured by hon. Gentlemen opposite, or that met the views of some of his own political connection, and that it might possibly raise obstacles in this as well as the other House of Parliament. He hoped, however, that the Government, if they did not take that course, would not fail in the succeeding year to submit the whole matter, including an adequate scheme of re-distribution, for the acceptance of Parliament. When this matter was in the hands of his hon. Friend the Member for the Border Burghs, the question was always spoken of as "the county franchise." While the extension of the home franchise as it existed, or would exist, in boroughs to the counties was generally regarded as an accepted question among Members, especially of the Liberal Party, he dared say the House would permit him very briefly to review the probable results of that extension in the somewhat new light of the Census of 1881. The proportion of electors to population in England and Wales was about one in 10. In the Parliamentary boroughs there were 2,098,892 inhabited houses, but of electors only 1,591,451, showing an excess of more than 25 per cent of inhabited houses above the number of voters. Fifteen per cent of that excess was accounted for by the fact that there was that proportion of women householders. Having regard to the existence of the lodger franchise and the disproportion between the number of electors and inhabited houses, they saw what grave defects there must be in our law of registration; but he would not refer to that further. In the counties, excluding represented cities and boroughs, there were 2,724,952 inhabited houses. On the register of the counties there were 932,860 electors; and allowing the same proportion of deduction that obtained in boroughs they could not be far wrong in assuming, if this proposal of uniformity of franchise were carried out, that in England and Wales it would add 1,334,000 electors to the register. So restricted was the franchise in Ireland that it appeared probable, if the moderate proposal contained in his Resolution were adopted, that the increase of electors in that country would amount to 500,000, which was nearly double the number of the existing electorate. In Scotland the change would probably add 150,000 voters, making in all an addition of about 2,000,000 to the electors of the United Kingdom. The Act of 1867 added about 1,200,000 voters to the register. This proposal, if adopted, would bring up the total number of electors in the United Kingdom to about 5,077,000, or about one in seven of the population. At present every freeholder of the value of 40s. was qualified to vote for a county, and so, in like manner, was the holder of a copyhold or a leasehold, either for the life of one person or for a period of not less than 60 years, of the annual value of £5. Then there was a certain number of boroughs in which there were freemen voters, and 11 cities and seven boroughs which were in themselves counties corporate, where non-resident freeholders exercised the borough franchise. The total of such voters could, however, only be a very few thousand. The abolition of those franchises, which he should contend was a matter of essential importance in any satisfactory scheme of Parliamentary Reform, would not cause a very great diminution in the total number of voters in the Kingdom. Taking the freehold franchise at 10 per cent of the number of county electors, that would only cause a reduction of 102,943 electors in the United Kingdom. At one time the franchise in the counties was restricted to owners of 40s. freeholds. The abuse of that freehold franchise was well known to hon. Members; but that was not the principal ground upon which he should urge the abolition of the freehold franchise. If the home franchise—the residental franchise—in counties was not made practically the only existing franchise, the extension would produce discontent. The borough franchise would in that case be very much more restricted than the county franchise; because in the boroughs there would be a franchise limited by residence, and in the counties a franchise representing both residence and property. Therefore, the grievance would only be removed from the counties to the boroughs; and unless the abolition of the freeholders, the freemen, and the lease and copy holders was undertaken, the cost and confusion would be greater than it was at present, and there would be one franchise in the boroughs and another in the counties. There could be no equality of suffrage throughout the Kingdom if a house on one side of a street happened to be in a county and enfranchised not only the occupier, but perhaps a score of persons holding each a charge of 40s., while the same house if in a borough would, so far as the borough was concerned, confer the franchise only on the rated occupier. Unless Parliament desired that property in boroughs should have no representation, and that property in counties should have a representation wholly different, the freehold franchise must be either abolished or extended. His contention was that the retention of this franchise would be contrary to the just principles of Parliamentary representation. Parliament showed no tenderness whatever for the 40s. freeholders in the case of Ireland when their franchise appeared to threaten Protestant ascendency, and it was ruthlessly abolished in the reign of George IV. He hoped that whenever a new Reform Bill was introduced the simplicity of the provision in regard to Ireland would be copied in Great Britain. From his point of view the abolition of those franchises was essential not only to an equitable re-distribution of political power, but in order to abolish those hard-and-fast lines of electoral division which he considered one of the greatest political evils in this country. The keynote of his first Resolution was uniformity of franchise, which could be only attained by the abolition of every other franchise except the residential franchise as it existed in boroughs, and saving only the franchise of gradu- ates of Universities. Mr. Disraeli always maintained that what was desirable was a representation, not of the majority of the people, but of interests. He (Mr. Arnold) was utterly opposed to that principle, and maintained that what was desired was that the opinions of the majority of the people should be represented in the House, with the security that the opinions of the majority should prevail in legislation. Mr. Disraeli denounced the view that the voice of the numerical majority should prevail; but he (Mr. Arnold) contended that not only was that desirable, but that it was the only rational and only established principle of legislation. He could not conceive a greater revolution than would occur if Mr. Disraeli's dictum was carried out to practical shape. Were they to have hon. Members for the North-Western and the South-Eastern Railways? Were they to provide special representation for the brewers and distillers, for the intoxicating liquor interest, and for the clerical interest? That proposal, when examined, was seen to be a phantasy. Everyone knew what it meant. Mr. Disraeli was devoted to the maintenance of the supremacy of the landed interest in regard to their control of elections in the counties. The owners of land had no claim to special representation in Parliament which could not be pressed with equal, or indeed with greater, force on behalf of other categories of proprietors. Nay, more, inasmuch as it was impossible to dissever the interest of any person from the soil, and inasmuch as the soil of the country was the only natural monopoly in the country, it might reasonably be contended that the claim of the landed interest to a separate representation was not so strong a claim economically as could be made out in favour of the restricted, the not absolute monoply, which was represented by the railway proprietors, the intoxicating liquor interest, the clerical interest, or by any other interest. He imagined that the main objection to the proposal contained in his first Resolution would be, as it always had been before, that it would bring about the domination of the least educated class in the Parliamentary elections of this country. In this country they had had experience of government by a class such as no other country in the world had had, and what had been the result? He was speaking without rancour when he said that government by a class in this country had brought about a state of things in which one-third of Ireland was in the hands of fewer than 300 people, in which 50,000,000 acres of the United Kingdom were in the hands of fewer than 10,000 people, and in which the railways of this country had been loaded with a charge of £100,000,000 sterling in excess of the comparative cost of Continental railways. When this question had been before the House in other years fears had been expressed upon the subject of class legislation, which he should make a passing effort to allay; and especially it had been said that there would be danger in enfranchising the peasant classes, having reference to their connection with the administration of the Poor Law. He should like to ask whether fears of that sort ever conjured up a more objectionable measure than that which was once proposed by the hon. and learned Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Stanhope) for the advance of loans to owners of entailed estates for erection of cottages upon their property? The administration of the Poor Law was most scandalous when it was in the hands of a wealthy and a narrow class, and the teaching of political economy was most disregarded in the administration of the law when its administration was entirely controlled by the landed gentry. It was said of the class that it was now proposed to enfranchise that they were unfriendly to political economy. It was very often forgotten in that House, and forgotten not only by undistinguished but by distinguished Members, that there was an infallible test by which it might be determined whether any proposed measure did or did not violate the law, for there was but one law, of political economy. The question was simply this—Did the measure, or did it not, tend to the creation of wealth? Let them try the test with reference to the class of people whom it was proposed to enfranchise by this Resolution. Last year the Government introduced into their Land Bill one clause—and he contended but one clause only—which violated the law of political economy, If they told a people that, be they ever so thriftless, ever so imprudent and improvident, the State would assist them and their fami- lies, however numerous, into new homes in a new land, they were flagrantly violating the single and supreme law of political economy. It was, however, the Representatives of the poorest of the poor who opposed that violation and reduced the Emigration Clause to nothingness, and then, as always, it was the Representatives of wealth who were pressing the Government to adopt Socialistic legislation. Both in the service of the Poor Law Board and as a Member of Parliament he might claim to have seen and to know as much of the working classes and the poor of this country as the average of right hon. and hon. Members of that House; and he said that, so far from the poor of this country being unfriendly to political economy, they had generally been the friends of political economy, not from any inherent virtue of their own, but because they were peculiarly interested in maintaining the laws which tended to the creation of wealth. In the last century, when class rule prevailed, the House of Commons was party to shameless abuse of State patronage in all Departments; to purchase in the Army; to a regular system of placing infants upon the pay-sheets of the Navy years before they entered the Service; to a traffic by Church dignitaries in leases of lands for their own advantage; and, according to Mr. Disraeli, in a speech on June 20, 1848, hon. Members of that time who supported the Government, were not ashamed openly to receive at the Gangway of that House a sessional douceur of £500 for their support. The Poor Law, which had been called the plague spot upon our laws, was not a law of democratic origin; and he maintained that the way to improve that law, and the way to get rid of the economic sins of that law, was by enfranchising the widest classes of the population of the country. The end they had all in view was the same—the best government of the people. It had been said, to his surprise, that this extension of the franchise would endanger the doctrine of Free Trade; but he contended that the main security of the doctrine of Free Trade in this country at the present time was the determination of the working classes to maintain for themselves the great advantage and blessing of untaxed food. His Resolutions were further objected to because it was said they would establish the rule of a class; but this was certainly a measure for the disestablishment of class government in this country, and the only way to escape government by a class was to enfranchise the nation. They had long been ruled by a class, and it had cost as much, if not more, than if they had been invaded by foreign Armies. Leaders of the Conservative Party had told them, from time to time, that the franchise in boroughs represented people, and that the franchise in counties represented property. Surely the opinion of that Party must be weakened by recent proposals upon that point. It was true that the county franchise did represent property when there was no ballot, and when the tenant farmers voted in accordance with the behests of their landlords; but the county franchise now seemed to him rather to represent the interests of a class, and of that class which was engaged, not in the ownership, but in the occupation of land. In his opinion, the greatest present danger to the just rights of property, of which he was as firm an upholder as any Member of that House, came from the selfish policy and the power of control which the tenant farmers and occupiers of land generally had in the counties. He anticipated with great confidence a material improvement in the representation of Ireland when the exclusive power of control of the tenant farmer was removed, and when power in regard to elections in Ireland was placed more largely—as it would be by his proposal—in the more impartial hands of the artizans and labourers of that country. If the policy he advocated was carried out in Great Britain they would see a much more healthy regard for the rights of property; they would see a much more dignified dealing in Parliament with agricultural questions; they would see less truckling on the part of all parties for the farmers' votes when the farmers had no longer exclusive control over the elections in the counties. In all sincerity he commended this view to the consideration of the landed gentry. The abolition of the freeman vote would, in fact, only remove from the list of resident voters a few persons in some of the smaller boroughs who, but for their right as freemen, would be disqualified as paupers. The number of freemen was fast diminishing; and whereas in 1832 there were 63,000, the number had fallen in 1866 to 41,000. The main object of uniformity of franchise was however, to facilitate the equitable redistribution of political power. There could be no dealing with the electoral areas of this country such as could afford the slightest hope of anything like a permanent settlement unless the basis was prepared by the adoption of uniformity of franchise. As to the second of his Resolutions, the only compromise he could offer to his hon. Friend (Mr. Blennerhasset) in his design to establish proportionate representation, including, he supposed, Mr. Hare's scheme, was that he looked upon that system of election not only as possible, but as probable, in the remote future of the country. His (Mr. Arnold's) object—he avowed it plainly in order that there might be no misconception—was to give decided predominance in that House and in legislation to the voice of the majority of the people. He denied that this involved any unfair dealing with the rights of minorities. Had his hon. Friend, and those who appeared to like his Amendment, forgotten the dictum of Mr. Disraeli, that the history of minorities was the history of success? Every hon. Member of the House sat by right of majority; but if he valued his seat it was ever present to his mind that that majority might be turned into a minority, owing either to his own action or that of the Party to which he belonged. He quite agreed with the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Stanhope) that the franchise had an educating effect; but it must be remembered that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Courtney) had said it was easier to give enfranchisement than to give representation. That was obvious. They had given enfranchisement to the great cities and boroughs of the country, but they had not given a fair representation; and the real barrier to the progress of legislation in that House lay in the fact that the voice of the majority of the people was not made effective. The majority of the people, in spite of the absurdities of our representative system, could make a Minister, but they could not order a policy. The House was so well acquainted with these anomalies that he should not dwell upon them. He would only say, by way of example, 27 English, Scotch, and Welsh boroughs, containing together about one-half the number of electors of the city of Manchester, returned 27 Members to that House, while Manchester only sent three. Or, again, what could be more destructive to the growth of a sense of justice in the minds of the people than that in regard to the question of policy of peace or war, of Free Trade or of Protection, the great city of Manchester should give equally with the town of Marlborough one vote in accordance with the sentiments of the majority of the population? Some of his hon. Friends were fanatical in their fondness for that which they called the representation of minorities; he regarded the system as the disfranchisement of the majority. In 1867, what he might call the high-water mark was reached at 10,000 of population, because it was then enacted that any borough containing fewer than 10,000 people should return only one Member to the House of Commons. It was said at the time—it had been maintained by the Liberal Party ever since—that the re-distribution accomplished in 1867 was utterly inadequate. He did not blame the authors of that arrangement; because it was difficult, if not impossible, to make further progress in re-distribution without taking into account the inadequate representation of the counties, and the Party then in power had no taste for uniformity of franchise throughout the whole of the country. He did not apprehend that he had to meet arguments in favour of maintenance of the existing distribution. When it had been assailed in former years he had not observed that it had been defended, nor was there any question that all Parliamentary Reform had proceeded—grudgingly, it was true, but yet surely—upon the basis, as to representation, which was the only true basis, of population. Fifty years ago the House formed an idea that 2,000 should be the lowest unit of representation; 15 years ago the House had doubts whether 10,000 was a proper unit. To-day there was an idea, equally wanting in any foundation as to principle, floating in the minds of some hon. Members, that the next advance might be that boroughs with 20,000 population should have but one Member, and that boroughs with fewer than 10,000 should be disfranchised or grouped. What Parliament would require would be that the Government should bring forward some plan of reform founded upon distinct principles and bases so as to give ground for the hope that it would be an enduring reform. There was an argument in favour of small boroughs of which he thought they would hear no more. That was the argument which he had called the "talented young man theory." He did not think anyone would repeat, in the face of the present House of Commons, arguments which were arguments in favour of patronage and privilege as against popular election. There were 21 boroughs in England and Wales with fewer than 1,000 electors; there were 47 with fewer than 2,000 electors. Who were the talented young men that these boroughs returned? They might be many; but who were those whose abilities the House had recognized? There was, for instance, the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill), whose illness he greatly regretted. It seemed to him, however, that the noble Lord was encouraged, not in his brilliant promise, but rather in his pranks, by the favour of a family borough. On the Liberal side who were the talented men that came from these small boroughs? He did not doubt there were many whose talent the House had not yet discovered; but who were those whose ability had been recognized by the House? There were, for example, the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Courtney), the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen), and the noble Lord the Member for Calne (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice); yet, if ever the House had observed the slightest defect in any one of those Members, he was certain that it had immediately, and by reasonable instinct, ascribed the defect to the malefic influence of the representation of a narrow constituency. With the presumption of uniformity, they could proceed to consider what were the lines of equitable redistribution. They must travel, as a matter of duty, upon the basis of all preceding Reform Bills—that of population—the attainment of the opinion of the people. He had been glad to observe that in 1878, when this matter was discussed, the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for India (the Marquess of Hartington), who then most ably led the Liberal Party, mentioned the number of 50,000 people with very considerable prominence. Now, those figures had a virtue in this relation which no other figures possessed—they represented a principle. If they divided the population of Great Britain and Ireland by the number of seats in that House the quotient was 53,717; and, therefore, however they might differ, and whatever plan they might adopt as to Parliamentary Reform, they must all agree that the decimals 50,000 had a peculiar character and strength in this connection which could not belong to any other figures. Of Parliamentary boroughs containing a population greater than 50,000, there were, he thought, in England and Wales, 59, and what he said of England and Wales applied equally to Scotland and Ireland. Boroughs with a smaller population partook more or less of the character of county towns, and of the 139 smaller boroughs a great majority possessed a distinctly agricultural character. He believed he spoke in the interests of all classes in saying that one of the greatest political evils and dangers of this country was the sharp division between town and country, between urban and rural life, for which the distinction between county and borough franchise was so largely responsible. One of the makeshift devices of statesmen under the existing conditions of our franchise had been the grouping of small boroughs. It seemed to him that the pleas for the adoption of that system would be abolished when the franchise was uniform over all the country. The absurdity of the system was shown by a proposal made in 1866 to group Woodstock, in Oxford, with Abingdon, in Berkshire, and with Walling-ford, which was partly in Oxford and partly in Berkshire. As to electoral purity, the grouped boroughs had obtained, he thought, a spurious reputation, founded quite as much upon the increased cost of Petitions as upon the absence of corruption, for that system left the mechanism of corruption untouched by preserving intact the organisms of corruption. To introduce a general system of grouping when the franchise was uniform would seem to him to be an unpardonable offence against the common life of the country. That was his main objection. The first act of re-distribution must be to do justice to the counties. With uniform suffrage, the disproportion of county representation became glaring. England and Wales possessed 489 seats in the House of Commons; 299 were occupied by the Representatives of cities and boroughs, five by Universities, and 185 by the counties. But the population of the counties was 13,698,493, while that of the cities and boroughs was only 12,269,793. If they divided these populations by the respective number of seats the result was 41,036 for each borough seat, and 74,036 for every county seat. How was the balance to be redressed? How was the just claim of the counties to be satisfied? He ventured to suggest that they should proceed on the lines followed in 1832; but that they should do so with an endeavour not slavish or pedantic or too precise, but with a general endeavour to reach that firm ground of the principle which was represented by taking 50,000 people as the general unit of representation. All the Amendments proposed on his Resolution agreed in the desire for the representation of the people, and the Census of last year was instructive as bearing on this question. It showed that there had been an absolute decline of population in North Devon, Dorsetshire, East and West Essex, Huntingdon, Rutland, West Suffolk, South Wiltshire, and other parts of England; and that while there had been a steady increase of population in Scotland there had been a decline in Ireland. The average population for each seat in Scotland was 64,386—that was 12,000 more than in England, and 14,000 more than in Ireland. A prime matter, therefore, in regard to re-distribution was to consider the equitable claims of the Three Kingdoms. Excluding the University seats, a just re-distribution would give England and Wales 484 seats, Ireland 96 seats, and Scotland 69 seats, involving the surrender by England and Wales of four seats, which might be the seats for Beverley and Bridgewater, now in abeyance; the surrender by Ireland of seven seats, of which two might be those of Sligo and Cashel, now also in abeyance; and the increase of Scottish representation by these 11 seats. That would be equitable as between the Three Kingdoms. In 1832 the boundaries of most Parliamentary boroughs were enlarged, so as to take in portions of the county. That was the course which it would seem desirable now to follow in the case of those of the 139 boroughs of which the population did not approxi- mate to 50,000. It would be pedantry to disturb the boundaries of boroughs winch were growing, and which now contained over 40,000 population. His proposition would involve a re-arrangement of electoral areas except in the case of boroughs containing, say, more than 40,000 persons, according to the Census of 1881. He was of opinion that boroughs containing more than 100,000 inhabitants ought to have at least two Members, and that those containing more than 200,000 should return not fewer than three Members to the House. He hoped also that in the not very distant future the Divisions of the counties would cease to be known by unmeaning names which were attached to them by the Reform Acts, and would come to be distinguished by the ancient and honoured names of boroughs which would cease to have separate representation. How much better and more interesting would "The Canterbury Division of Kent" sound than the present "East Kent," or "The Salisbury Division of Wiltshire" than" South Wiltshire?" Of course, the nearer re-distribution advanced to the adoption of constituencies of 50,000 as a minimum the more durable would be the settlement. There would be no more hotly-disputed measures of Reform. It was remarkable that in a most Liberal Parliament—perhaps the most Liberal Parliament this country had seen—no further demand should have been made. But if there were any who hesitated to recognize the moderate character of his proposals, he would remind them that 100 years ago the Duke of Richmond made in the House of Lords proposals much in advance of those he had submitted. The Duke introduced, in 1780, a Reform Bill of sublime simplicity. It provided that every man born a subject of Great Britain should be entitled to vote at the age of 21 years; that a list was to be made in every parish of the names of those so entitled; that the total number should then be divided by 558, the then number of seats in the House; and that the quotient was to be the number by which one Member should be elected. Every county was to be divided into districts, to be called boroughs, each containing this number of electors. He thought it would be well to adopt one of the Duke of Richmond's suggestions, and to make every Member a Represen- tative of both borough and county. The late Conservative Leader told them that finality was not the language of politics; and, as an argument in favour of such Parliamentary Reform as should give reasonable hope of endurance, he might, in the words of the same great authority, say that— Questions have been lately treated in this House without that entire national sympathy which is desirahle. What he (Mr. Arnold) proposed was not equal electoral districts, but that the reform should proceed on the old lines. He believed, however, with the Prime Minister, that every man who was not incapacitated by some consideration of personal unfitness or political danger, was morally entitled to come within the pale of the Constitution, and felt convinced that the aid of these large classes of the country would not only result in beneficent legislation, but would tend to give greater security for the preservation of order, authority, and law, and to the maintenance of an established reign of peace and justice. With regard to the proposed reform, he thought it might be reasonably expected that great benefits would flow from the establishment—for the first time in modern history—of the political unity of the people, and from the attainment, absolutely for the first time, of the fair expression of the desire of the majority of the people in Parliament. Conscious of his own insignificance in relation to this great subject, he had leaned much upon the utterances and opinions of others; and now he would recall words which no less a person than Mr. Pitt spoke in that House in 1782 on the same great theme with which they were dealing in the same year of the succeeding century. Mr. Pitt said— Without Parliamentary Reform the nation will be plunged in new wars; without Parliamentary Reform you cannot be safe against bad Ministers, nor can good Ministers be of use to you. It was the privilege and the immortality of genius to utter words which not only defied the hand of time, but which became resistless weapons in the hands of meaner men of after ages. He might invoke other illustrious shadows of the past to re-assume, on this, which was their question as it was ours, their ever-honoured place in that House. But he preferred that these words of Mr. Pitt, revived, as it were, upon the very centenary of their utterance, and precisely expressing their dangers, their difficulties, and their demands, should stand alone in the wonderful significance of their application. This Parliament was born at a time when the enfranchised people of this country were fearful—whether rightly or wrongly he did not wish to say—of a policy of foreign broils. They exercised, within the actual lines of the Constitution, their electoral power up to its very summit. They denominated their Minister, one whom they, representing their majority, believed to be a good Minister; and now the question with them was—how could good Ministers be made of greatest use to the people? Who could doubt that, in the words of Mr. Pitt, this was to be accomplished by Parliamentary Reform—by the complete enfranchisement and the just representation of the people? He trusted there was not a Member of that' House who would argue against the right of the majority of the people to direct the legislation of Parliament. He trusted there was not one who, in the presence of 2,000,000 of un-enfranchised homes in this Kingdom, and of the existing arrangement of constituencies, would contend that the voice of the people found equitable expression in that House; and he would fain believe that there was not one who did not in his heart desire that it should be the crowning glory and the supreme distinction of this Parliament to confer electoral unity upon the population of the United Kingdom, together with a just and enduring re-distribution of political power. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the first of his Resolutions.


