The Marquis of Cleveland
presented a Petition from the county of Durham, in favour of the Reform Bill, and praying their Lordships to pass it without delay. He was convinced that this petition spoke the general sentiments of the county at large.
The Marquis of Londonderry
was sure that the inhabitants of Durham at large by no means partook of the sentiments of the petitioners. He knew that a great portion of the people of property in the county were against the Bill.
The Marquis of Cleveland
considered the fact, that no counter—petition had been presented from Durham, decisive as to the groundlessness of the noble Marquis's assertion.
presented a similar Petition from the county of Devon, the result of a county meeting, convened by the High Sheriff for the occasion, and unanimously agreed to, with the sentiments of which he entirely concurred.
, as one well acquainted with the county of Devon, would take it upon him to say, that a reaction had taken place in the sentiments of its inhabitants, against the Bill. He thought it the more incumbent upon him to state this fact, as menaces had been held out, threatening him with peril of life and property in the event of his opposing the Bill. He was, however, determined never to forsake the Constitution, but to do his duty, and endeavour to uphold it to the last. The meeting at which the petition was agreed to did not consist of more than 1,000 persons, and could not be considered as speaking the sense of the county. He should, therefore, best do his duty to his neighbours, as well as to the country at large, by opposing this Bill.
was also acquainted with the county of Devon, and could, on the other hand, confidently state, that no such reaction had taken place.
repeated, that to his knowledge a change unfavourable to the Bill had taken place in the sentiments of the 922 freeholders of Devonshire, and he only discharged his duty in stating it.
§ The Duke of Richmond
begged leave to ask the noble Baron, whether he had a petition to present from the county of Devon corroborative of his statement? Here was a petition from the county, formally convened for the purpose, in favour of the Bill, and praying their Lordships to pass it with the least possible delay. Surely, then, if the great change which the noble Baron stated to have taken place in the sentiments of the people of Devon, with respect to the Bill, had taken place, at least one counter-petition from the county had been intrusted to the noble Baron.
I have no such petition to present, and have not heard of any counter-meeting, and believe that none such has been held.
§ The Duke of Sussex
presented a Petition in favour of the Reform Bill, from the Merchants, Bankers, Traders, and other inhabitants of the city of Bristol, signed by 25,740 individuals. The noble Duke said, that this petition, in fact, had appended to it the signatures of almost all the respectable and influential persons in the city of Bristol, and he understood that the greatest care had been taken that no individuals under sixteen years of age should put their names to it, and that none but bona fide signatures should be affixed to it.
The Marquis of Londonderry
was sorry to rise on that occasion, but he, too, had a duty to perform. He had received a letter, stating that this petition was most improperly got up. The noble Marquis read a letter from an individual signing himself "William Davis," in which the writer stated, that he knew of his own knowledge that 1,733 signatures to this, petition were fictitious—that several persons under age had signed it, and, in short, that from what had been communicated to him on the subject, he could assure their Lordships, that 5,000 or 6,000 of the names to this petition were forgeries. The noble Marquis said, that he was entirely ignorant as to whether this statement was true or false, but that, as the writer who had made it had done him the honour of writing to him on the subject, and as he mentioned that he was ready to verify it upon oath, he felt it his duty to lay such a statement before their Lordships.
A Noble Lord
said, that he had received a communication from a most respectable 923 quarter in Bristol, in reference to this petition, which left little doubt in his mind that this petition had been most respectably signed. Indeed, such was the respectability of the quarter from which he had received this communication, that he had no doubt at all as to the respectability of the names to this petition.
§ The Duke of Sussex
said, that it could not be supposed that he should be answerable for all the petitions which he might present, any more than the noble Marquis. He had mentioned the respectability of the signatures to this petition on the authority of a letter from the Chairman of the meeting at which it had been adopted; and he had been informed by the two Members for the city of Bristol, that they were aware, from their own personal knowledge, of the respectability of the petitioners. The noble Duke then presented a petition to the same effect from the town of Birmingham, signed by the High Bailiff, as Chairman of the meeting, which had been most numerously and respectably attended by the merchants, traders, bankers, and other inhabitants of that great and opulent town.
§ Lord Eldon
, in presenting three petitions against the Bill, said, he had heard that a petition in favour of Reform was in progress from the city of Norwich, which it was said was signed by nearly 14,000 persons. This number of signatures so much exceeding the male population of the city, proved that the petition itself was entitled to very slight attention, and shewed that such petitions were got up in an unfair manner.
