§ [FOURTH NIGHT.]
§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [24th March], "That the Bill be now read a second time."
And which Amendment was,
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House declines to proceed further with a measure, having for its object the addition of two million voters to the electoral body of the United Kingdom, until it has before it the
entire scheme contemplated by the Government for the amendment, of the Representation of the People,''—(Lord John Manners,)
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
Sir, the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), in the course of the conversation which has taken place this evening, expressed his opinion that the country had given to this House a mandate to pass this Bill. If that be so, it is all the more remarkable that the interest which appears to be taken in the measure, both in the House and the country, should be so slight when compared with the importance of the proposal, which, at any rate, is the first step in what has been described by the Chancellor of the Exchequer as the most momentous change in our legislative system since 1689. I do not attempt to deny that meetings may have been held, and Petitions presented to this House, in favour of this Bill by some of those whom it is proposed to enfranchise; but I do venture to say that there is an absence of that spontaneous enthusiasm in favour of this measure on the part of the classes whom it principally affects which is very remarkable when we remember how enthusiastic these very classes can be in regard to measures of very much less permanent importance. I should like to know what is the reason of this. Perhaps the people are wiser than formerly, and no longer believe that the grant of the vote is an infallible remedy for all political and social evils. Or it may be that some of the most ardent supporters of this Bill are rather disappointed at finding that the owners of property are only to be swamped in the future, instead of being wholly disfranchised. But I believe the main reason for the languid interest in this measure to be, that there is in the country, and perhaps in this House, a very general suspicion that even Her Majesty's Government, who are its authors, have no real expectation that it will pass into law, and that, in fact, it is not a bonâ fide, measure of Reform intended to settle the great question of the representation of the people. I think hon. Members opposite have hardly done justice to 1305 the view with which we have hitherto opposed it. I do not suppose that anyone ever considered the county franchise to be finally settled by the Reform Act of 1867. I do not suppose anyone ever imagined that the artizans outside towns and the great majority of the agricultural labourers would be permanently excluded from the possession of the vote. What I understand to be the desire of those who are promoting this measure is that persons who, if they resided within the limits of a borough, would be entitled under the present system to the Parliamentary franchise shall have it notwithstanding the fact that they reside in a county. I do not at all see that there is any difference in the circumstances of the artizans who live outside boroughs and the artizans who live inside boroughs that could make the former less qualified for the vote than the latter. Then I come to the agricultural population. Now, I am bound to say that I have a somewhat better opinion of the agricultural population than some of their professed advocates. I listened with surprise to the First Commissioner of Works last night when he told the House that, the condition of the agricultural labourers in the South and the West of England had gone backwards, that the best of them had gone to the towns, and that what was left in the country was the refuse population.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
I took down the words. I know the right hon. Gentleman did not originate the word himself, but he quoted it from a writer whom he named.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
I will not discuss whether the word was residuum or refuse, but it means the same thing. I claim that I know at least as much of the agricultural labourers in the South and West of England as the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works. I believe that their condition has very materially improved within the last 20 years. No doubt, many of the labourers have gone to the towns, and thus have enabled those who were left behind to obtain higher wages than they otherwise would have obtained. I am not prepared to say that the agricultural labourer 1306 in England is not fitted for the vote; but I am surprised that, after the opinion which the right hon. Gentleman has expressed of that part of the population, he should be among the promoters of the measure now before the House. The point at issue seems to me to be this. There is a general desire that these persons should possess the franchise; but I do not see why it should be taken for granted that the only way of giving them the franchise is by making them county voters. I believe it would have been perfectly possible, if the Government had approached the question from that point of view, by a general extension of the boundaries of boroughs and by the creation of new boroughs to fill up the spaces between to confer the franchise as borough voters upon all the persons who would be enfranchised by the Bill, and yet to retain a separate county representation, although that representation would, of course, be less numerous than at present. I do not see why, in order to give the franchise conferred by this Bill, you are absolutely to destroy the system of county representation as it exists in England, or why you are completely to swamp the classes who now compose the county constituencies by the influx of hundreds of thousands of voters, who are of the same class as those who control the representation in the borough constituencies. It is not an argument to say that because the gift of the franchise to the labouring classes in the borough constituencies has done no harm, therefore a measure which alters the whole system of Parliamentary representation so as to base it upon numbers alone will do no harm to the country. There are many who have considered this question from this point of view. I am glad to be able to refer to two authorities of no slight importance in favour of this opinion. Lord Derby, who is now responsible for this Bill, in sneaking on another Reform Bill, stated that it was the duty of this House to see that no class was excluded or preferred over the rest; but by the provisions of this Bill as it stands, without any scheme for the representation of minorities, either through proportional representation, or redistribution of seats, that will be the result. In 1878 a right hon. Gentleman who exercises great authority in this House, the 1307 right hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen), used these words—If those additional numbers were to be admitted into the Constitution, he trusted that such measures might be accompanied by safeguards, which would secure that other classes besides the most numerous might he represented in the House of Commons.''—(3 Hansard, 237.)I believe the right hon. Gentleman is now a supporter of the Bill. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman could confer a greater service on his country than by suggesting to Parliament a scheme to carry out the views expressed in the sentence I have just read. It is a well-known fact that there has been a considerable movement, not confined to hon. Gentlemen sitting on one side of the House, among persons who desire to see a scheme of proportional or minority representation introduced. What does that mean? It means that hon. Gentlemen feel that unless certain "safeguards" are provided the existing constituencies will be absolutely swamped by this Bill, and that something must he substituted for the existing system if you are to secure that the classes represented by that system shall have their voices heard in the House of Commons. It has been said that my noble Friend (Lord John Manners) is trying to defeat the Bill on a side issue, but the Amendment expresses the full difference between us and the Government in approaching this question. It is all very well to give votes to those who do not possess the franchise. But you have no right to forget the claims of those who possess the franchise now. You are bound to take some measures to secure that the classes who are best educated, the most cultivated, who pay the whole of the direct taxation, shall have some means of being heard in Parliament. No measure will be a fair and just settlement of the great question of Reform which, does not take this matter into consideration. It may, no doubt, be said that wealth and education will always secure influence. But we have been for some time devoting ourselves to limiting the improper exercise of the influence of wealth and education upon elections, and if you do not provide means for its direct and legitimate exercise on Parliament through Representatives who can speak on behalf of the classes who possess it, there is great danger that we may have in this coun- 1308 try corruption similar to that which has disgraced the Legislatures of other countries. If not, we may have instead the greatest tyranny we have ever experienced—namely, the government by a power against which there is no appeal. When political power was vested in the aristocracy, its abuse was restrained by the fact that the ultimate physical power rested with the mass of the people. But when political power is given to those with whom physical power rests, you have the absolute certainty that the minority will be placed in a position in which they can have no possible appeal against the decision of the majority. If there has been in years past any reason for the institution of some means by which the voice of the minority may be heard in this House, I am convinced that under the franchise which will be established by this Bill that necessity will be doubled or quadrupled in the future. I shall be told that the Prime Minister has said that minority representation and different modes of voting ought to receive the full and impartial consideration of Parliament. But the right hon. Gentleman also stated that he was not himself in favour of anything of the kind. How much impartial consideration would such safeguards receive from the President of the Board of Trade and those who agree with him? That right hon. Gentleman referred to the minority vote as absurd, ridiculous, and irritating, and as having stifled the voice of the constituency which he represents. I cannot understand how those who are in favour of minority representation can support this Bill without the least hope that any proposals of that kind will be acceded to. But something of that sort is absolutely essential to a just settlement; and, therefore, we ask the Government, in proposing this measure, to tell us at the same time how they propose in future to distribute political power, and how they propose that those who at present enjoy political power shall not in future be absolutely deprived of their rights. If some system of the representation of minorities is important here, it is doubly important in Ireland. I am quite sensible of the strong arguments in favour of giving to Ireland the same franchise which you are conferring upon Great Britain. There is great force in the contention that you ought not to 1309 leave rankling in the minds of the Irish people anything which they could legitimately consider to be a political grievance; and it is well that the representation of Ireland should be a reality. The President of the Board of Trade, in addressing his constituents, said that if it were not for the violence of the Ulster Orangemen, Ireland would be perfectly tranquil. If that statement was true, the Government ought to repeal the Peace Preservation Act. But I believe it to be a fact that the tranquillity of Ireland is mainly, if not entirely, due to the provisions of the Peace Preservation Act. It is not the case, as stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), that the question to be considered by the Government is merely the fact that a few individuals commit crime. The great difficulty in dealing with Ireland is the fact that the general sympathy is with those individuals who commit crime, because in committing crime they oppose themselves to the Law and Government of the country, and that general sympathy is due to the unfortunate circumstance that a considerable majority of the Irish people are disloyal to the connection between the two Kingdoms. The position is that you are offering political privileges to a people whom you can only govern by the most stringent powers which have ever been conferred on an Irish Government in our time. You are offering this popular franchise to a country where you have frequently to put down political meetings lest they should turn into something like civil war. It seems to me that nothing can be more serious than such a state of affairs. The President of the Board of Trade said that a Franchise Bill must be brought in this year, and that Ireland must be included in it; for if it were postponed to 1885 the question of Reform for Ireland would get mixed up with the renewal of the Peace Preservation Acts in that year; and the right hon. Gentleman was sensible of the palpable absurdity of offering a Franchise Bill with one hand and a renewal of the Peace Preservation Acts with the other. Surely the proposals of the Government are not less incongruous when they are compelled to maintain these Acts. Have the Government really pictured to themselves the position in which the passing of the Bill may place them in regard to 1310 the Irish representation? Addressing a meeting in the winter, the noble Lord the Secretary of State for War said there were many in this country, who were not confined to the Conservative Party, who would view with considerable dislike and apprehension any measure likely to increase the number or the power of the Irreconcilable Party in Parliament. I listened with great attention to the speech of the noble Lord the other evening, and it occurred to me that the noble Lord was by no means satisfied in his own mind that this would not be the result of the measure before the House. All he said was that the measure, by increasing the size of Irish constituencies, might make them less amenable to the influence of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell). If it be so, I am afraid it will only be because the new electors will be disposed to prefer someone more violent and more hostile to England than even that hon. Member, and that surely is not a result which can be looked upon with satisfaction by any Member of the Government. The noble Lord said that the real representation of the loyal minority in Ireland was to be found in the Members from England and Scotland. I am afraid the loyal minority in Ireland would hardly accept that view, and I do not know why they should. If there be any force in the argument of the senior Member for Birmingham (Mr. John Bright), that the number of Members for London need not be increased on account, of the influence of its Press, there must be force in the argument we used to hear so much of, that indirect representation was the same as the gift of a vote; but that argument would strike at the root of this Bill, for it might be argued that the agricultural labourers and the artizans were indirectly represented already by the Members of this House. I was surprised at the assumption of the First Commissioner of Works last night that the loyal minority of Ireland would be represented, because the Protestants amounted to 60 per cent of the inhabitants of Ulster.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
I said 60 per cent of the population of Ulster, minus the three counties in which the Catholic population are a large majority.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