, in seconding the Resolution, said, his hon. Friend had made it perfectly clear that the proposition now before the House, if carried out, would effect a very large and important change in the Constitution. The question appeared on a very different basis than that which it used to have when formerly brought forward, year after year, by his hon. Friend the Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan). Throughout the country, from one end to the other, that which had united the Liberal Party at the last General Election was the question of the county franchise. He ventured to think that the bringing forward of this ques- tion this evening was extremely opportune; because they had heard last night, as they had all had reason to believe before, that circumstances might possibly occur which might bring to a more rapid termination than any of them on that side of the House wished, the rule of the present Government; and many of them had thought what a terrible thing it would be if a Parliament, more specially sent to deal with this question than any other, were dispersed before the intentions of the Government and of Parliament had been made perfectly clear. It was entirely unnecessary for him to point out in any detail the great anomalies that existed in the present system of representation. These had been pointed out a year or two ago by the Postmaster General, in a magazine article, as concisely as they had been pointed out anywhere else. He, for instance, pointed out that populations of less than 50,000 in the aggregate sent no fewer than 10 Members; while, on the other hand, populations approaching 1,500,000—Glasgow, Liverpool, and South-West Lancashire—sent only eight Members to the House of Commons. It was unnecessary to refer to the over-representation of Wiltshire, which was, to a certain extent, a decaying county, compared with Yorkshire or Lancashire. He wished to point out to the House why it was that they had great reason to hope that by bringing in fresh constituents to the county electorate they should be adding to the efficiency of that House, and the power it possessed of passing and bringing about useful legislation. Considering the question of the electorate and of the population, in England the electorate consisted of 2,500,000 to a population of 26,000,000; in Scotland there were 315,000 electors to a population of 3,750,000; in Ireland the electorate numbered about 230,000 to a population of about 5,000,000. That showed that the electorate, as compared with the population, was in a higher ratio in England than in Scotland, and in much higher ratio in Scotland than in Ireland. As regarded the borough electors in England, speaking roughly, there were 1,500,000 of county electors over 1,000,000. In Scotland the borough electors somewhat exceeded 200,000, and the county electors somewhat fewer than 100,000; while in Ireland the county electors were nearly three times the number of the borough electors. It was proposed by these Resolutions substantially to make the county franchise consist, as it did in the boroughs, of a household, a ratepaying, and a resident qualification. As regarded England, they had in the county population 13,700,000 people, again speaking roughly, and that was a population by no means purely rural. The English county population might be classed either as purely urban in character, as suburban, or as purely rural; and it was proved clearly by the last Census, and by previous ones, that the tendency was for the urban population to grow, as compared with the counties. Of this population outside the Parliamentary boroughs, it seemed that, according to the last Census, which was based upon the urban sanitary districts, there was an urban population of 5,250,000. The remaining 8,500,000 was the real rural population of England. He wished to point out to the House that though there was a proposal for bringing within the franchise a very large number of persons, they were not persons of whoso character the House was without knowledge as regarded Parliamentary experience. The population of such places as Accrington and Keighley did not differ in any material degree from that of the places which sent Members to Parliament. The day was really past when objections of that sort could be urged. Look at Preston and Manchester. Was it a benefit or not to the House that these large industrial communities' sent Members to Parliament? He ventured to say that if they looked at the character of the Representatives sent by such constituencies they had every reason to feel that there was no deterioration whatever in the standard of Members which those constituencies sent up. That would apply as regarded the purely urban constituencies. As regarded the suburban constituencies, they were divided, as a rule, by purely imaginary lines from the constituencies already enfranchised. There was no reason to suppose that the electors there differed in any way from those already enfranchised. As to the last class, the 8,500,000, he admitted that they stood to some extent in a different position, and they were not able to judge, from their experience in the House, as to the kind of Representatives they would send; but they were not entirely without authority as to that, because there were rural districts that sent Representatives, such as Christchurch, Stroud, and other places, where a rural population had the same franchise as that of the boroughs. It would, however, be the greatest mistake to look simply at the way in which places which were enfranchised exercised their Parliamentary franchise; because there were many matters with which the rural interest were connected that showed the qualification of the people to act as electors, and especially in Scotland. Look at the school boards. Everybody who paid a rate was entitled to exercise the right of taking part in the education of the parish, and they had shown themselves thoroughly competent to undertake that. It was the same in regard to parochial matters, and in Scotland they had another power—that of electing their ministers. They managed their educational and their parochial affairs, and elected their own ministers; and he ventured to say it was really almost preposterous that when they had people well educated, of the kind they had in Scotland, who took an intelligent interest in their local affairs, they should not be permitted to take a part in their Parliamentary elections. The population of Scotland, of which he was speaking, was, however, more thoroughly rural than that of England outside the Parliamentary boroughs. He did not know that he entirely and thoroughly agreed with everything his hon. Friend had said as to the grouping of boroughs. At all events, it was the fact in Scotland that that system had been very largely followed, and the result was that the country population in Scotland was much more thoroughly rural in character than the corresponding population in England. They had been much worse treated there as regarded the Parliamentary franchise than any other class; because, in the first place, there was no 40s. qualification, and then, owing to the small size of the counties, those select bodies to whom they had given the franchise had not very often been able to carry out their wishes or political opinions. They had been disgracefully swamped by the extraneous element which had been brought in. It was from his experience, from what he had seen and read as to the swamping of constituencies, that he thought some limitation of residence should be placed upon the qualification. The grievance of swamping constituencies had. gone on for half-a-century; and although there had been continual grumbling, and bringing of the matter before Parliament, the people did not feel the grievance any the less that nothing had been done. They hoped an opportunity would soon be taken to put an end to this grievance. It was one of the essential propositions of his hon. Friend's Resolution. Lord John Russell, when asking leave to introduce the Reform Bill in 1832, said, with reference to the borough franchise— Non-residents produced much expense, caused a great deal of bribery, and such other manifest and manifold evils, that non-resident voters ought not to be permitted to retain their votes.

Further on, speaking of the Scotch county constituencies, he said— That latterly the proprietors of land had sold their superiority, which has been purchased for corrupt purposes by persons altogether unconnected with the counties in which they have votes. Nevertheless, although Lord John Russell was perfectly aware of the evil, he did not see his way at that time to correct it, and the abuse went on. These constituencies were enormously increased after the Reform Bill of 1832. Yet the system of creating extraneous, non-resident votes was by no means put an end to. He thought he ought to point that out; because his hon. Friend the Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan) in his speeches gave one the impression that, if the county franchise was extended, it would put an end to swamping of constituencies by extraneous votes. He ventured to say that was very doubtful, because they would have to deal with the balance of constituencies. The Committee appointed to inquire into the constituency of Mid Lothian found that in the six years from 1832 till 1837 the constituency, which had been 1,300, had increased to 1,900. Now, he was afraid a Reform Bill passed upon the principles which his hon. Friend proposed would not put an end to this system. With regard to Mid Lothian, what struck one was the remarkable and sudden growth from time to time in that constituency. The right hon. Gentleman who represented that county spoke at one time of the Revenue of this country advancing by "leaps and bounds." He would apply the words to Mid Lothian, and say that constituency increased by leaps and bounds in the most extraordinary manner. In 1879 the constituency numbered 2,799, or an increase, as compared with 1873, of 204; which gave an average of about 30 for each year. In 1879 a very different state of affairs arose. He was not now alluding specially to what was done on one side or the other, although he had a strong opinion about that; but he did not wish specially to go into such matters. The constituency, which was increasing at the slow rate of 30 per annum, suddenly in 1879 sprang up 131. In 1880 it increased by 330, and in 1881 it increased by 610. Now, he wanted hon. Members to consider what that meant. The real contest was not between the merits or capacity of individual candidates to competently represent the constituency; it meant a mere competition between rival election agents. Such a course as that debased and degraded political contests; and he hoped the publicity given to that abominable system by the Prime Minister in the contest he waged at the last General Election would have a good effect in putting an end to that very discreditable system. But it was said that those who had property in a county, and did not reside there, were properly qualified. But, as a matter of fact, the mass of non-resident voters had no real interest in the county. In the Scottish counties, after these additions to the register had been largely made, from 1832 to 1837, the whole matter was inquired into, and a Committee of the House reported in these words— A very large proportion of the non-resident voters were totally unconnected with the county. They are usually writers and lawyers resident in Edinburgh, and keen political partizans. Much jealousy is entertained by resident electors, especially in the smaller counties. That had continued for half-a-century, and it continued still. He thought it illustrated most forcibly the necessity for requiring residence as a qualification. Some hon. Gentlemen thought that if a gentleman owned a large estate in a county he should be entitled to vote in it though he did not reside there. But he would point out that though he might own a most valuable property in Edinburgh or Glasgow, if he did not live in Edin- burgh or Glasgow, or within seven miles of these burghs, he should not have a vote in respect of that valuable property. Why should it be harder in the one case not to have a vote than in the other? As regarded re-distribution of seats, not much of that would be required in Scotland, as they had no very small borough constituencies. He saw opposite his right hon. and gallant Friend (Sir John Hay), who sat for the smallest borough constituency in Scotland. But that right hon. and gallant Gentleman's constituency, though a small one in Scotland, would not be considered small in England, and in Ireland he supposed it would be a large constituency. It numbered 1,400 electors. Compared with the Wigtown Burghs, he found that in Ireland, Car-low, Dungarvan, Ennis, and New Boss each returned a Member, with a united constituency of 984. He was fully aware that the borough franchise in Ireland was not the same as in this country and in Scotland; but what he would like to point out was that in dealing with this question, while it was desirable to increase the Irish electorate, it was not desirable to increase the number of Irish Representatives. Ireland, he thought, hon. Members would allow, was fully represented in Parliament, although the franchise differed from England and Scotland. If, for instance, the four boroughs he had mentioned elected between them one Member, they would be much more largely represented in that House than any borough in Scotland. As to the newly - enfranchised class swamping the present constituencies, he wished to point out that in this country, so far as politics were concerned, people were not divided by the same lines as divided class. It was not a case in which the wealthy and well-educated all went in one direction, and the poor in another. The fact was, if they had popular institutions at all, when the nation had thoroughly made up its mind on any particular matter which greatly interested it, its will would prevail. The Reform Bill of 1832 was carried by a great many representing close boroughs. The questions affecting social legislation, liquor laws, education, artizans' dwellings—such matters would be much better dealt with if the constituencies were larger. He had not the slightest reason to think that in Imperial questions the new electorate would take a less national view of British politics than the class at present enfranchised. One word upon minority representation. Hon. Members took very different views upon that question. He had a very strong prejudice in favour of the system which, in the main, prevailed in Scotland. Nearly all the constituencies there had one Member, and he was strongly in favour of that. There was nothing so simple, which admitted of less wirepulling, of less arrangement, or in which the electors could act so thoroughly and entirely for themselves. He knew some hon. Members had a strong feeling against that; but he must say he would view with regret any change which would create plurality of Members, except in very large constituencies, where, perhaps, there might still be three Members. He was sorry that, by the way in which the Amendment appeared on the Paper, it suggested there was an antagonism between the county franchise proposal and the minority scheme of representation. He was in favour himself, in some way or other, of the opinions of minorities finding due expression in that House; and he was happy to think that in some of the recent admissions within the Ministerial circle there were very strong advocates of that system. So far as their experience of the past went, they might look forward with great hope to the passing of an extension of the franchise. They knew that the period immediately succeeding the passing of those measures had been the most beneficial period this country had gone through in the way of useful and desirable legislation. They might surely argue in respect of the future from what they had found in the past; and that they had every reason to hope the next Reform Bill would be succeeded, as the past had been, by a period of most useful and beneficial legislation. For these reasons, he had very great pleasure in seconding the Motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed, 1. That, in the opinion of this House, it would be desirable, so soon as the state of public business shall permit, to establish Uniformity of Franchise, throughout the whole of the United Kingdom, by a Franchise similar in principle to that established in the English boroughs."—(Mr. Arthur Arnold.)