§ The Earl of Albemarle
stated, that the petition from Norwich in favour of the Reform Bill had been adopted at a public meeting duly convened, and held in the Common-hall in that city.
The Lord Chancellor
presented a Petition in favour of Reform from the inhabitants of Halifax, in Yorkshire, signed by 12,500 persons. The noble and learned Lord said, that he had eighty similar petitions to present, but that he should merely state where each of them came from. He felt it his duty to present them to their Lordships, as the noble Earl (Eldon) felt it his duty 924 to present the petitions on the other side, in order that their Lordships might become fully acquainted with the state of the public mind on the great Question, the consideration of which was fixed for that evening. He could not avoid remarking, that the number of petitions against Reform was as yet very small, exceedingly minute, though perhaps it might hereafter increase. He should proceed to present to their Lordships eighty petitions with which he had been intrusted, all containing a prayer the very opposite of that of the three petitions which had been just presented by the noble Earl (Eldon). The noble Lord accordingly presented petitions in favour of the Reform Bill from the merchants, traders, and inhabitants of Belfast, signed by 5,500 individuals, from Preston, in Lancashire, signed by 3,600 persons, from a place in Leicestershire, from a place in the county of Dumbarton, from Stockport, in Cheshire, signed by 2,500 individuals, from Kendal, with 1,160 signatures, from St. Leonard's, from the city of Glasgow, from the town of Ilfracombe, from the town of Kelso, from Henley-on-Thames, from the town of Sligo, from the freeholders and inhabitants of the county of Devon, from the inhabitants of the town of Wakefield, signed by 2,800 persons, and from several other places in England and Scotland. After presenting forty such petitions, the noble Lord postponed the presentation of the remainder, with the exception of seventeen petitions from several incorporated trades in Paisley and its vicinity, until to-morrow.
§ Earl Grey
said, that the first petition which he should present to their Lordships in favour of the Reform Bill, out of the vast batch which he had beside him on the floor, was from the merchants, bankers, and traders of the city of London, voted at a meeting the most numerously and respectably attended, and which had been lately held in the Egyptian Hall. It was signed by 4,700 persons, the signatures having been obtained in the course of three or four days. Indeed, he believed that there would be found signed to this petition some of the most respectable names in the city of London. The petitioners stated, that they were at this moment as ardently anxious as ever they had been for the passing of the Reform Bill. He had, besides this petition, a vast number of other petitions, as their Lordships might perceive, to present, the prayer of which was precisely 925 to the same effect, namely, that their Lordships would pass the Reform Bill as speedily as possible. No particular pains had been taken to get up the numerous petitions which he had to present, and he, therefore, thought that he might fairly point to them as a pretty strong indication, that, so far from the public feeling having diminished, it had actually increased in favour of the Bill which their Lordships would have that night to discuss. The noble Earl opposite (Eldon) was greatly mistaken if he supposed that the object of those numerous petitions which would be presented on this subject was to deter noble Lords from doing their duty. God forbid that they should be so intended, or have any such effect. He trusted—indeed he was sure—that their Lordships would discharge their duty conscientiously with regard to this important Question. At the same time he was of opinion, that the petitions of the people were entitled to great consideration in the discussion of that Question. The noble Earl also presented a petition in favour of the Bill from the inhabitants of Manchester, signed by no less than 33,130 individuals, which amount of signatures had been obtained for it in the course of five days. The petition in favour of Reform from Manchester, which had been presented in March last, he said, was signed by only 24,100 persons, and it had been lying for signatures for the space of fourteen days. That fact proved, he thought, that at least as far as Manchester was concerned, there had been no diminution of the public feeling in favour of this Bill. The noble Earl presented similar petitions from Devonport, and from the Northern Political Union of Birmingham. The latter petition, the noble Earl stated, was signed by 30,000 persons. He presented similar petitions from the great commercial city of Glasgow, signed by 45,000 persons, and from the freeholders and inhabitants of the county of Cornwall, signed by 6,000 individuals. He also laid before their Lordships a petition from the county of Kent, agreed to at one of the most numerous meetings ever assembled in that important section of England. It was voted almost unanimously, there being only twelve dissentient voices out of the whole meeting. Although several thousands of persons were present, the proceedings were conducted with the greatest decorum: there was no interruption—no 926 violent language—even those who opposed the Bill obtained a patient hearing. The meeting would have been still more numerous but that many of the farmers were engaged in saving the hops, an important operation in that county. He could confidently state, that these petitions were a complete indication of the warm, hearty, and energetic sentiment that prevailed throughout the country in favour of Reform. The noble Earl presented, in conclusion, a mass of petitions, all in favour of Reform, amounting to between forty and fifty, including petitions from the county of Montgomery, signed by 1,700 persons, from the city of Durham, South Shields, Bread-street Ward, city of London, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Weymouth, Hereford, and other parts of the United Kingdom.