And, therefore, he considered that this 1311 loyal minority would be able to control the representation of the whole of Ulster except those there counties, and to secure as large a proportion of the total Irish representation as it would be fairly entitled to by its numbers. If the right hon. Gentleman had carried his statistical research a little further, he would have found that this Protestant population is by no means divided among those counties in the way he supposes. He would have found that by far the greater proportion of it is situated in Antrim and Down and in the large town of Belfast; and I venture to say that any hon. Member acquainted with Ireland who will openly speak his mind on this matter, whatever his political opinions may be, will be pretty certain to come to this conclusion—that if this Bill should become law without any further redistribution than appears to be contemplated by the speech of the Prime Minister, the result would be that the loyal minority of Ireland would be represented by no more than eight or nine Members, including the Members for the University of Dublin, whereas the Party the Secretary of State for War has called the Irreconcilable Party would practically sweep the rest of the Irish representation. Is that a state of affairs that the Government can contemplate with possible satisfaction? If that be so, they will find themselves face to face with a very large proportion of Irish Members, so large as almost to amount to the whole body of Irish Members, whose first demand will be either for a separation of Ireland from this country or for some measure of Home Rule which will be tantamount to it. I will not suggest that the Government could ever in their own minds think of agreeing to such a demand or of supporting designs which they have condemned in the strongest language in and out of the House. I would suppose rather that they would oppose to such a demand as resolute a front as they have hitherto opposed to it; but what would their position be? Their strength would lie simply in the force of Great Britian as against nearly the whole representation of Ireland. Is it a statesmanlike proposal to give to the I people of Ireland this popular franchise, and then to turn round on them on the first demand they will probably make and say—"We refuse it by the 1312 strength of the Representatives whom Great Britain sends to the House of Commons?" I may be told that these anticipations are exaggerated; but I have made some inquiries from those who ought to know, and I do not believe that they are exaggerated at all. I believe that unless you make some provision for the representation of the loyal Irish minority, it will be swamped in the manner I have described. This is the strongest reason of all why we should demand, not merely on behalf of Great Britain, but mainly on behalf of Ireland, that the redistribution of seats which will be necessary should be considered by Parliament at the same time as the Franchise Bill, and before it comes into operation. Why cannot we have this scheme of redistribution? The President of the Board of Trade thought he had given a triumphant answer the other night when he said there was no sufficient scheme of redistribution attached to the Reform Act of 1867. But the scheme of redistribution attached to that Act was considered by Parliament sufficient at the time, and it was as much as Parliament would then pass or public opinion would sanction. The Government of the day laid it frankly before the House; and all we ask now is that, having in view the altered circumstances of the case and the necessity which will exist for a much larger scheme under the proposals now before the House, that you should do what the Government did in 1867, and place your proposals fairly before Parliament. Another objection to that course has been based on the alleged want of time. The Prime Minister has constantly spoken of the delays to which the discussion of the measure has been subjected already, and the impossibility of passing a whole measure of Reform in a single Session. I believe the second reading of the Reform Bill of 1866 was taken at a later date of the Session then the second reading of this Bill. If the Government make up their minds to deal with this great question of the reform of the representation of the people, surely they ought to go so far as to recognize that it must necessarily demand the whole attention of Parliament, and they ought to put aside all those other measures which they are attempting to push through Parliament at the same time. 1313 If they will not do it, I think they are hardly showing much appreciation of the importance of their oven proposals. But it seems to me that neither the question of time, nor any other reason of that sort, is the real reason why we are not favoured with any scheme of redistribution. The real reason is that Her Majesty's Government cannot agree among themselves as to what it is to be. Certain suggestions of a personal and rather evanescent character were made by the Prime Minister; but the principal of them, including the idea that Ireland should retain its present number of Representatives, were subsequently repudiated by Ministerial speakers, including such staunch supporters as the right hon. Members for Montrose and Bradford, and those suggestions practically disappeared with the speech of the Secretary for War. We have absolutely nothing now before us as to the redistribution which may follow this measure, except it be the most contradictory opinions on the part of the Members of the Government who have spoken. The Secretary for War said that if he believed any attempt was to be made to introduce a uniform system, such as equal electoral districts, he would not be prepared to support such a Bill. That, of course, is his opinion now; but I am afraid events may induce him to qualify it in the improbable event of Her Majesty's Government having to bring in a redistribution measure. I can remember the time when the noble Lord was an opponent of the Ballot, and how, when the Ballot was brought within the range of practical politics, he was converted to it through the agency of a Select Committee. I recollect how in the last Parliament he supported the continuance of flogging in the Army. When, however, the Leadership of the noble Lord was repudiated by the President of the Board of Trade, he changed his mind with reference to flogging in the Army. The noble Lord, I think, was two years in Opposition, before he brought himself to support the proposal for the extension of household suffrage to the counties; and now he is responsible for the measure which is on the Table of the House. I am afraid that the noble Lord in this matter is too likely to be guided by others. The President of the Board of Trade is well known to be in favour of equal electoral districts, although he 1314 may be content to wait for the application of that principle. I think those who were the prime movers of the Leeds Conference, where this Bill really originated, will have something to say upon this subject before long to the noble Lord, not merely with power, but with some force of argument. The principle on which this Bill is based, I take it, is that the householder in the county is as good as the householder in towns. If that is so, why is he not entitled to so large a share of political power as you give to his neighbours in the towns? If you say that an equal value should be given to every vote, what does that mean but equal electoral districts? The First Commissioner of Works told us the other night that if we objected to such a public scandal as the holding of an Election under so chaotic and unjust an electoral system as would be afforded by the passing of this Bill into law before any redistribution of seats took place, all we have to do is to keep the Government in Office until they have passed a Redistribution Bill. In effect, that is to say that we are not to call the Government into account for any blunders or mistakes they may make in the administration of the country; that they are to be allowed to fix their own time for Dissolution, and the reward we are to have is such a Redistribution Bill as it would suit them to pass into law. Such a proposal as that seems to me to show that the Government are driven to the last shifts of argument in this matter. I believe they have no confidence in any fresh constituencies that might be created by any fair, equitable, and complete scheme for the representation of the people. But they think they may possibly have some chance in an appeal to constituencies which will be the creation of accident, and which nobody can possibly pretend should be permanent depositories of political power. The President of the Board of Trade challenged, I think, the House of Lords to throw out this Bill some little time before the Government made any formal announcement that it was their intention to introduce it. I believe no Member of the Conservative Party would for a moment shrink from the challenge which the right hon. Gentleman gave the other night; but I am sure of this, that when the issue is really decided between the two great political 1315 Parlies of the country—and I hope that time will not he long delayed—it will be decided not merely on this visionary and incomplete scheme, but on all the blunders and all the failures and all the broken pledges which have characterized the official career of Her Majesty's present Government.
§ MR. ALBERT GREY
said, he thought that the speech of the right hon. Baronet who had just sat down, although it contained much invective of the Government, was not altogether without hope for Reformers. He hardly thought it worthy of the right hon. Baronet to say that a Government, which had been placed in power in order to deal with Reform, had been guilty of an "electioneering dodge" in introducing a Reform Bill. The right hon. Baronet had himself admitted that the Act of 1867 was not final, and that it was absolutely impossible that the exclusion of the county householders from the franchise should be long continued. Admitting so much, he was bound to say he could not understand the attitude of the right hon. Baronet, for, while he agreed that Reform was necessary, he was by his vote going to make it impossible that the House should even discuss Reform. Again, there was nothing in the speech of the right hon. Baronet to prove, if he and the Party who acted with him were successful in their endeavour to climb into Office, that they would not bring in the Government scheme of Reform themselves. It was true that the right hon. Baronet maintained that the extension of the franchise should be accompanied by a scheme for the redistribution of seats; but his arguments tended to show it was chiefly important that the same electorate which passed the Extension Bill should also pass the measure for redistribution. If this were his object, then he maintained that it was quite possible to insert in the Bill some provision which would give him the security he desired. As this could be done in Committee, there could be no reason why the right hon. Baronet should not give his support to the second reading of the Bill. He was glad that the right hon. Baronet had not endorsed the opinions of some of his Party, who held that the enfranchisement of the county householder was in itself an undesirable thing. In his opinion, extension was absolutely im- 1316 perative, being demanded alike by political justice, by political expediency, and by political necessity. Some hon. Members opposite had attacked the Government because they had approached the subject from that standpoint which viewed Reform as a matter affecting the right of the individual. Well, he agreed with those hon. Members and with the President of the Board of Trade in regarding the franchise as a trust, and not as a right; but he would remind the House that it was possible to create conditions which would confer a right, where, if those conditions had not been created, no right would have existed. If they gave one man a vote because of his fitness, they could not withhold a similar privilege from another man who could show an equal fitness, without giving him a legitimate reason for complaint. Lord Cairns, in 1859, declared that all the eloquence of the Party to which he was opposed—Would not persuade the man living on the wrong side of the street that he was fairly dealt with in the distribution of the franchise.Political justice required that the man should not be deprived of the privilege of a vote simply because he lived on the wrong side of the street. But even if political justice did not demand it, extension would be called for by political expediency. Our experience of the benefits that have resulted in the past from former extensions of the franchise justified the belief that the proposed enfranchisement of the county householder would bring advantage to the State. He agreed with the right hon. Baronet that the possession of a vote would not remove every political and social evil. The good which he anticipated as likely to accrue did not, in his mind, assume the shape of particular acts of State interference; for he agreed with those who held that we had more to fear than to hope for from paternal legislation in the interests of any particular class. The good which he anticipated from extension was the advantage which would be certain to result from the development of that spirit of enterprize, energy, and self-help which the bestowal of a vote was calculated to produce. There was an old maxim of the Greeks which said—The evils of popular government appear greater than they are; there is compensation for them in the spirit and energy it awakens.If it was true, as some contended, that 1317 the result of extension would be to give us a more ignorant Government, there would be compensation in the fact that the spirit and energy created by the consciousness of participation in the governing power would tend to raise and enlarge the manhood of the nation. But if extension was demanded by political justice and political expediency, it was not less loudly called for by political necessity. There were some hon. Members opposite who honestly believed that they could throw out this Bill with impunity; that there was, as the right hon. Baronet had declared, no genuine spontaneous desire for the Bill. Such was not his belief. He would counsel those hon. Members who held this opinion to go to the North of England, and consult with the Leaders of their Party as to the chances of any candidate who would boldly declare that the county householder ought not to be enfranchised. Let them consult with the hon. Baronet, the recently-elected Member for York, or with the noble Lord who had succeeded his Father in the representation of Haddingtonshire, or with Mr. Bruce, who opposed, in the Tory interest, the candidature of his hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle, and they would learn from them how impossible were the chances of any candidate who might deny that the enfranchisement of the county householder was necessary and just, He had listened with interest to the speech of the right hon. Baronet (Sir Robert Peel) last night, whose return to the House had brought, as it seemed to him, a greater accession of debating power than of statesmanship. He, for one, could not sympathize with the policy of that right hon. Gentleman, which was summed up in the words—While the country is quiet, I will vote against Reform,When the country is noisy, I will vote for Reform.That was the policy of the right hon. Gentleman. It was the policy also of the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill). It was a policy of disorder, turbulence, and lawlessness, and one which was singularly unworthy of a Party which had constituted itself the special champion of law and order. In his opinion, it was statesmanship to anticipate a fierce demand. It was worse than a 1318 blunder to refuse to legislate on this question when we could do so in calmness, in order that we might wait until we were driven to legislate in a panic at a time when the pulse of the country was throbbing with the fever beat of a hot excitement. He was strongly opposed to any action which might seem to deny that extension was an urgent necessity. He should, therefore, give a cordial support to the second reading of the Bill, believing the course which the noble Lord invited the House to take was dangerous, unstatesmanlike, and unwise. He would now, with the permission of the House, make a few remarks on two different points, and in doing so he would endeavour to avoid following the example so abundantly set of making a redistribution speech at the wrong time, or of repeating arguments which were already painfully familiar to the House. He wished to make a few observations, first on the character of the Bill itself, and then on the method of procedure which the Government had advised the House to adopt in dealing with Reform. First, then, as to the character of the Bill; it struck him as a great defect in the Bill that it contained no definition as to what constituted a valid claim to vote as a householder. It would be in the recollection of all who heard or read the Prime Minister's opening speech, that he divided the subject of Reform into three separate parts; that he defined the object of the first part as the fixing of the franchise; that he pointed out that this was in itself an enormous task; and that this enormous task—namely, the fixing of the right of the individual who should be entitled to a vote, was the sole aim and object of the Bill which he had introduced. It would be further in the recollection of those present, that the Prime Minister begged the House to fasten its attention on the borough franchise as it existed in England, because that borough franchise was the