I desire, on the part of the Government, to say a few words upon the course which we propose to take upon this occasion; and, before doing so, I must say my first duty is to express a sentiment which, I think, will be common to the entire—or nearly the entire—House, certainly not confined to those who agree with my hon. Friends who made and seconded the Motion. I think the House will be of opinion that the great ability and great care with which they have investigated the matter which they have brought before us have done them high honour; and that the speeches which they have made are valuable contributions towards the more thorough understanding, and more general understanding, of a very great and very important question. I must own, as having the honour to hold a Scottish seat, that I feel a particular obligation to my hon. Friend who has seconded the Motion for having called the attention of the House specially to the relative hardship which Scotland suffers at the present moment under the electoral law as it actually stands, and the very strong claim—I will not speak now of the manner in which it is to be satisfied—and I think the irresistible claim, that she possesses to an increase of electoral power. With respect to the general subject, I must draw a distinction between the merits of the question and the time and circumstances under which it is brought forward. As to the merits of the question, I have from the time when it was first submitted to the House by my hon. Friend near me (Mr. Trevelyan)—very much to his credit and very much towards the formation of his permanent reputation in the country—I have been a friend to the extension of the franchise to the rural districts. I never thought it possible that anything except what I might call a secondary and incidental opposition—an opposition founded upon a limited basis—could possibly be offered to it. There is nothing on principle that can be brought against it, and the soundness of the general doctrine is unquestionable. The House approximates more and more, I think, to the opinion that the admission of properly qualified persons to the franchise is not a weakening, but a strengthening of the Constitution. There is no doubt, at least in my mind, that that is the triumph of truth over a venerable, or what I may call a very ancient, superstition. There were many honest men, many upright men, many enlightened men, who had a latent belief—which they were afraid, perhaps, even to formulate to themselves in distinct terms—that the exclusion of the great proportion of the people from the Constitution was a condition of its safety and strength. It is impossible to conceive anything more contrary to nature and to common sense; and I rejoice to think that that belief, at any rate, has now learned so much modesty that scarcely anywhere will it venture to show itself above the ground; and, further, I believe that such root as it had in any portion of the mind of any Party in this country is being gradually weakened, and will finally, and that shortly, perish altogether. Now, with regard to the competency of the voters outside the limits of Parliamentary boroughs, it seems to me that it is absolutely impossible to deny it. In the first place, a very considerable proportion of them are of the very same quality as the artizans and mechanics within the Parliamentary boroughs; and if the population of the districts outside the boroughs are to be distinguished from those within the boroughs, then they are rather distinguished by a circumstance which is in their favour—that is, that you do not find in those districts the same amount of what may be called residuary, or some may call even, refuse, population. That more doubtful and questionable fraction is not found in the districts outside the Parliamentary borough in the same proportion as in the districts inside. But we have also arrived at a state of things in which a non-extension of the suffrage beyond these boroughs is becoming unintelligible, and almost amounting to a political contradiction. We have in England what is unknown in Scotland. We have boroughs almost entirely made up of purely rural populations. We have many cases—it is not necessary to go into them—where the boroughs themselves, properly so called, are so insignificant and decayed, so limited, at any rate in their population, that it becomes absolutely necessary that they should derive the principal part of whatever title they might have to Parliamentary representation from the importation into them of considerable districts of rural and even peasant population; and it is impossible to carry political absurdity and paradox to a more elevated point than that which they reach in this case, where, for purely arbitrary reasons, and conventional reasons, connected with the convenience of individuals, the influence of families, or particular views entertained by this House, the very same classes of persons have been emancipated in one village, and left unenfranchised in another. There is one reason, however, which must be added to the consideration of this case, and certainly I, for one, feel it to be very strong. I have said that a good deal of the argument in favour of the extension of household suffrage to the county bears upon the fact—its cogency and clearness and simplicity depend upon the fact—that so many of the population outside the Parliamentary boroughs are of exactly the same quality and class as those who are now voters inside. But, upon the whole, and setting aside the strange anomalous cases where fictitious boroughs have been manipulated by Parliament out of rural villages—taking the case of the agricultural population as a whole, in this country, they remain unenfranchised. The agricultural labourer, speaking generally, is an unenfranchised man. Now, is there any reason why that should be so? I have never thought there was any justice in the disparaging remarks which some have been accustomed to make upon the intelligence of the peasant. I must say it appears to me a reasonable proposition, on the whole, that the rural employments of the peasantry are employments which ought, of themselves, to go to develop, and even to require, a considerable degree of intelligence. It is impossible, for example, to take the fair average farm labourer and call him, in the strict sense, anything like an unskilled man. He has many things to do which require a great deal of skill; and the fact that he is compelled to turn his mind so much and so often from one subject to another, and from one employment to another, does involve a very great deal of practical education. The main reason for which I wish to see this enfranchisement is, that it is so greatly to be desired that we should have some enlarged representation of labour in this House. It is only of late we have begun to have this at all. We have at present, I believe, only two Members among us whom we can call, from personal experience and predilection, as well as general capacity, Representatives of the labour of the country. And I ask the House whether the specimens that we have possessed in the presence of those two Gentlemen to whom I refer—the Member for Stoke (Mr. Broadhurst) and the Member for Morpeth (Mr. Burt)—are not such as to lead us greatly to desire an extension of that class of representation? Much as I desire that extension in regard to the artizans of the country, I think it is greatly to be desired also that the agricultural labourers of this country should have some chance of being represented by those who belong, or have belonged, to their class. There is no fear among us now of an undue disposition on the part of the labour members of this country to choose Representatives from their own class. I wish I felt equally satisfied that they would always have a due disposition to choose Representatives from their own class; but we have seen that from the great extension of the franchise that has taken place, in some degree at least, the doors of this House have been opened to the Representatives of labour, and, accordingly, further extention of the franchise in the rural districts will, I believe, have the effect of adding to the number. Nor is there anything that contributes more to the union of all classes, to the strength of the Constitution, to the attachment of the people to the law, and to making us really and truly a nation one in heart and sentiment, thoroughly attached to the Throne and to our country, than this opening the doors of the House of Commons to the Representatives of all classes in the country. These, briefly stated, are sufficient indications of the elementary considerations that lead me greatly to desire the adoption of a measure based on the proposal now made; but I do not disguise from myself that they involve a great deal of ulterior legislation. I am very glad that my hon. Friend has shown, by the nature of his own speech, how conscientiously he has addressed himself to the consideration of this subject, and how fearlessly he has given expression to his opinions, and laid himself open to those who may be disposed to attack any of his conclusions; but I do not propose to enter upon the question of his second Resolution. My hon. Friend, I believe, is desirous, if he can, to obtain a vote of the House on his 2nd Resolution; but that vote he cannot, of course, hope to obtain apart from the discussion of the 1st. The proposal now before us is the proposal we have in the 1st Resolution, though I must say that I have spoken in a manner, I hope, clear in regard to the merits of the proposal; and though I have no blame whatever to bestow on my hon. Friend and his Seconder, yet I own it is with only a qualified satisfaction that I can give a vote on the subject at the present time; because I feel that there is something that is unreal, and something also that is unsafe, considered as a mode of Parliamentary procedure, in the recording of opinions of this House on subjects of very great public importance, which opinions we have no immediate hope or early prospect of being able to carry into practice. There has been no one whose fate it has more often been than my own to endeavour to dissuade the House from the adoption of abstract Resolutions; and I am bound to say that it is only in the peculiar circumstances of this case, in the peculiar circumstances under which the House stands at the present moment, that I do not think it is our duty to refuse to my hon. Friend the support he asks. Had we come from the General Election in the position we used to stand in 40 or 50 years ago, when the time and strength of the House were really adequate to the successful and tolerably rapid and punctual dealing with questions soliciting attention, I should be foremost to argue against a proposition of this kind, and should have said that the proper time for entertaining it was when we were prepared to put it into the shape of a practical measure, and to obtain the immediate judgment of the Legislature upon it. But that is not the case in this instance. It is now two years since we came from our constituents; and, undoubtedly, a large majority of this House did, during the Election, express strong opinions in favour of the extension of the suffrage and of the establishment of household suffrage in the counties—a subject on which, during those two years, we have been compulsorily silent. I can assure my hon. Friend it has been sufficiently painful for the Government to find themselves so retarded and so impeded by the force of circumstances—I am not now making a charge against anyone—in the general Business of legislation. Now, with respect to this important subject, it is certainly one of the subjects which I regard as being, if I may say so, one of the essential parts of the mission of the present Parliament to deal with. I am, of course, now presuming that the existence of this Parliament is not to be interrupted by any unforeseen catastrophe. Should it enjoy the term of its natural life, I cannot but believe—and I do very firmly believe—that it will record among its achievements a great measure for the extension of the suffrage on the basis indicated by my hon. Friend. I have no doubt it will give great satisfaction to what is, under the circumstances, a warrantable and a natural feeling, when we have recorded this vote, which I hope we may be allowed to do to-night. But, on the other hand, I must confess it is not so satisfactory to me to reflect that a considerable interval may lapse before we proceed to make this vote operative in the shape of an Act of Parliament. I am particularly desirous to found a justification of my vote on the special circumstances of the case, and on the moral right which our constituents may be said to have, to know, from some visible sign at any rate, that we are faithful to the declarations we made to them at the time of the Election; because I feel that, as a Member of the Government particularly, I ought to express my general scruples and misgivings with regard to the passing of abstract Resolutions. It is a very dangerous thing indeed to endeavour to live on promises instead of upon performances. That has been the characteristic of certain persons at certain epochs in history. One remarkable case—perhaps the most remarkable case that has happened in Europe for a long time—is that of the late Pope Pius IX., who came to the Throne in 1846. He spent the first 18 months or two years of his reign in promising to the population every description of political privilege. I believe, I am bound to say, it was done with benevolent intentions, and I am far from casting any reflections upon the course he adopted; but too soon it became evident that his temper was too sanguine, and that he had made very deficient calculations of the impediments in his way; and it was that which led him to pursue a course which, for the moment, brought him so much popular fame, and finally to the deplorable catastrophe—I will say deplorable, so far as regarded him personally—I cannot say that it was deplorable that an end should be put to the temporal Sovereignty of the Popedom—the catastrophe—and it was a heavy one—which very soon overtook his well-intentioned endeavours. I should not be surprised if our voting for this Motion should be criticized to-night. I shall not resent it. I think all promises by a Government ought to be viewed with a good deal of jealousy and misgiving, except such as they are immediately prepared to redeem. On that account we should not think of asking the House to make any declaration of this kind. My hon. Friend so far relieves us of that responsibility. He has felt—and I cannot, in the circumstances, go so far as to say that he is wrong—that in those circumstances of comparative impotence in which the House is unfortunately placed upon that very peculiar ground, he may be justified in asking us to declare what we think upon this subject. I would hope that our making this declaration to-night will be regarded by us as importing a real obligation to give to this great question that high and early place in the list of legislative questions to which it is entitled, and likewise that it will be held to import our determined resolution to go forward with measures which shall place this House in a condition to discharge its duties property. Under these circumstances, I shall be prepared to vote for the Motion of my hon. Friend, thinking it necessary to give these cautions, which I hope will not be misunderstood, and pleading for myself an exceptional warrant as giving a promise I cannot fulfil; having no doubt whatever of the merits of the question my hon. Friend has presented to us, but, on the contrary, animated by the fullest conviction that this is a measure of reform and of justice—a measure bringing into the exercise of political power, and duly, large masses of men who have hitherto been excluded from it, and likewise a measure which no one need con-tern plate with the slightest fear or apprehension, but one which will tend not less to the harmony of all classes of the community than to the strength of the Constitution.


, in rising to move, as an Amendment to the Motion— That no change should he made in the Electoral Franchise or the distribution of political power until full and accurate information has been laid before this House with respect to the relative advantages of various systems of Election, including proportional representation, the Cumulative Vote, and the Limited Vote, and that a Select Committee be appointed to inquire what system of Election is best calculated to secure the just representation of the opinions of all classes of Electors, said, he was unable to accede to the appeal of his hon. Friend not to proceed with his Amendment. His hon. Friend the Member for Salford had made an extremely large proposition. He had advocated a new Reform Bill, the effect of which would be to admit a larger number of new electors than had ever been admitted by any previous Reform Bill. He had brought forward the proposal without any check, balance, or counterpoise whatever. He could not but agree with the Prime Minister that there was something in the proposition that was unreal. The present, however, was a time when consideration might very profitably be given to the question. They ought to pause and consider in what way so great a change might be brought about in the best way possible. The hon. Member for Salford, in criticizing his Amendment, had dwelt on the least important part of it—namely, the appointment of a Select Committee. It was true that it was not fitting to send the British Constitution upstairs for revision, or, as his hon. Friend had said, "to obscure apartments of the House;" but such a Committee might deliberate upon practical details, and upon questions connected with the working of various systems of election. He repudiated the suggestion of his hon. Friend that he had any desire to deprive the majority of the electors of their duo share in the representation. The supremacy of the majority he regarded as the fundamental principle of government by a Representative Assembly. he was opposed to giving any undue influence to minorities. But the real question was to reconcile the rapid advance of democracy, consequent on the extension of the franchise, with the rights and liberties of every section of the people—how, in a Reform Bill, to unite generosity and intelligence. If the proposals of his hon. Friend were carried out the new county electors would far outnumber the whole present constituency. The agri- cultural labourers were to be admitted; the miners and the factory hands. He would be glad to welcome them. But was there no danger, at the same time, of excluding other classes from political power? There were active political forces at work, which would certainly confer political power on those now unenfranchised; but the danger was lest they should have the whole power in their hands. To that the true principles of democracy itself were opposed; those principles required the just representation of the whole people, and of every class in the people. His hon. Friend had referred to Mr. Hare's scheme, and said that it was an admirable theory, and would have to be considered hereafter, with a view to its adoption. But his hon. Friend must have very strangely read history if he did not see that it would then be too late to consider such questions. If once political supreme power had passed into the hands of one class in the community, it would be impossible to take it away from them without a revolution. The great practical question before them was how to reconcile the admission of a large number of new electors, all practically belonging to the same social class, with effective securities for the representation of all sections of opinion existing throughout the country. The antiquated expedients by which the variety of their electoral institutions had been hitherto preserved would probably be swept away; and therefore it was desirable that, before leaving the old paths, they should have full inquiry and consideration as to how this great change might be made wisely and well. Great changes of this kind were no mere experiments. Every step they took was absolutely irrevocable; and they should, therefore, remember that if they were to temper their reforms with wisdom and prudence, they must do so now, or they would lose the opportunity for ever. He could find some justification for his Amendment in the great diversity of opinion that existed on this question. Even his hon. Friend who seconded the Motion did not agree with the hon. Member who moved it. The principle which should guide them in this matter was clear and just. Indeed, it was so clear and just that he was satisfied that ii public opinion and Parliament were once made familiar with it, nothing but hasty legislation could prevent its being given effect to. He fully admitted that the majority must rule; but there the right of the majority ended. It was one thing to allow the will of a nation clearly expressed to have effect in the legislation of the country; but it was quite another to allow no voice to be heard except that of a series of numerical majorities. Parliaments representing some momentary passion or some popular feeling of the hour might have for five or six years the control of the affairs of this great Empire. Surely it was most important in such a case, whatever the majority might be, that independent opinion should be heard, and that every proposal should be subjected to free and impartial criticism and the examination of independent minds. The gross injustice of not making some provision for the representation of minorities had been recognized in our previous legislation. The Reform Act of 1867 made provision for the limited or restricted vote, which, however, applied to only 40 Members of that House. In his opinion, practical inquiry into the way in which this provision had worked might be very properly conducted by a Select Committee. The cumulative vote adopted for School Board elections, and the system of proportional representation, were likewise fitting subjects for such an inquiry. It was admitted by the Postmaster General, in his speech at Hackney, that there could not be a certainty of real representation where nothing but the majority in each constituency was represented. Another Member of the Government, the President of the Board of Trade, was not generally supposed to look favourably upon the representation of minorities; but still, he thought he might claim the right hon. Gentleman's support. At a meeting of the National Liberal Federation at Leeds, not long ago, the right hon. Gentleman, in a course of speech delivered by him on that occasion, made certain statements which were strongly in favour of the present Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman said he regretted to find that the local hundreds had supported the views of only a portion of the Party. They must understand that the conditions of success required that every section of the Party should be represented. The minority must be prepared to sacrifice their crotchets, and all Parties must be actuated by a spirit of mutual concession, in order that all classes of opinion might be fairly represented. Then, in 1878, the right hon. Baronet the Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote), speaking at a public meeting, remarked that in any future plan of Parliamentary Reform it would be necessary to provide some arrangement by which the agricultural classes might be as fully represented as the great centres of the labouring population. He hoped his Amendment would commend itself to the House. Everyone must desire that every class should be represented in the House, and that the community should not be subject to the domination of a single class. They should consider the permanent interests of the country. On the nature and scope of the new Reform Bill depended the future of this country. If the House made careful inquiry into this question, they would be able, in the next Reform Bill, to satisfy all classes by a liberal extension of the franchise, which would be capable of representing, not the mere feeling of the hour, but the thought and intelligence of the English people. The hon. Member concluded by moving his Amendment.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the first word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "no change should he made in the Electoral Franchise or the distribution of political power until full and accurate information has been laid before this House with respect to the relative advantages of various systems of Election, including proportional representation, the Cumulative Vote, and the Limited Vote, and that a Select Committee he appointed to inquire what system of Election is host calculated to secure the just representation of the opinions of all classes of Electors,"—(Mr. Blennerhassett,) —instead thereof.