The Earl of Radnor
begged to make a few observations with respect to the petition from Bread-street Ward presented by the noble Earl. Since the time that petition had been voted, the desire for Reform had so much increased in the Ward, that another petition, signed by nine-tenths of the inhabitants of that opulent district, had been prepared, and would be presented by him to-morrow. The prayer of the latter petition not only called for the passing of the Bill, but that it might pass without delay, as great inconvenience had resulted to trade from the obstacles offered to its progress through the Commons. Some years ago there were only two Reformers in the Ward, and even the remaining tenth of the inhabitants would, he believed, have subscribed their names to the petition had time permitted.
§ The Earl of Falmouth rose to make some remarks on a petition from the inhabitants of a parish in Cornwall, presented in the course of the evening. [The noble Earl was interrupted by calls for the "Order of the Day." "It is past six o' clock."] He only rose to state some facts made known to him by a most upright and disinterested Magistrate. That individual, in specifying various objectionable signatures to the petition, had informed him, that it contained the names of but two freeholders out of all the parish.
The Marquis of Lansdown
hoped that their Lordships would come to an understanding, ere the Order of the Day was read, that the rule adopted for that evening, a rule agreed to during his absence from the House, would not be applied to the proceedings 927 of to-morrow, but that ample opportunity would be afforded for presenting petitions. He should consider it most improper, should the House go into the merits of the momentous Question before them, without giving every part of his Majesty's subjects full permission to be heard.
The Lord Chancellor
said, that he should feel grievously to blame if he did not do all in his power, not only to effect the chance, but to secure the absolute certainty of petitioners being heard. His noble friend must have been egregiously deceived if he was led to suppose that any arrangement had been made, or so much as thought of, for shutting the door of that House against the petitions of the people. He was one of those who had made the suggestion with respect to the reading of petitions, which he saw had been misunderstood. In offering the suggestion, he had added one very material point, a point expressly stated, that it was only to take effect for that one night, to which the House agreed by way of experiment; then, if there occurred any extraordinary pressure of business, they might make other arrangements. He entirely concurred in the propriety of not urging forward so great a question without securing the absolute certainty of hearing the petitions brought before the House, as it was right that they should exercise their legitimate influence on their decisions.
The Duke of Buckingham
proposed that the House should meet for the purpose of receiving petitions at two o'clock.
The Lord Chancellor
was hostile to any arrangement that would tend to show that the presentation of petitions was a mere matter of course, for the purpose of shoving them into a basket. He had no objection personally to the House meeting at two, provided there was an attendance of Peers at that time. But at such an unusual hour there would be no more than four or five Peers with a number of petitions, and the rest would come at the ordinary time. They had the whole week before them, and he was ready and resigned to sit there during the whole week, but he should not be content to see the petitions to that House unduly disposed of.
§ Lord Wharncliffe
agreed with the noble and learned Lord, that petitions should be presented during a full sitting.
The Marquis of Cleveland
thought that the convenience of his Majesty's Ministers 928 should also be consulted. He would propose that petitions be received from four o'clock to seven.
The Duke of Buckingham
inquired if it were there Lordships' wish to meet at three o'clock to morrow?
was of opinion, that the usage and practice of that House, on similar occasions, was the most convenient for saving time. The best and most usual way was, for the House to meet to-morrow, and go on presenting petitions till none was left. That was the natural proceeding of Parliament, and it was difficult to come to any positive resolution on the subject.
agreed with the noble Baron, and thought they had better determine the hour of meeting. He would propose that they should meet at three o'clock to-morrow, that they might occupy themselves in paying the attention due to the petitions of the subjects of the realm.
§ The Earl of Abingdon
held a petition which he should bring for presentation at three o'clock to-morrow.