hinge of the whole measure, on which the whole structure depended, not only as regarded England, but as regarded Scotland, and as regarded Ireland. This being the case, the nature of the borough franchise became a matter of vital importance, and he thought that it must have been a matter of surprise to many, when they found, on obtaining a copy of the Bill, that it 1319 contained no definition of the borough franchise, and that it was necessary for those who wished to understand what Parliament was doing in giving its consent to this measure in its present shape, to search through back Acts of Parliament and Law Reports in order to discover who was entitled to vote as a householder in an English borough. Well, he had made it his business, and many other hon. Members had probably done the same, to find out and discover what was the exact position of the law as to the borough franchise in England. Those who had done so, and who were aware how flimsy and unsatisfactory was the line of distinction between the householder and the lodger, would, he was sure, agree with him that that great Magna Charta which was to add 2,000,000 voters to the 3,000,000 already on the Registers, should contain something more than a reference to back Acts of Parliament and judicial decisions, and that it should be a measure self-contained and complete, clearly defining and explaining what was the nature and character of that franchise which was for the future to be the backbone of English liberties. Now this point was of great importance, for he would venture to assert that it was by no means certain that the effect of the Bill would not be to extend the franchise a great deal further than was contemplated by the House, and, by the conversion of even lodger who had the separate occupation of a single room into a householder, to establish over the United Kingdom a suffrage more closely resembling manhood suffrage than what was generally understood as household suffrage. The House would, he was sure, recognize the importance of this point, and would pardon him if he ventured to occupy a few moments of its time in referring to the exact position of the law as to the borough franchise. In order to explain the exact line of distinction between the lodger and the householder, it would be necessary for him to go back for a moment to the year 1867. As everyone was aware, up to 1867 there was no household franchise except at a value of £10, and no lodger franchise at all. The effect of the Act of 1867 was to establish, for the first time, in boroughs a simple household qualification irrespective of value 1320 —the Prime Minister's "hinge"—and a £10 lodger franchise. But the Parliament of 1867, anxious to draw a careful distinction between the two different classes of householders and lodgers, set up three tests by which an occupier who was a householder might be distinguished from an occupier who was a lodger. Under the Act of 1867 no man could vote as a householder, who did not personally pay rates, who did not occupy what was known to the law as a dwelling house, and who did not occupy such dwelling house as a tenant and not as a lodger. These were the three tests and safeguards on which the Parliament relied, in order to distinguish the householder from the lodger. Now he would show, that in consequence of subsequent legislation, two out of the three tests and safeguards had been removed, and he would also show that the third test was a most difficult one to apply. The first of these three tests—namely, the personal payment of rates—was immediately found to be so inconvenient that the provisions enforcing it were repealed by the Poor Rate Assessment Act of 1869. That Act re-established the system of compounding, and enabled persons who had constructively paid their rates to vote. The effect of the Act was that every householder, whether he paid rates or not—assuming of course that somebody paid them—was entitled to vote. The first test which served to distinguish a lodger from a householder was thus swept away. The second mark of distinction between a lodger and a householder rested on the nature of the apartment occupied. To give a vote as a householder, the apartment must be what was known under the law as a dwelling house. The occupation of lodgings would not be sufficient. What, then, was the difference between a dwelling house as defined by the Act of 1867 and lodgings? Now, the question under what circumstances a part of a house was to be considered a house, so as to give the right of voting, had arisen under the Act of 1832, and, after numerous decisions more or less conflicting, it was laid down in 1861 by the Court of Common Pleas, that a part of a house, in the common understanding, of the word, became a house in law when and only when there was actual structural severance. But the definition in the Act 1321 of 1867 gave rise to much difference of opinion. The Court of Common Pleas was three times equally divided upon the question whether particular premises were or were not a dwelling house; whether the Interpretation Clause of the Act of 1867 did or did not extend the meaning of the word dwelling house beyond that laid down by the Court of Common Pleas in 1861, and, if it did, how far it extended it. To decide this open question, and to remove the scandal naturally created by the absence of any uniformity in the decisions of the Revising Barristers, the Parliamentary and Municipal Registration Act was passed in 1878, which repealed the definition in the Act of 1867, and substituted a new one in its place. The effect of this Act was so far as the nature of the premises was concerned to convert every lodger into a householder. This alteration in the law was made by an Act passed by the late Parliament without any discussion. The Act which embodied it was referred to a Select Committee and accepted by the House without an Amendment and without discussion on the assurance of Mr. Marten, the late Member for Cambridge, and the President of the Local Government Board, that the Bill had been most carefully considered, and that no sweeping changes were introduced. Thus the second test followed the fate of the first, and was in its turn swept away. The question soon came before the Courts whether there remained any distinction at all between a lodger and a householder. And in November, 1881, in the case of "Bradley v. Baylis," the two able Judges, Denman and Bowen, decided that the effect of the Act of 1878 was that every man who separately occupied a single room for the requisite time was qualified to vote as a householder. These Judges were so confident that there was no question in the matter, that they declined at first to allow an appeal; but when it appeared that the construction put upon the definition of "dwelling house" in the Act of 1878, made householders of multitudes of persons who had no houses, and that its result would be, according to a loading article in The Times, to give the franchise not to a few hundred, but to a few hundred thousand persons who did not possess it before, when it was seen that the effect of this decision would be to create in boroughs 1322 a suffrage hardly distinguishable from manhood suffrage, it was felt that the manifest importance of the point decided was a good ground for allowing an. appeal. It was felt desirable that a wholesale addition to our Registers, owing to an unforeseen interpretation of the language of the Act of 1878, should be confirmed by the Court of Appeal before it was legalized. The Court of Appeal, however, reversed the decision of the Court below. They pointed out the existence of a third test which had been overlooked by Justices Denman and Bowen. They did not deny that the occupation of a single room was sufficient as far as the nature of the premises was concerned to give a vote; but they said you must look further and examine the nature of the occupation, and see whether the occupier of a single room occupied it as a tenant or as a lodger. Now, on the nature of the occupation rested the whole case as to whether a man was a lodger or householder; and he thought it would hardly be believed that although so much depended on the line of distinction between the occupation as a tenant and the occupation as a lodger, the Legislature had not attempted to distinguish the two kinds of occupation. Having found some difficulty in agreeing on the definition of the term "lodger," Parliament left it to the Courts to determine its meaning. How the Courts had succeeded appeared from the statement of the late Master of the Rolls, who declared—There is probably no question on which there has been a greater variety of judicial opinion than this.Another Judge, Lindley, also declared—The distinction between those who are lodgers, and those who are not lodgers, must be discovered from other sources than the Statutes, and it is extremely difficult to draw the line between them.He had now proved how exceedingly unsatisfactory was the line of distinction which separated the householder from the lodger, that two out of the three tests and safeguards set up by the Parliament of 1867 to distinguish the householder from the lodger had been swept away, and that the third remaining test was most difficult to apply. Now, he wished to know what the effect of this Bill would be? He had pointed out that this third test did not depend upon, Statutes, but upon the opinion of the Courts. 1323 Was this third test to be swept away by the Bill, and no distinction at all to be kept between the lodger and the householder? This was the point to which he wished to draw the attention of the House. He rather inferred from the Prime Minister's speech that his object was to remove this test, for the Prime Minister had distinctly declared, in referring to the service franchise, that—Our object is to provide a franchise for those inhabitants who are neither owners nor tenants.Now, the effect of this would be to make every man who separately occupied a single room for the requisite time into a householder. He wished to know whether this was the intention of the Government? He would point out that if this was the case, a state of things would be brought about over the whole of the United Kingdom similar to that which, by the judgment of Denman and Bowen, was created in 1878 in English boroughs. Those who wished to know what a scare the judgment of Denman and Bowen caused would find abundant evidence in the newspapers of November, 1881. He wished to know whether this Bill would do for the whole Kingdom what the Act of 1878, in the opinion of Justices Denman and Bowen, did for the boroughs? He regretted to have wearied the House at such length on so dry and technical a subject. It was, however, a point which ought to engage the attention of the House, for whether this Bill was intended to alter this state of the law or not he thought it ought not to be left in its present state of technicality and uncertainty; and he hoped, before the Bill reached Committee stage, that the House might be treated to something more than a reference, and that this great Magna Charta might contain a definition clearly stating what was the exact line of distinction between a householder and a lodger. Then passing from this somewhat dry but none the less important point, he asked to be allowed to make a few remarks on the method of procedure which the Government had invited the House to adopt. The right hon. Baronet had pointed out that there was no security, under the Bill in its present shape, that the same electorate which passed extension should pass redistribution as well. He agreed with the right hon. Baronet in thinking this 1324 a grave defect, and if it was possible to introduce into the Bill some provision which would give this security, without in any way interfering with the desire of the House to extend the franchise, then there could be no reason for refusing to insert it. As he had already trespassed at considerable length on the indulgence of the House, he would not be justified if he were to attempt to give his reasons for that belief at any length; but he wished, with the permission of the House, to make a few remarks in support of his contention, that whether the franchise was regarded as a right or as a privilege, it was in any case of vital importance that the same electorate which dealt with the extension should deal with redistribution also. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford had last evening stated that the principal argument he had heard brought against the separation of redistribution from extension was the inconvenience that it would cause from the large size of the constituencies created. This he said, and rightly said, was a very inadequate reason, for what, he asked, was inconvenience when compared with justice? Well, his own attitude upon this question was based and founded upon justice. If justice required that a man should have a vote, justice also required that he should be able to make his vote effectual. If a man had a right to a vote, that implied that he had a right to participate in the governing power. This was the end to gain which the franchise was only a means. Participation in the conduct of public affairs being the end aimed at, it did not follow that this was secured by the mere bestowal of a vote. To have a vote was, of course, absolutely essential, but something more than this was required. The right to vote must be of value. If an elector was to participate in the conduct of public affairs, it was not only necessary that he should have a vote, but that he should be able by means of his vote to give effectual expression to his opinion. If this was admitted, and he could not see how it could be denied, then this also must be admitted, that the number of names on the electoral roll was not so important as the number of electors who by the effectual use they could make of their vote were conscious of a direct participation in the governing power. For 1325 instance, if the object of Reform was to foster and increase the spirit of citizenship, it must be obvious that that object would be far more effectually attained by a system of election which secured that the vote of every individual elector should count for as much as that of any other elector, than it would by a system which would give the whole of the representation to two-thirds of the electors, and no representation at all to one-third of the electors. If, then, it were possible to extend the suffrage in such a way as to secure equal representation to all the electors, it would be a political error of the gravest magnitude to extend it in such a way as to set up, on the one hand, a large privileged class widowed with a greater share of power than they were entitled by their numbers to receive, and, on the other hand, a large unrepresented class labelled electors, whose votes were absolutely useless, and who, instead of feeling any consciousness that they had any participation whatsoever in the governing power of the country, would be depressed by the most miserable consciousness that they were not only entirely unrepresented and virtually disfranchised, but they were to be henceforth deprived of all chance of participation in the conduct of public affairs. This, he maintained, was exactly what they were asked to do if they were invited to agree to the extension of the franchise without any security that the same electorate which passed it should settle the scheme of redistribution. Let him refer to Ireland as an illustration. Let them suppose that, according to generally accepted statements, the result of extension would be to give them an electorate of which two-thirds were Nationalists and one-third Loyalists. And let them further assume that the Loyalist population was so diffused that it could only win five seats, the remaining 100 going to the Nationalists. It would be evident to everyone that in a country where Parties were divided in the proportion of two to one, a system of election which would give the whole of the representation to that Party which could command a local majority, and no representation whatsoever to the minority, might give them a Legislature in which the one-third would be entirely unrepresented. He supposed, however, that the one-third had been able to win five seats out of 1326 105, the remaining 100 seats going to the Nationalists' two-thirds. Now, what happened? If the Nationalists' two-thirds won 100 seats out of 105, and the Loyalists' one-third won only five seats, what was the respective value of the Nationalists' and Loyalists' vote? Why, if two-thirds got 100, one-third got 50, and thus they obtained this result—that one-third of the electorate who were Nationalists got 50 seats, and the one-third of the electors who were Loyalists got five seats. Thus, the vote of every Nationalist would count for 10 times as much as the vote of every Loyalist. Was this a possibility which those who aimed at justice could regard with complacency? The President of the Board of