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

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


, while making allowance for the witching influence of the hour, at which Members of Parliament were wont to refresh themselves—for they must eat like other mortals—thought the fact that the House had been so nearly counted out proved almost conclusively that hon. Members felt that the country was not at all pre- pared for the change proposed by the hon. Member for Salford. It was rather a curious circumstance that an English Member should move for a reform in Parliament to be undertaken at once, so far as the Resolution indicated, that he had been seconded by a Scotch Member, and that those two Members were taught caution by an Irish Member. It proved that the sad experience of Ireland had a sobering effect on the intellects of the Irish Members. He was glad that there was further proof of re-action from the wild democratic feeling in the midst of which that House was elected, stimulated as that feeling was by the eloquence of the Prime Minister. The right hon. Gentleman had warned the hon. Member for Salford not to trust the fulfilment of promises made by voting abstract Resolutions—a very pregnant warning, and one that did not surprise him, because what was the first reform which that Parliament had been invited to make? Why, the House had been asked to admit an avowed and notorious Atheist to a seat in that House, when he would not be admitted to any jury. They might depend upon it that the manner in which the pretensions of Mr. Brad-laugh had been urged was producing a deep re-action. He had proofs of it every day in the correspondence he received, and he rejoiced at that fact. The hon. Member for Salford had quoted a former Duke of Richmond, who, during the last century, recommended universal suffrage. He feared that the hon. Member had forgotten that Mr. Fox, the eminent Leader of the Whigs—he would not call them the Liberals—of that day spoke cautiously against the Resolution. He was afraid that the modern Whigs were not such sound Constitutionalists as Mr. Pox, wild though he became under the infection of the first French Revolution. But when that Motion was made, and when the Duke of Richmond spoke, the world had not had that great lesson of the danger of unrestrained democracy and the fallacy of trusting it as a security either for personal or national safety, or for personal or national freedom; that lesson was taught by the first French Revolution. The right hon. Gentleman told them not to trust to Parliamentary promises given by votes for abstract Resolutions if they were not immediately to be fulfilled. Nor was this surprising, for the right hon. Gentleman had given manifold proofs of his wonderful susceptibility to conversion. It was not more than 12 years since the last Reform Bill was completed; and in 1866 the right hon. Gentleman urged the adoption of a £7 rating franchise for the boroughs in opposition to the proposal of household suffrage. It seemed to be forgotten that those were virtually represented who had not votes themselves, otherwise this country never had more than a sham representation until 1867; and even now, according to the modern theory, an enormous proportion of the population was unrepresented, and there would be an enormous proportion unrepresented even if this Resolution were carried into law. A learned work, founded upon the records of France prior to and during the first French Revolution, by M. Taine, described the desire for equality as a strange passion wholly of the brain, nourished by magniloquent phrases, but the more destructive; because phantoms were created out of words, and against phantoms no reasoning or actual facts could prevail. The records of the French Revolution showed that the mind of France ran wild at that epoch on the idea of equality. Equality, political, social, or personal, never had existed; and when persons argued, as the hon. Member for Salford did, that equality was necessary to national unity, they belied the whole history of their country, they raised delusions in the public mind, and created an appetite which they could never satisfy.. Allusion had been made by the Mover of the Amendment to the operation of the Caucus. Now, he was himself a near neighbour of the Caucus. When they talked of the counties being isolated in representation from the boroughs, he remembered that a large proportion of his own constituents were Birmingham men. He had heard something of the operation of the Caucus, and he must say that it was tainted with an arbitrary dictation from which sundry from Birmingham took refuge in North Warwickshire. He believed that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster had some feeling of that kind; because, previous to the passing of the last Reform Act, the Boundary Commission recommended that the large suburb of Aston should be taken out of North Warwickshire and added to the borough of Birmingham, and that Birmingham should have four Members instead of three. The right hon. Gentleman urged the House to reject—[Mr. JOHN BRIGHT: No!]—at all events, the right hon. Gentleman's Friends and Party voted against that recommendation of the Commission of which Lord Eversley was the Chairman. Now, he himself was happy to represent Aston; and he had always represented it; but with the right hon. Gentleman's opinion as to the representation of numbers, he never could understand why the right hon. Gentleman prevented Birmingham having a fourth Member. His Party voted against the proposal that Birmingham should have four Members, and the right hon. Gentleman never complained. It was by the decision of the Liberal Party that Birmingham had three Members instead of four; and it was in opposition to the efforts of those miserable Constitutionalists, among whom he was proud to be numbered. History did not afford any assurance that large constituencies secured purity of election, and of the truth of this, so far, at all events, as municipal elections, there had been very recently a strong presumption in Birmingham; for when the election of a Town Councillor was questioned before a Commissioner, the seat was only saved by the happy accident that Mr. Wright's agent had burnt his pocket-book. He (Mr. Newdegate), if there was to be any vote at all, should vote against the Resolution.


rose to support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Kerry. He wished, however, at the outset to declare his regret that his hon. Friend had not seen his way to draft his Amendment in such a manner as to make it evident to the House that while he was in favour of inquiry, he was no less anxious than the hon. Member for Salford to see rural householders placed in possession of those same rights and privileges which were enjoyed by those living under similar conditions in the towns. Indeed, he was of opinion that his hon. Friend would have added material strength to his Amendment had he inserted in its terms some statement as to the expediency of the equalization of the county with the borough franchise, of which it was notorious that a very large majority of the House was in favour, and to the granting of which the present Parliament stood absolutely pledged. But while he was no less eager than his hon. Friend the Member for Sal-ford and the hon. Member for Roxburghshire to see the extension of the household suffrage to the counties safe upon the pages of the Statute Book, he ventured to believe that the question which called most urgently for their consideration at the present moment was not ex-tension of the suffrage, but re-distribution of seats; for while the question of extension was practically settled, the question of re-distribution was still open and unsolved, and yet he maintained that upon this question of re-distribution the hope of extension depended. He trusted he might not be thought presumptuous if he pave utterance to the firm conviction which he held—namely, that it would be impossible for any Government to bring about an equalization of the county with the borough franchise unless it was accompanied by a measure for the re-distribution of seats. The Postmaster General had most positively declared, both in his writings and speeches, that an inseparable connection between the extension of the suffrage and the re-distribution of seats ought to be maintained, and that he would oppose the equalization of the suffrage, for which he had hitherto voted, if the Government taking it in hand did not add to it a measure for the re-distribution of seats. He (Mr. Grey) maintained that after the deliberate utterance of such sentiments as those, it would be impossible for him (the Postmaster General) to vote for extension of suffrage unaccompanied by any measure of re-distribution, without giving a deep wound to the cause of political morality, which, by his conssitent, bold, and honest attitude on all public questions of the day, he had done so much to chasten and improve. The Postmaster General was not the only Minister of the hour whose vote, they had a right to believe, would be given against extension unaccompanied by re-distribution. The nature and character of the opinion to which the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Courtney) had given repeated expression justified the belief that he would follow the Postmaster General into the Lobby. Nor would they be the only Members of the Liberal Party. From expressions which he had heard dropped in the Lobbies of the House he believed that there was a considerable number of Liberal Gentlemen, all of whom wished to see the household suffrage extended to the counties, but all of whom would resist the extension unless it was accompanied by a measure for the re-distribution of seats. Believing, then, if extension was to be carried, an inseparable connection should be maintained between it and re-distribution, he viewed with great regret the change made in the character of the Resolution of his hon. Friend, for which, in its original shape, extension and redistribution appeared as two parts of one and the same Resolution. In its altered form the two questions were separated and divorced—one Resolution being devoted to the question of extension, the other to that of re-distribution. He trusted that this change did not imply that in the mind of the hon. Member for Salford there should be a divorce between two subjects which, in the opinion of the Postmaster General, should be inseparably connected. [Mr. JOHN BRIGHT dissented.] He observed that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster made a gesture of dissent. He was sorry that he had not with him the article already referred to by his hon. Friend the Member for Roxburghshire, entitled "The Next Reform Bill," in which the Postmaster General had pointed out the reasons why it was desirable that the extension of the suffrage and the re-distribution of seats should be kept parts of the same question. But, although he was unable to produce the quotation, the article could be easily referred to; and hon. Members would find, in the clear and convincing language of the Postmaster General, how desirable it was that an inseparable connection between these two subjects should be carefully maintained. There was only one argument in favour of that connection on which, inasmuch as it seemed to him a convincing argument, he wished to make a few remarks. Under the existing system of various and conflicting franchises, the representation of different interests was insured. While the county franchise was based on a property qualification, labour could command the representation of the boroughs, and thus there was ample guarantee that neither labour nor capital should be excluded from representation in that House. But, extend the suffrage without any alteration in the present system of voting, and there would be no longer any security for the representation of any class save one—that class, namely, which maintained itself by manual labour—which, being the majority in every locality, could, if it pleased, under the present system of voting, carry every constituency in the Kingdom. He did not assert that even if the classes who maintained themselves by manual labour were intrusted with a monopoly of political power they would outvote all the other classes and monopolize the Legislature; but what he wished to impress upon the House was that they could use their power, if they liked, to prevent the Representatives of any other class from obtaining a seat in that House—and this, if not a probability, was, at any rate, a possibility, against which that House ought to protect itself. Although he readily admitted the strength of the position taken up by those who argued the larger the class the smaller the class interests, he yet agreed with Mr. John Stuart Mill, who had pointed out that if the command of the representation of every constituency was given to the manual labourers, that— When there was any question pending on which these classes were at isssue with the rest of the community, no other class could succeed in getting represented anywhere. Now, there was no question on which there was more likely to be a difference of opinion between those classes and the rest of the community than the distribution of political power; and although he held a high opinion of the general and natural fairness of the labouring classes, he did not by any means feel certain that once they had in their possession a monopoly of political power they would be ready to part with any fraction of it in order that large and important minorities might have secured to them their fair share of representation. It was in the teeth of all experience to suppose that people would give up any part of their power unless obliged to do so; and he therefore contended that it would be highly dangerous to give one Session to a numerical majority the monopoly of political power, in the hope that nothing would interfere to prevent the same Parliament from passing in a subsequent Session a measure of redistribution, having for its object the making of that House a true reflex of the feelings and opinions of the nation. If the two questions were separated, it might well happen that a Dissolution might intervene between the extension of household suffrage to the counties and the passing of a measure for the re-distribution of seats. It might then happen—he was not discussing probabilities, but possibilities—that those classes who had, by the measure of extension, been invested with the monopoly of political power, would be opposed to any men sure for the representation of minorities. Fifty years ago, before 1832, one class—the Peerage—held a monopoly of political power. The hon. Member for Salford had forcibly and eloquently depicted the evils under which they were still suffering, which resulted from the class legislation of those days. It was the boast and glory of Liberalism that they saved the country in 1832 from the evil effects of class legislation. They were now in some danger, he apprehended, of going to the opposite extreme, and of handing over the monopoly of political power to the hands of another class, not less a class because it possessed a numerical majority in every locality in the Kingdom. For these reasons, he was opposed to any separation of the question of re-distribution from that of extension of the suffrage. What principle they had then to determine ought to regulate the future re-distribution of seats? He maintained that that re-distribution would alone be fair which, while it insured absolute supremacy to the majority of the electoral body, secured to the various sections of opinion representation in just and fair proportion to their strength. By insuring the representation of the various sections of opinion in just and fair proportion to their strength, they could alone hope to obtain a good House of Commons—a House which, conspicuous for its variety and for its compound character, might prove a good legislative machine; at the same time that it would possess, in consequence of its being the true reflex of the nation, the love and confidence of the people. The question to be determined was, bow was the fair representation of the people to be obtained? The hon. Member for Salford was opposed to an inquiry on the ground that that debate would furnish a great public inquest which would serve to enlighten the public mind. He ventured, however, to believe that the public mind, which was completely uninstructed and uninformed on this all-important question, would find little in the speeches which had been delivered that evening to instruct or guide them. The hon. Member for Salford did, indeed, venture to suggest that large towns, like Manchester, should have a plurality of Members, for which suggestion he immediately received a smart tap upon the knuckles from the hon. Member who seconded his Resolution, who scouted the idea of plurality of Members, advocating in its stead single-Membered electoral districts. The Prime Minister did not touch upon that question at all; but, on the contrary, made an earnest appeal to the hon. Member for Salford not even to embark on a discussion of that part of his Resolution which dealt with the re-distribution of seats. As, then, the extension of the suffrage, in his opinion, depended upon the re-distribution of seats; and as upon this question of re-distribution the public mind was a blank, which that debate had done nothing to remove, he considered that his hon. Friend the Member for Kerry (Mr. Blennerhassett) was completely justified in asking for an inquiry; and, indeed, if the Liberal Party had had its way, they would have had an inquiry long ago. In 1875 the hon. Baronet the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir Charles W. Dilke) moved in that House for an inquiry into the various methods of bringing about a juster measure of distribution of political power, with a view of obtaining a more complete representation of the people. That demand was supported by the present Prime Minister, by every occupant of the Front Ministerial Bench, and by the whole of the Liberal Party; and he considered it was a great public calamity that this fair demand was unwisely refused by a Tory Government. It was argued by the Liberal Party at that time that although the passing of a Reform Bill was not within the range of practical politics, that, inasmuch as it lay a very little distance beyond that range, it would be desirable to have a careful inquiry into the various systems of representation that had been proposed, so that they might be in possession of all the information that could be thrown upon the subject before they pro- ceeded to legislate in a manner that could not fail to bring about Constitutional changes of the very greatest importance. The Tory Prime Minister, Mr. Disraeli, was solemnly warned by the hon. Baronet that if inquiry was postponed he might suddenly find a Parliament returned to power pledged to deal with the question of Reform; and that the consequence of his unwise refusal to grant timely inquiry would be to render imperative hasty and ill-considered legislation on this all-important question. Part of the hon. Baronet's prophecy had already been fulfilled. They now had a Parliament returned to power pledged up to the eyes to deal with this question of Reform. Two Sessions had already passed away; a third would soon be gone. Under no circamstances could legislation much longer be deferred, and yet the country was entirely uninformed as to the principle which should regulate the re-distribution of seats. He earnestly trusted that that part of the hon. Baronet's prophecy which pointed to hasty and ill-considered legislation as the result of the refusal of timely inquiry would not be realized; and he maintained that the best guarantee against so great a misfortune lay in the institution of an inquiry at the present time. If the whole Liberal Party considered inquiry to be necessary at a time when all prospect of legislation was remote, it must surely be admitted that inquiry was 100 times more necessary now, when they were within arm's length of the introduction of a Reform Bill. The next Reform Bill must equal, perhaps surpass, in importance the Reform Act of 1832; and upon the character of the measure and the wisdom of its provisions would depend the whole future of this country. Surely, then, it was of the utmost importance that every information that could possibly be thrown upon the question should be in their possession before they undertook such weighty legislation. What harm could an inquiry do? It would help to increase their understanding of a question which it was of national importance that they should thoroughly comprehend. He trusted that they might not be obliged, in consequence of wanting sufficient information, to legislate blindfolded or in the dark. They had a right to know everything that could be known upon the subject. They had a right to de- mand, and he respectfully contended that it was the duty of Government to bestow, every facility for coming to a right decision. He earnestly trusted, therefore, that the Prime Minister would give his very favourable consideration to the demand of his hon. Friend; for he believed that national interests imperatively required that the Government should, without delay and before the introduction of their Reform Bill, institute a careful and searching inquiry, by some competent authority, into the various systems of representation that had been proposed, with the view of obtaining a good House of Commons, which would prove to be a true reflex of the feelings and wishes of the whole nation.


