The Duke of Buccleuch
presented a Petition from the Commissioners of Supply and Heritors of the County of Forfar, stating, that while they approved of a moderate Reform, they were decidedly opposed to the sweeping measure of Reform introduced by his Majesty's Ministers, which they considered not to be calculated for the present situation of the country. The petition set forth in detail a variety of objections to the Bill, stating, that the increase of Members for boroughs would not improve the Representation of Scotland, and that the qualification of 10l. was too low, and it called on their Lordships to defend the settled institutions of the country.
§ Viscount Duncan
did not rise to object to the receiving of the petition, but having had a great deal to do with the transactions which occurred in the county of Forfar, previous to the petition being got up, he requested the indulgence of the House while he said a few words. In the month of May last, a requisition for a public meeting was signed by many of those persons whose names now appeared to this petition, in order that Resolutions, declaratory of the same sentiments as were contained in that document, might receive the sanction of the country. The greatest pains were taken to get together a meeting of the county, and the meeting was fixed for the day previous to that on which the election was to take place, in order, no doubt, if the Resolutions were carried, to extort a pledge from Mr. Maule, the gentleman who was afterwards 409 elected to represent the county, on the subject of Reform. Having a suspicion that something of that nature was in contemplation, he attended the meeting, which was composed of but eighty-four persons, county meetings in Scotland being, as he need not inform the House, very different things from what they were in England; and he there proposed an amendment, expressing approbation of he Bill for Reform introduced by his Majesty's Ministers, and approbation of the conduct of his Majesty's Ministers; and that amendment was carried by a majority of sixty to twenty-four.—Under these circumstances, he could not submit to hear the petition presented by the noble Duke called the petition of the county of Forfar—and he contended it could only be received as the petition of the individuals who signed it. He did not question the respectability of those gentlemen, as some of them were men of the first rank and largest property in the county; but the petition could only be considered as one representing their united opinions, and as one got up under peculiar circumstances, the attempt to give it the sanction of the county having failed. He thought it right to give this explanation, lest the petition should be taken by their Lordships or the public as the representation of the general opinion of the county of Forfar; the more particularly, as that county stood single in Scotland, in having passed a vote in approbation of the Reform Bill, and of the conduct of his Majesty's Ministers. While he was on his legs, he begged leave to say a few words on the subject of the excitement which was said to have prevailed during the late elections in Scotland. He was an enemy to violence and disorder as much as any man in the community, and he felt that the promoters of violence should be made amenable to justice; but he must say, that many of the accounts which he had seen were exaggerated. When he heard that the words "blood-thirsty" were applied to the people of Scotland, and when it was said, that the people were ready to commit acts similar to those committed during the French Revolution, he could not believe the evidence of his senses. One would suppose, from what had been stated, that the people were about to accomplish a revolution, and that they had plans and leaders all in readiness for the purpose. It would be idle to contradict such statements, and he would assure 410 those who were alarmed on the subject, that the people of Scotland wanted no revolution, but Reform—that the Bill was their plan, and his Majesty's Ministers their leaders. They sought to obtain for themselves a free and fair share of the Representation, and to be placed on a footing with the other parts of the United Kingdom as to constitutional advantages.
The Duke of Buccleuch
had not said, or wished it to be understood, that the petition was that of the county of Forfar. He placed it on the Table as the petition of about fifty of the most independent and principal landholders in the county. He would not discuss at present to what extent violence had been committed, and how far it might be apprehended. He could only say, that acts of disorder had taken place, the redressing of which he would leave in the hands of the Magistracy, of the officers of the Crown, and of the Secretary of State, who, he understood, had been communicated with on the subject.
§ Viscount Duncan
said, he believed the matter referred to had been already taken up by the Lord Lieutenant of the county, who had offered a reward for the discovery of the offenders. As far as Forfar was concerned, the disturbances had yet gone no further than the exhibition of a placard, which certainly was offensive.
The Earl of Haddington
was unwilling to create any discussion with regard to the spirit in which the late elections of Scotland had been conducted; but when his noble friend said, that the accounts of violence and disorder committed had been exaggerated, he would wish to know to what accounts his noble friend referred, as certainly he had seen nothing stated but what was borne out by the facts. He apprehended, that at several elections considerable disorder had prevailed, and he had the testimony of eye-witnesses, as well as the concurrent accounts in the public papers, to bear him out in what he said. He did not wish to signalize particular individuals, though he knew that at Lanark, Dumbarton, and Air, such scenes had taken place, that it was scarcely possible to exaggerate them in description. He agreed with his noble friend, that the people of Scotland were entitled to a fair share in the Representation, and that they were justified in seeking it by all legal and constitutional means; but he was sure his noble friend would say, that violence was 411 neither legal nor constitutional, and that those persons who claimed a right to be heard had no right to prevent all other persons from receiving the same indulgence. He was unwilling to make these remarks; but when his noble friend spoke of exaggeration, and of constitutional means, he thought it was advisable to place both sides of the subject before their Lordships.
must say, that, so far as he could judge, the accounts of the disorder alleged to have taken place at the elections in Scotland were exaggerated.