Trade had told them that the representative system in Ireland should be a reality, and not a mere imposition. And the hon. Member for the City of Cork had warned the House against allowing the Irish Representation to remain an utter sham. He would ask both the President of the Board of Trade and the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) what they considered to be a true respresentation and what an utter sham? Did they consider a system of election which made the vote of a Nationalist elector 10 times more powerful than the vote of a Loyalist elector a true representation, or would they agree with him in calling it an utter sham? Did they consider a system of election which would give nine-tenths of the representation to two-thirds of the electors a true representation, or an utter sham? And did they consider a system of election which would secure to one-third of the electors, although they were Loyalists, one-third of the representation, a mere imposition which the House should disallow? His hon. Friend the Member for Dundalk, in his eloquent speech last evening, said—"Who was there in this House who would dare to stand up and say I am in favour of a sham." He (Mr. (Grey) asked who was there in this House who would dare to stand up and say with him, "I am against an utter sham." the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. C. Russell) admitted that the effect of extension unaccompanied by redistribution would be to swamp the loyal minority in Ireland; and did he regret it? On the contrary, he rejoiced at it, because, in his opinion— 1327The action of that so-called Loyal Party had not been an aid, but a hindrance, to any solid union between England and Ireland.If the House wanted further proof that the result of extension, unaccompanied by redistribution, would be to produce a perfect fraud in the representation and an utter sham, they would find it in the melancholy avowal of the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War, that the loyal minority for Ireland must look for their representation to the 550 Gentlemen who might be sent to Parliament by English and Scotch constituencies. So far, lie had confined himself to an attempt to show that if the increase of citizenship was the only object of Reform, it was important that there should be a connection between extension and redistribution. He had shown that if we once separated redistribution from extension we should hand over to a numerical majority a monopoly of political power, which would enable them to prevent the minority from obtaining that fair share of participation in the conduct of public affairs to which they were entitled. But to add to the number of electors was not the only object of Reform. It certainly was not the only object of the Reformers of 1832; and, according to the evidence abundantly supplied by Hansard, it was not the only object of the Reformers of 1866 and 1867. The governing consideration both in 1832 and in 1867 was not the increase of citizenship, but the character of the Legislature. The object in both cases was to bring about a transfer of political power, and, while increasing the number of citizens entitled to partake in the governing power, to regulate that increase in such a way as to secure these two great results—(1.) That no class should be excluded from representation in the House of Commons. (2.) That no one class should by over-representation unduly overbear all the rest. These were the considerations which occupied the minds of statesmen during the previous periods of Reform, and which caused them to keep an inseparable connection between extension and redistribution. The Prime Minister had argued that because the number of electors depended upon the Redistribution Bill at a time when there was a different franchise in town and county, that was a good reason against the separation, but because the number of electors could not 1328 be affected by a Redistribution Bill when the franchise was uniform, the case against separation fell to the ground. But Lord Derby's unanswerable speech in 1866 was not so much directed against the inconvenience referred to by the Prime Minister, as against the dangerous course of leaving the power of deciding what should be the ultimate balance of power between the different classes of I the community in the hands of a Parliament returned under a Provisional Constitution after extension and before redistribution, by a constituency which no one ever intended to be the depositary of political power. This was the real ground of the opposition to the separation in 1866; and he would ask the Prime Minister, if it was unsafe in 1866 to leave in the hands of a Parliament elected by a constituency which was never intended to be the depositary of political power the serious and vital question of determining what was to be the ultimate balance of power between the different classes of the community, was it a bit more safe now? If it was important to keep the two measures together in 1866, it was ten times more important now. For what was the difference between the situation of 1866 and that of 1884? In 1866 the Reform Bill maintained a marked diversity of franchise—a broad distinction between the town and county franchise was carefully maintained, in order that there might be an ample security for that variety in the representation which had always been considered as the very essence of our Constitution. But now, if we dissolved after extension and before redistribution, we should find ourselves in this position. We should have lost the old security and should have established no new one in its place. He was not arguing against extension. On the contrary, he maintained that extension was required by political justice, expediency, and necessity. He only wished to point out that at present we secured variety of representation by variety of franchise, and that one inevitable consequence of extension, which we were bound not to disregard, was that it would remove and destroy a particular form of security deliberately and carefully set up with the object of ensuring that variety in the representation which had always been regarded as absolutely essential. The question was— 1329 what security could we set up in its place? The representation of local majorities, which answered well enough so long as there was a different franchise in different localities, was useless when the franchise was uniform. If we had an uniform franchise, there was only one way of securing that variety in the representation which was of the very essence of our Constitution, and that was by the abandonment of the system of local majority representation, and by the wide application of the principle of personal or proportional representation. He could not now enter into the reasons for this belief; all he could say now was that, in his opinion, while a uniform franchise, coupled with the present system of majority representation, would be most dangerous, a uniform household franchise, coupled with a system of personal or proportional representation, would be most advantageous. Why, then, if such was his opinion, the hon. Member might ask who was about to follow him, did he not vote for the Amendment of the noble Lord? He had already stated the reason why. The effect of the Amendment of the noble Lord, if carried, would be to throw out the Bill, and to tell the country that this Parliament, which had been returned in order to deal with Reform, was not even willing to discuss Reform Such a course he considered dangerous, unstatesmanlike, and unwise. He would, therefore, give his cordial support to the second reading. But while he was anxious that an Extension Bill should be passed, he was strongly opposed to passing it in such a way as to leave the character of the redistribution to be decided by a constituency which was never intended to be the depositary of political power. He held that the same electorate which dealt with extension should deal with redistribution also. He, therefore, proposed to support a clause to be inserted in the Bill that extension should not take effect until a date to be mentioned in the Redistribution Bill which was to follow. He was aware—painfully aware—of the objections that could be urged against such a course. He had weighed them and carefully considered them; but he was unable to discover any other means which would give him the security he thought they had a right to ask for obtaining that variety in the representation which was essential to good government. If, however, the Go- 1330 vernment could point out any other security less open to objection, he would be very glad; but if they could not provide any other security, he would support such a clause as that to which he had just referred, for, objectionable as it might be, it was still less objectionable than the course of handing over the settlement of redistribution to a constituency which was never intended to be the depositary of political power.
§ MR. GUY DAWNAY
said, he would not follow the hon. Member who had just sat down into all the details of his able and interesting speech. He did not profess himself as a rule to be an especially obedient follower of the Prime Minister; but he intended on this occasion to follow the remarkable advice with which the right hon. Gentleman had concluded the speech in which he introduced this measure to the House. The Prime Minister had offered this measure to the House in much the same way that a physician might offer to a somewhat distrustful patient a somewhat dubious and experimental medicine. It had been taken, he argued, in small doses on previous occasions, and had had a tonic effect on the Constitution. Therefore, an enormously increased dose must now be the logical sequence, and must have a treble stimulating effect. That sequence being once granted as a point beyond dispute, it only remained for them to shut their eyes, to recognize that the longer they looked the more they would dislike it, and to swallow it with as good a grace as might be, and with a determination to avoid over-carping criticism as to unpleasant details either in its composition or manner of exhibition. That was not a very inaccurate description of the arguments or the recommendations of the right hon. Gentleman; and he would only say that as far as the arguments went they had not been very materially strengthened by any remarks on the other side of the House, and as far as the recommendations went they had not elicited any servile obedience on that side. For himself, he would not go into any detail, still less recommend any fancy franchise—he would not "wander into the morasses and quagmires of doubt;" but he would give a plain and straightforward opinion—an opinion which was shared by many more in the House than would be likely to avow 1331 such views—an opinion that this downward extension of the franchise, which was so euphemistically imposed on them under the lair sounding but false title of "Representation of the People Bill," was a measure which, in its present truncated condition, was not worth having—which was untimely in its introduction, which was not justified by any genuine or general desire on the part of the people, which was absolutely dangerous and unconstitutional in the power it would give to one class, and that the least intelligent and least educated class of i the people. It was to this last aspect of the question he wished as much as possible to confine his remarks. There were other points of objection to this measure, but so obvious that they required but few words of proof. Few words, for instance, were necessary to prove the charge of untimeliness in the introduction of an enfranchising measure which made that introduction coincident with one of the saddest pages of Irish history, and the consequent continued existence of a Crimes Prevention Act. Whether the Bill were from other points of view a good Bill or a bad Bill, every shred of argument that had been be painfully scraped together by Members opposite to justify the inclusion of Ireland had been a most complete and crushing condemnation of the policy which, for the sake of the meanest, most pitiable Party purposes, had insisted on introducing this unnecessary measure at this most untimely moment, and had forced the country, either by the exclusion of Ireland, to fan to fresh fury the flickering flame of discontent, or else, by the inclusion of Ireland, to disfranchise their loyal fellow-countrymen, and to recruit, the ranks of those whose thought by day and dream by night was enmity to England and hatred to her rule, and whose avowed and boasted objects were Separation and Repeal. The Prime Minister said—"The people were to be trusted, and that the voters under the Constitution were the strength of the Constitution;" but would he venture to say that the Irish people were to be trusted for their loyalty to the Constitution, or would he repeat, with all the records of late elections in Ireland to confront and to confute him, that the voters under the present Constitution even were the strength of the Constitution? He had hoped that he might have 1332 left to other right hon. and noble Occupants of the Treasury Bench to answer that question, by repeating in the House their well-known and else whore publicly expressed sentiments on this at present disheartening subject. It appeared, however, that what seemed madness in the bracing air of the Provinces seemed to be simple necessity in the enervating atmosphere of the Cabinet Council. Even the noble Lord, however, told them that it would be too sanguine to expect that the extension of the franchise would be followed in Ireland by an increase of loyalty and contentment. It would, indeed, be too sanguine; and he would only add that, if the Prime Minister could still with sincerity avow his belief in the loyalty of the great bulk of the Irish people, that he again possessed in solitude that same unique power of rose-coloured vision with regard to the state of Ireland with which a notorious paragraph in his Mid Lothian orations had made them but too unhappily familiar. It was on other grounds, however, that he wished to question the charge of untimeliness against the present measure. However much theorists in the House, or claptrap orators in the country, might exclaim at such an opinion, he was convinced, and had no hesitation in expressing his conviction, that, as a class, the agricultural labourers were not yet sufficiently educated to justify the House in permitting them to bring their votes in competition on such unequal terms as regards numbers with those which represented education, and the interest inherent in the possession of property. He was not likely to wish to under-rate the qualifications of any class of Yorkshiremen; and having the honour to represent a constituency which comprised 1–24th of the whole area of England and l–30th part of the whole agricultural population, he might at least be supposed to speak as one considerably interested in this question of their enfranchisement. It was only in a secondary degree that he objected to their enfranchisement on the score of their unfitness. That objection each year of our present education system would help to diminish and remove, and even now it held less in the North perhaps than elsewhere, He was sure that at least all hon. Members who represented constituencies North of the Humber would 1333 allow that the highest average of natural intellectual development was, like promotion in the text, in that it came "neither from the East, nor from the West, nor yet from the South." the chief point of his objection, and one which time would never efface, was the manner in which the Government intended to concede to the agricultural labourer that trust. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Raikes) pointed out the other day, since the Act of 1867 there had been two distinct qualifications for the suffrage—the property qualification in the counties, and the franchise on the basis of population in the towns—and what he objected to in this unconstitutional and unstatesinanlike measure was that, for the sake of that narrow-minded species of Reform which aimed at the removal of anomalies because they were anomalies, and not because they were abuses; it proposed to disfranchise altogether the representation of property. That was a point which the Government had never fairly met. As to the fitness or unfitness of the agricultural labourer to have a vote, he would first say that what he said on the subject in the House he would be prepared to repeat before his constituents; and the very individuals best fitted to possess the suffrage would be the first to understand and to appreciate and accept his reasons. He was perfectly willing to admit that there were many hundreds and thousands, if they liked, in his own constituency, of agricultural labourers who were as well fitted as himself to have a vote—many perhaps better fitted—but they were still in a minute minority, and their votes would be swamped and neutralized by the overwhelming majority of the voters who were not capable of properly exercising the franchise. The enormous majority of the new class of voters, as hon. Gentlemen opposite must confess, would for a long time be swayed by petty interests and by small crotchets. They would be at the mercy of agitators of a superior class—individuals, no doubt, well educated, but influenced by unworthy considerations. Such individuals were now counting on this same mallable ignorance as valuable Party capital, and were eagerly expecting the consignment to their agitation manufactories of the new law-voting material, relying on their skill and power to direct 1334 and guide, and, at no distant, date, win the mob-moved machinery of manhood suffrage. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade told the House the other day that it was railways opportune to do good things. That was a beautiful copybook principle, which he should like the right hon. Gentleman to remember and act upon by withdrawing those grossly unjust charges which he made in connection with his Merchant Shipping Bill. He believed the right hon. Gentleman had stated that manhood suffrage was also a just thing; and he would like to know how it was that he reconciled its exception from the category of those good things which it was never inopportune to do, and whether, like the noble Lord the Secretary of state for War, he kept one set of principles for his theories in the Provinces, and another and different set of principles for his practice in the Metropolis? The bulk of the hon. Gentlemen opposite had not yet been educated up to the higher standard of manhood suffrage, but they could still understand their great feeling for a considerable extension of the franchise. The recent elections in York, West Somersetshire, and Cambridgeshire had done very little to lessen their anxiety to efface the present electorate, whose growing political knowledge was showing itself so exceedingly inconvenient. As to the desire for the franchise among the lower classes, he said deliberately that there was no such feeling in favour of it among the classes for whom it was pretended that the measure was introduced. He did not mean to refer to outrages and other violent demonstrations, nor did he wish to add to the retorts that had been bandied from side to side in the House with regard to the significance of the Leeds Conference. He did not care to discuss whether that Conference meant anything more than that a concourse of delegates showed a natural pleasure in spending a week in a beautiful Yorkshire town, and in listening to a speech from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, when his oratory had it all its own way, when his eloquence was not hampered or somewhat distracted by an attempt to answer the unanswerable speech of the noble Lord the Member for North Leicestershire (Lord John 1335 Manners). What he wanted to ask was, had they found a desire for an extension of the franchise in the rural districts? For his own part, he would say that there was a perfect apathy in the rural districts in respect of it. The only feeling evinced on this question was in the big towns, and there, absurdly enough, it was redistribution that was wanted, and not county enfranchisement in itself at all. A proper scheme of redistribution with a considerable extension of the borough boundaries would have fulfilled all their present requirements, and would have met with hearty cooperation and support on the Conservative side of the House. When former Reform measures were introduced there was a distinct requirement for the franchise, an intelligent demand that would have brooked no continual denial—a demand that had its foundation in its justice and its root in the reasonableness and rectitude of its claim. There was no such demand for the franchise at the present moment, and for this reason, that the class proposed to be enfranchised was already amply represented. He would not say that every individual of those classes was represented, but the classes themselves were represented, and as far as individuals went he would say that it was fortunate indeed that they had not been able to bring to bear, in all their overwhelming weight of numbers, their crude intelligence and all their changeful impulses of capricious ignorance. Would hon. Members opposite venture to compare the capability of the class now to be enfranchised with the average capabilities of those who already exercised it? Did they think them equal to that class in political knowledge, in honest conviction, in independence of thought; or did they deny that by this untimely experiment they were further lowering and pulling down that average, that they were increasing the influence of the least capable stratum of political life, and letting loose on the field of politics a flood of ignorance and selfish and unreasoning prejudice? The Government in their foreign policy had got one motto, and a most fatal one—"Too Late." In domestic legislation they had got another and a very different, but as fatal a one—"Too Early." In some 10 or 15 years' time some such measure as this might have been introduced with general advantage to the nation 1336 at large. At this moment it would be done without advantage, and it would not be done without risk. Hon. Members opposite might possibly have had their attention called to an anecdote that appeared in the papers some time ago in a letter from a tutor of some College at Oxford, in which he related how he was travelling in the North with some miners, He mentioned in the course of his conversation with them the subject of the franchise, and he asked one of them what he would do with the franchise. The man said—"I don't know. If they are giving away these votes I would as soon have them as anybody else. But I'll tell you what my mates say they will do. They will vote for a general smash." He thought that the ignorance which made that feeling at all possible did undoubted exist among the class for whom Henry George was lecturing, and amongst whom his economic absurdities found an appreciative audience, and he thought that ought to be taken into consideration before in so light-hearted a manner they proceeded to abolish their old system of class representation by the addition of 66 per cent to the electorate—of 2,000,000 fresh voters chosen from among the less educated and intelligent class of the people. It was absolutely pitiable to see the Members of the Government standing at the Table last week one after another arguing in favour of the severance of the schemes for redistribution and extension, and then during the same week to see a Cabinet Minister counterfeiting surprise and indignation at the very idea of being asked to do such an unheard-of thing as separating a measure for the relief of local taxation from an embryo, vague, shadowy, elementary scheme of county government. If he might briefly illustrate this point, he would use another medical simile. There was a class of medicines which consisted of two powders dissolved in water, and which, when intended for remedial use, were mixed together, and when thus mixed formed a valuable and beneficial remedy of an effervescing nature. Separate, however, these two powders, and administer first one and then the other, and the result was of an extremely distressing and indeed, alarming character. He offered that illustration as the briefest and most commonplace example he could think 1337 of, of the manner in which what as a whole might be valuable and beneficial, might become actually detrimental and deleterious in its separated and disconnected parts. It was useless, however, to bring forward arguments which Members opposite refused to meet. Their real arguments took the practical form of Irish bribes. Their real reasons were reliance in their majority. Their logic was the logic of the Lobbies and the strength of the Divisions. In conclusion, he would make an appeal to Members representing county constituencies. They had been elected by a class which not only in after dinner oratory in their country districts were termed by conventional flatterers the backbone of the nation, but which, was very generally recognized to be one of the most important component parts of the British nation; and he would ask hon. Members who had been elected by that class, on the condition that they would maintain its interests and represent its views, not now to allow those interests to be impaired and those views to be obscured by that vast upheaval from beneath which was to mark the new geologic period in the political history of the land. He would appeal to them alike as a point of duty and a point of honour to unite in resisting to the uttermost of their power the present preposterous piece of premature and patchwork legislation.
§ MR. WOODALL
said, he was indebted to the hon. Member who had just spoken for having summarized tersely the policy of the Opposition, He had stated that the policy of Her Majesty's Government must either be too late or too early in its action, and that it would be extremely difficult to please the Opposition by any course which the Government might have taken on this particular question. Having carefully followed the speeches that had been delivered in support of the Amendment of the noble Lord, it appeared to him that, in the main, they very fully confirmed the wisdom of the course which the Government had adopted on this matter. There had been a certain affectation of support to the general phraseology of the Amendment. In the main, however, there had been a good deal of make-believe about the support, and there had been an always ill-concealed aversion to enfranchisement in any form whatever. While 1338 the Opposition had thus refrained from directly opposing the enfranchisement of those at present outside the bounds of the Constitution, they had not hesitated to give arguments which would seem logically to justify that course. The right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Robert Peel) on the previous evening said that, the class to be enfranchised was the most ignorant and certainly the most inexperienced class in the country. In saying that he only further accentuated the argument of the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Raikes), who said that the class about to be enfranchised contrasted unfavourably with those persons who were I entitled to receive the suffrage under the Act of 1867. He emphasized the I contrast by stating that those who were within the borough suffrage were men, generally speaking, trained by experience of a practical kind under municipal institutions—that they were men who had a familiarity with the conduct of benefit societies and trade unions, and who were therefore fitted by their experience for the exercise of the functions devolving upon them. It seemed to him I an extraordinary thing that hon. Members with the large experience of the hon. Gentlemen opposite should over look the fact that there were at the present moment outside the Parliamentary boroughs of this country a very large and important body of persons, possessing the municipal franchise, who were intimately connected with local boards of health, and who had a large experience in urban and rural sanitary affairs—persons, in fact, having qualifications and experience very difficult for him to distinguish from those Possessed by the electors in the Parliamentary boroughs The hon. Gentleman opposite spoke with some pride of the county with which he was connected. He seemed to be unaware of the great industrial districts in his county and the neighbouring one of Lancashire. He would mention, as instances, the important towns of Keighley, Accrington, and Crewe. In the last-named town there was, perhaps, the most intelligent class of trained artizans to be found in any part of the country, and they were at present entirely without the franchise. Then, again, the House was familiar with the example of this great and over-extending Metropolis, with its suburban 1339 towns, like Croydon, Stratford, and others, and to which the same remark applied with greater force. The right hon. Baronet opposite complained that no reason had been given to the House to justify the necessity for the introduction of this measure. He and many other speakers who opposed the Bill seemed to hold the opinion that there was some reason for complaint that there had been no outside clamour to force the question on the attention of Parliament—that there had been no loud knocking at the door such as they had been familiar with on former occasions. That appeared to him to be one of the strongest reasons that could be urged in support of the Bill, in that Parliament was able to address itself to a serious Constitutional question in conditions of tranquillity which ought to lead to a wise and satisfactory settlement of it. The present state of the public mind was a testimony to the growth of a legitimate confidence by the great masses of the people, in the adoption of an orderly and Constitutional remedy for the grievances which they sought to have remedied, and the claims which they had a right to urge. It had been said that, the occasion for bringing forward the Bill was not opportune; but that objection was mainly urged by a Party in the House who held that no occasion could lid opportune for a measure of the kind. He hoped a Dissolution would not happen before the whole question was settled; but, even if that should happen, he saw no reason why the newly-enfranchised electors should not have a voice in the question of redistribution of political power, or why hon. Members opposite should object to an appeal which might result in their being called upon themselves to define a scheme of redistribution for the constituencies which they claimed to have so largely under their care. The fundamental principle of the Bill, as it was described by the Prime Minister, was to give a vote to every householder; but there was no provision that the franchise should be given to such householders if they happened to be women. They had heard a good deal in the course of the debate of a certain "Old Woman of Warwickshire," and he thought there was something to be said on behalf of that old woman. By an excellent and ingenious 1340 device in this measure, a vote would be given, not merely to the poorest householder and ratepayer, but even to the herd and other servants whose rent was included in the weekly wage. It did seem to him rather hard lines that the "Old Woman of Warwickshire" should have to contemplate the enfranchisement of her farm labourer, of her herd, of her meanest servant, while she herself—one of 20,000 similarly situated—should be unenfranchised. The case of the woman landowner was even harder, for, according to a Parliamentary Return, one in every seven landowners was a woman. At present, women having the qualification for the vote excercised every form of local voting. They gave votes for Town Councils, for Local Boards, and for Boards of Guardians, and could not only vote for but actually sit on School Boards. They wore, nevertheless, debarred from exercising the Parliamentary suffrage. Why this should be so he entirely failed to see. No argument that could be held to justify the exercise of these local franchises could fail also to make good their claim to the Parliamentary franchise. They eminently satisfied one of the fundamental conditions of this Bill. They were "capable citizens." It was idle in these days to talk of finality, but this measure did appear to him to have in it the elements of completeness to a much larger extent than any previous measure; and he proposed in Committee to submit an Amendment to the House, which, if adopted, would realize the declared intention of the Prime Minister. He would not anticipate the arguments he would then have to address to the House; but he hoped they would be commended to the House in a reasonable spirit, and would be received in that spirit on both sides. He know the Prime Minister had deprecated the proposal he (Mr. Woodall) intended to make, and as one of the most devoted and loyal of his followers he felt a difficulty in pressing anything that might, in the smallest degree, be contrary to the express wish of the right hon. Gentleman. All he asked was that, seeing this question was one upon which a decided majority of the Liberal Party had already declared themselves, and seeing that it had attracted a large amount of sympathy from other parts of the House, the right hon. Gentleman would so far meet the 1341 wishes of the House as, at any rate, rate to leave it an open question. If the measure were passed in the form he would suggest, he felt certain that it would, for a long time, be accepted by the country as a settlement of this important issue, upon a logical and reasonable and sound basis. If his Amendment were omitted, it must be obvious that the House would have to deal again with a still unsettled franchise.