said, he saw in the discussion that had taken place a signal proof that some of the most important Business of the House did not consist in mere legislation. Unless such opportunities as the present were given for academic discussions, comparative ill-success might be expected to attend the House in the discharge of its legislative functions. The hon. Member (Mr. Arnold) asked them to re-affirm what the Liberal Party had always supported—namely, the principle that the next Reform Bill should be based upon the equalization of the borough and county suffrage. He (Mr. O'Donnell) supported that principle when he was a fellow-sufferer in Opposition with the Liberal Party, and he supported it still, though he had no longer any fellowship with the Liberal Party. But he could not but think that some of the views put forward, notably by the Prime Minister, were calculated to excite a somewhat mistaken apprehension of the bearing of the proposition. Warmly as he sympathized with the argument in favour of the enfranchisement of the agricultural labourers, he thought they must take this fact into account—that a wholesale enfranchisement of the agricultural labourers would be a wholesale enfranchisement of a totally unskilled, extremely ignorant, and extremely susceptible class as regards politics. Not that he doubted the common sense of large masses of that kind; but he foresaw that the agricultural labourers, with the highest intelligence in many respects, and with excellent patriotism, and so forth, would not exercise their new privileges under the spontaneous direction of their own intelligence. He meant to say that, unless some provision was made to prevent organizations which would really rival the regular organizations of the constituencies, they would find that the majority of the agricultural labourers would fall into the hands of the most successful manipulators of whatever kind of Caucus—whether Liberal or Conservative—that might happen to be in existence. Give him (Mr. O'Donnell) an hour's start with the name of a Caucus in a constituency of lately enfranchised labourers, and he defied the united genius of all the Prime Ministers, from Pitt to Gladstone, to catch up the mischief that he might be able to work in that hour. The newly enfranchised millions were the natural prey of the Caucus. He disagreed with the theory of the Prime Minister as to the peculiar advantages of having a considerable representation of what was called labour. There was no scheme and no theory more liable to be twisted to the purposes of mere Party than the representation of the working classes by members of the working classes. He wanted to know how a man who, by his brain and his labour, had worked his way up the social ladder above the working classes or the professional classes, ceased to be a member of the working classes if he continued to feel for them? He maintained, on the contrary, without any depreciation of the marked ability of the hon. Members for Stoke (Mr. Broadhurst) and Morpeth (Mr. Burt), that, as a general rule, a man who had left the working classes by sheer labour and brain was, at the very least, as much a representative of the working classes as the man who was still nominally enrolled with them. As a matter of fact, it was impossible for the working classes to be represented in Parliament by working men exactly like other working men. The instant a working man began to take the lead of his fellows in politics, and was recognized by his fellow-men as a leader of his class, he ceased to be a mere working man; and if he was elected by a constituency, he was, in reality, a Representative of the community at large. It was a favourite dodge of electioneering politicians, not only in this country, but other countries, to try to get the favour of a constituency in which a large number of any par- ticular trade happened to be, by inducing someone who belonged to that trade to stand in order to get the votes of electors of his class, who would vote for him, because he was a member of their trade, wholly shutting their eyes to the fact that his membership of their trade was only a bait by which the electioneering agent got the support for his Party of that particular trade. This was no mere British device, for it prevailed in nearly all countries. Nor was the system confined to the working classes. When the Liberals wished to carry a county, knowing that if they brought forward a Liberal of the ordinary stamp they would be certain of failure, they pitched upon a farmer, in the hope that he might draw to their side other farmers who had always voted blue. He was serry to hear the Prime Minister declare that he would vote for the Motion, merely because it formed a groundwork for a sort of academic discussion which was not to be followed by legislation. He recognized the astute skill of the practised Party Leader, in the manner in which the Premier in this branch of his speech contrived to say a word or two in favour of the clôture, in lamenting the impossibility of legislating at present on this franchise question. But since the Liberal Party entered the House, strong in number and strong in resolution, without delay to remedy the shortcomings of the franchise, some weeks, not to say months, had been spent which might have been saved by the Government, and during which they might have introduced a measure for enfranchising the agricultural labourers. He had been informed that a Scotch Member took occasion to suggest that the next Reform Bill should increase the representation of Scot-laud and diminish the representation of Ireland. If any hon. Members were desirous of diminishing the interest which Ireland now felt in the Empire, he commended to their consideration the scheme suggested by that hon. Member. He (Mr. O'Donnell) would not deny to Scotland additional representation; he knew that England had for a long time been very much over-represented according to her population; but any attempt to diminish the representation of Ireland he would oppose to the bitter end, notwithstanding the Clôture Rules and the terrors which were proposed to be added to the powers of the Speaker. Some time ago he wrote a letter to The Times on this subject with reference to some extraordinary statements of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Bright). He pointed out then that, down to the very last Election, Ireland was very much under-represented in the House. For half a century from the passing of the Union Ireland ought to have had from 200 to 240 Members in proportion to her population to the population of England and Scotland. For that half century Ireland had been scandalously cheated out of more than half her legitimate representation. At the time of the Union the population of Ireland was 5,000,000, and that of England and Scotland 10,000,000; but Ireland had only 105 Members, while England and Scotland had 550 between them. Twenty years later the population of Ireland was something like 7,000,000, and the population of England and Scotland 14,000,000. Ireland ought accordingly to have had 230 Members in Parliament. She had only 105; while generous England and Scotland expended their generosity upon themselves, and kept 150 Members move than they wore entitled to have. Down to 1840 or 1850 something similar was the case. In 1871 Ireland was entitled, according to her population, to have 112 instead of 105. It was only now, for the first time since the Act of Union, that Ireland showed a population which would entitle her to fewer than 105 Members. Ireland was now l50,000 souls poorer in population than on the day the Act of Union was passed. The generous Representatives of England and Scotland discovered now, for the first time in a century, that there was something wrong in the representation of Ireland; although not one of them ever proposed to raise the representation to its legitimate number during the 80 years the country was so unjustly below its legitimate proportion of Representatives. In the course of the debate the great question of the re-distribution of seats had been referred to. The dominant idea in the speech of the hon. Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Grey) was that in the redistribution of seats, or in any settlement of the question of representation, special regard should be had to the representation of classes in that House. He could only say that he was unable to find anywhere any instance in which, while there was general suffrage or household suffrage, it was found possible to make the Lower House representative of anything but numbers. If it were desired to have representation of classes, of wealth, of intelligence, of special capacities, or of special institutions, then they must fall back upon the device of a Second Chamber. It was upon that device that all the great States which had adopted a liberal suffrage for the Lower House had fallen back for class representation. To take the case of France, which had been taken as the chosen exemplar of British progress for the future, they found the House of Deputies representative of nothing but numbers. It was in the Upper House—the Senate—that they found the representation of class; though there was a tendency in France to reduce the Senate more and more to the level of the Lower House, and to make it the mere representative of numbers. In Spain the Cortes—the Lower House—was representative only of the numerical majority; while the Representatives of the landed classes, the Universities, and the clergy formed the Upper Chamber. In Germany the able men who had presided at the building up of the German Empire had given up as hopeless the problem of making the Lower House represent anything but the numerical majority. The Reichstag represented numbers through manhood suffrage; while the Members of the other House were chosen by the Government. In the United States the Upper House was, to a large extent, made the representative of a special class of interests in the same way; while the House of Congress was, above all, the representative of a numerical majority. Every other country which had made any real progress towards a general enfranchisement of the mass of the population had, in a similar way, been obliged to give up as absolutely insoluble the problem of making the House of Representatives reflect the opinions of anything but the numerical majority. If ever they had to solve the problem of providing a special means for the representation of class interests, however respectable, he ventured to say that the solution would not be found in any attempt to limit the giant voice of manhood, universal, or household suffrage, or by a fancy re-distribution of power; but that they would have to face the question of a reform of the Upper House. Some means must be contrived by which the Second Chamber should be made more representative of special classes than at present, supposing those special classes were worthy of representation. He was aware that they were then only going to have an academical decision upon an academical discussion. Much criticism had appeared in Liberal organs, on the fact that the Liberal Party was pledged to a new Reform Bill, and to an extension of the suffrage. That extension of the suffrage must naturally conclude the existence of the present Parliament; and he was afraid that the very fact of passing a Reform Bill would be an act of suicide on the part of the present House. That being so, he did not think there was any fear that the Liberal Party would hasten on that act of suicide. The Liberal Party came into power under very advantageous circumstances; and he believed now there was a common suspicion among them that those advantageous circumstances were not likely to be present on the occasion of the next General Election.


rose for a few minutes, principally with the object of emphasizing what had already been said by his hon. Friend the Member for Roxburghshire (Mr. Arthur Elliot), and to express the satisfaction he had felt, as a Scotch Member, and which, he was sure, all Scotchmen would feel, at the announcement of the Prime Minister, which showed that his promises, when he was a candidate in Mid Lothian, were being fulfilled when he was Member for Mid Lothian and Prime Minister. He alluded to the statement he made in the beginning of his speech—that he recognized that in any Reform Bill in the future to be brought forward Scotland had a very strong claim to increased representation. He, in common with all Scotch Members—and, he thought, even in common with the Irish Member who last spoke—could not but think that if one looked at facts as they were he must come to the conclusion that Scotland was very much under-represented, whether regard was had to its population or to the revenue which it yielded to the Imperial Exchequer. He should like to say one word upon the speech of the hon. Member for Northumberland (Mr. Grey). He confessed himself that it seemed to him rather an awkward mode of meeting the Resolution of the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arnold) by moving the Amendment that had been moved by the hon. Member for Kerry (Mr. Blennerhassett); but if that was a somewhat strange mode of meeting the general Motion, the arguments by which the hon. Member for Northumberland supported the Amendment appeared stranger still. His arguments were twofold. He maintained, first, that the country wanted much greater inquiry upon this subject than had yet been made; and, secondly, he contended that a re-distribution of seats ought to accompany any extension of the franchise. With regard to the subject of inquiry, he thought certainly a great deal of information was necessary before a detailed Reform Bill could be brought forward; but he had to point out that that information could be obtained, no doubt, in process of time, by means of Returns and otherwise; but, although they recognized the advisability of further inquiry, that was surely no reason why they should vote against the general proposition of the hon. Member for Salford. It might be that a redistribution of seats should accompany an extension of the franchise; but that was only a detail which would receive full consideration. He trusted that if there were a re-distribution of seats it would embrace the whole of the United Kingdom, and that seats should not be distributed first for England, next for Ireland, and then for Scotland; else they would find themselves in the same position in which Scotland was placed in 1868, when, the question having been left over for a year, it was with the greatest difficulty Scotland got enlarged representation, through the disfranchisement of certain English boroughs. He further should like to call the attention of the House to the point alluded to by the hon. Member for Roxburghshire—namely, that, in reality, there was a much higher franchise in the counties in Scotland than obtained in England. There they had no 40s. freeholders, as in England. According to the figures quoted by the hon. Member for Salford, there was in English and Welsh Parliamentary counties one voter for every 15 inhabitants; whereas in Scottish Parliamentary counties there was one voter for every 21 inhabitants. With regard to the other burden under which the county franchise in Scotland at present laboured—namely, the way in which it was swamped by non-resident voters, those who did not reside on their qualifications—he would like to add one or two facts to the statistics quoted by the hon. Member for Roxburghshire. He took some trouble, about a year ago, in inquiring into the number of voters in Scottish counties who did not reside on their qualifications, and he found they varied very much in the different parts of the country. He made inquiry in eight or 10 different counties, and he found that the proportion of non-resident voters in the Scottish counties varied from about 5 or 6 per cent in Banffshire and Fifeshire to 11 and 12 per cent in other counties, and no less than 30 per cent in Mid Lothian. The actual figures for Mid Lothian for this year were 1,237 voters who did not reside on their qualification, out of a total of 4,018 on the roll, those out voters being distributed over the face of the earth. He took the trouble to look over one of the rolls—that of Renfrewshire—and he found that the nonresident voters were distributed over no less than 28 other Scottish constituencies—that a large number were in England, some in Ireland, and several abroad. The only other point which he would like to touch upon for a moment was the importance of this question from the point of view of the Representatives of boroughs and cities. The hon. Member for Roxburghshire had pointed out that a great number of the newly-enfranchised voters by the next Reform Bill would really be urban and not rural. He found that one-third of the urban population of Great Britain were outside Parliamentary boroughs—that was to say, at this moment there were in England 5,000,000 inhabitants who really lived in urban Parliamentary counties, but did not possess the borough franchise; while in Scotland there were 877,000 inhabitants who were inside Parliamentary counties, but actually lived in boroughs and small towns, though they were only under the county franchise. In further confirmation of that, as regarded England, he might call attention to the Return presented a few months ago, by which it appeared that in England and Wales there were 151 towns with over 10,000 inhabitants without the borough fran- chise, of which 20 were over 20,000 inhabitants, and four over 50,000. Therefore, he ventured to think that on a question of this sort one could fairly appeal to the sympathies of the Members of every large town constituency, and to their constituents, in urging forward this measure for the enfranchisement of those who, by the mere accident of their living outside an artificially-drawn Parliamentary boundary, were deprived of the franchise which they themselves enjoyed.

Viscount LYMINGTON and Sir JOHN-HAY rose together, and Mr. Speaker called on Sir JOHN HAY.


said, he was one of those Members who were anxious to see an assimilation of the county franchise to that of the boroughs; but he was also anxious to see along with it a considerable re-distribution of seats. But he heard the Prime Minister with some surprise when, instead of replying to the hon. Member for Salford by saying he would cause a Bill to be drawn of the nature desired, with a Schedule of the boroughs to be re-distributed, he merely said that the abstract Resolution might in part be accepted. He thought it was a great misfortune that they should be discussing this subject without a Bill before them, and without a Schedule in the Bill giving the names of the boroughs which were about to be grouped or appropriated in the representation of counties or of large towns. He found, from the Return which had been presented to the House on the Motion of the hon. Member for Tamworth (Mr. H. Bass), that there were towns, such as West Ham, with more than 100,000 inhabitants which were unrepresented. If he looked at the Schedule which he had endeavoured to draw up of small boroughs having two Members, he should find almost first in it the name of the town represented by the noble Lord the Member for Barnstaple—to whom he apologized for intervening between him and the House—(Viscount Lymington). There were 50 English boroughs which had less than 10,000 of a population, having 51 Representatives in the House, one of the boroughs returning two Members; and, in his opinion, it would be very much better if these seats were re-distributed, and a considerable number of the Members given to Scotland, as had been suggested by the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Buchanan) and his hon. Friend the Member for Roxburghshire (Mr. Arthur Elliot). He might fairly hope that that would be a result; because in his speech at Dalkeith the Prime Minister stated that he proposed to increase the representation of Scotland to 75 Members, under one condition, or 78 under another—by 15 or by 18 Members—but the only suggestion he gave by which the representation might be increased was by the six seats which at that moment were unappropriated. It was quite evident that the six seats would not fulfil the condition which the right hon. Gentleman had suggested was desirable for the increased representation of Scotland; and, therefore, it appeared to him (Sir John Hay) that any proposal which was brought before the House in the nature of an extension of the county franchise and an increase of the representation of Scotland must include also a re-distribution of seats, and the disfranchisement of a considerable number of English boroughs, and not only English boroughs, but three Welsh boroughs and 18 Irish boroughs. They had at this moment in England 53,000 persons represented by one Member, and in Ireland 50,000 represented by one Member; whereas the labours of Scotch Members were out of all proportion—each having to represent 62,000 of the population, which was an arduous duty, and they required considerable assistance in the work of representing the country. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister must himself feel that the labour was more than he could be fairly called upon to discharge, and would be glad, no doubt, of a Colleague as an assistant for the county of Mid Lothian. If they looked also at the Poor Law valuation, each English and Welsh Member represented a valuation of £323,000, and each Irish Member of £132,611; while in Scotland they had to represent each £371,248, which was an additional labour thrown upon them, and which was, no doubt, shared by the Prime Minister. He was of opinion there was no necessity for further inquiry. He could not believe that his hon. Friend the Member for Kerry (Mr. Blennerhassett) was going to a division. He had listened to the hon. Member's speech with great interest; but he was of opinion that the present representa- tion of boroughs, where population had diminished, should be fairly distributed among larger communities, and that 18 Members should be at least appropriated from the Irish constituencies to assist the Scotch Members in representing Scotland. He would remind the House of words, which would be received with marked respect by hon. Members on that side, as they were used by the late Lord Beaconsfield when he introduced his Reform Bill. That eminent statesman then said— We think there is a principle, the justness of winch will be at once acknowledged, the logical consequences of which will he at once remedial, and which, if applied with due discretion, will effect all those objects which we anxiously desire with regard to the county constituencies. We find that principle in recognizing an identity of suffrage between the counties and towns. He fully agreed with those words; and if the hon. Member for Salford went to a division he would support him on both the clauses of his Resolution; but he could not agree to partially increased constituencies without a re-distribution of seats, which was absolutely necessary to give a fair representation to the Scottish constituencies.


said, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Wigtown Burghs, who had just spoken, had stated that among the first boroughs in his Schedule which would be swept away by any reform would be the borough he (Viscount Lymington) had the honour to represent. Unfortunately, Barnstaple began with a "B" and Wigtownshire with a "W;" but, on reference to Hod's Parliamentary Companion, he found that the electors in the borough he represented numbered 1,785, while those in the constituency of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman were 1,420. [An hon. MEMBER: Barn-staple has two Members.] Certainly, extraordinary anomalies existed in 'respect of the numbers of the populations represented, and objections had been raised on that head to the present system. With regard to Wiltshire, to which reference had been made, there were in that county eight boroughs returning nine Members, but only containing a population of 60,000, in none of which was there any real manufacturing interest. Those boroughs sent to the House of Commons an equal number of Members with Liverpool, Wednesbury, Lambeth, and Glasgow, which contained populations amounting to 1,660,000 persons. The result was more striking if one took the Lancashire towns, like Southport, with 21,000 inhabitants; St. Helens, with 101,000; Accrington, with 36,000; West Derby, with 50,000, and Bootle, with 55,000, none of which had a Representative. In all these towns the working men, who constituted the main element in the population, were disfranchised; and yet, as a proof of the intelligence and fitness of the artizans in these large towns for the franchise, the Free Library Register at Southport showed that out of 10,000 volumes in the Library 8,500 are in constant use. Then it was contended, and with reason, that representation and taxation should be proportionate with each other. The eight Wiltshire boroughs were assessed at £775,000; whereas Liverpool, Lambeth, Wednesbury, and Glasgow, with only an equal representation, were assessed at £33,750,000. Many of the English boroughs were really rural, and not urban, in their character. That was shown by the fact that in many of them—Aylesbury, Cricklade, Retford, and others—the assessment under Schedule B, representing rent of lands, was double, or more than double, Schedule D, representing trade and professional profits. And, again, the rural character of these borough constituencies was shown in their area—Aylesbury having an area of 70,000 acres; Cricklade, 159,000 acres; Retford, 208,000 acres. In the strange speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dungarvan (Sir. O'Donnell) there was but one thing with which he could agree, and that was that there should be an adequate representation of minorities. He would be glad to support any scheme for that purpose if it were fair, practical, and reasonable; but he was inclined to think that the only way in which minorities—that was to say, certain interests—could be represented was by enlarging the foundation and character of the Second Chamber. He did not think anything would be gained, but that great danger might ensue, if Members came to that House, not as the Representatives of constituencies, but of certain classes and distinct interests.


said, the noble Lord who had just resumed his seat seemed to have forgotten the proverb that those who live in glass houses should not throw stones." For the purposes of that debate the small borough of Barnstaple, which returned two Members to Parliament, was a large glass house; and the class of boroughs each returning two Members, and to which Barnstaple belonged, was a still larger one. He would like, with the permission of the House, to call attention to the manner in which that class of borough was represented here. Omitting the corrupt boroughs of Boston and Sandwich, which belonged to it, he found there were 21 boroughs with populations between 10,000 and 20,000 returning 42 Members to that House; 12 of those Members sat on the Opposition Benches, and 30 on the side of the Government, and among those latter were the Attorney and Solicitor General, representing Taunton and Durham, and the Secretary of State for War, representing Pontefract. In any future scheme of re-distribution of seats, he hoped the rich preserve afforded by those 21 boroughs would not be forgotten. Now, he was not a little struck, earlier in the evening, with the ingenuity of the hon. Member for Salford(Mr. Arthur Arnold) in finding a reason for his Motion in the present state of public affairs. That hon. Member said that this debate was for the instruction and information of Her Majesty's Government; but he (Mr. Schreiber) would remind him that the Prime Minister had already the most valuable experience bearing on the subject of Parliamentary Reform; and he thought that the right hon. Gentleman had handled it that night with all the caution and lightness of touch which might be expected from one who had already burnt his fingers with the question. No doubt, the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arthur Arnold) saw himself in this difficulty—either it was intended to give effect to these Resolutions, or it was not. If it was not, then the time of the House was wasted in discussing them. If it was, then they were opening a question which would not be closed before it had engrossed whole Sessions, and, perhaps, whole Parliaments, to the exclusion of all Business of every other kind, because the question of Parliamentary Reform was an Aaron's Rod, which would swallow every other. It was quite understood that the present Parliament could not, and would not, decide the question either of the franchise or the re-distribution. An appeal must first be made, and would first be made, to the constituencies, because the question was one which, for many of them, involved their own extinction. In a word, a new Parliament must be elected to carry a Reform Bill, and perhaps it would be dissolved without having carried it. That was what was meant by giving effect to these Resolutions. In the present state of public affairs, and especially of Ireland, such a course as the hon. Member recommended, in his (Mr. Schreiber's) opinion, was one not likely to be taken. But that was not all. Fourteen years had not elapsed since they had a Reform Bill; and he would ask what had been its effect, first upon the House, and next upon the constituencies? He spoke with special experience on the former point. He sat in the Parliament of 1865, which took the great "leap in the dark;" but not in the Parliaments of 1868 or 1874. Returning there after an absence of 12 years, he awoke, like another Rip Van Winkle, to a sudden sense of all the changes which the interval had brought about in the composition of the House; | and he would say he thought the changes had been for the worse. [A laugh.] If anybody doubted it, let him look to the Resolutions lately laid upon the Table, and say what they meant. They might be wise, or they might be unwise; but at least, before 14 years were over, they had been thought necessary to enable the Public Business to proceed. And what was the cause of that state of things? He believed it to be that a more popular franchise had created a greater demand for popular oratory; with that demand had begun a supply of popular orators; and when popular orators found their way to that House they did what their constituents expected of them—they talked. The consequence was that that was the great talking Parliament, led by the great talking Minister. And what had been the effect upon the constituencies? Nineteen seats were at that moment vacant for corrupt practices, election agents were in prison, while his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General had brought in a Bill for "the prevention of corrupt practices" so drastic in character as to be somewhat in advance even of the enlightened opinion of the borough of Taunton. He saw the Chancellor of the Duchy (Mr. John Bright) in his place. What had become of all his prophecies? The right hon. Gentleman had said, more than once, in his hearing—"Give me large constituencies, and give me the Ballot, and I will show you the end of all corruption." Well, they had got the Ballot, and they had got largo constituencies. ["No!"] Well, some large constituencies; and he called the House to witness that the last General Election was the most corrupt of any in the political annals of this country. Hon. Gentlemen said that they had not got large constituencies. Was Oxford a small constituency? Was Macclesfield a small constituency? Was Chester a small constituency? And was it not perfectly certain that with adequate organization and adequate means—hon. Gentlemen opposite knew they never had such means as at the last General Election, the amount they spent was fabulous, some even said that all the money was not English—they might corrupt any constituency, however large. He would like to call attention to another result of the lowering of the franchise, which had been to bring about sudden oscillations of public opinion since the Reform Bill of 1868. In that year the pendulum swung violently on one side; in 1874 it swung violently on the other; in 1880 it came back again; and in 1883 or 1884 it would again swing to the other side. That was why he objected to a uniform franchise; because it meant not only monotony of representation, which was an exceedingly bad thing, but a political system absolutely devoid of balance. Therefore, he greatly preferred to stand upon the old lines of county and borough representation. That there might be no possibility of misrepresentation—and misrepresentation just now was a potent political engine—he wished to make it plain that those who sat on the Opposition Benches had no Party object to serve in resisting this change. He, for one, thought exclusively of its effect upon that House and the country; and he would therefore say frankly and at once that he regarded the agricultural labourer, who was to be enfranchised, as a man of capital and character compared with those less settled classes of our towns, who were sometimes to be enfranchised and sometimes to be disenfranchised by that crowning absurdity of recent legislation which went by the name of "Dilke's Act." He believed that that good man, the agricultural labourer, was, in the main, subject to good influences—those of the squire and the parson—and if they could not pull him' against any Caucus, then he would back the squire's wife and the parson's wife to do it. So that, from that point of view, he believed that the change would greatly increase the political strength of the Church of England in the constituencies. Then, with respect to re-distribution, what would they agree to call a small borough? ["Poole! "] No; Poole was an ancient and a most interesting, but it was by no means a small borough. Let them first speak of boroughs with a population of less than 10,000. Of these there were just 55, returning each one Member; and while 28 of those Members sat on the Opposition Benches, 27 sat on the Ministerial side of the House. He had already spoken of the 21 boroughs with a population of more than 10,000 and less than 20,000, returning two Members each, of whom 12 were Conservative and 30 Liberal. There remained 12 boroughs—of which Poole was one—with a population of more than 10,000 and less than 20,000, returning one Member each, and of whom six were Conservative and six Liberal. So that from those three classes of boroughs they had 46 Conservative Members to 63 Liberal Members. The Opposition, therefore, had no Party interest in supporting or opposing the Resolutions of the hon. Member; and he did hope that hon. Gentlemen—some even on the other side—would have the "courage of their opinions," and in the vote they should give think only of the honour of the House and the welfare of the country. For himself, he felt that he should best consult both by going into the Lobby against these Resolutions.


expressed his intention of supporting the Motion of the hon. Member for Salford. As far as argument could settle the question, it seemed to him it was now settled that the franchise should be extended to the rated inhabitants of the counties. It was assumed that this was a question which almost exclusively concerned the agricultural labourer. No doubt, it did directly affect that class; and there was, also, not the slightest doubt, as the Prime Minister had said in an early stage of the debate, that that was a class almost entirely unenfranchised. There were, however, large numbers of artizans and others who lived beyond the present boundaries, and whose occupation necessitated their living there, who were equally disenfranchised. For example, the classes with which he was directly connected—the mining classes—were in such a condition. There were in this country something over 500,000 miners, and it was obvious there must be a very considerable number of householders amongst them. Probably nine-tenths of them lived entirely outside of the present borough boundaries; and, although householders, they were absolutely excluded from a voice in the representation. In the counties of Durham and Northumberland there were nearly 70,000 miners above 16 years of age, and a large proportion of these, it was fair to assume, must be householders. But he ventured to say that there were not more than 5,000 voters out of that number. A large proportion had been practically enfranchised in Morpeth, and these included a large number of colliers; but the men connected with the collieries outside the borough, although they followed the same occupation, and were similiar in their habits, character, and intelligence to their fellows who were enfranchised in the boroughs, were not intrusted with a vote. This distinction had no basis in reason or common sense. But what he wished particularly to emphasize was this—that those who were excluded felt that exclusion very keenly, and were very much dissatisfied indeed with the present position of the franchise. He did not share the fear that the working people would become over-represented in that House. For 14 years the boroughs had had the power of returning Labour Representatives: and only two or three of the Members of the House were, at the present time, even nominally Representatives of the working classes. He entirely agreed with the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell) as to class representation. He did not know that he could even call himself a working class Representative, for he came before the electors of Morpeth purely on political grounds. He was a disbeliever in merely class representation. The electors did not vote in classes, but according to their political opinions. Those opinions were pretty well divided between the two Parties. He acknowledged that the necessity for a re-distribution of seats had been established; but believed that it was not practicable to carry the extension of the suffrage and re-distribution in one measure. One of these could wait; but the other could not be long deferred without causing widespread and well-founded dissatisfaction among an important section of the people of England.


said, the House had heard several speeches of great excellence during the present debate. One was the speech of the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. Burt), and another was that of the hon. Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Grey), whom he was sure the House would often desire to hear. The debate had, as the hon. Member for Dungarvan (Mr. O'Donnell) had observed, assumed somewhat of an academic character; he would, therefore, endeavour to restore it to its practical character, and in doing so he would state the two fundamental distinctions that existed between the two schools of thought in the House. One school was represented by the hon. Baronet the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir Charles W. Dilke), who said a few years ago that in the case of a reformed Parliament the presumption was that it was in favour of change. He (Mr. Stanhope) approached the subject from the opposite view, for he thought the presumption was in the other direction, and that it was necessary for those who desired change first to show the advantage and the necessity of change, and, in the second place, that the time was ripe for making it. In the course of the years 1877 and 1878 a discussion of an important character took place on this subject; but since then what had been done? He did not think that there was a more remarkable fact than this—that nothing had been done, since that time towards forming or informing public opinion on the question. They had. had, it was true, an interesting and able discussion between two right hon. Gentlemen in The Nineteenth Century. That was a contest between two giant intellects, and no one admired it more than he. But, at the same time, he did not think anyone could deny that it was entirely without practical bearing on the actual subject before them. He would not venture to describe it in his own words; but he remembered that it was summed up in one sentence in a leading article of the leading journal of the day—The Times newspaper—when it said that the speculations of the one were fit for a balloon, and the arguments of the other were fit only for the receiver of an air pump. They were then asked to affirm a general Resolution in favour of an enormous reform in the representation of the country after a discussion which he might venture to call meagre, which had been carried on in a thin and uninterested House, when no real examination had been made into the subject, and no speech had been heard from the Government, except one of a few minutes' duration from the Prime Minister. They had been asked to commit Parliament and the country to an abstract Resolution which involved a policy of destruction. He should like to ask the House what had been settled in the direction of construction? As far as he was able to form an opinion, the question of construction was in as unsettled a state as it was five or six years ago. He did not think they had arrived any nearer to it, except as to the manner in which it should be carried out. A fundamental difference was found among hon. Gentlemen opposite, who were ardently in favour of its being carried out immediately. Then, again, as regarded the mode of voting, they had had various suggestions as to the manner in which that was to be altered for the better. There had been proposed to them, by persons entitled to consideration, various methods by which the minority might be represented in that House; but the public mind required instruction in that matter, for it knew little or nothing of those speculations at the present time. He believed that on such a subject as that some inquiry was eminently necessary. If he might venture to put forward his opinion, he should say that he quite agreed with what had fallen from the hon. Gentleman who seconded the Resolution, when he said that in some way or other they ought to take means for the efficient representation of minorities in that House. But he did not disguise from himself that it was a difficult thing to do. When they came to deal face to face with a majority they would find that if they tried to introduce into the system of representation any such element the majority would always be inclined to sweep it away. But that did not prevent him from thinking that inquiry should be made into the matter; and, therefore, he should vote in favour of the inquiry which the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Blennerhassett) proposed. If it were right to make inquiry, as was done in 1876, it was much more right then, because the Prime Minister himself had told them that legislation could not follow upon this Resolution for several years. But he wished to know what was the precise object of hon. Members opposite in proposing a reform of the representation of the country? Was it in order to deal with the anomalies which at present existed, and thus to run after that bugbear of equality which Lord Sherbrooke had described as "the idol of superficial thinkers?" The anomalies which existed were considerably less than those which would have been introduced had the Reform Bill which was brought in by the Liberal Government, and passed by the House of Lords, prior to the Act of 15 years ago, become law. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had pointed out the difficulty of defending any argument where an imaginary line was drawn, and where the advantages enjoyed by those on one side were not shared by those on the other. It was the same as regarded the individual voter, who varied in each particular constituency. The voting power had always varied up to the present, and he thought it always would vary. But how was it proposed to remedy these anomalies? It seemed to him that, unless they were going to arrive at equal electoral districts, it was utterly impossible to get rid of the inequality. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government said that the voting power ought to vary. He said that a smaller number of Representatives was much more effective if they happened to represent constituencies near the seat of Government; and if on that he based his argument in favour of a large representation of Scotland and a small representation of the Metropolis, many wicked people would be inclined to say that he desired to give large representation to those who supported him and a small representation to those who generally opposed him. ["Oh, oh!"] He did not assert that the right hon. Gentleman had said so—that would have been unwise, having regard to the fact that there was another country—Ireland—by no means so favourable to his opinions. The arguments which had been put forward in favour of this Motion to-night practically amounted to this—that a great many people had not got the franchise who wanted to have it; that there were a great many people who had got something to tell them, therefore they ought to have the franchise; and that there were a great many people who had got the franchise who were no better than a good many people who had not got it. He would read a few words from an article written by Mr. Freeman, a gentleman whose opinions were entitled to some consideration. Mr. Freeman said— When we look at some of those persons, especially of what call themselves the educated classes, who have votes now, it is impossible to conceive that the agricultural labourer can be lower down in the scale. He can hardly be more ignorant; he is certainly much less conceited. He is at the worst untaught; he is not elaborately taught wrong. He did not quote those opinions against the agricultural labourers; he entertained the utmost respect for them; but he wished to point out that the arguments used were arguments also in favour of manhood suffrage, of universal suffrage, of suffrage for women, of the enfranchisement of all who had got something to tell them, and who were capable of exercising the right of voting. The question that ought to be considered by the House was not whether a change like that which was proposed was what a great many people wanted; but whether it would be likely to improve the representative character of the House, and likely to make the House a better machine for carrying out the wishes and purposes of the country? He had, however, during the whole course of the debate, not heard a single suggestion to that effect. The Prime Minister, no doubt, spoke of his desire to see an enlarged representation of labour. He (Mr. Stanhope) should be glad to see a Representative of the agricultural labourer in that House; but it was idle to suppose that agricultural labourers, who were earning wages of less than 20s. a week, would be able to send many Members to Parliament. It must be remembered that in more than one constituency the working-class vote was already the preponderat- ing vote. So, also, if it was thought desirable that Members representing special classes should find seats in the House, there was no obstacle in the way of agricultural labourers taking their seats there, if their constituencies so desired it. It was perfectly clear that the persons whom they were pressed to enfranchise were already, to a large extent, represented in the House. But, if it was desired, for example, to include a larger number of miners in the representation, the borough limits might be extended so as to include them. With regard to the agricultural labourers, he had already stated that there was nothing to prevent their returning one, two, or more Members of their own if they chose, a large number of that class already possessing votes. He thought, moreover, the influence of the vote given to 40s. freeholders a most beneficial one. It encouraged thrift, and had been productive of very good results. He had received a letter from a gentleman in East Worcestershire on the subject. That gentleman informed him that there was a particular town in East Worcestershire in which there were 150 freehold voters, of whom 32 had obtained their votes by means of land societies, while no fewer than 82 had gained their votes by saving up money and purchasing their freehold. Yet this was the franchise which the hon. Member for Salford told them very coolly and carelessly that he proposed to sweep away at once. There were some considerable merits about our constituencies as at present constituted. Means already existed by which every agricultural labourer could be adequately represented, and by which farmers, persons engaged in commercial pursuits, and others could return class Representatives if they chose to do so. They were now asked, however, to sweep away a system which had produced such good results, and to declare themselves in favour of a dull uniformity of representation, in which labour alone was to be represented. It was true that those whom it was proposed to include in the franchise belonged to precisely the same class as many of those who were at present included. The difficulty was that it was intended to introduce them not in small or even in reasonable numbers, but in overwhelming numbers, so that they must inevitably swamp every other class in the country. It was not because he feared, from a Party point of view, the admission of these voters that he spoke in this sense. It was very likely that these voters, when they were admitted, would produce some very unexpected results. It was very probable, for instance, that they would introduce a system of Protection. [Murmurs.] At all events, he thought that was probable. They might introduce a good many other things which would be exceedingly detrimental to the interests of the country. But the thing most to be feared was the danger to the stability of all institutions of this country which was produced by the indiscriminate admission of an enormous mass of voters who might vote as a body, and who, if they did vote as a body, would certainly carry everything before them. Could anyone contend that Parliament, as at present constituted, was not sufficiently sensitive to the ebb and flow of public opinion? A good many people might, indeed, be inclined to take the opposite view, and to say that Parliament was a little too sensitive to public opinion out-of-doors. It seemed to many that it would be a great advantage if Members of that House could act with a little more independence; and if, instead of being entirely under the dominion of somebody residing at Birmingham, they could vote in accordance with their convictions. Of course, if any special grievance could be shown on the part of any class not fully represented, and if it could be further shown that Parliament was unable or unwilling to deal with it, a strong case would be made out for altering the representation. He denied, however, that any such grievance existed. When the present Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Trevelyan) first began to agitate this subject, and to bring forward his proposal for establishing household suffrage in counties, he used to specify certain special grievances that Parliament had not dealt with affecting agricultural labourers and labourers in towns. But the hon. Gentleman had since admitted that those grievances had been remedied; and if he had gone further, he would have felt himself bound to say that most of them were abolished by a Conservative Government. Let him bring this question to a practical test. Speaking a year or two ago, Mr. Joseph Arch, whom no one could doubt was a representative agricultural labourer, said— We are asked sometimes—I mean those who live in the unenfranchised districts—why we urge the claim so strongly? Is there anything in a vote which will do you any good? Mr. Arch, in giving the answer, described what he called sanitary comforts—better drainage, better water, and better cottages. But was there the smallest ground for supposing that any Member of that House wished to deprive agricultural labourers of the best legislation for establishing all those advantages? For his own part, he was proud to be able to say that one of his first attempts in Parliament was to bring in a measure for improving the cottages of agricultural labourers. But that was certainly not the object of the agitators, because at the time when Mr. Arch was speaking there was another representative of the agricultural labourers, who went about the country saying that they did not include in their programme any scheme for the improvement of the labourers' cottages; and the reason they gave was that to do so would increase the dependence of the labourers on their employers. He was not sure that the true character of the Motion before the House had not been revealed by the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arnold). He himself had never disguised his opinion, either in the House or out of it, that in all their overtures to the farming interest, the aim of the Liberal Party was first to use the farmers for an attack on the landlords, and then to attack the farmers through the labourers. [An hon. MEMBER: What nonsense, to be sure!] He heard some hon. Member say—"What nonsense, to be sure!" He was not going to be discouraged by that. It was his first object and his intention to warn the innocent victims of their delusion; and, in the second place, to prove that it was the case by what had been said that evening. The hon. Member for Salford made no concealment of his design; but said plainly that the county franchise left the representation in the hands of a class that put forward projects obnoxious to the public interest, and that, therefore, he wished to swamp the farmers by the introduction of the agricultural labourers, at the same time taking care that there should be a sufficient introduction of urban votes to make the swamping more complete. The Prime Minister had called the attention of the House to the fact that there were two Resolutions before it, one for the enfranchisement of certain unenfranchised classes, and the other for the re-distribution of seats; but he would not allow the second of these Resolutions to be discussed, on the ground that it would take a great deal of time——


I never said anything of the kind.


said, he had not intentionally misquoted the right hon. Gentleman; but he had taken down his words at the time, and he certainly said that the discussion of the 2nd Resolution would take a long time.