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
After what has passed earlier in the evening, I must begin by explaining that, though I speak from the Table, I was driven to take refuge on the Front Bench by stress of misfortune four years since, when I found that to keep my old familiar place below the Gangway I should have to contend not with one. but two whole Parties. The only place under the Crown I have ever enjoyed was one of which the profits were nothing—Steward of the Manor of Northstead. I can assure the House that I have listened with great interest to the speech of my hon. Friend who has just spoken; but, before I proceed to the main question, I may assure him that I am prepared to stand—metaphorically, of course—before the cannon's mouth, to prevent the "Old Woman of Warwickshire" from obtaining the franchise. But to come to the Bill itself, I occupy a somewhat unusual position towards the question of Reform, for I voted impartially against both the Reform Bill of 1866 and that of 1867, and I see nothing in what has since occurred to make me regret my action. I shall be told that it was no great risk for a Member to do this who sat for a constituency which, with such fine taste, the hon. Member for Aylesbury described as one of country clergymen and non-resident. M.A.'s. But, at the time, I had no prospect of a University seat, and I voted against the Reform Bills, as representing that very constituency which the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken now adorns. As Member for Stoke I was willing to imperil my Parliamentary future for what I believed to be political truth, for I was satisfied neither with the Bill of the present Prime Minister nor with that of Lord Beaconsfield. I remember how, in 1866, our tables groaned with pamphlets, especially with the so by the late Mr. Dudley Baxter, a gentleman of great industry and some ability, de- 1342 monstrating how fatally the additional voters introduced by that measure would dislocate the balance of property and voting power; and how again, in 1867, our tables groaned with fresh pamphlets by Mr. Dudley Baxter, demonstrating that the far more wholesale lowering of that year, the more prodigious separation of property and voting, would restore the equilibrium to the franchise. Mr. Baxter's arguments had told on me in 1866, but I did not think the sequel of 1867 equally cogent nor absolutely consistent. The 17 years which have since elapsed do not find me convinced that I was mistaken. In 1874, indeed, many Members on this side began exclaiming that, after all, 1867 had been a very fine time. I thought on and kept silent; and I observe that since 1880 my Friends have also been silent. What do we find by experience to have been the action on political progress of the borough franchise created in 1867? I will only criticize it in one respect, but that is a point on which there cannot be a sincere difference of opinion. Under that enlarged franchise, supplemented as it has been by secret voting, the oscillations of public opinion are more sudden, more unexpected, more violent, more uncontrolled than in former times; 1874 and 1880 equally prove this. It may be urged on the other side that this difference proves that the present electorate has a finer and a readier touch than the former one, and that this characteristic would be intensified by the present Bill. I cannot, however, believe that unexpectedness can conduce to wise or moderate government. It must be unhealthy that such surprises should be possible, and the evil will be intensified when 2,000,000 of voters have with a light heart been shot upon the country—like coals down a cellar. I will assume that the chances may be even that the present Bill should produce a strong Tory or a strong Liberal Parliament; but under either alternative I cannot trust its results, or look on it with any pleasure. I object to the present scheme because it affects to do a most delicate job in a most unworkmanlike manner. Here I am brought face to face with the favourite argument on the other side, the argument which appeals ad invidiam, and which, for want of a better name, I may call the "mad-dog argument," for it is merely used to give opponents a bad 1343 name. If I mention it, it is to repudiate the imputation that those who oppose the measure do so because they dislike and mistrust their poorer neighbours. That assertion, for it is no argument, is the language of tyranny masquerading in the form of liberty, and the spirit which dictates it is reactionary and retrograde. I venture to say for myself that, in the two parts of England whore I have a foothold, I have devoted much time, much trouble, much outlay to the moral, the social, the intellectual, and the material advancement of those members of the labouring classes for whom I have a responsibility. It is as their friend, and as knowing something of the state of our country districts, that I contest the benefit of bestowing the franchise on these labourers. What is their present condition?—for with that present condition the present debate need only concern itself. I praise them for self-denial, family affections, industry, and love of their country. I grant them every virtue in the world, except the virtues of political forethought and grasp of the relations of public questions. Their condition of living is antipathetic to these faculties. The world to them is bounded by the horizon on which they gaze every day; the village in which they live is the chief place on the globe. The politics which interest them are petty disputes about wages, the events of haymaking and harvesting, and the election of the officers of the village club. Perhaps hon. Members will say that such experiences are a school of political learning, and that the goose club is the pathway to the larger arena of the House of Commons. I protest against the crude recklessness of introducing these 2,000,00 of inexperienced voters into the electorate, for by mere mechanical force of numbers they must swamp and overwhelm all other interests in the country. If all the old women in the country who held the same position as the "Old Woman of Warwickshire" were admitted to the franchise, and every conceivable fancy franchise added, they would muster as an insignificant troop beside the legions of enfranchised agricultural labourers. By way of political education these new voters are to be fed on feverish stimulants like the speech of the President of the Board of Trade, as to which I shall only say that never from 1344 the Treasury Bench, under any provocation, have I heard language more incendiary, clothing statements more misleading. The allegation that the poor man had found his commons robbed because he had had no vote, wilfully distorted facts; but what are we to say to the charge heaped upon this, that his endowments had also been robbed? No one knows better than the right hon. Gentleman himself that if there is a colourable pretext for, or a shred of distorted truth in, the charge, it is to be found in that which everyone has looked upon as a crowning administrative exploit of the Party to which he (the President of the Board of Trade) belongs—the Endowed Schools Act of 1869, passed by the right hon. Member for Bradford, under which many small endowments, bread doles, clothing gifts, and so forth, have been diverted to higher uses and made serviceable for education. The diversion may in some cases have been a harsh proceeding, but in others it has undoubtedly been beneficial. But to raise the cry of robbery over it, to prop up a democratic revolution, required the audacity of the President of the Board of Trade. Some advocates of this measure try to stop our mouths with the assertion that the enfranchisement of the labourer is a matter of right and justice about which there could no longer be any controversy. That word "right" is an ambiguous and misleading term. I cannot understand how anyone who does not accept universal suffrage as a principle can speak of the concession of any power to the agricultural or any other class as a right. The least limit put to it evacuates the idea of right. Either the principle of universal suffrage must be recognized, and then the present Bill itself is a halting half measure, or practical men must acknowledge that the suffrage is a means to an end, a trust confided to the voter by the superior power, the State, and liable to be dealt with by that power for the benefit of that which is superior to any number of voters—namely, the entire commonwealth itself. Until universal suffrage is recognized as a good in itself this argument of right must, I say, break down. Having regard to the want of education among our rustics, I declare this Bill to be a most rash and ill-considered measure; but I am prepared to 1345 answer the question whether I consider that, the agricultural labourers ought to have any share in the government of the country. They certainly ought to have a proportionate one, and they have it, inasmuch as in large numbers they are voters in the agricultural boroughs with large areas, such as East Retford, Eye, New Shoreham, Horsham, Wilton, Aylesbury, Rye, Much Wenlock, Cricklade, and the curtilages of other boroughs. The noble Lord the Secretary of State for War had the courage the other night to declare that the loyal population of Ireland would be represented by Members for English and Scotch constituencies. This was indirect representation with a vengeance in all its nakedness, and it would ill become I the noble Lord, at all events, to deny that the agricultural labourers of England were represented in a far more direct, real, and complete way by the agricultural boroughs. This indiscriminate enfranchisement, in view of a dark Bill for redistribution which may be passed in this Parliament or in the next Parliament by the Liberals, by the Tories, or by the Mahdi, is playing fast and loose with politics. It is not forethought, it is not patriotism, and I vote against it as a gambling and scrambling attempt of the Government to clutch at the power which is slipping out of their grasp.