I said a separate debate would be necessary.


The right hon. Gentleman meant that he would insist upon what he would not probably be able to obtain—namely, a separate discussion. The right hon. Gentleman had pledged the Government to what he called a real obligation—namely, if the present Parliament were not prematurely dissolved, to bring in a Bill for the extension of the county franchise. What had the Prime Minister said with regard to the 2nd Resolution? He had not said a single word about the intention of the Government in that respect, except that he saw in the dim distance a vista of reform. The right hon. Gentleman was going to add, if he could, 1,500,000 voters to the electorate of the country; he was entirely swamping the whole of the rural constituencies, introducing far greater inequality that at present existed, and he was prepared to go to the country with that inequality.


I never said so; I never said anything of the kind.


I do not want for a moment to misrepresent the right hon. Gentleman; but the right hon. Gentleman did undoubtedly pledge himself to the 1st Resolution during the present Parliament.


I beg your pardon. I spoke of the mission of the present Parliament. I did not speak of my own personal action. I spoke of the mission of Parliament, and I certainly spoke of the subject as a whole.


I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. He distinctly said that he limited himself to pledging the present Parliament to deal with the 1st Resolution.


No; the whole subject.


re-asserted that the right hon. Gentleman expressly said so, and he challenged the right hon. Gentleman upon it. In not one single word of his speech did he refer to any date as to dealing with the 2nd Resolution, either in the present Parliament or within any definite time. Other Members of the House understood the right hon. Gentleman in the same sense; and the House had been told, in the course of the debate, that it was possible to introduce a new class of voters and to go to the country; and that, when a new Parliament was returned, it would altogether decline to re-adjust the voting powers of the electorate, and would leave untouched all the existing anomalies. In these circumstances, the Government, having made a declaration of a most uncertain and dangerous character, he (Mr. E. Stanhope) objected in the strongest manner to the House thinking for one moment of passing the 1st of these Resolutions without taking into account the 2nd. It seemed to him that the considerations he had put forward, though he did not pretend they were absolutely conclusive, proved, at any rate, that the question was at that moment thoroughly unripe for settlement. Did the House think the time was come for dealing with the matter? Was it not rather the case that, in the whole course of the last 10 years, no more inopportune moment could have been found? The noble Lord the Secretary of State for India, when, in 1877, he announced his conversion to the principle of the extension of the county franchise, gave as a reason that the time was favourable to legislation, and that a period of too great legislative activity would have been unsuitable for the change. Could the noble Lord say that the present moment was suitable? Her Majesty's Government had already on their hands the most difficult question, perhaps, that had fallen to the lot of any Adminstration in recent years; and they had before them a number of other subjects—the Prime Minister himself numbered them at 30—which it would be a public scandal not to deal with at once. Were they to delay dealing with all those 30 subjects until this great Constitutional question had been disposed of, which it could scarcely be hoped could be finally settled in a less period than two years? But if even a Government Bill on this subject would have to be postponed indefinitely, according to the declaration of the Prime Minister, how much more inconvenient would it be for the House to agree to an abstract Resolution, to which the right hon. Gentleman had told them he had a great objection, unless it were followed up by action such as that now before them? The right hon. Gentleman did not propose to follow up the Resolution with action; but, in the face of a great Party difficulty, he met it with a dangerous concession, and prejudiced their calm consideration of the subject by asking the House to debate an indefinite and partial Resolution.


It is with unfeigned reluctance that I rise to occupy a small and I hope the last portion of an evening which I think has been so usefully spent. I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down (Mr. Stanhope) that this debate has either been ineffective or languid. It seems to me that the question before the House is one with regard to which every political man has had some experience of his own. It is one on which most people's experience has generally had something special about it; and on which the great number of Gentlemen who were returned to Parliament since this question was last mooted here have much that is valuable and new to say. That is very little the case with myself. Everything I have to say on the question has long ago so completely lost every particle of novelty that I am unwilling to occupy even a brief portion of the time of the House, if it were not for the sake of impressing on hon. Members one single consideration, which, perhaps, more vividly and forcibly presents itself to a veteran than to those who, as far as their presence here is concerned, has more recently enlisted in the cause of household suffrage. And that consideration is, what in the view of many of us here—what still more in the view of hundreds of thousands outside our walls is the real cause and aim of our discussing this question to-night? The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down (Mr. Stanhope) in his speech was certainly not ineffective, and most decidedly not languid; but he was extremely ingenious, and he did not touch this aspect of the subject at all. Why, Sir, what is the business view of it? We are not here to-night to consider the first reading of a Government Reform Bill. It is not a proposal brought forward by a private Member with regard to some elaborate distribution of political power throughout the country. Our object in being here to-night is this—It is the first opportunity which this Parliament—the first Parliament from which the county householder ever had a chance of getting his rights—has had of proclaiming that, in its opinion, the last great, overwhelming, and indefensible political injustice remaining in this country should cease. That is the way in which the unenfranchised multitudes regard it. I have a right to appeal to outside opinion, for these men are not our constituents, and to mention them is not to have recourse to that political pressure which this House invariably and justly resents. The proposals for the minority vote, and the cumulative vote, and for proportional and class representation are new to many hon. Members; but they are not new to the unenfranchised multitudes—the county householders. For 10 years they have waited at the doors of one Parliament after another to ask for a right and a privilege; which nobody or, at any rate, which not one Member out of 100 has ever in speech denied to be their due; but which, without any reason worth the name of reason being given, has been, by the vote of the House, invariably refused them. "We have been asked to bring forward new arguments to-night; but there is no use in bringing forward new arguments until the old arguments have been answered, and, as yet, there has been no answer given to our old arguments. I do not know what the hon. Member means by new arguments. If the hon. Gentleman means by new arguments that this Metropolis disapproves of the policy of right hon. Gentlemen who sit on these Benches, all I can tell him is that, by a majority of 14 to 8, the Members for the Metropolis have already approved of the policy of Her Majesty's Government; and if I am to bring forward any new argument to-night I shall no coin one out of the hon. Gentleman's mint. I venture to say that no body of men in the history of politics ever received such treatment before. They come from such places as Keighley and Barnsley, and Rotherham in Yorkshire, in which latter town I am told that members of the school board and Dissenting ministers have no vote on account of the high rate franchise. They come from Ratcliffe and Heywood, and Middleton in Lancashire, the mining population of Durham and Staffordshire, the hinds and shepherds of Perthshire and Northumberland, who are as well educated in all the essentials of education as the middle-classes were in the days of the great Reform Bill. These are the people who have asked for their rights over and over again, and they have always been denied. In the general proceedings of Parliament, on every day of the Session but one, ever since the year 1867, they have seen Bills on every sort of question which affects their interests brought in and discussed, and passed or thrown out, and they had nothing to say to it. Debates of immense importance have taken place on foreign policy, and they have had nothing to do with them. Wars have been declared and peace made, and they had no voice in it. As Bishop Horsley said of the people in days when men who held these sentiments ventured likewise to express them, they have had nothing to do with the taxation of the country, except to pay it, and with the laws except to obey them. But there is one day in each Session on which they experience, not, indeed, the sensation, but the hope of citizenship. And that is the day on which their friends come forward to ask the House of Commons to declare that this great class of Englishmen ought to be placed on the same political footing as the people of so many more favoured countries. And what happens on that day? Everybody seems to be unanimous about their merits. Everybody joins in praising their industry, their common sense, their patriotism, and their loyalty. Everybody talks of them as most excellent citizens. And then, when the debate is over, and the division comes, hon. Members go into the Lobby with the praises of the county householders on their lips, and vote that they are not to be allowed the political privilege which every Negro in the United States has had for half a generation. That is the treatment which has been served out to these people, and the effect produced on their minds is one which must be expected. There is beginning to grow up among them a sort of feeling that Parliament is not dealing sincerely with them—a feeling that not only they cannot get justice and their rights, but that they cannot even get an intelligible reason why justice should not be done them. The House to-night has a golden opportunity of undoing the harm which has been done by its Predecessors; and I earnestly hope it will not be led aside by the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Kerry (Mr. Blennerhassett) and my hon. Friend the Member for South Northumberland (Mr. A. Grey), and lose that opportunity. If the debate to which the county house-holders have so long been looking for ward ends in a Committee on Proportional Representation, there is reason to fear that the classes who want to get their votes will think they are being trifled with again, as they have been trifled with in times past. What they will naturally say is this—"You have already had two Reform Bills, and you did not require before, in each case where you extended the franchise, that there should be a previous inquiry by a Committee of the House of Commons. Now that our turn has come, what reason is there that you should look upon us with more suspicion than the borough householders in 1832 and 1867, and not only refuse to give us a Reform Bill, but even refuse to promise one until you have had an inquiry by a Committee?" The only way of re-assuring their minds—the only way, in my opinion, of doing our own duty, is for a majority in Parliament for the first time to say bluntly and unmistakably that the county householder ought to have the same privileges of a citizen which the borough householder has possessed since 1867; and I cannot imagine how that declaration can be made more clearly and decisively than by voting for the 1st Resolution of the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. A. Arnold). The hon. Member for Kerry (Mr. Blennerhassett) begs us not to embarrass ourselves with vague and indefinite Resolutions. Now, nothing could be less indefinite than the Motion which my hon. Friend the Member for Salford (Mr. Arnold) has placed before the House. I refuse to accept the gloss which my hon. Friend put upon it. I refuse to see in it the abolition of the 40s. freeholders. I look upon it as simply what it is—part of the enfranchisement of the county householders. The hon. Member for Kerry asks—"Are we going to put into the hands of the county householders of the country the election of the whole House of Commons?" I answer—"Yes; in what other hands should we place it? "If we do not believe in the wisdom and patriotism of our own people, how can we expect the country to thrive under a system of popular government?


I said in the hands of the newly enfranchised electors.


The newly enfranchised electors would be exactly of the same class as the existing electors, and the two together would carry the election of the House of Commons. These are subjects which do not create any difficulty in the eyes of those who believe they have a right to govern themselves, and that the government will be better, more or less, in proportion to the way in which this right is recognized. My hon. Friend the Member for South Northumberland (Mr. Grey) says that the Resolutions which I and my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir Charles W. Dilke) have brought forward year after year were not founded on this principle of popular government. He says that my hon. Friend (Sir Charles W. Dilke) himself proposed a Committee of Inquiry into the representation of the people; and, therefore, that he is bound on this occasion to vote for the hon. Member for Kerry (Mr. Blennerhassett). My hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs did, indeed, ask for an inquiry into the system of representation in a House which was averse to Reform, in order that the anomalies of the system might be made known. But, before doing that, he also voted for the extension of the franchise pure and simple, and twice afterwards he spoke and voted against the Amendment of the hon. Member for Kerry, when the purpose of that Amendment was to thwart and delay the emancipation of the county householder. I cannot, therefore, accept the statement of my hon. Friend the Member for South Northumberland, and I certainly cannot accept it when endorsed by the hon. Member who spoke last (Mr. Stanhope). The hon. Member who has just sat down stated that he agreed with the hon. Member for South Northumberland in his offer—which I cannot but regard as a most illusory offer—that he would extend the county franchise if the county householders would unite for the purpose of preventing the re-distribution of seats. I cannot see what motive they would have to unite for that purpose; and, indeed, the motive they now have to oppose the re-distribution of seats would be removed. One of the great advantages of this extension of the franchise is that it will facilitate the re-distribution of seats. At present, when there exists one franchise in the boroughs and another in the counties, you cannot have a re-distribution of seats without disfranchising some of the electors; but when you have the same franchise all over the country, you can merge the boroughs and counties without disfranchising anybody, and you can then have a re-distribution of seats. The truth is that I hardly think hon. Members have sufficiently considered what classes of our population they are which the present system so rigorously excludes. If there is one set of people among whom the average of comfort and intelligence is higher than elsewhere, it is among the people who inhabit those parts of the country which are the seats of new and healthy industries. Now, Sir, where are those industries carried on? They do not, for the most part, spring up within our ancient towns and cities, because there is no room for them. Those towns and cities are, generally speaking, too crowded already. Population follows manufactures, and manufactures require room to turn in. Population follows the spread of manufacturing and mining operations, and such industrial pursuits require plenty of elbow room. Where you get large new populations is where mining operations and coal and iron extend themselves at their own sweet will, without reference to the question whether the soil above them is within the limits of a Parliamentary borough. If hon. Members wish to see a really civilized and prosperous community, they should go to the borough which returns the hon. Member who moved this Resolution—the high ground which runs to the west of the Valley of the Irwell, between Manchester and Bolton. There, for mile after mile, they will find one long street of well-built houses, well-furnished shops and stores, lecture-rooms, reading-rooms, school-rooms, chapels, churches—everything that constitutes a town, except only the rate paying household suffrage. That is the result of coal mining. It is just the same with manufactures. There is no manufacture that is more prosperous at this moment than the woollen industry in the South of Scotland. For many years past it has enjoyed a solid and equable measure of prosperity. Formerly it was carried on in the towns; but now, when a capitalist determines to go into the wool business, perhaps, and does not find room in Selkirk, Hawick, or Galashiels, instead of betaking himself to the tributaries of the Tweed, he plants his manufactory on the Tweed itself, where towns have sprung up similar to those which I have the honour to represent. Between Peebles and Selkirk are the singularly pleasant and prosperous settlements of Walkerburn and Innerleithen; and the population of these places is, to all intents and purposes, moral, social, industrial, and intellectual—the same population as that of the neighbouring burghs. But when a General Election comes the inhabitants of Hawick and Galashiels have the opportunity of bearing a hand in those dubious and stirring contests which take place in the Border Burghs; while the only part which the inhabitants of Walker-burn and Innerleithen can play is to stand near the polling-booths at Peebles or Selkirk, and watch the trains-full of Edinburgh lawyers and Highland lairds who, once in seven years, favour the county with their presence, in order to elect for it a Member, for or against whom the genuine inhabitants of the county have no opportunity of voting. My hon. Friend (Sir Charles W. Dilke) and myself have always insisted on this argument with regard to the town population who live outside the Parliamentary boroughs. How very large a part of the question affects these people who are townsmen in every respect, except that they are not voters, and who are not voters merely because they live on one side of an arbitrary line instead of on the other, has long been a leading argument; and the results of the Census of last year, so far as they have been made public, confirm that argument with a strength which is really startling. The increasing predominance of the urban over the rural element is more remarkable. In 1861 there were 165 dwellers in town against 100 dwellers in rural districts. In 1871 the number had risen to 184, and in 1881 had reached 199, or about 200 per cent. Taking the population of England and Wales at 25,950,000, this gives 8,650,000 for the rural and 17,300,000 for the town population. Of that town population, 12,270,000 live within Parliamentary boroughs: so that we come to this striking conclusion—that there are in England and Wales over 5,000,000 of men, the very flower of our industrial population, who have every quality in their character, condition, and mode of existence which the borough householders possess, on whom Parliament in 1867—not an hour too soon—conferred the rate paying franchise. If their claims are resisted many years longer, the old English sense of justice and fair play must have sadly deteriorated. Hon. Members opposite have quoted what Lord Sherbrooke said about equality being the ideal of superficial thinkers. What is the use of quoting Lord Sherbrooke against us, when everything the noble Lord had to say told as much against the Act of 1867 as against the present proposal? But, Sir, while we insist on the claims of this great mass of people, this population of 5,000,000, which is infinitely larger than the population of Switzerland or of our Australian Colonies, we must not forget the, if possible, still greater claims of another part of the population—the purely rural population. The village shopkeepers, the village artificers, of themselves a very special and worthy class, and, above all, the agricultural labourers, are petitioners for justice and redress. My own acquaintance has been a pretty intimate one with rural life for some 10 or 12 years past; and in that period I have seen, like everyone with the same opportunities, an extraordinary change and progress in the population in the country districts. If it is a question of education, it is certainly not the labourers who are indifferent, or who take a languid share in the election of candidates to a school board. If it is a dispute in ecclesiastical matters, such as will often arise where men are in earnest about religion, it is not the labourers who are apathetic in the matter. Hon. Gentlemen who represent boroughs which include rural districts, tell us that the agricultural labourers under that very trying and demoralizing method of holding the franchise (for they are, as it were, privileged among their own class, and privilege has always its temptations), are mainly independent and pure. And I must say this, which has not been mentioned to-night, that if among the labourers, as among our town population, there are some who are degraded and ignorant, hon. Gentlemen opposite will have the matter in their own hands. They have the means of easily separating that degraded element from the persons who will be good and more trustworthy citizens. All that they have to do is to take the education test which they have ready to their hands; and if they are wishful that the power should only be placed in the hands of intelligent men, all they have to do, in the spirit of true Conservatism, is to strike from the Ballot Act the provisions which relate to the illiterate voter. If any hon. Member wishes to see any proof of the great industry of the agricultural labourer, let him peruse the interesting Return, which has been lately presented to the House, of the savings of our population as shown by the deposits in savings banks. That Return scarcely applies to Scotland, where the people invest their savings in another channel, nor does it prove the thrift of the people in the North of England—Lancashire, and Yorkshire, and Durham. The great bulk of these sums so saved are the test and measure of the industrious and self-denying character of the people of the Southern and rural counties. And now, before I sit down, let me call the attention of the House to one fact which I think has not been sufficiently considered, and I wish in doing so to answer the last part of the speech of the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Stanhope). In that speech he referred to the farmer and the labourer, and he used expressions which I am sure are unjust towards the Liberal Party, and which I cannot kelp thinking might be made a source of danger in future political controversy. There is a question which, by universal acknowledgment, lays before us—what is generally known as the Land Question. Upon that question the late Government brought in a measure which, if it had not been killed by the General Election, would have been a very great advantage to the country. It was a measure for enabling parts of encumbered estates to be sold. I gather that that was the direction which everyone was agreed that legislation should take. And to what class do those belong who are most dependent for their comfort and welfare on this sort of legislation? It is most important that the land of this country should be in hands that can do it justice; that, instead of remaining as at present where the money is not, it should go where the money is. It matters to the farmer a good deal; but it does not concern him as much as some other classes. It matters to the landlords still more; but it is a matter which, to a degree almost impossible to exaggerate, concerns the whole future of the agricultural labourer and cottager. And yet you take the class of tenant farmers, who are only some 200,000 in number; you let them alone have votes; you give them a preponderating influence in the settlement of the Land Question; you teach them to think that the man who happens to be renting 300 or 400 acres of land at a time when a Land Bill is brought forward is the only person whose interest, besides that of the landlord, is to be considered. You give them, as I see, a preponderating influence in the settlement of this great and complicated question, and you exclude all the rest of the rural population from any voice in the question which is of the deepest moment to them, and in regard to which they hold opinions perfectly rational, perfectly safe, most moderate, most sensible, and, as far as possible, removed from any taint of Socialism. No one—and this is my answer to the hon. Gentleman—no one who has watched a county election can deny that it is managed as if the farmers are the only body of men in the county who need to be appealed to. If the great body of consumers—the people whose only interest in the price of bread is that they want to buy it cheap—had votes in recent county elections, do you imagine for a moment that you would have heard anything of a 5s. duty on corn? The hon. Gentleman opposite asks us what we intend to do with this new class of voters, and he asks us whether we desire to teach them Protection? My answer is, that we will leave that to his brother Members in his own county.


I said I thought it might be quite possible that that new class of voters would themselves desire it.


I beg the hon. Member's pardon. My answer to that is, that they are the last people in the world who would desire to introduce Protection, because they approach the question of a duty on corn in the character of the eaters of bread, and and not of the sellers of it. The truth is that these appeals to the private and selfish interests of classes are doubled-edged weapons, as hon. Members now willing to use them will one day find out. What we want to do is not to perform the almost inhuman operation which the hon. Member opposite has described of setting one class of our fellow-countrymen against the other and afterwards swamping them both; we want to bind up county society of all ranks by one common tie of political equality. Until that is done we believe it can never rest on any sound foundation, and that county elections will never cease to be governed by appeals to the private interests of classes, instead of appeals grounded upon national advantage. I have now gone through, as briefly as possible, the classes of men of various orders and occupations whom these Resolutions propose to enfranchise by an act of tardy justice. Every bye-election which is held, every faggot voter who is added to the registration list, is only one more item in the account which we have against the House of Commons; and I trust, as a first instalment in the settlement of that account, hon. Members will walk through the Lobbies in very different proportions from what was the case when my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and myself used, year after year, to stand at the glass-doors, and afterwards come up to the Table on the left flank of the line of Tellers.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Salt.)


said, before the House went to a division on the Motion for Adjournment, he wished to ask the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arnold) whether, in case they divided on the 1st Resolution, it was his intention that the 2nd Resolution should be put to the House? It was, he thought, only fair that this information should be given, because it was essential that the House should know whether ultimately the subjects of both Resolutions were to be dealt with by the present Parliament—whether, in fact, they were to be dealt with as one great subject, or whether they were to be treated separately. He gathered from the speech of the hon. Member that his original intention was that the 2nd Resolution should be put; and, if he would now give that assurance, he (Mr. Goschen) should certainly vote against the adjournment of the debate, because, after the discussion which had taken place, he did not understand why the House should not go to a division on both questions. He had himself been prevented taking part in the discussion and stating his views on the subject by the state of his voice, which was scarcely audible, a fact which he alluded to because he did not wish it to be supposed that he shrank from taking part in the debate. He thought hon. Members opposite might be fairly asked to go to a division, in order to show in what way they proposed to treat this matter, which was one of such great importance that the attitude of Members of the House generally with regard to it should be known. For his own part, he should not shrink from voting on the question.


said, if the Resolution which had been put from the Chair were carried, it was certainly his intention immediately to ask Mr. Speaker to propose the 2nd Resolution to the House; but in that case he should be prepared to accept the suggestion which had fallen from the Prime Minister not to press for debate upon the 2nd Resolution. With regard to the Motion of the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Salt), he hoped it would be withdrawn.


observed, that this was the first occasion in the present Parliament on which this very important question had been brought under the consideration of the House; and, that being the case, he thought it was but reasonable that it should be discussed in a full and ample manner. The House had undoubtedly listened, in the course of the evening, to a number of very useful and excellent speeches, nevertheless there was a large number of Gentlemen—he was himself aware of many—who desired to take part in the discussion of this question, and who, he thought, had a claim to be heard. It seemed, however, to be suggested that the House should go to a division on the 1st of the two Resolutions of the hon. Member for Salford, and that the discussion on the 2nd should be adjourned; at all events, he understood that to be the meaning of the suggestion of the Prime Minister, although he had not the advantage of hearing the right hon. Gentleman. Moreover, he understood the hon. Member for Salford to say that if the House would come to a decision on his 1st Resolution he would adjourn the debate upon the 2nd until some future day. But the question presented itself as to whether the two Resolutions could be taken one after the other, a large number of hon. Members thinking that they could not be so taken. That opinion had been held on former occasions in that House. It was essential to the present question; and he thought that, by coming to the decision that the 1st Resolution could be divided upon and its principle settled without knowing what was going to be done with the 2nd, they would be laying down a very important and inconvenient precedent. Therefore, he thought it was but reasonable that the House should deal with the proposition of the hon. Member for Salford as a whole. It had always been open to question whether this matter should be treated by way of abstract Resolution, or whether it should take the form of a measure to be introduced into the House. But hon. Members were now told not only that they were not to see the measure to be introduced, but that they were not to be allowed to pronounce on the abstract principles that would be urged as the reasons for the legislation which might follow. He hoped the House would not resist the very reasonable proposal for the adjournment of the debate. They had heard nothing in the speeches delivered in the course of the evening which could be considered as superfluous. No time, certainly, had been wasted. As far as he had been able to listen to it, the discussion had been of a very able, and, at the same time, of a very temperate character; and he was satisfied that the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Salt), and other Gen- tlemen who wished to be heard, would continue it in the same spirit in which it began.


Sir, I think that a portion of the remarks which I offered to the House, having reference to the division upon this Resolution, has not been understood; at all events, what I said has not been understood by the right hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the House. I said we were about to have an expression of opinion on the part of the House, upon the question of county franchise; and although my hon. Friend the Member for Salford very naturally desired to have a decision upon the whole of his Motion, yet I did not anticipate that it would be possible to have a full debate upon both Resolutions. It has been assumed that the House would be allowed to divide upon the 2nd Resolution, without further debate, after the 1st Resolution had been disposed of. But I never intended to suggest that it would be improper to proceed with the 2nd Resolution. Hon. Members opposite appear to desire further discussion upon the 1st Resolution, and I think it quite fair that they should demand this if they think such further discussion necessary. In that case they will, of course, support the Motion for the adjournment of the debate. I believe, however, that the great majority of the House are not of opinion that the 1st Resolution of my hon. Friend requires further debate. We, on this side of the House, do not hold the question of the extension of the franchise in counties to be a very difficult one, or one that requires to be very elaborately debated; but we are anxious to obtain from the House an expression of its opinion upon the subject. I believe myself that our minds are undoubtedly made up, and that the House is perfectly prepared to pronounce a decision; and, therefore, I trust we shall be allowed to take that decision by dividing upon the 1st Resolution. If upon both, so much the better; but the division upon the 2nd Resolution we can hardly ask, as a matter of propriety, to-night. In the event of our not being allowed to divide upon the 1st Resolution, I think the fairest course will be not to object to the Motion for the adjournment of the debate, but to take the division upon that Motion as coming as nearly as pos- sible to an expression of opinion upon the Resolution of my hon. Friend.


said, his efforts to catch the Speaker's eye during the last two hours had been unsuccessful. He objected to a division being taken upon the merits of this Resolution until he had an opportunity of calling the attention of the House to the question of the representation of minorities, which had scarcely been touched upon throughout the discussion that had taken place that evening. The subject was one in which the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and the right hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) had both taken a great interest in former days; and as he desired to make some observations thereupon, he hoped the Motion for the adjournment of the debate would be agreed to.


said, he did not think the evident sense of the House had yet been declared in favour of closing the debate. They had listened to a discussion upon a highly important question, which, in the case of Ireland, would have a very wide application. Very few Irish Members had spoken in the course of the evening, and there were some who thought that the question was one upon which they ought not to be asked to vote without having first an opportunity of expressing their opinions with regard to it. They were disposed to vote altogether for the Resolutions of the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arnold), which, when they passed into law, would undoubtedly lead to some serious changes in the representation of Ireland. But the course proposed, of dividing upon the 1st Resolution, seemed to be an inconvenient one; and as Irish Members upon that side of the House wished to state their views upon the whole question he strongly urged that the adjournment should take place.


said, although he had great respect for the opinions of his hon. Friend and Leader, he was certainly inclined to vote against the Motion for adjournment of the debate upon the present occasion; and he should do so with the intention of supporting the principle involved in the 1st Resolution of the hon. Member for Salford. If the House was prevented from coming to a decision upon that, he hoped the country would regard the vote upon the Motion for Adjournment as a vote of the House in favour of the 1st Resolution. It seemed to him that there should be no great difficulty in putting the 2nd Resolution to the House also. Without going into the merits of the 2nd Resolution— That it would be desirable so to re-distribute political power as to obtain a more equitable representation of the opinion of the electoral body, he would merely remark that Members sitting in any part of the House could say that. It was a perfectly harmless and safe Resolution—in fact, the expression of a pious opinion; and there was no reason, as far as he could see, why the House should not vote upon it at once.


said, he had risen 12 times in the course of the evening, but had not succeeded in his endeavours to catch the Speaker's eye. He had brought in a Bill which touched this question last year; and he desired to address the House for the purpose of explaining his views upon the Resolution of the hon. Member for Salford. As he had not been able to do so, he trusted the Motion for the adjournment would be agreed to, so that he and some of his hon. Friends might have an opportunity of stating their views upon the question before the House.


said, he had not at first intended to take any part in this debate, which, in a very great measure, was one of a Party character only. The course now proposed to be taken appeared to him to be in a very high degree ambiguous. It was indispensable in a question of this kind, when a vote was asked for which the Government would probably make the basis of future legislation, that the opinions of as many sections of the House as possible should be expressed upon the details of the question. For his own part, he should be strongly disposed to support the Amendment to the Resolution. But he thought it unreasonable that Irish Members should pledge themselves to opinions upon the question after the very short debate that had taken place; and, therefore, he hoped the Motion for Adjournment would be pressed to a division. He entirely dissented from the opinion that the vote upon that Motion would amount to an expression of opinion on the part of the House upon the Main Question; and, therefore, he hoped the Prime Minister would consent to the adjournment, in order that the details of this most important question might be further examined.


said, the course which the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arnold) had chosen to take that evening had placed the House in an embarrassing position. He had divided into two parts a question which many hon. Members were of opinion could not with propriety be divided. Although he was ready to admit that the question of county householders with regard to the franchise was one which must be taken into consideration, he was not prepared to vote for it in the form of an abstract Resolution dissociated from the question of a re-distribution of seats. Moreover, other questions were involved, such as the representation of minorities in the great and small boroughs; and it was quite impossible that the question could be properly debated in the form in which it had been placed before the House. He could quite understand that the hon. Member for Sal-ford was perfectly ready to take the decision of the House upon the 1st Resolution, because he cared very little what became of the 2nd after that decision was obtained. He thought, however, that this was not a fair way of treating the Motion, and that the debate should be adjourned, in order that the House might have an opportunity of considering both parts of the hon. Member's Resolution.


said, he had been endeavouring to catch the Speaker's eye during the evening; and as one of the few Members of the Conservative Party who, for many years, had been advocates of the extension of household suffrage to the counties, he should be extremely sorry if he were called upon to take part in a division without having the opportunity of saying a few words. He therefore hoped that the debate would be adjourned.


said, he was not one of those who had been endeavouring to catch the Speaker's eye. He only came into the House about 9 o'clock, and then he saw eight Gentlemen rise at the same time. He thought it would not have been wise to attempt to compete with those Gentlemen; but he wished it to be distinctly understood that when he and his hon. Friends voted for the adjournment they did not vote against the Motion of the hon. Gentleman.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 137; Noes 192: Majority 55.—(Div. List, No. 55.)

Original Question again proposed.


said, that as the Government seemed disposed to exercise the clôture prematurely, and to burke discussion, he would move the adjournment of the House.


seconded the Motion. He had no very strong feeling on the question, and he was not one of those hon. Members who had tried to catch the Speaker's eye; but, at the same time, he thought the House must feel that the two subjects of the extension of the franchise and the re-distribution of seats could not be discussed separately. Neither were they questions which could be satisfactorily and adequately discussed in one evening; and, therefore, it was a reasonable proposition that the hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Arnold) should on another day bring the question again before the House. He knew the hon. Member could not ask the Government to give him a day; but he might find a Wednesday on which it would be convenient for the House to continue the discussion.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. G. W. Elliot.)


said, that, according to the hon. Member who had moved the adjournment of the House, the majority had no right whatever to express an opinion, and that no attempt on their part to close a debate ought to be allowed. The hon. Member said that any opinion expressed by a majority in favour of closing a debate in the face of a large minority was an attempt to prematurely introduce the clôture.


I said nothing of the kind.


said, the hon. Member could not escape from the meaning of his own words. He said he said nothing of the kind, without being kind enough to rise and explain what he did say.


I rise to Order. There is no question before the House.


The Question is that the House do now adjourn.


said, it was necessary to make a protest on the part of the majority to this extent, at least—that however sacred be the rights of the minority, and however good its title to prevail over the majority on occasions like the present, he hoped the hon. Member would not again intimate to the majority that they were committing an offence by expressing their opinion. He did not know what course his hon. Friend (Mr. Arnold) might be disposed to take. He should be inclined to follow whatever course his hon. Friend thought preferable; but his own opinion was that it would not be profitable to pursue the contest. The hon. Member would do wisely to accept the division which had just been taken as a very sufficient indication of the opinion of the House upon the 1st Resolution, especially when they knew from the declarations of many Gentlemen that, could he have obtained a direct division on the merits of the 1st Resolution, the majority would have been very considerably greater. He would advise the hon. Gentleman not to pursue the matter. Of course, he presumed, the Motion for the adjournment of the House would be withdrawn, and one for the adjournment of the debate substituted. If the present Motion were not withdrawn he hoped the House would divide.


said, he hoped his hon. Friend (Mr. Elliot) would not divide.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Original Question again proposed.

SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF moved that the debate be now adjourned, because it did not seem to be clearly understood how the question stood. The Motion for the adjournment of the House was withdrawn in the belief that the debate would be adjourned.


said, he would offer no opposition to the adjournment.

Motion agreed to.

Debate adjourned till To-morrow.