§ MR. STANSFELD
said, he belonged to the class of ex-Cabinet Ministers prescribed by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Huntingdon (Sir Robert Peel); but, having regard to the infrequency of his speeches, he hoped the House would pardon him for engaging its attention. He would not on this occasion occupy the time of the House on the subject which had been referred to by his hon. Friend the Member for Stoke (Mr. Woodall); but when his hon. Friend moved his Amendment in favour of including women householders, he knew of no consideration which would induce him to falter in supporting it. It had been said on one side of the House that this debate was unreal and languid. On the other the right hon. Baronet the Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) had said that the country was apathetic, and the right hon. Baronet the Member for Huntingdon had asked for some indication of excitement. Opposition speakers had referred to the 1346 insincerity of the Government. That charge might be true or not; but it was the character of the measure, not the character of the Government, that they had to consider at present. The right hon. Baronet the Member for East Gloucestershire had said that the action of the Government on this subject was more like the device of an election agent than the policy of a political Party. Well, they on the Ministerial side of the House said that the position taken up by the Conservative Party was a half-hearted position. Many brave and big words were uttered; but the Conservative Party did not traverse the justice or wisdom of this measure, and did not traverse its opportuneness. The assertion made amounted to this—"Because we do not trust the Government we will not consider this Bill until we know the whole mind of the Government on another question—that of redistribution." Therefore it was that the debate had assumed an air of unreality. As to the charge of insincerity brought against the Government, he had yet to learn that it was any discredit to a Government to desire to redeem its pledges—not hasty pledges as had been said, but the deliberate and frequently repeated pledges made at the last General Election. He ventured to say that if the Government had not brought in this Bill this Session, which was the last available one in the present Parliament for the purpose, they would have found a spirit of distrust and rebellion on the Radical Benches which would have been more serious and certainly more painful than any opposition they were likely to encounter from the other side of the House. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Huntingdon objected to this Bill because it would admit 2,000,000 of what he styled the most ignorant and most inexperienced of the population to an absolute control over the machinery of government. Among those 2,000,000 it would be difficult to find one single man so ignorant as to endorse the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman; and he would appeal to hon. Members on the Benches opposite who passed the Reform Act of 1867, and ask them whether experience had not shown as a fact that a generous extension of the franchise to a large mass of the population did not swamp and extinguish the votes of those who previously possessed it. The right hon. Gentleman 1347 the Member for South-West Lancashire (Sir E. Assheton Cross) was in favour; of some extension, if not of the extension proposed in the Bill; but whatever extension he sanctioned he refused to grant it in equal measure to the Sister Isle. He could not imagine—among all the impotent and foolish schemes of Reform that had been proposed he confessed he could not imagine—any scheme so devoid of all political foresight as a scheme of partial advance coupled with a refusal to give Ireland the benefit of that advance. The right hon. Baronet the Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) made no precise objection to the extension of the principle of household suffrage from the boroughs to the counties; but he argued in favour of some principle of proportional representation for the protection of minorities, and he was especially strong upon the necessity of extending some such provision to Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman entirely failed to show the House why that was less possible under the present proceeding than under the Amendment of the noble Lord. If they passed the Franchise Bill, simply extending the principle of household suffrage from the towns to the counties, he could not see why the postponement of the question of redistribution should be considered an evil. Upon the Amendment hon. Members opposite were committed to nothing at all. It had been stated that the country was apathetic on this question—and certainly it was not in a condition of excitement—but he could explain the reason, and it was this—that the extension of household suffrage was an absolutely foregone conclusion. It was simply a question of time from the day when the Reform Act of 1867 passed, when the Conservative Party established the principle in the boroughs of the country; and now that the other great Party in the State had taken up that principle, and applied it to the country at large, and had nailed its colours to the mast and declared that it would stand or fall by it, it was useless to take up a position of hostility towards a movement which, within a limited time, must gain its object. He did not blame the Conservative Party for their opposition. The fact was, no political Party could afford to leave such a measure and the manipulation of redistribution in the hands of 1348 its opponents. That was the plain English of it. The Conservative Party must oppose it, and he would be ungrateful as a Party man if he wished otherwise. Their opposition did nothing but good to the cause of Reform, to the extension of the franchise, and to the enactment of a large redistribution scheme. If that opposition increased, the apathy of the country would be turned into enthusiasm in its favour. It was said that whatever might occur in that House the Lords would throw it out. If he cared only for the Bill, for the Government, or for his Party, he should not wish it any other fate. The Franchise Bill was safe, and nothing would so certainly help the Liberal Party towards a large redistribution scheme as the determination of the House of Lords to throw out the Bill. As far as the Government were concerned, they had determined to sever the questions of enfranchisement and redistribution for two reasons. In the first place, they desired to prevent defeat by simple discussion and delay. If Her Majesty's Government had united a scheme of redistribution to the present one, not only would other measures have been fatally impeded, but that very complex measure would have found its death in the delays of debate and discussion. Surely, whether hon. Members liked it or not, the Government had a right so to arrange their measures as to give themselves a chance of passing them within the Session. But, besides this, the Government had a right to secure to themselves the advantage that a clear issue should be put before the House and the country. That could not have been done in the case of a complex measure; but now, when the Amendment was defeated, the second reading would have to be voted on, and it would be seen whether the Conservatives voted against the second reading or not. But it was argued that the House parted with a portion of its power of controlling the redistribution question by passing the franchise portion. That was a very favourite argument, and he thought there was a good deal in it; but as the increased knowledge the House would obtain would enable them to deal in a more thorough fashion with the redistribution scheme, what, he would ask, was the power referred to which they might lose? Not the power to enlarge, hut the power to minimize and to maim, He must correct 1349 a statement he had just made. He said the House parted with a portion of its power; but he should have said the Opposition. It was a perfectly sound argument among the Opposition, but it could have no effect upon those Members who sat on the Ministerial side. Undoubtedly in the case of a great and complicated measure the Government must make some sacrifice in order to pass it, and the Government would have had to make sacrifices with regard to the Redistribution Clauses. If they had had the two parts in one, they would have had an inefficient, and therefore not a lasting redistribution scheme. Many entertained a strong objection to this measure on account of its inclusion of Ireland. That inclusion had been defended by, among others, his right hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), who pointed out that we had only three courses in dealing with Ireland—equality, subjection, or separation. There were two unanswerable arguments for including Ireland in the Bill. The first was the reason or argument of necessity. He fearlessly asserted that neither the present Government nor any Administration which proposed a measure for the extension of the franchise would venture with any prospect of success to make any difference between the case of Ireland and that of Great Britain itself. Again, could we give anything less than justice to Ireland? It was conceivable that the Government might have proposed a simply Irish measure bringing up the suffrage in Ireland to the present condition of the suffrage in England. That, indeed, would be justice; but he had only to mention such a scheme in order to show its absurdity. Justice must precede reconciliation. The old policy of dealing with Ireland was absolutely condemned. It was dead or dying, and could not be revived. Therefore the new policy was simply inevitable. He saw no inconsistency in extending the franchise in a country where the ordinary Constitutional rights of citizens were limited by exceptional Acts of Parliament. Those Acts limited rights which had been abused, whereas the right of the franchise was incapable of abuse if it were freely exercised. If nine-tenths, or even 99–100ths of the population of Ireland were Parnellite, practical statesmen, knowing the strength of the representative prin- 1350 ciple, ought not merely to consent, but even to desire, that they should be represented in that House. He firmly believed that the policy of equality between Ireland and England constituted our only chance in the future of harmonizing the two countries. It was impossible to exaggerate the seriousness of the Irish question. Even if they had not wanted such a Reform Bill for English purposes, they ought to have invented it for the sake of extending it to Ireland, for he contended that the extension of household suffrage to Ireland was a positive and absolute good. We had no right to attempt to limit Constitutional agitation in that country, for it was the right of every citizen to speak, to petition, and to agitate for whatever object an Act of Parliament could secure. There were two causes of Irish discontent. The old cause had sprung from race, social, religious, and economic differences, and the oppression of centuries. First we conquered, then we starved, then we oppressed, and then we ignored the Irish population. They multiplied in their poverty as the poor alone multiplied. They emigrated in their need, and then came the new cause of difficulty and danger, the Nemesis. They founded a new Ireland across the Atlantic, larger, richer, more powerful than themselves. From that Ireland had come back to the mother Ireland the sinews and some of the most dangerous, though not only the most dangerous, counsels of war. There was, nevertheless, to his mind, one rift in the clouds—one streak of light, and he hoped it might prove the harbinger of a brighter day. It was this. Emigrated Ireland had learned one lesson in the United States. She had learned to understand and to respect the rights of majorities to govern, and the power of a Government based upon the popular vote. He said—"Present to her these conditions. Adopt the policy of the Government which is to do so. Present to her the popular vote in local and Imperial concerns." By such measures, and such only, this country would do more than by any other measures to disarm violence and to appease the old rancours. By bringing Ireland upon the floor of that House, and by compelling almost the action of Irish Parties to become less violent and more Constitutional than it had been in the past, they would eventu- 1351 ally be able to dispense with Coercion Acts, and all the mischievous consequences which followed from their enactment. The two populations would agree in a broader patriotism in place of that narrow and antagonistic patriotism which we ourselves forced into the minds of the Irish population; and the result would be a real Act of Union which would unite the two peoples, respecting each other's individualities and each other's rights, into one Imperial bond for our common safety and our common interest.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned." —(Mr. Marriott.)
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, the understanding was that the debate should adjourn at an early hour of the evening, but that the hour had not yet been reached.
§ MR. HICKS
said, that the understanding was that the debate should be adjourned at 11 o'clock, to allow other Business to come on. It was then 10 minutes to 11 o'clock, and the hon. Member for Brighton had moved the adjournment. Did the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary think—did any hon. Member on either side of the House think—that the hon. Member for Brighton could finish in 10 minutes? If not, it would be a breach of the contract to allow him to commence his speech, well knowing he could not finish by the time agreed upon. He should vote for the adjournment.
§ MR. THOMAS COLLINS
said, that the right hon. Member who had just sat down had spoken for 40 minutes, and there was no reason to suppose that the hon. Member for Brighton would speak for a shorter time. It would he a violation of the understanding to which the Government had been a party if the debate were not now adjourned".
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question.
§ MR. HOPWOOD
I rise to Order. I would submit to your ruling, Sir, 1352 whether the hon. Member has not already exhausted his right to speak? The hon. Member moved the adjournment of the debate, which has been carried against him; therefore he has spoken, and has no right to sneak again.
§ MR. RAIKES
Upon the point of Order, I wish to ask you, Sir, whether it has ever been ruled, when an hon. Member has moved the adjournment of the debate, and that Motion has been negatived without a Division, that he has lost his right to speak? I know that it was ruled on a former occasion, by Mr. Speaker Denison, that a Member who had moved the adjournment of the debate and had been defeated on a Division was precluded from afterwards addressing the House upon the main subject of the debate. But I wish to ask you, Sir, if there is any precedent for excluding a Member from addressing the House because he has moved the adjournment and then acquiesced in that Motion being negatived?
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
I should like to ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary, who, I presume, was present in the House at an earlier portion of the evening—[Cries of"Order:!"]
§ THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (Sir ARTHUR OTWAY)
Do I understand that the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) wishes to put a question to me upon a point of Order? If he does he is in possession of the House.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
I was endeavouring to bring to your mind, by means of a question to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary—[Cries of Order!"]—if I might be allowed to do so without the disorderly interruptions of hon. Members opposite, who are anxious, I presume, to prove their Radicalism—I was endeavouring, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as you did not seem ready at that particular moment to answer the question of Order put to you by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge f Mr. Raikes), to bring to the mind of the Home Secretary that the question of Order had arisen in consequence of the pledge given, by the Government in an earlier part of the evening, which pledge has been violated.
§ THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (Sir ARTHUR OTWAY)
That is not a question of Order. With regard to the questions 1353 put to me by the hon. and learned Member for Stockport (Mr. Hopwood) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Raikes), I have to say that I do not think the question of a Division having taken place is of any material importance with regard to the decision on the point of Order. I do not think that the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Marriott) has precluded himself from speaking. I call upon Mr. Marriott.
§ MR. ONSLOW
I rise to a point of Order. I wish to ask you, Sir, whether, in your place as Chairman of Ways and Means, or as Deputy Speaker, you have over known an instance when the Government has given a pledge—[Cries of "Order!"]
§ THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (Sir ARTHUR OTWAY)
The hon. Member is not raising a question of Order, and I call upon Mr. Marriott.
§ MR. MARRIOTT
said, he was very sorry that the right hon. and learned Gentleman who represented Her Majesty's Government on the present occasion had not allowed the adjournment at the hour desired by the great majority of the House. [Several hon. MEMBERS: Promised !] [Mr. WARTON: It is only spite!] Even if he made a speech of less than the ordinary length, the time would be exceeded. There were a number of Members present who wished to share the education debate. He could only apologize to them; but it would be seen that it was not his fault that they were kept waiting, but the fault of the Government, which they unfortunately trusted. He was afraid that this was only part and parcel of a good deal of the conduct of the Government. The Government were now asking the confidence of the House with regard to that Bill and to redistribution. But they had always found that when they had put confidence in the Government that confidence was misplaced. It was misplaced on the present occasion, and would be misplaced again. It might be that it was his stupidity—[Cries of "Hear, hear!"]—well, he knew that hon. Gentlemen opposite had a high opinion of themselves and of their own ability; but he was going to remark that it was difficult to say whether the last speaker was replying to arguments from his own side, or to arguments from the Opposition side of the House. The right 1354 hon. Gentleman tried to combat the opinion that the debate was unreal; but the opinion that it was unreal was expressed by the President of the Board of Trade. If there were any unreality in the Opposition, it arose in the unreality of the advance by the Government. The whole of the debate was more like a sham than a real fight, and no practical results were to be expected from it. He did not mean any disrespect to the Home Secretary when he said that the Government had fired off their biggest guns—the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for War, and the President of the Board of Trade. There had been speeches, and speeches from two ex-Ministers—the late Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. John Bright), and the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster). The late Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was a man who had obtained a position on the Reform Question throughout the whole country and the world, and it was his (Mr. Marriott's) good fortune to listen to him with attention, when others appeared to listen to him spellbound under his power, so that you could have heard the dropping of a pin; but that was when he had a real interest and felt strongly on the question of Reform. The recent speech of the right hon. Gentleman fell vapidly, in spite of the right hon. Gentleman's proverbial eloquence, and it was evident the true reason was that the heart of the right hon. Gentleman was not in the cause he was advocating. Ono did not expect much earnestness from the right hon. Gentleman the junior Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain); but there was a touch of nature and of real feeling in his reference to what he called the "absurd, ridiculous, and irritating minority vote," after which he naturally fell foul of the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill). Then the right hon. Gentleman—who was seldom present when he wasattacked—left the House, called a way by urgent business, or probably to enjoy a cigar in the Smoking Room. However, the noble Lord was not going to stand for Birmingham in the hope of being returned by the minority vote. [Cries of "Question!"] He believed that he was strictly confining himself to the Question. He was referring to what the right hon. Gentleman said about the 1355 minority vote, and it was not the minority vote the noble Lord looked to. He expected to be returned for Birmingham by the vote of the majority. He (Mr. Marriott) was not a prophet, and he was not going to speak with certainty of the result of the next election contest at Birmingham; but he might say that the odds in favour of the noble Lord being returned by that constituency had risen very considerably since the speech of the President of the Board of Trade. [Cries of "Question!"] Why did not hon. Gentlemen on the Ministerial Benches cry "Question!" when the speech which he was answering was made? The President of the Board of Trade did not allude to the Amendment before the House, but assumed that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition side of the House were opposed to the county franchise. That was a convenient assumption to make. The question was not whether the household franchise was a good or bad thing, and ought to be extended to the counties. The household franchise was conferred upon towns by the Conservative Party; and, therefore, objections to that principle were not likely to come from the Opposition side of the House. The whole point depended upon redistribution; and what the House and the country wanted to know was, how redistribution was going to be manipulated—for manipulated it would be by the present Government—not for the benefit of the country, but for the benefit of those who now happened to be in Office. Hon. Members who had spoken from the Ministerial Benches had urged the House to pass the Bill because the Government were pledged to it. He contended that neither the Prime Minister nor the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War had pledged themselves in their last election addresses upon the subject of the county franchise. The Government had not selected this particular time for bringing in the Bill because of any pledges which they were supposed to have made at the General Election; but they had introduced the measure simply to cover their retreat, and to hide from the country the enormous and ghastly mistakes which they had made in other matters—their mistakes with regard to Ireland, with regard to South Africa, and especially with regard to Egypt. The Members of the Govern- 1356 ment would be more than human if they did not try to hide from the country the gross mistakes which they had made with regard to their Egyptian policy. So great were those mistakes that, up to the present time, they had never afforded an opportunity to the House to debate the question upon its real merits. Every debate upon it had been on a side issue, upon a Motion for Adjournment. [Cries of "Question !"] He knew that it was a disagreeable question—a question which had brought shame upon the Government, and upon the nation which they misgoverned; and because they had made such mistakes they brought forward one part of this shameless Bill, hiding from the country the most important part. The Government, during the course of their existence, had undoubtedly carried one point—namely, the Clóture, which was never used; and now, when any remarks were made which they did not like, they shouted "Question !" He could sympathize with the Government in their desire to go to the country upon any other issue than that of Egypt. The Prime Minister well knew that the Government tried to shirk the Bradlaugh difficulty, and by shirking it wasted hours and days. They were now trying to shirk the question of redistribution, and they themselves had acknowledged that redistribution was the real difficulty with which they had to deal. Hon. Gentlemen opposite were very fond of listening to words which came from that side of the House; but he would read a quotation from the speech of a right hon. Gentleman who sat on the other side of the House with regard to redistribution, which explained what was thought of redistribution some years ago. They were the words of the Prime Minister himself, who, in dealing with the question of the franchise in 1867, said—[Interruption.] Perhaps the House would listen to the words of the Prime Minister. If the right hon. Gentleman was on that side of the House he had no doubt they would not. The words of the Prime Minister in 1867 were true words, and might have had almost a prophetic reference to what was taking place now. The right hon. Gentleman said that—In the battle of the franchise there is hovering on the flank an awful phantom. It is I yelept 'the redistribution of seats.' This hobgoblin decided the battle and slew the Ministry 1357 in 1866. It may decide more battles, and it may slay more Ministries.Those were the words used by the Prime Minister in 1867; and he could well understand how, with this hobgoblin before his eyes, and knowing how, in times past, it had decided battles and slain Ministries, he had now adopted that prudence which was the better part of valour, and had decided to bring before the House, not the question of redistribution, but to fight the battle of the franchise alone. He (Mr. Marriott) did not think that the country would be taken in by any such transparent device. He was happy to say that the country, through the labours of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster), whose scheme for education had now had play for 14 years, notwithstanding that that scheme was opposed by the Radical Party, were now able to decide a question of this nature for themselves. The voters read the newspapers, and know what was going on. He, therefore, thought they would thoroughly understand this transparent device of Her Majesty's Government. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade had expressed a hope that the Opposition would not fear the people, but would rather trust them. It was not that side of the House that feared the people. They did not object to an appeal to the people at once. He was speaking of what he felt certain was the opinion of every hon. and right hon. Gentleman who sat on that side of the House, when he said the sooner an appeal was made to the people the more satisfied they would be. It was hon. Members opposite who feared the people, and when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford, with a real feeling of sympathy for those who sat on his right, suggested that if the Bill were thrown out by the House of Lords that would be no reason for a Dissolution, the suggestion was received with a hearty cheer by hon. Gentlemen who began to see that they might, perhaps, have a few mouths' longer possession of their seats, and that they were not about to be banished to obscurity all at once, but that they might still have a little time before them yet. He could assure hon. and right hon. Gentlemen that it was not that side of the House that feared an appeal to the people. As to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the 1358 Board of Trade, he was always posing as the friend of the people. That was the particular character he liked to display before the public. According to himself, he was the Joseph Arch of the agricultural labourer, the Plimsoll of the merchant seaman, and the Bradlaugh of the anti-pensioner. In fact, he was the admirable Crichton of all the revolutionary classes. He meant no disrespect to the right hon. Gentleman; but the right hon. Gentleman reminded him of a certain class of mad doctors who did not trust their patients when they went to visit them, but always took care that they were strait waistcoats. So the right hon. Gentleman never faced the people boldly; he only went to see them when they had been thoroughly drilled and properly fitted with a strait waistcoat prepared for them at Birmingham. He was not aware that the right hon. Gentleman had ever faced a real public meeting. Every meeting he went to was arranged by his friend Mr. Schnadhorst, and the persons he generally had in his pay. When the Constitutionalists held meetings, they were genuine public meetings, at which, they were brought face to face with the people, and they did not care to put in force all the complicated machinery resorted to by their opponents before the people were brought into their presence. As he had said, he did not think it was that side of the House that had anything to fear from an appeal to the people. It was those who were perpetually flattering the people, who made them fair promises which they could never fulfil, and who were trying to excite the masses against other classes above them. Those were the men who had cause to fear a Dissolution. He could only say—and he said it with all seriousness—that a more reprehensible charge was never made in that House, or anywhere else, by a Cabinet Minister than that by which the President of the Board of Trade attempted to excite the people of the country when he applied the term "robbers" to the landowners. He thought the right hon. Gentleman was very injudicious in making a comparison between the manufacturers and the landowners of the country. Hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House were not fond of bringing charges against particular classes. To his mind, there was nothing more cowardly than to bring serious 1359 charges against a whole class of individuals, whet her landowners, shipowners, or Members of the House of Lords. When a charge was brought against an individual, that individual could meet it; but when a charge was brought against a class, it was very difficult to meet it, because no particular instance was referred to. The right hon. Gentleman did not make a charge against an individual, but against a class; and if he meant what he said, the change he preferred against a body of men was a most serious charge indeed. There were many landowners on the other side of the House sitting by the side of the right hon. Gentleman when he made the charge; and he (Mr. Marriott) would like to know in their inmost hearts what they, his own Colleagues sitting with him in the Cabinet, thought of the charge he made against them. He (Mr. Marriott) was of opinion that it was a great mistake to contrast the comparative merits of the manufacturers with those of the landowners. There might be landowners who had inclosed commons—landowners who had taken land sometimes which did not belong to them; and there might have been manufacturers who had equally robbed the people they employed. There had been going about the country of late a gentleman called Mr. Henry George, who was connected with an Association in this country termed the Democratic Federation. In the view of Mr. George, and of that Association, every manufacturer and every capitalist was a robber, and every monopolist was a robber, and the manufacturers of Birmingham were pointed to as the chief robbers of all. If manufacturers brought a charge of robbery against the landowners they would find that the charge would recoil against themselves with increased force and vigour. As a matter of fact, the landowners made no charge against the manufacturers, nor against any other class; but they were quite prepared to say that they did, as a rule, provide better cottages for their labourers, and attended more to the comfort of the men they employed, than the manufacturers. The reason was a simple one; it was because they know the people better. They lived in villages in which the landowners had possessed property for generations, and the latter had taken great interest in them; whereas in the 1360 manufacturing towns the labourer went to a mill and went away again without anything being known of him. Therefore, if a comparison were made between the two sets of employers, it would be found that the landowners paid far more attention to the condition of the labourers than the manufacturers did to the condition and well-being of the men they employed. Such an attack as that which had been made by the right hon. Gentleman upon the landowners was unworthy of a great debate like this, and ought never to have boon preferred by a Cabinet Minister. He was perfectly certain that he was not only speaking the sentiments of hon. Members on that side of the House, but also the sentiments of a great many Members on the other side of the House, if they only dared to say so, when he said that they strongly reprehended the language which had been used from the Front Treasury Bench with regard to a large number of persons who were represented on both sides of the House. Before the speech of the right hon. Gentleman on Thursday, he did not think the House had any great cause for trusting Her Majesty's Government in connection with the Redistribution Bill; but since that speech had been delivered they had still less cause, because they knew that if such a speech was listened to with silent acquiescence by those who sat beside the right hon. Gentleman they would be prepared to acquiesce in his views still further, until he became, as he was now, practically the Leader of the Ministerial Party; and the Redistribution Bill would be framed upon the lines which he laid down, and then the Radical Party, who wished to rule the country despotically, would obtain the power they desired to have.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned,"—(Mr. Broadhurst,]—put, and agreed to.
§ Debate further adjourned till Thursday.